“While trekking through the primeval landscape of Soysambu it is hard to ignore the rhythms of its past….and concerns for the future.
Thousands of years ago, this area was rent by violent volcanic activity. Huge volcanoes to the south sent massive lava flows towards the lake which, in those times, was much higher than today. Around the western shore, molten lava burst through the earth’s crust creating a jumble of black lava ridges and plateaus interspersed with hidden glades and hollows. Near the lake itself, these are filled with 10 foot high bamboo grass but further inland, they contain beautiful yellow acacias and rich green warburgia trees.
In the shallow water on this side of the lake are a number of low, rugged, lava-rock islands. Here is one of the few nesting sites in Africa of the Great White Pelican. The islands are packed sometimes with shoulder-to-shoulder nesting birds or at others, a tightly packed host of dark colored fledglings. Elmenteita does not have an adequate food supply for all these huge birds so they fly the 10 miles westwards to Lake Nakuru to fish and bring the catch back in their large beak-pouches to their young. The sky is therefore often filled with great flocks of pelicans circling in formation, seeking the thermals to lift them over the ridge to Nakuru.
Distant ancestors occupied this area made evident by nearby archeological sites Kariandusi, Hyrax Hill and Gambles Cave. The Maasai passed through on their nomadic journeys, many battles took place in the area and the first European Explorers recorded the wildlife and peoples of this area in their journals as they made their historic treks across Africa. It was wild.
Many years later this land was acquired by the British settler, Lord Delamere, when it was British East Africa in 1905.”*
SOYSAMBU – A HUNDRED YEARS:
BY JULIET BARNES
The history of Soysambu spanning the last century is inseparable from the name Delamere: today’s successful farming methods were originally pioneered by the first Delamere to settle in Kenya, the third Baron: born Hugh Cholmondeley. An important character in Kenya’s past, Lord Delamere dedicated his foresight and British fortune to develop Kenya’s farm potential into one of the most efficient and prosperous in Africa. A great adventurer, Delamere arrived in Kenya on foot after a 1000 mile walk from Somalia – and fell for the country. He returned to settle permanently in 1903 with his first wife Lady Florence, daughter of the Earl of Enniskillin and their son Thomas, who was born in 1900. Their initial home was at Njoro, but in 1906- after suffering heavy losses of livestock and money – they moved much of the livestock to recently acquired land at Soysambu.Soysambu means “the place of striated rock” in Maasai. Sambu is also the Maasai name for a cattle colour. The ranch was thus named because it seldom saw rain and cattle died by the hundreds in the frequent droughts. Delamere continued to sink vast sums of money into crop ventures at Njoro and livestock experiments at Soysambu, while also forging friendly relations with local Maasai and thus acquiring valuable knowledge and insights. Known to friends as “D”, Delamere was a controversial voice in settler politics, and reputedly an entertaining guest at parties. His bronze statue, once on the formerly named Delamere Avenue in Nairobi, is now on back on Soysambu beside the Delamere home where it looks pensively across the lake to the hill known as Delamere’s nose or The Sleeping Warrior.Gwladys, former wife of Sir Charles Markham, first arrived in Kenya in 1928 to become the second wife to the third Baron Delamere. Thirty years younger than him she looked after him until his death in 1931. She later became Nairobi’s first lady Mayor and was highly respected for her work during the war.Thomas, fourth Baron Delamere, was married first to Phyllis Montague Douglas Scott, with whom he had two daughters and a son, and then to Mary Cunningham-Reid (sister of Edwina Mountbatten), before he married the colourful Diana in 1955: he was her fourth husband! The fourth Baron died in 1979, while Diana continued to live on Soysambu, pursuing her passion for horse-racing in Nairobi, and deep sea fishing in Kilifi – until she died in 1987. She is buried near Naivasha’s Crater Lake –between two of her husbands and two of Kenya’s former great landowners: Gilbert Colville and the fourth Baron Delamere. The other members of the Delamere family are buried on Soysambu in a peaceful Acacia glade, frequented by wild creatures.Soysambu remains a working cattle ranch with some of the best Boran cattle in Kenya. The fifth Baron, today’s Lord Delamere, still lives on Soysambu.
The financial challenges of continuing Soysambu as only a cattle ranch are insurmountable with the pressures on the wildlife in this area due to the escalation in human population and decimation of natural habitat surrounding the area. Soysambu which plays a major role in the Elmenteita-Nakuru Eco System is being transformed into a Conservancy to be protected for future generations and to preserve a wildlife corridor from Nakuru to Naivasha. Tourism and enterprise programs are being developed to provide reinvestment in Communities and Conservation. Massive funding will be needed to help in these efforts along with anti-poaching security, research facilities and wildlife management. There are many serious challenges facing the survival of Soysambu.
Soysambu Conservancy works to sustain wildlife species, indigenous livestock and habitat; supports local conservation initiatives; facilitates neighboring development and educates the community in the value of flora and fauna in order to preserve the Rift Valley Ecosystem for future generations.
For more information email: firstname.lastname@example.org
*Reprinted from www.soysambuconservancy.org