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A holiday far from the madding urban crowd

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By The EastAfrican
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While in East Africa, it is very easy to get away and find solitude in any of the five EAC members countries.

The region is blessed with national parks and game reserves, some so far away from anything that they are totally off grid.

And there is a wide selection to choose from. From beach to safari, from Kenya to Burundi…

  • Kidepo Valley National Park

If you are in Uganda, try the Kidepo Valley National Park, a confluence of wild nature and wildlife sandwiched between the Kenyan and South Sudan borders in northeast Uganda.

Kidepo’s beauty is rugged — a wilderness of mostly savannah, acacia, borassus palms and lots of sausage trees, whose alcoholic fruit is a delicacy for elephants.

The park is the farthest holidaying destination from Kampala, contrasting sharply with the endless din of crowds, traffic and music blaring from loudspeakers.

Depending on the route you pick, it is a 418km-drive northeast of Kampala.

Charter flights to Kidepo may be arranged from Kampala, Kampala Aeroclub, or Entebbe with Eagle Aviation. Flights take about two hours.

Accommodation — guest house and bandas — gets fully booked during the festive period but there is always the option of camping, which is more adventurous anyway.

For high-end tourists, the fancy Apoka Lodge is ideal and will meet your expectations, although officials advise pre-booking ahead of planning your safari.

Access to Kidepo has improved with tarmac up to Kitgum to the west of the park, before tourists hit gravel road for the rest of the drive; meanwhile, upgrading to tarmac of the Soroti-Katakwi-Moroto road – the other main access from eastern side – will be completed in 2019.

Travel reviews in the past have given Kidepo some mileage, with CNN Travel in 2012 voting the park Africa’s third best safari destination after Kenya’s Masai Mara and the Central Kalahari Game Reserve of Botswana. Kidepo won an award for its scenery.

The main tourist activities are game drives, guided nature walks, bird watching and community tourism that involves visiting the local Karimojong people.

For adrenaline junkies, there is the gruelling hike to the top of Mt Morungole, which rises to 2,750 metres above sea level.

At the summit of this mountain, hikers get to meet and mingle with the Ik – a minority ethnic group of only about 10,000 people, who live on top of Mt Morungole.

Jinja claims the honour of being the source of the River Nile, and a trip here means enjoying boat rides, white water rafting and bungee jumping.

There are several resorts here offering world class comfort.

For culture lovers, the Batwa trail presents a pleasant experience. It is a trip into a series of caves where the Batwa live and it includes a traditional theatre music performance.

Take advantage of the vast natural richness and opt for a serene holiday in the Mabira forest. You can go for nature walks, swim, do some bird watching and crown the day with a night at the forest cottage.

  • Visit the Queen Elizabeth National Park

This is one of Uganda’s most visited national parks.

It is home to flora and fauna and home to some 100 mammal species and more than 600 species of birds.

Some of the notable wildlife you can see are the Uganda Kob, a national symbol in Uganda, lion, cape buffalo, warthog, topis and more.

One recommended place is the Mweya Peninsula, which has been described as the heart of sightseeing activities.

It overlooks the Katwe Bay of Lake Edward. You can take a boat cruise along the 40-metre Kazinga Channel that joins Lake George to Lake Edward.

The Equator passes through the park and there is a beautiful viewpoint and photography area with curio shops and the Queen’s Pavilion for a quick snack and drink.

The Queen’s Pavilion is the site where in 1954 Queen Elizabeth found temporary shelter.

It was not until 1959 when a permanent pavilion was constructed for the visit of the Queen.

Renovations were made for a visit by the of Duke of Edinburgh in 2007, and it now has a coffee shop and Internet cafe.

The park is easily accessible by road on a five-to-six hour drive either through Mbarara (420km) or Fort Portal via Kasese, 410km.

  • Interact with chimpanzees at Ngamba Island

For water lovers who happen to love chimpanzees too, a boat to Ngamba Island on Lake Victoria is an ideal outing.

The island has a chimpanzee sanctuary, and you can choose to take a day off at the island to appreciate them. The tour includes transport to and from the island and lunch.
The other option is spending a night on the island, which includes full board accommodation, transport, a walk in the forest and viewing of chimpanzees.
For an overnight stay, it costs $166 inclusive of meals. Transportation is $125, sharing a boat, and $250 for exclusive travellers.

To track the chimpanzees costs $100, the fee including monitoring the primates, taking a sunset cruise on Lake Victoria and visiting the communities on Ngamba island.

  • Take a trip to Kalangala, Brovad Sands Lodge

The lodge is tucked away at the far end of Bugala Island with an open view of Lake Victoria.

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In the evening, you can sit by the lake and enjoy a sundowner at the campfire and after nightfall, you can continue drinking while overlooking the shimmering lake.

The lodge has a stretch of beach with warm, white sand, and is nestled in greenery, where birds offer soothing chirping.

At sunset, the staff offer massage right at the beach on request. The lake has created natural, clean, crystal blue pools for swimming nestled between the lodge’s lawns.

Adrenaline junkies can do quad biking while the calmer visitor has boat rides, guided forest walks, cycling around the villages, photography, beach volley ball and sport fishing.

It gets cool in the night, so some warm wear is recommended to keep the chill at bay.

  • Feed giraffes at the Giraffe Centre

With its towering stature, the giraffe remains a graceful giant.

The most wildlife lovers ever get close to them is through photographs.

The Giraffe Centre in Nairobi lets you get up-close with the Rothschild giraffe in feeding sessions.

The giraffes reach out with their long tongues for some crunchy snacks, making for excellent photographic moments.

The experience is next to none and you may find yourself spending three hours or so there.

The centre is open every day from 9am to 5pm.

Non-resident adults pay Kshs1,000 ($10), non-resident children Ksh500 ($5), resident adults Ksh250, resident children Ksh50 and free for school groups are allowed in free if they book one week in advance.

  • Take it slow in Naivasha town

The festive season is about slowing things down as you relax and appreciate nature.

Head to Naivasha in Nakuru County just 100km west of Nairobi, for a countryside feel and experience.

A road trip from Nairobi will take you about two hours.

Naivasha is home to Hell’s Gate National Park where you can go on a guided cycling tour through ancient beautiful landscapes with deep gorges and hanging cliffs. Rock climbers have a field day here.

The park is also home to wildlife such as zebras and giraffes. You can go sailing on Lake Naivasha and the best part is that the lake is home to a large variety of birds, making it a birders’ paradise.

It is estimated that the lake is home to some 400 different bird species.

Take a walk in the Crescent Island Game Park located off the lake. This is a guided walking safari because of the population of hippos.

At the end of the day, you can choose to kick off your safari shoes and relax at a spa at one of many luxury resorts and camping sites.

One option to try out is the Enashipai Resort & Spa’s Siyara’s.

If Uganda is the Pearl of Africa, Tanzania is the jewel in the crown.

  • Experience Stone Town’s authentic heritage

If you are looking for East Africa’s heritage, Stone Town is the place to go. The town has preserved its slave trade and slavery past, with the historical market and church still standing.

The full tour includes the spice market and Taarab music centres.

The town front, aptly named Forodhani (where import and export taxes are paid) is located right at the ocean front.

It is also the best place for authentic street food. The stalls are open from late afternoon into late night.

The Stone Town speciality pizza which you can wash down with a ginger fused pineapple juice, is a must have.

Although Zanzibar is predominantly Muslim, there are a couple of nightclubs for tourists.

Zanzibar beaches are some of the best in the world, and an option is to travel to the north of the island to Nungwi beach, the so called Ibiza of Africa.

Northern Tanzania attracts thousands of tourists who come to climb Mount Kilimanjaro and the nearby wildlife sanctuaries.

For regional travellers, Arusha and Moshi offer the perfect laidback getaways in a temperate climate.

Mt Kilimanjaro offers day hikes and once in a lifetime climbing adventures. It is among the leading tourist destinations of the world.

The Kilemakyaro Mountain Lodge in Arusha, once a colonial German homestead, has been refurbished and expanded into a luxury lodge.

It sits on a 40-acre coffee and banana farm at Uru-Kifumbu Estate in Uru-Mawella village, on the foothills of the mountain.

The lodge can accommodate over 40 visitors at a time.

Joachim Minde, the owner, said that investors in the tourism sector now prefer to put in their money at the village level, yet still provide the same luxury for tourists and mountain climbers as that offered by big hotels and resorts in the cities.

Also located in the village is Mountain Inn Lodge, with a 37 double-room capacity, about five kilometres from Moshi Municipality.

Arusha and Moshi are accessible by public transport from all neighbouring countries. From Kenya, you can drive via the Tarakea and Loitoktok border points in the east or Namanga in the west, just a four-hour drive from Nairobi.

The Kilimanjaro International Airport, and airstrips in Moshi and Taveta (in Kenya) offer the fastest arrivals.

Farther south are the Pare Mountains circuit, offering picturesque views of Mt Kilimanjaro and Meru peaks and excellent views of the plains in Kenya and Tanzania.

Hikers and climbers enjoy day hiking trips through chilly mountain forests, coffee plantations and cultural villages that give a fascinating narrative about the history and traditions of the Pare people.

Reported by Julius Barigaba, Edgar Batte, Apolinari Tairo and Halima Abdalla.

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Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard

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Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.

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However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

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Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard

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President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow

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Drastic life changes affecting mental health

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Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.

KBC Radio_KICD Timetable

Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.

Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.

The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.

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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.

In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020.  It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.

A study by Dr. Habil Otanga,  a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says  that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.

KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.

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Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.

As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.

“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”

Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.

“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.

Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.

“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”

Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.

“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.

Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.

Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.

She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.

Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.

“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added

Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.

“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and  also engage in   reading that would  help expand their knowledge.

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