Tag Archives: Kenya

Changing lives through Solar Power

Sam Cary, a student from the USA on an Adventures Cross Country Gap trip to East Africa talks about his experience working with Napenda Solar Community in Kenya.

Before going into these homes and seeing the situations that these families were in, my anticipation and excitement for installing the panels was almost unbearable. Knowing that I would be able to have an immediate impact on these families’ lives was the reason why I came to Kenya. Rafting on the Nile, a safari in the Masai Mara were both unbelievable adventures, however being able to improve the lives of people who live in the middle of such poverty, is what makes experiences like this as rewarding as they are.

When we arrived at the first house, I was shocked to see the conditions these families lived in. A family of 9, all cramped in to what seemed like no more than a 30 square foot structure with two beds, seemed impossible. Compared to the living situations of these families, extreme poverty in the western world seems luxurious. This house was crawling with all sorts of insects. They had chickens, stray cats and dogs, all running in and out of their home, bringing in all sorts of bacteria into their house.

The kitchen was unlike anything i have ever seen, I am amazed that anyone could think it would be okay to be in a kitchen like this for any amount of time. The second i walked in, I was hit with a blast of dense smoke and kerosene lamp fumes. My eyes felt like they were on fire, and I went to take a breath but my body didn’t let me, knowing that it would fill my lungs with toxic smoke. I was shocked to see that pushed up against the walls of this kitchen, were two beds where the younger kids slept. Even with all of the smoke and fumes, there were two infants sitting on the beds next to their mother who was cooking us a meal of chapati and vegetables, using no more than the light from a kerosene lamp to light her dark and smoke filled kitchen.

Before Sam and the rest of the gang installed solar power to this home kerosene lanterns were the only option for this family.

Before Sam and the rest of the gang installed solar power to this home kerosene lanterns were the only option for this family.

Once the panel was installed, and the lights and battery were all connected, we flicked the switch and pulled the light cords, lighting up what was once a dark house with an even darker kitchen. What I saw was unbelievable. In the darkness of the kitchen without the light, I couldn’t see the amount of flies that were swarming the food, and the babies’ faces.

Shortly after the light was flicked on, all of the flies started to swarm the light, getting them all close enough to the makeshift door for them to be wafted out, away from the food and the kids.

This one solar panel really did create a remarkable difference in the quality of this family’s life. Solar electricity removes the need for kerosene lamps and wood fires for light, giving the kids a chance to work on schoolwork, and for the parents to continue their crafts and professions at night. In turn, this would improve the kids performance at school, and increase the amount of money these parents will make, which will allow them to provide even more for their family.

Sam testing his handy work after installing a solar power system to a poor rural home in Kenya

Sam testing his handy work after installing a solar power system to a poor rural home in Kenya

Napenda Solar Community brings solar power to poor rural families in East Africa. An initiative that is supported by the local community, visiting tour and student groups and Africa Expedition Support.

Anzac Day a day for rememberance.

Today is the 100th anniversary of Galipoli, it is a day when Aussies and Kiwis at home and abroad stop to remember those who died on the shores of Galipoli in Turkey during WW1. Debs and I were lucky enough to lead an overland trip to Galipoli for the 90th Anniversary; it was a pilgrimage that every Aussie and Kiwi have to do at least once in their life.

Although this little story has nothing to do with Galipoli as such, it is part of WWI and the war effort to defeat the axis powers namely Russia, the Ottoman Empire and Germany. Little is known about the war efforts in East Africa so on this day we would like to share this story based in Kenya.

We have come across this typical African story at various times from totally different sources. So there must be some truth to it.

In East Africa the British Empire enrolled hundreds of thousands of locals into the Kings African Rifles and the Carrier Corps. To this day there is a suburb in Nairobi called Kariakor which used to be their base.

Germany was in possession of German East Africa, now called Tanzania.

Since there were only a handful of German troops and settlers in German East Africa they also had to rely heavily on local recruits.

Germany had neither intentions nor resources to occupy the British Colony of Kenya but orders were given to keep the Brits busy by running small incursions across the border to sabotage the Uganda Railway by blowing up bridges and loosening tracks. The idea was to weaken the British on the main battle fields in Europe as they had to send reinforcements to Kenya and Uganda to protect their Colonies.

In the 1950s the British Government decided to compensate their now very old African soldiers who fought against the Germans in WWI and WWIΙ with a one off payment for their services.

Word was sent out that a British delegation would travel around Kenya visiting various locations for one day only to pay compensation in cash. Any claimant was required to present himself in his original uniform as proof he served during the war.

The turnout was bigger than expected. The paymaster was quite busy keeping up with his books, taking records and handing out the money one by one to a long queue of people.

On one occasion he looked up at the soldier he was just about to hand over the money and immediately burst out laughing.

The soldier in front of him was wearing a German uniform! “Oh well” he thought, “he still fought in the war, he probably had no idea who he was fighting for” ….. and handed over the compensation courtesy of the British Government.

So on this day, 25th April 2015, let us respectively remember everyone who fought ………..

Thiemo Ebersberger, a German is married to Debs, an Aussie, and together they run Africa Expedition Support based in Kenya.  Check out http://www.africaexpeditionsupport.com for safaris and expeditions.

10 Random Facts You May Not Know About East Africa

East Africa is more than just about animals, land rovers, beaches, luxury safari tents and 5pm sundowners. Here are 10 interesting facts you may not know about East Africa.

1. Freddy Mercury, from the rock band Queen, was born Farokh Bulsara on 5 September 1946 on the spice island of Zanzibar, Tanzania. His father was a civil servant for the British Government. When Freddy was 8 years old he left Zanzibar to attend school in India returning in 1962 where he stayed until he migrated with his parents to England in 1964.

2. A common misconception is Lake Victoria is the source of Victoria Falls. Lake Victoria is one of the Great African Lakes mainly in Tanzania and Uganda but also bordering Kenya. It is the source of the White Nile. The lake was named after Queen Victoria by John Speke, the great explorer, who was the first known European to discover it in 1858.

Victoria Falls borders Zimbabwe and Zambia discovered by Dr David Livingstone in November 1855, its source is the Zambezi River. He was so overwhelmed by the falls he said “It has never been seen before by European eyes, but scenes so wonderful must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight”. He named the falls Victoria Falls after Queen Victoria.

Victoria Falls

Lake Victoria borders Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya

Lake Victoria borders Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya

3. East Africa is home to 4 of the 5 fastest land animals; the cheetah, the wildebeest, the lion and the Thomson’s gazelle. The none African top 5 fastest land animal is the Pronghorn which is native to North America.

Lions can run at great speeds but only for short distances

Lions can run at great speeds but only for short distances

4. The Kanga is a large cotton cloth worn by both men and women across East and Central Africa. The patterns and colours are often bright and elaborate with the most stunning Kangas along with matching head pieces being worn at weddings and other festivities. They originated in the 19th century in Zanzibar and Mombasa.


5. On February 6, 1952, Princess Elizabeth was staying at Treetops Hotel in Kenya when she learned about the news of her father, King George VI, death ascending her to the thrown as Queen Elizabeth.

6. In 1967 Ali Juuyawatu, a Masai warrior stumbled across a cluster of blue crystals in Northern Tanzania and showed them to Manuel De Souza who quickly applied for mining rights. These blue crystals were later called Tanzanite by Tiffany & Company who became the main distributor. Tanzanite is only found in Tanzania and is now seen as one of the most precious stones in the world .

Tanzanite is now one of the most sort after gems

Tanzanite is now one of the most sort after gems

7. Carissa, also known as the Natal Plum, is a wild berry growing all over East Africa. The small berries (the size of a large grape) are packed with vitamin C. The Masai have eaten these berries for centuries and the reason they do not suffer from scurvy despite their staple diet of meat, cow blood and milk.   It is not uncommon to see kids on their way home from school stop at a Carissa bush and pick the fruit as a snack hence Carissa is also known as the “Masai sweet”. They also make sensational jelly to accompany roast meat!

Carissa is found all over East Africa, the berries are poisonous until they turn dark purple when they make great eating!

Carissa is found all over East Africa, the berries are poisonous until they turn dark purple when they make great eating!

8. In colonial years Kenya was known as British East Africa, Tanzania was German East Africa, Malawi was Nyasaland, Zambia was Northern Rhodesia and Zimbabwe was Southern Rhodesia.

9. Lake Malawi has more fresh water fish than any other lake in the World including about 100 species of cichlids.


10. Lake Malawi is also known as “Lake of Stars” as nicknamed by David Livingstone. He thought the light coming from the fishermens lanterns on their boats at night resembled stars in the sky.

Our heads are full of random anecdotes to entertain our clients, young and old,  on our safaris and guided self drive expeditions!

For details about our overland truck safaris and guided self drive expeditions contact Debs info@africaexpeditionsupport.com or peruse our website http://www.africaexpeditionsupport.com

Go Green, Go Solar ……. Napenda Solar Community

For the past few months our focus has not always been on our overland safaris and guided self drive expeditions but on Napenda Solar Community.

What is that I hear you ask?  For those who have been on a safari or expedition with Africa Expedition Support and have met Thiemo or I probably recall at least one conversation about solar power with us.  Yes, solar power, this is not a misprint.  This is a topic we are pretty passionate about, we believe in it and proved that it works time and time again.  After all we could not run our workshop or office without solar power.  You see we are based only 1 hour from Nairobi, Kenya yet we don’t have any mains power – so for us to run our business we rely on the sun – solar power.

In addition to our guided self drive expeditions we also run a number of, what are called, “service trips” for school, university and teen groups.  These are tailored trips with all the usual Africa bells and whistles (game parks, beaches etc) with service projects – projects where students have the opportunity to give something back to less fortunate communities while learning about their culture and experiencing their lives.  It is not uncommon for families and couples to also want to participate in a community service project.

Our area is pretty underdeveloped in every way, there are very few schools, dirt roads that are lucky to see a grader once a year, no electricity, no clean water and the list goes on.  Hence Napenda Solar Community is a way to bring solar power to our local community by involving students and tour groups in solar power workshops that result in solar power systems being installed by the students and tour groups in poor rural homes, schools and clinics.

teens hard at work building a solar power system

teens hard at work building a solar power system

A clear win win for all.  Let’s face it, with the depleting world resources, there is a strong focus on clean renewable energies.  Throughout the USA, Australia, UK and Europe there is a push to go green – the recent People’s Climate March was testimony to this.  In Africa there is no choice, with very limited infrastructure and high cost of mains power the most economical way to go is solar power.  Although not expensive the costs of setting up solar power even in a small home are  prohibitive especially for those living on less than USD$2 per day.

Napenda Solar Community heavily subsidise these costs enabling communities to get connected to power.  A way for tourists and student groups to experience and learn from a local Masai community, go back home with greater understanding and appreciation of renewable energies; and valuable skills to set up their own solar power system if they choose to.

Who would have thought you could come to Kenya to learn amazing new skills?

For more information on our solar power workshops check out


If you would like to add a solar power workshop to your safari or expedition email me, Debs, at info@africaexpeditionsupport.com or Anne at solar@africaexpeditionsupport.com

Don’t forget to like us on http://www.facebook.com/napendasolarcommunity (tell your friends to like us also!) The more who know about Napenda Solar Community the more poor rural communities in Kenya will benefit!

Working in partnership with The Born Free Foundation

Check out this short video of Africa Expedition Support and The Born Free Foundation working in partnership to save lions in Kenya.  This program gives students a rare and unique opportunity to work side by side Masai and to be involved in a project that is effective and sustainable.


For more information about this project or how you can be involved contact Debs info@africaexpeditionsupport.com or have a look at http://www.africaexpeditionsupport.com


The Long Way Down – 10 Practical Tips To 4x4ing Through Africa

There are plenty of signs about ...... just not what you may expect

There are plenty of signs about …… just not what you may expect

Taking to the great African continent in your own vehicle is a very liberating experience. But it helps if you have some insider knowledge from those in the know who have been doing this for years.

Here are the top 10 practical tips to 4x4ing through Africa.

1. The biggest mistake travellers make is to over pack. There is no need to pack 6 months supply of shampoo, toilet paper and soap; nor 3 months supply of dehydrated army rations. Yes Africans use toiletries and they also eat. OK so your 6 ply extra soft toilet paper may not be available everywhere but surely you can survive with 2 ply!

2. Africa is not like home. So don’t expect it to be as such and don’t complain and make stupid comments about it being different. Of course it is different that is why you chose to travel through Africa.

3. “You white people have a watch; we Africans have time” This statement was made to me years ago in Dar es Salaam by a very wise old man. If you are told something will take 10 minutes, put the kettle on and make a cup of tea; it will be at least an hour.

4. “It is just down the road” can mean anything from 3kms to 300kms in African distance. Whenever asking for directions get a second and third opinion and then you may actually be lucky enough to find where you want to go. Most places do not have street names nor numbers but are described in terms of landmarks. Don’t bother asking a local in a village the directions to a place 200kms away – chances are he has never been there but to save face will convincingly tell you how to get there (sending you off in the wrong direction).

5. Police check points are the norm all over Africa (as is the weaponry); it is not uncommon for police to stop you simply to say hello. Like everywhere in the world the police can be very friendly or very grumpy. When a policeman asks for some money for Chai (cup of tea) he does not really want a cup of tea but wants some money from you. Unless you know you have done something wrong and want to get out of it do not pay bribes to the police.

6. Coming from Europe, Australia or the USA we assume that service stations are the ideal place to stop for a quick toilet stop. Unless it is Southern Africa don’t bother; even if you don’t pass out from the smell 10 metres before reaching the toilet the mess in and around the toilet will surely bring on some kind of seizure. Do your business in the bush; is the best advice I can give. But if you do this there is one golden rule; stop the car and immediately get out, go behind the bush and do your business. The reason; there are always tens of kids intrigued by Mzungus (white people) and they are not shy in coming right up to you and watch while you do your business. The longer it takes you to get out the vehicle the greater the chances you will have a crowd of onlookers.

7. Maps bought locally are not always accurate. A few months ago I bought the new edition map of Nairobi (capital of Kenya) only to discover that either half the roads had not been built yet or simply did not exist. Another trap is quite often roads will change names but the new edition map still has the old names on it.

8. Put it on Visa. Credit cards should only be seen as emergency backup only. Most places between Cairo and Cape do not accept credit card. Actually you will be met with very blank stares if you ask to pay for fuel with Visa/MasterCard. Travellers’ cheques are also only good as emergency backup and, regardless what Thomas Cook or AMEX tells you, they do attract hefty fees. A couple of years ago I was leading a West Africa Trans when one of my clients in Cameroon went to the bank to change up USD$50 into CFAs. The teller took a good 5 minutes punching away on his calculator buttons before turning to my client and saying “I can change this USD$50 traveller’s cheque but to do so will cost you USD$56 in fees and charges!” Cash is King.

9. Never believe everything you read. In 2000 I left my home in Australia armed with a backpack and lonely planet guide to South America. It was not long before I discovered that although a handy guide book it was not always accurate. The route I wanted to take this particular day seemed too easy (according to the Lonely Planet) and should have been 1 bus ride and ferry but turned into 7 modes of transport (bus, back of a truck with farm animals, hiring a leaky boat, ferry, donkey cart, back of a pickup and the final 2kms by foot). Reality is the writers cannot possibly visit all the places in the guide book and in this case the service referred to in the LP stopped 5 years prior to me arriving.

10. “Shorts and T-shirts all the way”. A poor virgin traveller arrived in Nairobi to embark on her 8 week journey to Cape Town in August dressed in only shorts and T-shorts. I asked if she was cold. “Freezing” was her response but an agent in the UK had told her Africa was hot and she didn’t need any warm clothes. That day it was raining, windy and no more than 13 degrees Celsius!

So there we have it, a few tips from those of us who live and breath Africa.  If you are planning to travel to the “dark continent” and want some more practical tips then please do contact us!

email info@africaexpeditionsupport.com  or through our website  http://www.africaexpeditionsupport.com/