The day was bright and peaceful, nothing short of beautiful could define the early morning sun as it showered us with its rays, but nothing could possibly prepare me for what I would encounter later that day.
I was to track collared herds of Hirola in Boni forest, a forest known by locals for its poisonous snakes and dangerous animals. I picked Mr. Ibrahim, a community scout known as Mwalimu and off we rode towards the forest on my bike with only a pair of GPS, binoculars, camera, VHF, snacks and water. Mwalimu is well acquainted with Boni forest and the dangers that lurk within it. As I carefully manoeuvred through livestock paths and scrubs, he told me of how two of his cows were preyed on by a pride of lions just two days before. His message was simple and precise, utmost caution and attention was vital for our survival through the day!
Dark, heavy clouds build fast and spread over the forest making it dark and mysterious, I wasn’t sure if Boni forest was trying to assert its authority on our arrival or Mother nature was trying to warn us of an impending attack. Despite all this, our comfort lay on the fact that our trip was for a good cause, a cause that would eventually see the conservation of the most endangered antelope.
The ‘heart of the forest’ was an area of acacia reficiens transitioned by bushes. The bright and beautiful morning had now turned dark with heavy clouds above us and the the paths were still muddy probably from the rain a day or two before. I rode slowly and carefully through the mud with mwalimu at the back of my bike as we went past a trench known by the locals as ‘raga’. Out of the blue, an adult buffalo appeared and charged towards us. The Buffalo hit the bike at the rear knocking us off. With very little time to understand what had just happened, and hopefully act before its next charge, I realised Mwalimu was already on his heels heading fast towards a tree. I then instinctively rolled down to the back of a dobera tree. The adult buffalo which Mwalimu later informed me was a female was nowhere in sight but I could hear it roaming at a distance. I hoped and prayed that it had ran off and after a few minutes that seemed like an eternity, I decided to go to my bike and assess the damage. By then my heartbeat was as loud as the chirping of the birds.
Mwalimu was also nowhere to be found and I dreaded of being alone in a forest full of wild, dangerous animals. I whistled hoping to communicate with him, and fortunately he whistled back. Mwalimu was safely perched 8metres up a tree. Only the adrenaline rush when faced with a life and death situation could explain how a 40 year old would within seconds dash through trees and bushes and climb a tree 8 metres high.
The bike had been hit hard from the back damaging the rear wheel, mudguard, indicators and number plate. My trouser and shirt were in tatters and more importantly we had no transport out of the forest. Communication for help was also out of question as there was no phone signal. That is when the reality of it all hit me; we were stranded in the heart of Boni forest without any form of communication and a damaged motorbike.
The only way out was to drag the motorbike to the main road for help hoping we wouldn’t encounter another wild animal. After 2 hours of continuous walking, I started experiencing severe pain in my shoulder. Upon a brief check-up, we noticed I had been badly pierced by thorns. The only option available was to use the forest to our advantage and fortunate enough, Mwalimu knew how. He got a herb whose leaves were traditionally used in nursing pains and would also easily remove the thorns from my shoulder. The herb was efficient as it relieved me off the pain. The main road was quite a distance away and after hours of walking we finally got help and I was taken to hospital.