In Kenya, conservation of the natural resources and wildlife and the involvement and development of local communities go hand-in-hand with the sustainability of the camps and the ability to provide authentic experiences. Follow our journey as we explore seven properties that offer unique experiences for their travelers, are committed to conserving Kenya’s natural resources and wildlife, and are intimately involved in the development of their local communities. To see all of the posts from this multi-part series, click here.
Welcome back! Today, we’re moving onto two of Great Plains Conservation’s properties in Kenya.
ol Donyo Lodge | Mbirikani Masai Conservation Area
Set on 300,000 acres of Masai-owned land far away from the tourist circuit, ol Donyo resides in a unique area of Kenya with Mount Kenya as the backdrop for its seven suites. The inspiration for Hemingway’s Green Hills of Africa, this swath of land provides a corridor for animals to move freely between neighboring Tsavo, Chyulu Hills, and Amboseli. As it’s the only lodge in the Mbirikani Masai Conservation Area, you won’t see a fleet of mini buses on your game drives.
A walk along the area’s volcanic craters and lava tubes led by a former poacher is filled with information about the volcanic history and geology of the area, and about his experiences going from a poacher to an anti-poaching ranger.
Impact: Ten thousand people make their home in the Mbirikani Group Ranch. Each guest’s stay makes a direct financial contribution to the community and to Big Life Foundation, which leads anti-poaching patrols on the Mbirikani and surrounding ranches. The foundation the Maasai Olympics to discourage lion hunting among Masai warriors as a traditional rite-of-passage. The games have been hugely successful according to Craig Millar, Head of Security at Big Life Foundation. “Lion killing has declined by over 90%,” he says. “The lion population has gone from less than 20 to over 140 in 15 years.”
Mara Plain, Masai Mara Conservancies
The sounds of hyenas and grunts of lions provide a soundtrack to life in the bush surrounding Mara Plains. Stationed at a bend in the Nikitiuk River in the Olare Motorogi Conservancy, the lodge lies in a very remote area of one of the world’s richest wild ecosystems. Getting there requires a gorgeous journey across the river via a wooden footbridge, flanked by verdant tree branches. Upon arrival, friendly staffers greet you with a cold towel and a refreshing glass of juice. Tents are tucked under a canopy of trees overlooking sweeping savannas. Unique to Great Plains Conservation’s properties, each tent is outfitted with professional camera equipment that resident guides teach you how to use during your stay.
Impact: Fees collected from guests directly contribute to sustaining the Olare Motorogi Conservancy, which is leased from the local Masai community and more than 1,000 families.
One of Great Plains Conservation’s largest projects, Rhinos Without Borders, aims to relocate 100 rhinos from high-density populations that attract poachers to safe havens in Botswana. So far, 26 rhinos have been relocated.
Next up – an interview with Craig Millar, Head of Security for Big Life Foundation.