Tales From Kulufumbi
Kulafumbi is situated on the confluence of the Athi and Mtito Rivers. The Athi River is Kenya's second largest, and flows year round from its source near Nairobi, Kenya's capital city. The Mtito River, a small tributary, is seasonal, and therefore only flows during the rainy season. It is fed from the Chyulu Hills, to the west, which also feed the Mzima Springs, source of all the water for Mombasa, Kenya's second largest city.
The land borders the Tsavo East National Park on two sides - the two rivers being the boundary between us and the Park. As our house sits right where the two rivers meet, the view from our balcony is out over the rivers and the National Park. The Yatta Plateau, allegedly the longest lava flow in the world, follows the Athi River on the far bank, and provides a stunning, ever changing backdrop to the river.
Because we have no fences between our property and the Park, the wildlife comes and goes between the two, sensing no difference. We maintain our property purely as a conservation area. You can see from our ongoing species counts how many animals and birds have already realised that this is a safe haven for them, where they can live out their lives undisturbed.
The property is predominantly covered by Acacia and Commiphora bushland, overlooked by giant Baobab Trees and the more delicate Delonix Trees. At first glance, the bushland is grey, thorny and lifeless - how deceptive first impressions can be! In this dry country, nature and diversity thrive, for the wild species (unlike domestic stock) have evolved over millennia to live in these apparently inhospitable environments. On closer inspection, it is incredible to see how many different species of plants, animals, birds, and insects survive here.
The exception to the dry grey bushland, is the green oasis-line created by the river - a thin band of greenery and large lush trees which snakes its way through the dry country - an Eden of Doum Palms, Fig Trees, Tana River Poplars, Acacia, Salt Bush and Reeds - a magnet for all the wildlife, whether resident on the river or coming there to quench its thirst.
The rain - though scarce and infrequent - brings almost instant transformation to the property, as the grey bushland turns green almost overnight. The plants here have very fast reproductive cycles, for they have to flower and seed very quickly before the dry times set in again. As a result, it is miraculous to observe the changes from a dry grey thorny scrubland, to a carpet of green adorned by flowers of every colour, hue and description.
In theory, we have two annual rainy seasons here: The Short Rains in November/December and the Long Rains in April/May/June - although these days the weather patterns seem to be so disturbed that often the rain does not come at all.
The name "Kulafumbi" literally means "eat dust" in Kiswahili - a reference to the conditions while building in this tinder-dry, remote part of Kenya.The house is built "organically", using as many natural materials gathered from our own land as possible. The walls are of natural rock, collected from the river bed, the water and sand came from the river too, and most of the wood used was dead wood, washed up ready-seasoned onto our beach by previous floods. The remainder of the wood is old railway sleepers, from the original Kenya-Uganda railway, of 'Out of Africa' fame - beautiful old Indian Teak and Jarra hardwood, now discarded by the railways in the wake of modernization - what better way to recycle the wood than to use it for our window frames? So, the only building materials which we had to bring in from outside were the cement, the glass and the steel for reinforcing. I think, therefore, we can justly say that this is an example of eco-building at its best. The house has already become part of the natural environment again, colonized by all kinds of creatures from the Agama Lizards and Genet Cats to the myriad collection of birds which frequent our birdbath. Add to them, all the wild plants which grow in the "flowerbeds" lining the balcony and even adorn the rooftop. We've decided only to plant indigenous species both in our "flowerbeds" and "garden". Many plants are self-seeding on our balcony of their own acccord, so it's always fun seeing what pops up.
In Africa, you can't help but drown in the colours – every shade and every hue of every colour imaginable exists in nature here – from the glittering brightness of the underwater life around the tropical reefs, to the white snows glistening atop Mt Kenya and Mt Kilimanjaro…and although I have been lucky enough to travel extensively, I still believe there is no place on earth where the light is quite as magical as it is in Africa.