In this issue...….

  1. From GM’s Desk
  2. Bioken Snake farm – Watamu
  3. Graffiti at Turtle Bay
  4. Vegan Dishes Turtle Bay
  5. Internship for Students
  6. Stage Park
  7. Turtle Bay’s Community Projects
  8. Sokoke Forest MTD Challenge 2019
  9. Now You Sea Turtles
  10. Kenya Tourism Board New Identity
  11. Uhuru Kenyatta Bans Single Use Plastic
  12. New Notes
  13. Kenya Airways Resumes Malindi Flights
  14. Kenya Airways and Delta Deal to US

Report by Colin Jackson

The second Sokoke Forest Mountain Bike (MTB) Challenge was another highly successful biking event held on 4th May 2019 in Watamu. Aimed at contributing to the conservation of Arabuko-Sokoke Forest, the Challenge drew 72 cyclists from all over Kenya and even one from Uganda - up from 29 starters in 2018.

The event brought together communities around the forest, Kenya Forest Service, Kenya Wildlife Service, the organisers A Rocha Kenya, Turtle Bay Beach Club and Ocean Sports Resort) and the core sponsors, Lordship Africa and NIC Bank, to both create awareness about the Arabuko- Sokoke Forest and to raise funds for eco-bursaries for needy children living adjacent to the Arabuko- Sokoke Forest and Mida Creek. A total of Ksh 794,736 was raised for ASSETS bursaries through the event. This is equivalent to 23 ASSETS Eco-bursaries that will be linked to direct conservation action for Arabuko-Sokoke Forest.

The event attracted keen, mountain biking enthusiasts as well as six of the top MTB teams in Kenya. The organisers and sponsors recognise the importance of due reward and thus awarded over Ksh 200,000 in prize money. The Sokoke Forest MTB Challenge is notably, and proudly, the first and only mountain bike race in Kenya to offer the same cash prize to both men and women. Overall, the event was regarded as a tremendous success by all those involved including the participants and once again strong interest shown in participating in next year’s event. A website was built and functional prior to the race where all information and feedback was uploaded for maximum communication.

The Sokoke Forest MTB Challenge 2019 begun at 7:15 AM on 4th May, 2019. Out of 85 cyclists who had registered online, 72 participated, including 14 female and 12 under- 21 cyclists. The 63 km route took the cyclists through coconut plantations, beside mangrove forest, rural villages, the heart of Arabuko-Sokoke Forest, up gruelling climbs and down challenging descents to create, as one participant called it, "a hugely enjoyable but extremely challenging MTB event".

The first half of the race took riders through coconut and cashew nut plantations and farmland and beside mangrove forest before climbing beside the Arabuko- Sokoke Forest to the Madunguni plateau overlooking the Sabaki River. A series of single-track footpaths ensued including two fast descents followed by steep ascents up the plateau escarpment. Stunning views are had along the section which follows the escarpment ridge overlooking the Sabaki River. This led competitors to the north-western entrance of Arabuko-Sokoke Forest at Jilore where the route entered the forest for the next 20 kms.

The first section is fast and straight passing through dense Cynometra forest that is the home for Africa's smallest owl, the Sokoke Scops Owl. After some tough soft sand sections a turn to the left led the competitors through Mixed Forest and beautiful, open Brachystegia Woodland, home to the bizarre and endemic threatened Golden-Rumped Elephant-shrew as well as buffalo and elephant. The Challenge started and ended at Turtle Bay Beach Club, Watamu, by the white sands and azure waters of the Indian Ocean.

David Kinjah, Kenya's leading cyclist, won the event for the second year running but, unlike last year, he had to push hard for the line having stiff competition from members of Kenya's leading cycling teams - Safari Simbaz, Kenyan Riders, Cafe Arabika, Extra Milers, Baisikeli Adventurers and Shady Bunch. The result was not a leisurely one hour lead as in 2018, but a serious sprint finish for five bikers that required careful video scrutiny to determine the top five positions. Thomas Kangangi took second place, Geoffery Langat third, John Kariuki fourth and Kenneth Karaya fifth - all five crossing the line within a second and thus with the same time of 2 hours, 20 minutes.

See finishing video link:

Jennifer Salome (3 hours, 7 mins) took first position of the 14 starting ladies ahead of Nicola Greene (3 hours, 10 mins) who had been tipped to come in first; Kate Crowely took third position (3 hours,20 mins), Jodee Misere fourth (3 hours, 30 mins) and Lauren Horsey fifth (3 hours, 37 mins).

Additional prizes were awarded to best under 21 male and female - Jordan Schleck (overall position 7th, 2 hours, 27 mins) Dinnah Safari (overall position 56th, 4 hours, 01 mins).

The participants praised both the route and the organisation of the route. One participant wrote after the event: "...from my own observations and comments from friends, Sokoke MTB was a very well-managed, well-marked, well-co-ordinated, challenging contest with proceeds going towards good causes".

The organisation of the race was strongly supported by graduates from the Arabuko-Sokoke Schools & Eco-Tourism Scheme (ASSETS) - the focus for the charity fund-raising of the event. Almost 30 ASSETS graduates took part as route marshals together with two members of the ASSETS Committee to ensure that riders did not lose their way and as first responders in case of emergencies. We made an effort to explain to community members along the race route what was going on and why we were running the race. As a result, we had good support for it and a number of people lined some areas of the track to cheer the participants on. Rangers from the Kenya Forest Service patrolled areas of the forest to ensure that the path was clear of elephants and other wildlife. KFS further provided highly appreciated support for the event by once again waiving park entrance fees for all those entering the forest the morning of the race day. Kenya Wildlife Service also provided support on the ground by providing rangers to help guide cyclists along the route. We are grateful to both partners for their support.

For the second year running Lordship Africa made the whole race possible by a donation of Ksh 1 million. An anonymous donor gave Ksh 100,000 for particular support of female riders and NIC Bank, Watamu branch, generously donated Ksh 50,000 to the cause. A Rocha Kenya were the lead organisers but with indispensable assistance and support from Turtle Bay Beach Club and Ocean Sports Resort. Together we designed the route and managed and led the operations for the race.

Apart from a great biking event, the Sokoke Forest MTB Challenge aims to conserve the rare and unique wildlife in Arabuko-Sokoke Forest and give children living in poverty around the forest a chance of an education and a future.

Thus, funds raised through the event are used to provide "Eco-bursaries" for children in communities living adjacent to Arabuko-Sokoke Forest and Mida Creek through ASSETS - the Arabuko-Sokoke Schools & Eco-Tourism Scheme. These Eco-bursaries support children through four years of secondary school and are closely linked to practical conservation action to protect the unique yet threatened habitats of the forest and creek. The biking event raised a total of Ksh 1,322,000. This was Ksh 137,000 more than in 2018. Ksh 527,264 was used towards race expenditures such as prize money, payment for community marshals and various support function costs. Thus, a net Ksh 794,736 was raised for the ASSETS eco-bursaries which is Ksh 95,576 more than was raised in 2018 equating to an additional three sponsored students. The amount raised thus enables the support of 23 students for a complete year of education including associated conservation activities through ASSETS.

Updates on the event were posted on the @SokokeMTB facebook page, Twitter and the race website. Media coverage was good with articles appearing in a number of outlets and reported on national TV to the extent that we had people from as far as Kitale commenting they had seen it. A piece was even run on Tanzanian news TV.

The morning following the main Sokoke Forest MTB Challenge, a Family Fun Ride was organised and had 15 young participants ranging in age from 6 to 15 years with a few older 'kids' along for the ride. A 6km route was followed taking the riders through the Turtle Bay village to the edge of the mangrove forest of Mida Creek to Dabaso; from there the young riders followed the actual route of the Challenge of the previous day to end up at the finishing line at Turtle Bay. An award giving ceremony was held in Turtle Bay Beach Club where all participants received a race certificate and T-shirt. Dawn Goebbel's family received the largest family group award (four riders) and Kimutai Jackson the youngest participant (6 V2 years) to complete the route.

The organizers are grateful to the all who supported the event, especially the donors, members of the community, Kenya Forest Service and the Kenya Wildlife Service. Without the support of the community and the dedication of these government services, this event would have not been a success. There were many others who contributed in different ways for which we are very grateful - from the staff and volunteers of the three organising organisations and marshals, to the Traffic Police who assisted in directing cyclists across the major roads. Thanks, too, to all the participants for making it such an excellent success.

For a range of images from the Sokoke Forest MTB Challenge, 2019, a number have been uploaded to the race website.

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