If a tiny bee can scare a powerful elephant, I probably shouldn’t get too close. But I want to see this terrifying insect for myself, so I ask Mwakesi if I can see inside one of his hives.
Carefully, he removes the wooden lid and I peer into the dark tube. It’s empty, with just a squiggly white print where honeycomb used to attach. No bees at all.
In June, after a year of drought, Tsavo’s bees all left to seek pastures new, and Mwakesi’s hard-won source of income, like the waterholes, dried up.
What will he do now? I ask. Will he go back to poaching? Mwakesi shakes his head vigorously, no. “It wasn’t worth it,” he says. “I was risking my life every time. I couldn’t even sell the meat because people knew it was illegal. When I tried, one guy took it and refused to pay me because I couldn’t complain. So now I just have to wait for the rain and pray the bees come back soon.”
Despite the challenges, he remains hopeful. “When Yusuf arrested me, it felt like the end of the world. I thought I would go to prison. But instead, now I have a new skill and we have become friends. I was blessed that day.”
The blessings seem to continue to come. In November, it started raining again, finally, in Tsavo.
The writer was hosted by Secluded Africa at Kipalo Hills Lodge in the Mbulia Conservancy. Transport within Kenya was arranged by Audley Travel.