While I was in Kenya, I saw a number of unbelievable things. I saw a family of lions tearing apart a zebra. I saw two lions mate, four times. I saw a baby elephant learning to slurp water with its trunk by copying its mother. But none of those things mesmerised me as much as the blue trees we found dotted across Tsavo East.
Guys, did you know that blue trees even existed?! I didn’t. We were barrelling down a red dirt road in Tsavo national park, smokes of orange dust billowing behind the Jeep, when Jake pointed to the side of the road. “That tree is blue!”
Our guide, Anthony, kept driving. “Oh. Yeah.”
Anthony has been driving around Tsavo for years now. The blue trees were old news.
I, on the other hand, was dumbfounded. Aside from blueberries and a spate of blue flowers, there is not a lot of blue in the natural world. I honestly couldn’t believe my eyes. Amidst the dry grey spines of the other drought-ridden trees, there were these pops of bright cornflower blue. I spent most of the rest of the drive sitting on the roof of the Jeep, watching for the pops of colour among the other dry trunks.
It wasn’t until later, on our way back from wandering around a local riverbed, that I piped up from the roof. “Can we stop and look at the trees? I have to take a photo of this.”
We drove for a little longer along the dusty road before Anthony found a good collection of the blue trees. I hopped off the top of the car and removed my lens cap. The intensity of the blue varied between each individual trunk, with some of them showing the smallest touch of blue and others being so vivid I couldn’t believe I hadn’t noticed them before. We’d spent a good few hours driving around these paths and I hadn’t seen a thing, too busy looking for animals or flicking through photos. It’s funny, the things we miss even when we’re looking.
When we got back to camp, Anthony told me the proper name of the blue trees. I’ll admit that I got distracted by other things right away, but later in the trip, I sat down to try to find out some more information about this unusual natural feature. Google returned nothing. Seriously, there was nothing. The world’s most powerful search engine kept replacing my searches with ‘did you mean,’ showing me webpages that were loosely related at best. I tried searching for ‘blue trees Kenya’ and ‘blue trees Tsavo East,’ but it was to no avail. As far as I can tell, these trees don’t exist on the Internet.
For the rest of our time in Tsavo, I made a point to look out for the trees. It turned out that there was a huge cluster right by our camp, which meant that I could spend as much time as I wanted taking photos without everyone waiting in the Jeep for me to have my fill of time clicking the shutter. While I think that the blue trees would have stood out regardless, they were particularly striking against the backdrop of the red dust. I found a tree covered in sap and cracks, creating what I ended up referring to as the ‘art tree.’
The response to my utter amazement at these trees has been… lacklustre, to say the least. Everyone is far more interested in pictures of lion cubs and herds of elephants (how dare they!). I am just so intrigued, not only by the blue trees themselves, something I’d never seen or heard of, but by the fact that they remain so unknown. In the age of the Internet, it can feel like there is little else to explore. One Google search tends to yield pages of results, meaning that a single query will return more information than you’d likely ever want on a subject. But not with this.
Now, I keep trying to find more information, but I can’t. There is a national park in Kenya full of baby elephants and cheetahs and a host of blue trees, but somehow, much of that information has slipped past the major knowledge banks of the world. I love the thought that these little natural wonders remain broadly hidden. I love that, somewhere, there will be a car full of wide-eyed people, one of whom will see these blue trees and start asking questions with no answers. In the world of endless solutions, it feels good to know there are certain stones of the Earth left unturned.