Currently my heart breaks for Kenya. It is a wonderful country, with some of the most fascinating and welcoming citizens I have met anywhere in the world.
The Kenyan middle class came as a total surprise, with education levels and ideas that matched or bettered my own. I engaged in so many wonderful and inspiring conversations, that so often embraced the bright future, this jewel of African nations has to offer.
Like millions of ignorant individuals around the world, I travelled to Africa with out-dated images and expectations that really belonged to the nineteenth century colonial era. Thankfully, contemporary Kenya turned those perceptions on their head. It is a vibrant, modern country, making its way in the world with flair.
The current speight of terrorist attacks is something the Kenyan government needs to get on top of as quickly as possible and countries more experienced in dealing with terrorist insurgences should be offering their support and assistance, to restore Kenya to the welcoming and safe destination it has been for travellers throughout most of its modern history.
Kenyan citizens deserve the very best and upgrading of intelligence services seems an unfortunate given at present. I cannot think of one Kenyan who does not wish to live in a state of peace, harmony and opportunity!
Worst of all is that without tourism, the worst effected areas economically are the most likely to be the ones targetted more than ever by poachers. Ensuring wildlife, particularly the rhinocerous and elephant populations along with the big cats are maintained for safaris, gives locals an economic incentive to ensure their future so long as there is a thriving safari industry. Take the safaris out of the economic equation and what are locals going to make a living from?
Poaching is a multi-million dollar industry. Poachers are the terrorists of the animal kingdom. They devastate not only animals, but the communities who live alongside the animals. Every year many game park security rangers lose their lives in their efforts to stop poachers. Communities short of income are likely to be divided and fall prey to the economic advantages offered by poaching.
Last year, Fairmont, The Norfolk Hotel offered some of the tightest security entry proceedures I have ever encountered, to ensure the safety of guests. I presume these same security measures remain, or are even tighter at this point in time.
I hope tourism to Kenya does not markedly decline, but the tourism industry, along with some embassies are issuing travel warnings about the safety of travellers. All does not bode well!
I can't help but wonder as to how London, New York and Bali were effected in relation to tourist numbers following terrorist attacks there. Oh Kenya, I cannot bear to think of you minus your thriving tourism industry. I fear for the jobs of those in the travel industry I now count as friends. There is no social security payments, lest their employment cease!
All I can say is as long as numbers dwindle for safaris in Kenya, the terrorists are having a victory of sorts.
Personally I can think of so many reasons I want to return to Kenya: the people, the Rift Valley and Kilamanjaro. The amazing eco-system that include some of the best animal and bird sightings and adventures in the world. Kenya hosts fabulous efforts and inroads being made in wildlife and species conservation and environmental sustainabilty that are leading world's best practices. The vibrancy of Nairobi itself, as well as supporting a thriving democracy.
For anyone considering a trip to Kenya, weigh up those safety warnings against the opportunity to enjoy one of the world's greatest travel destinations. I am not saying go there if you believe you will be subjected to terrorist attacks, but I am saying that the rewards of Kenya are many. Be careful to only travel with reputable, reliable well established tour operators such as African Specialist Travel, operating out of Melbourne and with truly extraordinary and experienced staff and networks on the ground in Kenya.
I well remember the many individuals in Australia who told me anywhere in Africa was "too dangerous" for a woman alone to travel to. They had never been there themselves, they simply believed all the worst media stories they heard about Africa, and had no concept of its many and diverse individual countries that make up this amazing continent. I never once felt unsafe whilst travelling in Kenya or Tanzania.
Sensible travellers always exercise a degree of caution, just as they do as they go about their business at home.
I still love Kenya and plan on returning!