Join us for a multi-part series on seven of Kenya’s top properties, including interviews with their owners and top conservation partners. In this first post, we are taking a look at The Safari Collection.
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.
“With the Safari Collection, we hope guests take away a love for Kenya and a desire to return,” says Owner Mikey Carr-Hartley. “If people want to come back, you know you’ve done a good thing.”
Giraffe Manor, Nairobi
As its owner Mikey Carr-Hartley states, “Giraffe Manor needs little explanation.” Giraffe Manor is one of the most iconic hotels in all of Africa, most well-known for its resident herd of Rothschild giraffe. Where else can you share your breakfast with a giraffe who has poked its head through the window, or feed them a treat from your dining chair? Make no doubt about it; a stay at the Giraffe Manor is special. It’s just thirty minutes from Nairobi, but you wouldn’t know it – 140 acres of park and forest surround it.
The foliage-covered boutique hotel was built in the 1930’s by Sir David Duncan and purchased in the 1970’s by Jock Leslie-Melville, grandson of a Scots earl, and his wife Betty, and American. On the verge of extinction, Jock and Betty translocated two highly endangered baby Rothschild giraffes to the property as a breeding program, with the hope of releasing breeding pairs back into the wild to secure the future generations of the Rothschild giraffe. In addition to the breeding program, the African Fund for Endangered Wildlife (AFEW) Giraffe Center at Giraffe Manor operates conservation and education programs for Kenyan school children and visitors from around the world. Since Jock and Betty’s time at Giraffe Manor, the numbers of Rothschild giraffe have grown from around 120 to 1,200.
Impact: For each guest staying at Giraffe Manor, a donation is made to the African Fund for Endangered Wildlife (AFEW) and their wildlife conservation projects across Kenya.
Sala’s Camp, Masai Mara National Reserve
From the back of the safari vehicle, a Maasai spotter stands in full garb, scanning the wilderness for everything from the “big five” to an elephant shrew. He is all eyes and ears on the game drive through an exclusive area of the southern Masai Mara. And while you might need his tracking abilities for Africa’s “little five,” from June to September you’ll have a front-row seat to the migration from Sala’s Camp, no tracker needed.
A stay at Sala’s Camp recalls the bygone era of traditional safaris – exceptional hospitality, fine dining, and an authentic safari experience under canvas. There are eight tents at Sala’s Camp, with one set aside specifically for families, and another specifically for romantic celebrations. Its location in the Mara near the Sand and Keekerok Rivers attracts large numbers of wildlife, yet is far away from the busier safari crowds, for unmatched luxury and exclusivity in the bush that’s hard to find in the Mara.
Impact: Sala’s Camp is situated in a rhino sanctuary area. Sala’s Camp provides staff and vehicles for the annual rhino census, and for each guest that stays at Sala’s Camp, the Safari Collection donates $5 per night to the Rhino Monitoring Team. The donations assist with fuel costs, training, and daily activities. Sala’s Camp also works with the Mara Cheetah Project and the Mara Lion Project, assisting with data collection, funding, and serves as a base for the staff when in the south of the Masai Mara.
Solio Lodge, Mount Kenya
There’s no shortage of activities at Solio Lodge. Located on the equator between Mount Kenya and the Aberdare Mountains on 45,000 acres, the variety of experiences at the safari property is huge. From game drives and walking safaris to horseback riding, bicycling, or fishing for rainbow trout in the glacial lakes of the Aberdare Mountains, you can do as much or a little as you want. But one thing that should definitely be on your list while at Solio Lodge is a Tropic Air helicopter flight from camp to Mount Kenya. It departs in the morning and flies over the private concession up to the remote lakes of Mount Kenya where a breakfast picnic is waiting for you.
“Solio Lodge is the only lodge on Kenya’s first private conservancy. The quantity of the rhino there and the density of wildlife is mind-blowing,” says Carr-Hartley. Over 250 rhinos live on the Conservancy, renowned as the most successful rhino breeding reserve in Kenya, and it’s not uncommon to have a sighting of up to 40 rhinoceroses at one time. Through their efforts, Solio’s team has translocated over 100 black and 60 white rhinos to protected areas of Kenya and Uganda.
Impact: Guest conservancy fees contribute directly to rhino conservation. Solio Lodge is also committed to the surrounding community and has rebuilt two local schools (Honi Primary School and Leburra Primary School) in the last two years.
Sasaab, Samburu National Reserve
Sasaab is unlike any other place you’ll find in Kenya. Inspired by Moroccan design, the stylish property sits hidden away on a rocky ridge on the banks of the Ewaso Nyiro River. The area is dry and arid, with an almost desert-like terrain, which lends itself to a wholly different safari experience than the one you’ll find in places like the Masai Mara. In the Samburu National Reserve, you’ll find a huge variety of animals like lions, elephant, and cheetah, but you’ll also find the Samburu Special Five (Beisa oryx, reticulated giraffe, Grevy’s zebra, Gerenuk antelope and Somali ostrich).
The activities at Sasaab are seemingly endless. Game drives, quad biking, camel rides and the most genuine Samburu village tours you’ll find are on offer. At Sasaab, the focus is on providing an experience that is in touch with the local Samburu people. Sasaab’s community support and close proximity to the local villages allows for frequent visits with the cultural manyatta, schools, and markets providing authentic interactions. But a truly special activity at Sasaab is fly-camping under the vast Kenyan sky. The day starts with a 4 – 5-hour walk along the banks of the Ewaso Nyiro River to the fly-camping destination in the wilderness and ends with an unforgettable night under a multitude of stars.
Impact: There are over 600 families living in the Westgate Conservancy. Conservation fees contribute to the daily running costs of the conservancy and wildlife management, as well as providing clean water, building schools and maintaining dirt roads. Sasaab’s Samburu guides and spotters grew up around the lodge and are involved in local conservation initiatives. Seventy-five percent of the staff were also recruited from the local villages.
“We have recently expanded our program to feed every child every day at each of the 10 local schools around Sasaab,” says Mark Boyd, The Safari Collection’s Community and Conservation Manager. “That means we will provide over 200,000 school lunches this year to over 1000 children.”
It’s an extra push for parents to send their children to school and helps children perform well once they arrive. Through their scholarship program, Sasaab supports three high-achieving females from the local community attend secondary boarding schools.
The Safari Collection – Portfolio-wide Community Projects:
The Safari Collection is committed to its local communities in which it operates. They run a project called TEAMTalk in the Masai Mara and support SAFE Samburu in the Westgate Conservancy. These programs focus on health, female empowerment, FGM reduction and HIV awareness.
Each year the Safari Collection runs week-long clinics all over in Kenya and recently has run dental clinics in the Masai Mara communities providing free dental care and basic medical services to those in need.
Next up – an interview Mikey Carr-Hartley, owner of The Safari Collection.