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Author: Brooke Squires
I think one of the greatest privileges I have when in Kenya is spending time with the Melako game scouts. The scouts were the first people I met when I came to northern Kenya and they have left a lasting impression on me. It is with great pride that I can now state that at least I can pronounce their names. Up until a year or so ago, they were giving me random English names to call them as I was so hopeless at getting their Samburu or Rendille names correct. Before you laugh at that, I challenge you to pronounce Lmennyoi Leolo or Lparakuoni Lekamaya. The big greeting session we have whenever we go to Melako is an endless laugh as I try to get it right. One of the many guests I have brought to Melako made the best faux pas, calling Singida (one of the Melako scouts) Sangrita. Fortunately, Singida didn't realize she’d been calling him a famous Mexican cocktail for 2 weeks!!
I think spending time with Alfred (the head scout) and his team will be one of the trip highlights. Alfred Le Surmat is in his mid 30s, he has three sons and is one of the most knowledgeable, charismatic, friendly people I have ever met. Alfred is from the Blacksmith Clan at Niribi and is a storyteller for his people. There is nothing like sitting around a campfire with a cup of Samburu tea and listening to a traditional tale. All the scouts are hired from within the conservancy and they know the land, the wildlife, and the communities like the back of their hand. To be able to track animals with these men, dig animal water holes, set night cameras, or just sit around a fire, sipping camel milk tea and learning about their lives, adventures, and families as well as their passion for wildlife is such a joy. Many of the activities we will enjoy in Melako they’ve excitedly put together for us.
Out of all of these, I think a good old fashioned game of soccer, Melako style, against the scouts will live in your memory forever. For our scouts, visions of being the next Kenyan Maradona dance through their heads as they take on the ‘tourists’. The minute you challenge the scouts to a soccer match, they will barely draw breath between changing into their soccer gear and heading down to the dry riverbed to play the most hard-core game since the 2006 World Cup.
This is how you play soccer... Melako style.
Soccer pitch = riverbed
Goal posts = elephant dung
Team selection = a lot of yelling
Uniforms = best clothes you have in camp
Rules = none!
Amount of laughter = priceless!!
But I also never forget that these men will put their lives on the line to protect their wildlife, and communities. While Melako is in a safe part of Kenya, RAW Africa Eco Tours support the scouts by paying for their membership to The Game Ranger Association of Africa, and membership to an amazing Australian conservation organisation called The Thin Green Line Foundation (TGLF) www.thingreenline.org.au . TGLF provide life insurance and security training to wildlife workers all over the world and are an important support system for the scouts. Your contribution to the Thin Green Line Foundation through Raw Africa Eco Tours helps to support the system that supports Alfred and his team of scouts. Keep an eye out for the support form in your tour pack or access the many ways to support the scouts and the Thin Green Line Foundation through our ‘Want to do a little bit more’ Program. If you would like to know more about any of the above, please drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or join Alfred and me on this great adventure at the African Tour Page
Brooke Squires has worked in zoos, national parks and conservation areas around the world. These days, she divides her time between her beloved rhinos at Werribee Open Range Zoo, Victoria, where she is a rhino keeper, and the International Conservation Partnerships for Zoos Victoria.
Ph: +61 (0) 423 393 836