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British East Africa (BEA) is a British territory which sits astride the equator of the Dark Continent. In 1889, BEA comprises the land which later becomes Kenya and the western part of what will later become Somaliland. Within a few years, the area which now is called Uganda is added to BEA (though it is still considered to be a separate country within it). You may have seen/read of Kenya in Out of Africa (Dineson), Born Free (Adamson), The Green Hills of Africa (Hemingway), King Solomon's Mines (Haggard) and the Flame Trees of Thika (Elspeth Huxley). The nearby country of Rwanda (just south of Uganda) was the site of Gorillas in the Mist.
British East Africa is divided into five regions.
The first of these is the coastal belt, which is delimited on the western side by a series of low hills. The shore is indented by bays, inlets and river mouths and is dotted by islands (including the Mombasa and Lamu islands). In the south, the strip consists of a narrow strip two to ten miles wide; it widens after the mouth of the Tana to form a plain called the Tana Lowlands, which ends up over 100 miles wide and comprises the north eastern part of the country.
The second is the vast Nyika plain, which comprises most of the north (east of the Rift Valley) and the area west of the coastal strip. Its surface is covered with thorn scrub and is dotted with striking elevated formations, including some hilly regions.
The third are the semi-arid and arid regions. To the north and north east, the Nyika plain merges with an area of increasing aridity that covers most of the northern part of the country. A similar area is located in the southern part of the Rift Valley around Lake Magadi. There are scattered trees and grasses, but the meager and unreliable rainfall usually supports only dwarf shrubs and bush. Areas of real desert are limited to the region east of Lake Rudolf (now Lake Turkana).
The fourth is the very fertile highland region, which runs north-south down the western side of the country. It is split by the Rift Valley into two sections, the Mau Escarpment on the west and the Aberdare Ranges on the east. The relief of both highland are complicated, including plains, deep valleys and mountains. The Mau Escarpment reaches 3000 metres, stretching northward from the GEA border and curving to westward to the Gando Koro border. The Aberdare Ranges reach over 3000 metres, rising in the southern part of the country and stretch northward to the northern plain. Snow capped Mount Kenya (5200 metres; called Kirinyaga in Swahili) is connected to the Aberdare Ranges via the Nyeri saddle. The Rift Valley varies between 30 to 80 miles wide; its floor rises from 500 metres in the north around lake Rudolf, to about 2500 metres at Lake Naivasha but then drops to 700 metres at the border with German East Africa. It is occupied by a chain of shallow lakes that are separated by inactive or extinct volcanoes. The largest lake is Lake Naivasha. The Suguta Swamp lies between Lake Baringo and the southern tip of Lake Rudolf, in an area where the valley flattens.
The fifth is the Lake Victoria Basin, which extends from Lake Victoria to the Mau Escarpment. It is composed of a level plateau between 900 and 1200 metres above sea level. The fertile, rolling grassland is cut almost in half by the eastward extension of the Lake known as the Winam (now Kavirondo) Gulf.
In 1889, the earliest known inhabitants of Kenya are the Bantu people, who have occupied the country for thousands of years. In fact, since it was later determined that the Kenyan and Tanzanian areas are the sites of the oldest known human fossils, the country has perhaps been the home of people since the human race has existed.
The coastal zones of the country had been known for centuries (the Arabs called it Azania, "Land of the Blacks"). Lamu and some other towns were established by Arabs many centuries ago, and other countries (such as Persia) also had some small presence. In fact, some Chinese settled along the coast in the 15th century (they were members of a delegation who decided to stay and marry locals). The Portuguese (including Vasco Da Gama on his famous voyage East) came in the late 15th century and defeated the Arabs; they constructed Fort Jesus in Mombasa in 1593. The Portuguese gained supply bases for their ships and an annual tribute of gold. The Arabs (under the Sultan of Oman) then returned in the late 17th century and progressively expelled the Portuguese until the Portuguese had left the BEA coast completely by 1720. The BEA coast was then again under Arabian influence.
In the interior, the Bantu were expelled by the organized, warlike Maasai (two syllables, emphasis on the second syllable, who came from the north down to the south of the country) and the Kikuyu (who now occupy much of the central parts of the country).
The Arab and Swahili caravans penetrated from Mombasa to Mt Kilimanjaro and beyond to Lake Victoria for ivory, but these were not as popular as places further south because of the desert country of the Taru plain and the warlike nature of the Maasai. The outposts were only nominally under Omani control, and when the Sultan Seyyid Said tried to assert his authority, they resisted and asked the British for aid in 1822. Two British survey ships came in 1824 and declared a protectorate under the British flag, but this was repudiated by the British government when they returned home. Seyyid reasserted his control, garrisoned Fort Jesus and planted clove plantations on Zanzibar (an island off Tanzania). He later moved his court to Zanzibar (it was still there in 1889). The British established a consulate at his court, and used it to attempt to dissuade him from his efforts in the slave trade.
The first Europeans to penetrate into the interior were German agents of the Church missionary society, Krapf and Rebmann, who established a mission at Rabai, a short distance inland in the Wanyika tribal lands. In 1848, Rebmann became the first European to see Mt Kilimanjaro (the highest mountain in all Africa), and in 1849, Krapf ventured still further inland and saw Mt. Kenya (the second highest mountain in all Africa). Both of them were derided for claiming to see snow there, since the mountains are so close to the equator, but both claims are true (in fact, both mountains have glaciers at their summits). No other journeys were attempted by Europeans for 30 years.
By this time, British attempts to dissuade the Sultan of Zanzibar from slave trading had failed, and force was being used (mostly interception of slave ships by the sea- and aerial- vessels of the Royal Navy). The Germans were showing interest in east Africa as well, which only added to the desire for the British to be a force there too. The Maasai's reputation kept Europeans from the interior for many years, but even this could not discourage European colonial interests forever.
In 1878, Stanley (who had found Livingstone some years earlier) visited Mombasa and flew to Lake Victoria in an aerial flyer, circumnavigating Lake Victoria from the air. He was able to verify the claim of Speke and Grant in 1862 to have found the source of the Nile (now called the White Nile) at Ripon falls (the only exit from Lake Victoria) by flying north to the Nile Delta. The source of the Nile had been an obsession for many years of such men as Richard Burton and Speke.
In 1882, one of the first explorers to enter the interior on foot and live to tell the tale was Gustav Fischer (a German whose party was virtually annihilated by Maasai on Lake Naivasha).
In 1883, the explorer Joseph Thomson (and his companions) became the first British traveler to pass through Maasai country in search of a direct route to Buganda. His route from Mombasa went to Kikuyu, then to Lake Naivasha, then along the Rift Valley to Lake Baringo, then west from there to Lake Victoria. Along the way, he discovered the spectacular falls which are named after him. His journey started in March from a beach on the south coast and he did not actually return until June 1884. Along the way, he maintained an uneasy peace with the Maasai, who were fascinated by his white skin and his trinkets and magic tricks; subsequent travelers found these divertissements less effective. The route to Buganda on foot is very important, since aerial ships are still far too rare.
The Maasai were then preoccupied by an outbreak of disease called rinderpest, which attacked their cattle.
Coastal Arabs begin occasional journeys to the Lake Victoria Basin along the same route as Thomson, paying tribute in wire, cloth and beads to bands of Maasai warriors encountered. These caravans never challenged the Maasai but were often attacked by them, taking heavy losses from battles, cold and starvation. When they arrived, they would hunt elephant and enslave natives to carry ivory back to the coast on their heads. They also did a little barter trading. These trips continued until 1895, by which time the British stopped them.
In 1884, the German Karl Peters returned to Zanzibar from an expedition with his "ten treaties" of eternal friendship, which opened up German expansion into East Africa. Karl Peters was a ruthless man who became famous (he liked the "kind of impression that a rifle made" and eventually was removed from office and punished for cruelty).
In 1885, James Hannington (an Anglican bishop) traveled west through BEA. He was killed in October when he reached the Nile (which flows north from Lake Victoria) in his attempt to set up a diocese in Buganda. His death was ordered by Mwanga, chief of the Ganda in Buganda (who had three missionaries put to death earlier in the year).
By this time, the Sultan of Witu (an area of Arab influence along the coast, north of Lamu) began to gain regional influence due to the waning influence of the Sultan of Zanzibar.
Karl Peters secured an imperial charter for his German East Africa Company.
By this time, a total of 300 missionaries exist in East Africa. This includes BEA, GEA, Zanzibar and Buganda.
In 1886, Britain and Germany split up East Africa between them (except for the coastal strip, which was claimed by the Sultan of Zanzibar), establishing the present border between the two spheres of influence. This was recognized by France in return for territory elsewhere. It is said that the southern border with German East Africa was originally to have been a little south of Mount Kilimanjaro, but Queen Victoria already had Mount Kenya, and Kaiser Wilhelm wanted a snow capped mountain too.
In Buganda in May, Mwanga orders a massacre of thirty Christian converts. His excuse was that they refused to yield to his "unnatural" desires and to recant their Christianity; the massacre became one of the most impressive martyrdoms of the century. Their martyrdoms serve to increase the popularity of Christianity in the region.
In the Galla area, Maasai kill the missionary Houghton and his wife. 1886 is the year in which the Maasai range the most widely.
In 1887, Samuel Count Teleki partially climbed Mount Kenya and explored the Lake Rudolf region (the summit of Mount Kenya has been visited by aerial flyer, but the mountain has never actually been climbed) His expedition, like that of Fischer of about the same time, is attacked by Kikuyu, and the Kikuyu become temporarily even more feared than the Maasai. Caravans skirt the Kikuyu lands for some years as a result.
Sir William Mackinnon and the BEA Association accepted the Sultan's territory for a 50 year concession, though the Sultan retained some power in certain places along the coast (e.g. Lamu).
In 1888, the British government (which was reluctant to directly administer the territory) incorporated the BEA Association. The Imperial British East Africa Company did not really have the financial resources to develop the whole territory, particularly when they became involved in a civil war in Uganda (then called Buganda by its inhabitants). The Maasai and Kikuyu did not recognize the BEA Company's sovereignty. BEA efforts are being encouraged in London by an obscure Colonial Officer named Winston Churchill. In June, riots occur among Arab plantation owners and traders in Mombasa against the IBEA and the nearby mission stations (the Arabs hated the missionaries, since they were against slavery and the mission stations were natural havens for their runaway slaves).
Continuing unrest in Buganda sees Anglican and Catholic factions raise a thousand fighting men. The local Arab traders and their friends and religious followers comprise a smaller power bloc as well. Mwanga is caught in a scheme in September to rid the country of all three parties and is summarily deposed. Kiwewa (Mwanga's eldest brother) is declared Kabaka and splits offices of state among all three power blocs. In October, the Moslems cleverly oust the Christian chiefs from the capital and seize power for themselves (possibly with the assistance of Sultan Bargash's representative, Sulaiman bin Zeher). Kiwewa refuses to be circumcised and is deposed in favour of his more tractable brother, Kalema. Fighting against the Italians to the north east occurs.
Khalifa succeeds Bargash as Sultan of Zanzibar. He makes no secret of his dislike for all Europeans.
The Sultan of Witu signs an agreement with the German Dendhart brothers, hence transferring the area to German influence. The Sultan calls himself Simba (Swahili for "lion") and his Sultanate is called Swahililand, which even issues its own coins and postage stamps.
In 1889, epidemics of rinderpest and smallpox were beginning to undermine the Maasai wealth and power base. The tribe was split upon the death of their great laibon (spiritual leader) M'Batian. M'Batian had once predicted the coming of the Europeans in a parable of a flock of large white birds. He also predicted something to with a great snake reaching from the coast (later fulfilled when the railway is built) and the eventual destruction of most of the tribe at the hands of the strangers, after rebellion against them.
Jackson and Gedge set out to find a direct route from Lake Naivasha through the Mau forest to Buganda (they succeed). Until this discovery, all traffic to Buganda followed the route found by Thomson in 1883, supplied by the various tribes along the way (particularly the Kikuyu). Machakos is established; it is the IBEA's first inland trading station (it will become the site of the first white settler of the colony, in 1894).
Mwanga sets himself up in the south of Lake Victoria. He is joined by the Christian chiefs in September and invades Buganda in October, taking the capital (he has received military aid from the Germans). The Moslems counter-attack and drive them out.
An attempt to fully explore the Tana with a view to opening up the interior is abandoned, due to unrest in Witu. The Sultan of Witu has gained enough power now that many of the coastal Arabs look to him for leadership, rather than Zanzibar.
In 1890, the territory is established as a British Protectorate in an Anglo-German agreement. Germans concede Witu to Britain, but the Sultan refuses to deal with the British; the British take Witu by force. The Sultan is forced to abdicate to his son.
The British continued to acquire other lands within the territory from the natives, mostly by treaty or outright purchase.
In Buganda, which is not part of the territory, Mwanga counter-attacks in February and drives out the Moslems once and for all. Mwanga splits up offices among the Anglican and Catholic chiefs but throws his influence to Germany and signs the treaty offered by Karl Peters in preference to the one offered by Jackson of the IBEA. The Anglo-German Agreement of July then settles the dispute in favour of Britain, making an enemy of Mwanga for ever. Frederick Lugard of the IBEA later makes a treaty with the Moslems.
The German government takes over from the German East African Company.
Colonial officers are still mostly found in coastal towns or in Buganda, though some are found in the interior (e.g. at Kisumi). Some land has already been purchased from the natives (for whom there are many nicknames, including niggers, golliwogs, and darkies). The land is presently held in trust by the IBEA, since no colonization is intended until the completion of the Uganda railway, for which surveying work will start soon.
The IBEA is run by a board of directors headed by Sir William Mackinnon, an ageing Scotsman who began as a grocer's assistant and became the founder of a large steamship line. He is one of the wealthiest men in Britain. In Mackinnon's character is mixed deep and rigid piety with exceptional financial ability; but his performance as an imperialist is lacking. He is impulsive, changeable, and does not think through his large plans, which are impracticable due to the undercapitalization of the company. He favors buying out slaves from the Arabs, rather than forcing them to give up slavery. Kitchener advised Salisbury to "get rid" of Mackinnon as early as 1888.
Other people working for the IBEA are George Mackenzie (the calm chief of central administration in Mombasa); George Portal (who, in 1893, was British Commissioner reporting on the situation in Buganda to the British Government); Frederick Jackson (who led caravans into the interior and dealt with the Maasai and seems a reasonable sort of guy); and Frederick Lugard (who spent most of his time in Buganda, eventually becoming Governor General of Uganda).
The main European presence in the interior still consists of ivory hunters and explorers, who are supplied from trading posts at strategic points (usually on rivers, for water). "Hunters" are all self-employed and actually involve themselves in any sort of money-making venture, not just hunting; some are even reputed to indulge in the slave trade. There are no organized safaris yet (nor are there until after the turn of the century); but white hunters or natives can employed as needed. Otherwise, anyone who wishes to hunt is on their own.
Transport is generally by conventional means, since all aerial flyers (such as steam launches) are Naval vessels used against the slave trade, vessels of the British East Africa Company or private vessels of the few nobility who live here (the ones that do have usually committed some crime or offense against expected modes of behavior and are in unofficial exile until they have served their time). Travelers into the interior go by land (usually on foot, rather than on horses) or by steam launch up a river and by land thereafter. There are Zanzibari porters available for land journeys and a steamer has been chartered by the IBEA for journeys up the Tana and Juba rivers (north of the Tana). Pack animals (donkeys and camels) and carts pulled by Cape oxen have been imported and available for journeys from Mombasa (but they all die). Some roads have been made for a short distance in from the coast (but they are doomed to be washed away by the rains). There is no Zeppelin service to or into British East Africa. Sea travel along the coast is commonplace, ranging from Arab dhows to European merchant craft.
The British have little interest in the land itself, since much of it is arid or semi-arid and inhabited by hostile tribesmen. The British are at this time more interested in protecting the land that they have and pressing on to make further claims in areas still under dispute. The British are here because (1) the Germans are here; (2) it gives them a route to the fertile Buganda plateau immediately north of Lake Victoria, which is inhabited by three million people already and has a much greater potential for economic development. Buganda is the most powerful central African regime. Their previous route, down the Nile from Egypt, has now been disrupted by the revolt of the Mahdi; (3) it gives them a base to oppose slavery in the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea; (4) it is another piece needed to give Britain an unbroken strip of land from the Cape Colony to Egypt (they are thinking of building a big railway the whole way).
The Germans have some interest in the Witu region, and in developing their own lands. They are also interested in frustrating whatever plans the British may have. They would like to have Buganda.
The Sultan makes a lot of money from slavery and intends to continue doing so. The slavers who deal with him have informally split up the whole of East and Central Africa into individual territories, much as the American gangsters of the 1920's. There are many Arab villages dotted about these regions. There are some Moslems in Buganda from contact with the ivory traders, and these quarrel with the Anglican and French Catholic missions there.
The Maasai (name spelt variously) are probably the most famous (and feared) of all of the peoples of East Africa and know it. Their reputation is not exaggerated; only the Kikuyu do not run away when the Maasai come raiding. Although the Bantu people had been in British East Africa for thousands of years, the Maasai had no trouble expelling them and lost few people to the slave traders who raided the area (unlike the Bantu). The Maasai are the subject of much interest by Europeans, with their Spartan ways and belief that they are the rightful owners of all the cattle in the world. The Maasai like blue beads (every tribe seems to have its favorite color and are totally uninterested in beads of other colors). They inhabit the southern portions of BEA and the northern portions of German East Africa (GEA). They have more territory in GEA but more population in BEA.
They are distinguished by their character, their good manners, and their impressive physical appearance. They believe that their god Ink gave them all the cattle in the world (in modern times, they graciously lend them to other tribes) and their lives are centered around cattle; for instance, their warrior tradition was originally based on a need to protect their cattle and the lands they need for them. A common greeting is "I hope all your cattle are well". They are therefore a pastoral people.
Life for the Maasai is one big celebration. From birth up to (but not including) death, every significant event is a cause for celebration. They group their people by age, each with its own dress code. The junior ages form the basis of their warriors, the famous moran. This time is very important, for they are not allowed to marry later unless they have killed someone. Wife-lending is common among the same age-set. Like many local tribes, they practice male circumcision. This is done at puberty without anesthetic (ouch) and is a test, since they may not become warriors if they flinch (that's me out, then).
The Maasai are a nomadic, pastoral people. They have lots of kraals about the countryside, which are mud-dung houses surrounded by a large, circular thornbus fence. The kraals are owned by the people as a whole. They do not practice agriculture, since they subsist almost entirely on their mixture of blood and milk (it sounds awful, but the Maasai have one of the lowest rates of heart disease in the world, and it is thought that this diet, although now archaic, is responsible for this). They wear red ochre on their bodies (their whole torso is painted in event of battle) and their women wear coils of wire on their limbs. They traditionally have a type of democratic society, with public opinion able to sway the decision-making process. At this time, their runners are the equal of any tribe in BEA (since Kenya in modern times produces some of the best runners in the world, this is quite something). They can run all day, quite fast, without stopping, thus covering immense distances.
The Maasai are one of the few tribes who have no fear or real interest in Europeans and their ways. They alone do not refer to Europeans as Bwana.
In modern times, the tribe has been greatly reduced in numbers. They are one of the richest tribes in Africa, from the treaties they made with Europeans for their lands. Their current lands and some of the National Parks are contiguous; they are custodians of their lands with real power. Having Maasai as a type of park ranger would undoubtedly be an incentive for visitors to obey all the local park regulations.
The main other tribe is the Kikuyu, who live in the central highlands. They are less significant than the Maasai, despite being greater in population, because they have no central government structure and are therefore less organized. At this time, they are feared more than the Maasai (wrongly). Later, they will become the most numerically superior tribe and will be responsible for Kenyan independence. Intermarriage between the Maasai and the Kikuyu was quite frequent. They are excellent agriculturalists and used to supply Swahili caravans with food (they will later do the same for European expeditions).
The remaining tribes are more peaceful and agricultural based:
The Bantu tribes are now found in large numbers only in the NW, though there are numerous small tribes throughout the country. The most famous are the Kamba (see below).
The Nandi are found to the W, into Buganda.
The Wataveta are found on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro, where they hide from the Maasai in the forests there.
The Watu are nomads from the northern plains, who are renowned as the best hunters and trackers in BEA and famous for their use of the longbow (which actually dates back to before Agincourt).
The Kamba are skilled hunters and good agriculturalists, who live in the Machakos region, adjacent to Maasai lands. Machakos (their "capital") is the site of the first IBEA inland trading station. They were evicted from the Kilimanjaro region by the Maasai. This tribe has had the main contact with foreigners and have done quite well from trade; their hunters have many techniques for killing elephants, for the ivory trade. The tribe is one of the most important in modern Kenya.
The Turkana live near Lake Rudolf; they have headdresses made from their own hair and that of their ancestors and cuts in parts of their bodies to show the number of enemies killed. They, along with their neighbors the Suk, have strange weapons which are unknown anywhere else in the world.
The Samburu are related to the Maasai, but live in the northern semi-arid areas of the Matthews Range, the Ndoto mountains and Mount Nyira and surrounding plains. They have a pastoral lifestyle and get blood from their camels rather than their cattle. The name Samburu means "butterfly", and they have a reputation for being dandies. They look like a tribe of Michael Jacksons, but are actually quite good fighters. Society is interwoven by relationships of blood, by bond, and by joking bond (informal). They have no chiefs and live by consensus. Oral tradition states that the Samburu migrated from the Lake Turkana region in 1840 after invasions by the Turkana.
The Njemps are Maasai speaking relatives of the Samburu who settled near Lake Baringo. They are small in number and have an agricultural lifestyle, plus fishing (from canoes in the lake).
The Luo live in the Lake Victoria area and are mainly agricultural. They also have cattle, which they ride into battle.
The Embu are related to the Kikuyu and are their neighbors, living in forested areas. They live in caves or hollow trees and live in a hunter-gatherer lifestyle, though this is now changing since they obtained maize from coastal traders.
The Pokomo are the best known coastal and hinterlands tribe. They are mostly agricultural, though they also fish. They are mainly found along the coast north of the Tana. They use agricultural success as a way of measuring status, since the ability to feed guests well is important to them. In their society, no one goes wanting, since the excess food produced by one group is given to groups who have had problems (the first inklings of communism?).
The Mijikenda are another tribe of the coastal hinterlands, living south of the Tana just inland of the coastal strip. Their women appear to have enormous backsides, but this is purely artificial (the effect is created by 40 metres of cloth folded and placed under their skirts). They live an agricultural lifestyle with a limited amount of livestock.
Mentioned by Ptolemy in the 2nd century AD (then called Tonikw). Mombasa has a hot and steamy tropical climate with palm trees swaying in a gentle cooling breeze, a warm sea lapping against golden sands and a coral reef. There are dhows here (as in Lamu) which trade up and down the coast. Mombasa's modern history dates back to the 12th century, when native Africans had a small town here, visited by Arabs. Mombasa was one of the main targets when the Portuguese took the area; one raid netted so much loot from the Arabs that much of it had to be left behind when the fleet left (they burnt the town down behind them).
In 1889, Mombasa is the "capital" of British East Africa and the home of the Imperial British East African Company (the offices are in Leven House). Local notables are members of the Mombasa Club, the center of Mombasan society (such as it is), which has a good view of the harbor and Fort Jesus. The docks are extensive (and remain so today). Houses are made of wattle and daub with bits of coral and roofs made of palm thatch or tiles. Many houses have the carved doors and doorframes found in Lamu, as well as the balconies with intricate enclosures (the Moslems give their women great privacy). Shops have ornate signs and etched glass windows. Some Indians live here as businessmen and entrepreneurs. At this time, Mbarak Hinaway Road was called Vasco Da Gama Street.
An island with a large population, in a town dating from the 14th century with many narrow alleys with people riding donkeys through them (the alleys are too narrow for anything else). An Islamic town, the women wear black and have veils and things, though society is not as strict as some. Lamu is still controlled by the Sultan of Zanzibar and many slaves are shipped by Zanzibar in dhows. The British intercept some (using aerial flyers to locate them) but many get through.
Lamu (like some other coastal towns) is famous for the carved wooden doors and lintels which keeps carpenters busy. It exports slaves, ivory, cowries, tortoise shell, mangroves, oil seeds, and grains and imports oriental linen, silks, spices and porcelain. It is quite well off (its economy will collapse when slavery is eventually banned in the region).
Has a pedigree going back to the 12th century and was visited by the Chinese junks of Cheng Ho between 1417 and 1419, before the Chinese Emperor prohibited further voyages. They got on well with the Portuguese; a pillar erected by Vasco Da Gama as a navigation aid still stands. The climate is very nice for most of the year, though the sea gets really muddy during the rainy season from silt washed down rivers from the interior. There is a break in the coral reef here.
The Rift Valley is the home of extremely high populations of incredible wildlife, in settings of great beauty. The various lakes here host huge populations of flamingos (60% of the world's population of flamingo live in the Rift Valley; Lake Nakuru is home to 2 million of them). The Rift Valley actually extends north and south of British East Africa, but it is said to be at its best here. The valley has geothermal springs, alkaline lakes, waterfalls, shattered lava beds, oases of lush vegetation hemmed in by craggy mountains, forested mountains surrounded by sand deserts, and many other delights for the explorer. In the north, the Valley includes Lake Rudolf, the legendary "Jade Sea". The best falls are Thomson's Falls, which are near Lake Nakuru; they are nearly 100 feet high.
The weather here is unpredictable, particularly in the north. The day can be 50 degrees C and totally still and humid, with mirages everywhere and all animals hiding from the heat, suddenly broken by the most violent thunderstorms that most people would ever experience in their lives tearing through the place and taking all before them. Then they stop suddenly, with absolutely clear star-studded skies.
The following animals are found through British East Africa: buffalo (prefers grassy areas and muddy pools; easily provoked and quite dangerous), antelope (various, some of which described herein), aardvark (at night only), baboons (various), bat-eared fox (usually only at night), cheetah (generally hunts alone, sometimes found in pairs. Prefers grassy areas, where its famous sprint ability is at its best), monkeys (including the beautiful Colobus monkey and the more common Vervet [or Black-faced] Monkey), crocodile (not usually dangerous), dik-dik (a small antelope which mostly lives in scrub), eland (the largest of the antelopes), genet (the size of a large cat, very carnivorous, likes hares, birds and similar sized creatures), Gerenuk (gazelle with a long neck), giraffe (two types. Gentle), gazelle (various; the main two are Grant's Gazelle and Thomson's Gazelle), hartebeest (large weird-looking antelope), hippopotamus (generally good-natured, but dangerous when provoked. Can run faster than men. Thought to dislike people getting between themselves and the water), hyena (various types. Sometimes kills for itself and have been known to bite the side of a man's face while he sleeps. Unusually, it will eat a kill while it is still alive; they are capable of taking on an old lion), impala (Antelopes which jump better than springboks; they can jump 30 feet long and 10 feet high in one bound), jackal (various. A scavenger), leopard (Solitary big cat, hunts at night), lions (The females are the ones who do the actual killing, except for man-eaters, which can be up to 11 feet long), rhinoceros (Can weight up to 2 tons. Actually has two horns, one of which is very small; the horns are said to be an aphrodisiac. Prefers grass. Temperamental), warthog, zebra (African horse which can be found in herds of several hundred. Hard to tame, but it has been done).
The following animals are found in certain parts of BEA: aardwolf (inland south only), elephant (non semi-arid areas. Irritable, can be dangerous. The local word for elephant is tembo, which is also the word for beer), oryx (small antelope with long straight horns, found in semi-arid areas), serval cat (looks like a cross between a lynx and a leopard), waterbuck (gregarious, sometimes found in herds with other animals. Lives in plains close to water), gnu (a silly looking antelope which lives on plains near water), wildebeest (very prolific at certain times of the year; the herds are so large that they stretch to the horizon).
Other animals are known (e.g. other types of hog, monkeys, and antelope) but are relatively few in number.
Lake Rudolf (N. Kenya) and the Olduvai Gorge of the Rift Valley (over the border, into Tanzania) are the sites of the main finds of the Leakey family.
Mount Elgon, a large mountain on the border of Kenya and Uganda, was discovered by Sir Henry Stanley, I think when searching for Livingstone. He named it Masaba, although he didn't find the huge Maasai caves now occupied by elephants and their lookouts, the bats. The elephants actually carved the caves out of the mountains themselves, apparently after the salt in the walls.
Rumors of white rhinos are false; the word white is a corruption of "wide", since these rhinos have wider mouths.
In the 1920s, some of the white colonists had a lifestyle which led caused others to ask, "Are you married or do you live in Kenya?"
Posted Monday, 04-May-2009 19:49:59 EDT