Travel

Wildlife vacation in Diani

Colobus conservation is also a tourist attraction centre. PHOTO | FADHILI FREDERICK
Colobus conservation is also a tourist attraction centre. PHOTO | FADHILI FREDERICK 

With a stick, a hotel guard tries to chase a group of baboons into the forest. We thought they might scamper; they did not.

Down the stretch heading to Sands at Chale in Diani, six-feet tall baboons take an evening stroll in the middle of the road as if they own the territory.

The smaller Angolan Colobus monkeys dart up the trees onto the electric wires that surround the hotel. A few are electrocuted and drop down.

Watch monkeys

Although injured, they hurry into the forest. The injured monkeys most of the time find a home in a conservancy located in Diani.

The rescuers drive down the road picking the injured monkeys, some are brought in by Good Samaritans.

We walk further down the road, finding more groups of baboons that stand tall to watch as we pass. The creepy (maybe completely untrue) stories about the Kaya Kinondo Forest nearby cut short our evening stroll and we head back to the hotel.

Diani is known world over for its sandy beaches, but few tourists visit to see the endangered Angolan Colobus monkeys, bushbabies, rare orange-white squirrels and butterflies that live in Kaya Kinondo Sacred Forest and Diani forest.

The forest located on the stretch where Villa Kalista, Al Manara, Lantana Galu, Neptune Village and Baobab hotels is home to many wild animals.

If you walk through the revered Kaya forest, the sun will burn through the forest canopy above you head.

A swarm of insects will buzz, giant leaves will fall down and scare you more as the brightly coloured squirrels scamper. Off in the distance, you will find a ‘fingo’, a burial site for magical objects to protect the Digo Community from calamities.

But of interest to wildlife lovers is the Diani monkey conservancy. While many people relax on hammocks in the beach hotels that line up the Diani South stretch, soaking in the sun, book in hand, nothing quite beats learning about monkeys.

Situated on a small plot, the endangered Colobus Monkey Trust House is full of history.

The sick and injured monkeys are taken care of here, most of which have been electrocuted as they try to jump into the hotels near the forest.

Sent back to wild

Kelly Martin, the conservation manager says Diani forest stretches to southern Somalia’s Jubba and Shabelle rivers and ends at the Limpopo river in Mozambique.

Deep in the heart of this forest, is home to the endangered vervets, sykes monkeys, baboons and bushbabies.

In Diani, sykes and vervet monkey census is conducted every October to identify the troops and demography.

Kelly says preservation of the  monkeys in Diani is ensured through rescue, treatment, rehabilitation and school education programmes.

The monkeys receive treatment before being sent back into the wild.

Road accidents

Esther Msagha, a tour guide says in 2011, the centre welcomed an Angolan black and white Colobus monkey named Betsy— the first hand-reared monkey in the world.

“Previously, no one had been able to hand-rear Angolan Colobus due to their incredibly complex diet and sensitive temperament,” she says.

Now Betsy helps hand-rear other monkeys (feed and care for young orphaned Colobus monkeys until they are grown and released into the forest).



Halima Shilingi, a staff at Colobus Conservation in Diani, feeding a rescued monkey. PHOTO | FADHILI FREDRICK | NMG
Halima Shilingi, a staff at Colobus Conservation in Diani, feeding a rescued monkey. PHOTO | FADHILI FREDRICK | NMG

If one of your travel bucket list items is to hold a monkey, you’re not lucky. The orphan care and rehabilitation centre is fenced to minimise human contact and only trained workers can feed the young ones.

Colobridges

In addition, the team educates the local community on conservation by carrying out weekly workshops in primary and secondary schools.

“This is meant to bring up a generation that has knowledge on the importance of animals,” she says.

However, Kelly says what is holding back the conservation efforts is road accidents and electrocution.

‘‘Colobus monkeys do not necessarily distinguish between tree branches and overhead power lines, which can be very dangerous as they leap from a tree to an electric fence,’’ she says.

To avert the challenge, the conservancy is working with Kenya Power to insulate the electricity lines and protect monkeys.

They have also built bridge ladders called ‘colobridges’ going from the top of trees across the road to minimise road casualties.

“We have erected 32 colobridges which have significantly reduced road accidents,’’ she says.