The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust – Volunteering opportunities

Everyone who knows me, knows how much I respect the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, a charity that looks after and rehabilitates orphaned elephants in Nairobi, Kenya.

It was founded in 1977 in memory of David Sheldrick and it is run by Dame Daphne Sheldrick and her daughter Angela Sheldrick.

If you are in Kenya, you can visit the orphanage between 11 and 12 for the feeding time where you get to see the groups of orphaned elephants having their milk, which is made from a special formula created by Dame Daphne Sheldrick after many many different trials. You can also book private time with the elephant in advance during the evenings, but this is dependent on many factors so worth doing well in advance. The entrance fee goes towards their care.

The elephants arrive at the orphanage either because they have been the victim of their mothers being poached, or from being separated from their herd. The elephants range from nursery orphans to slightly older ones. They stay here with the keepers before being moved on to be slowly rehabilitated back into the wild.

 

You can help this cause in so many different ways, which include fostering an elephant, either for yourself or as a gift for a loved one. I have quite a few elephants I have fostered, as well as Maxwell the resident rhino.

https://www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.org/asp/fostering.asp

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As well as fundraising events, such as the elephant run, you can also volunteer your skills to help in the UK and US. You will be amazed to know that there is a very small group of amazing people who work behind the scenes full time for such an incredible cause and the amount they achieve is superb. However, sometimes during busy periods, they welcome as much help as possible.

I have personally volunteered twice so far at their UK office in Surrey, and hope to continue as much as I can. I did this as part of my community day offered by my place of work so it is worth checking if your work place offered similar days to give back.

 

The DSWT does not take on volunteers on in Kenya for a number of reasons. Firstly, caring for the orphans is a long term commitment and the keepers care for them as a temporary family and are with them for up to 10 years.

Enabling local Kenyans the opportunity play a part in the hand-raising of orphans helps create an affinity with the species and the keepers then share this conservation message with their families and communities, further spreading this essential conservation message.

Furthermore, paid or voluntary work in Kenya by foreigners requires a Work Permit, whilst walking in the bush brings with it an element of danger and, understandably, the government does not allow a foreigner to be exposed to this without armed escort.

You can,however,  volunteer in both the US and UK for outreach events and administrative support. You can request to be added to the list of volunteers at:

US: infous@sheldrickwildlifetrust.org and you will provided with an application.

UK: infouk@sheldrickwildlifetrust.org

I receive monthly emails which detail the type of help they require.

As an example, I have put my excel and marketing skills to use in the UK office helping with database maintenance as well as trends analysis to help plan fundraising  events better in the future. You can also help with fundraising events, stock taking and manning stalls at major events.

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If you are keen to find out more about this cause, Kristin Davis has also produced a fantastic documentary called Gardeners of Eden which gives great insights into the work the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust does and can be viewed on iTunes and Netflix. For more information visit: http://officialkristindavis.com/gardeners-of-eden/

For more information about the cause you can also read more here: http://www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.org

Top tips for an African Safari – an experience which everyone should do at least once!

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“I never knew of a morning in Africa when I woke up and was not happy,”

Ernest Hemingway.

I wholeheartedly agree with the quote from one of my famous authors from English Literature days in school and my fellow Mojito lover. Having been born in Kenya, in East Africa, growing up in Africa has truly enriched my body and soul in so many adventures, memories, knowledge and life experiences.

One experience, which no matter how many times you do it, is just always so amazing, is going on an African safari. There is something about seeing lions up close in the grasslands, or a cheetah jumping on a neighbouring car’s roof (or your own car roof) which is just unexplainable. It is a truly life changing experience.

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It is thrilling to see wild animals in their natural habitat, going about their daily lives. If a safari is on your bucket list tick it off sooner rather than later (it is definitely worth it) and here is how to get the best out of your safari.

Firstly where to go on safari? I am going to be unashamedly biased and say East Africa, either Kenya or Tanzania, although it is meant to be really good in South Africa too. You can read about one of fellow blogger Angie Silver’s luxurious safaris in South Africa at Singita Lebombo here.

For the purpose of this blog post I am going to talk about Kenya as safaris in Kenya are what I am most familiar with.

Planning the Safari

First things first is the destination. Within Kenya itself, you have a choice of several game reserves. As important as the game reserve you choose, is the accommodation, which can range from budget lodges to luxurious camps. I went for the luxurious option and stayed at the Olare Mara Kempinski on my last safari which was amazing and is in Masai Mara.Read about it here. It is sometimes worth it to spend a little bit more for an unforgettable experience as after all it is a once in a lifetime Out of Africa experience 😉

You then have to decide whether you are going to go for a package tour or do it yourself. There is a benefit of having a good driver, who can often double up as a fantastic guide. They often know how to seek out the hiding spots of all the animals making your chances of seeing lots of animals higher.

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National park entry fees

An important consideration is that there is a daily fee for national parks which range from $40 for some of the smaller parks to upwards of $60 for some of the bigger parks. If you take your own vehicle there may be a charge for the vehicle too so make sure you add this to your overall budget costs for the trip.

Timing is everything

The time of year you choose to do your safari will influence the cost of your trip as well as the amount of wildlife you are likely to see. The dry season, which runs from June to October, is usually the best time of the year to see wildlife. It is also the most expensive and busiest time of year, especially August as this is when the Wildebeest migration happens. The Wildebeest Migration, is one of the “Seven New Wonders of the World” and also known as The World Cup of Wildlife.

You need to decide what works best for you in terms of timing and cost. If you can, consider going on a safari just before high season kicks in.

Fly or Drive?

In Kenya, you can choose to either arrive at your chosen accommodation by car or fly into the neatest airstrip. The cheaper option is to drive but it is also the longest journey.

Flying, may be slightly pricier but you save lots of time and can see the game park from an alternative angle.

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Packing for your safari

Once you have booked your safari and the time has come to pack, here are some suggestions of must bring items:

  • Comfortable walking shoes
  • Flip flops
  • Swimwear (if your camp has a pool)
  • A warm jacket/sweater for evenings
  • Insect repellant
  • Sun cream
  • Light clothes
  • A blanket or shawl for early morning drives
  • Camera with spare batteries and various lens
  • Sunglasses
  • Binoculars
  • Travel backpack
  • A novel to read for when you are back at the camp
  • Always carry cash with you and a form of ID

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The Safari experience

Once you have arrived at your destination, make sure you arrange to do an early morning game drive. Although it may be more tempting to have a lie in instead, trust me it is so worth it! An evening drive is also recommended to experience sunset in the park.

Once you go on your first safari don’t go with high expectations of seeing the big 5 all in one go, although you may get lucky and see them all in your first drive!

Do keep your eyes and ears open to ensure you don’t miss out on an animal hiding!

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Always be respectful of the animals and keep noise to a minimum when you are nearby so not to disrupt them in their natural habitat too much.

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Finally make sure you live in the moment use all your senses to fully experience the moment and adventure. As tempting as it may be to photography absolutely everything, take a moment out to just take in the surroundings, the smell of the african savannah, the smells of the game drive and the sound of the animals.

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Binny’s Kitchen turns 1! A very special anniversary

  Jambo friends and family!

Exactly 1 year ago, I hit publish on my first official blog post on Binny’s Kitchen and it was a recipe for Stuffed Masala Aubergines with a spicy tomato sauce.  It all started as a platform to share recipes of dishes I had been posting on my Instagram and over the last 12 months it has grown into something I could only have dreamed of.

I just wanted to say a massive thank you to each and every one of you who takes the time to read my blog (and to my parents for sharing all my posts so proudly, and to Yatika and Meera for their endless support as the bestest friends anyone could have) and I am so grateful to have you all on this journey with me.

Starting this blog was one of the best decisions I have ever made and Binny’s Kitchen has evolved from recipes, to include restaurant and bar reviews, events and travel inspired posts.

My biggest regret was not starting this blog earlier due to the amount Amit & I have travelled and the amount we have eaten out prior to the blog. It is important to look forwards and not backwards so I am re-creating new memories as well as including some posts about past experiences.

To commemorate the anniversary, I asked the lovely Ella Masters to create the illustration below for me. It has a Kenyan theme of course because that is where my heart will always be, and it has an elephant to signify the very special cause I support with all my heart, The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.

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It is no surprise that my blog anniversary coincides with the same month as my wedding anniversary and last year we celebrated our wedding anniversary at Gymkhana and it was actually the first ever restaurant review I wrote. You can read it here:

https://binnyskitchen.com/2015/04/12/gymkhana-indian-food-at-its-best/

We then celebrated both mine and Amit’s birthdays at Gymkhana in 2015 and it is only right to celebrate my blog’s first  birthday there too so that is the plan for later.

Through the past year the highlights, of which have been many, have included making lots of friends, meeting inspirational chefs and role models in the industry as well as experiencing London and different cuisines which I wouldn’t have been motivated to prior to starting the blog. I hope that my blog inspires you to try those things too!

Highlights of the past year have been:

Making fellow blogger friends

Michelle, from http://petitetealover.co.uk and Sandra from http://cakeandwhisky.com are my blogging buddies. Our friendship formed at Le Meridien Piccadilly over afternoon tea and we have experienced so many events and restaurants together ever since.

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Dates with the lovely Nessy, whose photography is truly inspiring.  Check out her photography here: https://m.facebook.com/pages/Nessy-Samuel-Photography/567610629925103

I have met so many other lovely inspirational bloggers at events and some I still have to meet in real life, but the friendships made over the past year are truly special.

My current favourite bookmarked blogs to read (including Sandra and Michelle’s) are as follows and is not limited to the following:

Meera needs no introduction. She is not only my best friend but has a mouthwatering instagram feed and an amazing blog, with recipes which look amazing and are really good for you too. http://thefitfabfoodie.com

Jaime’s lifestyle blog with interiors I envy at http://www.angloyankophile.com/p/about-me.html

Angie’s luxury lifestyle blog which invokes a lot of wanderlust. She is also my source for restaurant reviews. http://www.silverspoonlondon.co.uk

Aftab’s blog, is so honest, amazing and inspiring to read. He covers everything from beauty, travel to food. My kind of blog! http://www.freshandfearless.co.uk

Vi Vian is my favourite Malaysian blogger and she also hosts supper clubs (I am going to attend one soon promise) http://www.vi-vian.com

Kacie, is a lovely lovely girl who I met at the Cosmopolitan Blog Awards. She is a Welsh blogger and she always has recipes and reviews that invoke a lot of hunger. If you are planning a trip to Cardiff she is your girl! http://www.therarewelshbit.com

Anu from Peachy tales is my Mauritian friend who I am hopefully going to meet super soon! Her photography is on point and she is such a lovely girl. http://peachytales.com

Harpreet’s blog is the number one stop for all things wanderlust! She tells her epic tales of her footsteps across the world and her photography is stunning. http://harpreetswanderlust.com

Jaini – A fellow David Sheldrick supporter and mummy to Mbegu, I love this girl and she inspires me so much!Her diary has amazing travel posts from Kenya and other countries too. http://jainisdiaries.com

Mel & John are an adorable pair who I met at an event at Bunny Chow and we all had a giggle as John could not fit in the kitchen, apart from one spot where the ceiling had a bit of a slot big enough for his head to fit into. One tall and one short and they have fabulous reviews and recipes on their blog. http://www.yummyfeed.com

Suji and I had been chatting on twitter and experienced Hoppers together and have a lot in common. She is lovely, inspiring and has a Sri Lankan background. http://mykitchenadventures.co

Curry For Change

Another big highlight of 2015 was getting involved in #CurryForChange with a charity called Find your Feet to raise money for a worthy cause. Pictured are Chintal, who makes amazing cakes and Nankhatai https://chinskitchen.co.uk and Tania, co founder of Chit Chaat Chai, soon to be a new restaurant opening in a few months.

 

Meeting and seeing some Inspirational chefs and foodies

Going to events, and restaurants, and even in my own work HQ, has allowed me to meet some truly inspirational chefs and role models in the industry such as Chef Vivek Singh, Mallika Basu, Asma Khan, Jason Atherton, Paul Hollywood and Michel Roux Jr.

The Cosmopolitan Blog Awards

I was so thrilled to be awarded Highly Commended in the Cosmopolitan Blog Awards and I could not have done it without you all voting for me. I am so thankful to Janki too, who styled my hair and did my make up for me on the night. Check out her Instagram account here.  PS I know I look really short in the photo below :p

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A big thank you to Amit

I cannot of course end this post without saying a massive thank you to Amit who has let me have the freedom to live my dream, has supported me endlessly, motivated me and encouraged me and bought me a Macbook and a Camera to help me on this journey.

He is also my plus one on many restaurant reviews and trips and having him believe in me is something I am so grateful for. He also doesn’t mind the evenings when I am out at blogging events and always helps me where he can (Instagram husband) so thank you very much Amit 🙂

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So what’s next for Binny’s Kitchen? First off this weekend we are celebrating the blog’s birthday, followed by an upcoming trip to the Cotswolds and Mauritius.

I then have the UK Blog Awards to attend at the end of April and then a blogger trip to France in May. I look forward to sharing those experiences, as well  as many more restaurant reviews and recipes with you.

Thank you for all your support so far and thank you for being a part of my blog’s journey.

Asante Sana 🙂

Lots of love Binny xx

 

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Purrfect time at the Kitty Cafe – Nottingham

Attention this post is only for cat lovers so if you don’t like cats please do not leave any cat hating comments 🙂

   

  

 A few weeks ago I visited the amazing Kitty Cafe in Nottingham, which is a cat rescue centre and a cat cafe, where you can have some drinks and food as well as play with the resident rescue cats. I am a self confessed crazy cat lady so this was totally the highlight of the trip for me.

  There are strict rules in place so that the cats don’t feel stressed out. It is also a great way to get to know the cats if you are thinking of adopting a rescue cat.

The menu for food is really good and we had a pizza and a panini. We were so distracted by the cats that we forgot to get any photos of the food but it was so delicious that even Popcorn wanted some. Naughty cat!

  My favourite was Heathcliffe – how gorgeous is he?

   

 If you are a cat lover in Nottingham or planning to visit Nottingham, this is a must visit but you have to book at least 7 days in advance as it is very popular.

You get one hour in the Kitty Cafe and it is a wonderful experience.

   

  

  

  
 For more information go to: http://kittycafe.co.uk

Why you should #JoinTheHerd and make it the Year of the Elephant

Growing up in Kenya, I had the luxury of seeing elephants frequently whenever we went on safari. Over the years on visits back, it has been harder to spot them and the number of elephants is declining and I fear one day our future generations will only see their skeletons in museums.

A conservation project I support, The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, takes in orphaned elephants under its belt and looks after them until they are ready to go back in to the wild. Many of these elephants are orphaned as a result of poaching. In recent years, the number of elephants has increased and this is a real problem as ivory trade continues to occur.

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WildAid have launched a campaign to make it the year of the elephant and their mission is to end the illegal wildlife trade in our lifetimes and their slogan is “When the buying stops, the killing can too.”

I wholeheartedly agree with this as it is the root cause of the problem that needs to be worked on first and thus it is important to ban ivory trade worldwide.

According to WildAid, 33,000 African elephants are killed yearly for their ivory. That is a scary number and the elephant populations in other parts of Africa have already been devastated.

Help stop this catastrophic killing of elephants as well as the exacerbation of their extinction and #JoinThe Herd today here, amongst other fantastic supporters such as Kristin Davis, Richard Branson and Lupita Nyong’o to name a few, at https://www.yearoftheelephant.org and sign the pledge too.

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You can also donate to Wild Aid here http://wildaid.org/ivoryfree

This will help raise awareness of this monstrosity and help out banning ivory trade higher on the agenda worldwide.

Let’s make it the year of the elephant! Help spread awareness and go create your photo now.

http://www.wildaid.org