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Rainforest Holiday Treats in Kenya

My name is Dino J. Martins, and I am a Kenyan entomologist who loves insects. The Kiswahili word for insect is dudu and if you didn’t know already, insects rule the world! Thanks to the amazing efforts of the “little things that run the world” I was humbled to be selected as a National Geographic Emerging Explorer. This blog is a virtual dudu safari through the fascinating world of bugs. Enjoy, and leave a comment and send any questions or comments to me through: insects.eanhs@gmail.com.

Dear All,

Firstly, thanks everyone for the kind comments, questions and poems posted over the past year. Sorry that I don’t always respond as I am often in remote sites with limited access to the internet.

I have been very lucky to spend the holidays in the Kakamega Forest in Western Kenya. After a busy year of looking at bugs, studying bees, writing and research in many remote, beautiful places, what better way to spend the holidays than sitting quietly by a stream deep in the heart of the forest…

As I waited by the stream, watching the coming and going of countless marvelous insects, two exceptionally beautiful damselflies made a special appearance. The first was a red jewel. This rare creature is found along forested streams in Western Kenya and Uganda. It lays its eggs in the clear, flowing waters where oxygen levels are high and the water pure and sweet. It is, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful of Africa’s insects.

The gorgeous Red Jewel deep in the heart of Kakamega Forest, Western Kenya.
The gorgeous red jewel deep in the heart of Kakamega Forest, Western Kenya. (Photo by Dino Martins)

The red jewel spent most of its time chasing off other damselflies and even the much larger dragonflies from its special vantage point in the sun along the stream. Occasionally it swept out and grabbed a snack in the form of a passing mosquito or hapless flies that became trapped on the water’s surface.

I watched the red jewel flash about and perch, carefully recording when it captured prey. As I followed its behavior, keenly, a leaf rustled beside me and I looked up to find myself eye-to-eye with another beauty. This one was watching me as much as I was watching it. It was draped in the dappled light gazing out at the world, its tongue flicking in and out.

Yes, I flinched when I first spotted it, and it responded with the same and a warning hiss. Then, as I realised that it was not the least bit interested in me, but merely enjoying the warm, liquid-golden sunshine that flowed down through the canopy far overhead, and we both relaxed and shared the view of the stream and its myriad inhabitants. (Yes, you might have guessed already that this creature was a snake—a lovely little green bush viper)…

The elegant green bush viper. (Photo by Dino Martins)

As the green bush viper and I both relaxed again, my attention wandered back to the flashes of color moving around the stream. And then on a leaf right in front of me appeared another of the forest’s jewels—the incredible sapphire, another of East Africa’s loveliest damselflies…

The elegant, exquisite sapphire damselfly, Kakamega Forest. (Photo by Dino Martins)

When one is honored, inspired and awed by beauty such as this—I can’t help but think of how special and precious all our forests and all our biodiversity is on this planet. I feel that in witnessing and exploring the wonders of nature, I also have to point out that we need to conserve it for its beauty and interest as much as its utility and practical contributions to our daily lives. What a joy to be able to find spaces, wherever they may be, that are filled with species who have come about through millions of years of evolution and share with us their home on this lonely little planet.

Stream in rainforest, Kakamega Forest, Western Kenya
Stream in rainforest, Kakamega Forest, Western Kenya. (Photo by Dino Martins)

Please keep the “little creatures that run the world” in your thoughts during the holidays…

More from the world of bugs soon!

Read More By Dino Martins


  1. Dimitra
    Trikala Greece
    December 28, 2012, 10:37 am

    You’ ve got the best job in the world!Amazing nature and creatures of amazing beauty, you’re so lucky!

  2. Ima Ryma
    December 27, 2012, 3:35 am

    The female damselfly does search
    The Kakamega Forest for
    A mate. She takes a viewing perch
    To shop for males in nature’s store.
    She notes the Red Jewel – eye candy –
    Who puts on quite a show for her,
    Chasing away flies that might be
    His competition, as it were.
    He puffs his bright colored physique,
    To better odds a wife to win.
    He uses all his best technique.
    A Sapphire damselfly swoops in.

    The female picks the Sapphire guy.
    Away together they do fly.