In keeping with our commitment to supporting eco-friendly camps and sustainable tourism, we once again revisit the wonderful new safari book, Africa’s Finest. This full colour volume, authored by Colin Bell (well-known for his extensive work on rhino conservation), details the top safari outfits in Africa in an ‘industry-wide’ audit that assessed most camps according to a strict set of criteria that investigated their conservation merits. It is a sobering and commendable account on the state of health of the continent’s wilderness heritage, recognising the efforts some are making to create a low-impact preservation approach to safari tourism.
This week we take a look at Kenya, the original safari destination – where Hemingway was inspired to write classic stories such as The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber. Here, in the Masai Mara, you can see all of the Big Five and stay in some truly amazing camps, safe in the knowledge that your carbon footprint is small. We give you the best of Kenya eco safaris…
Campi Ya Kanzi, Chyulu Hills, Amboseli Region
In the shadows of the magnificent and unique Mount Kilimanjaro, among the ‘green hills of Africa’ as described by Hemingway, lies Camp Ya Kanzi in the private Kuku Group Ranch in the Chyulu Hills. It’s abundantly stocked with giraffe, elephant, zebra, antelope, lion and even black rhino and redolent of the original tented camps – not too over-the-top in luxury. The main reason it is so highly rated on the list of eco-friendly resorts is its approach to the local Maasai community. The area is held in a Wilderness Trust owned by the local community, with the camp under management of Luca Belpietro and his wife Antonella Bonomi. More than 200 people locally are employed, and 700 children attend a local school funded by the trust. The locals are very much involved with patrolling their own park and the best of them join the Simba Scouts, a dedicated lion protection unit, to patrol the ranch. Rainwater is collected for all non-drinking water and the camp is powered by the sun.
Elsa’s Kopje, Meru National Park
If you insist on luxury and a camp unrivalled in its aesthetic this is one for you,complete with its elevated perch gazing over the flats of Meru National Park and its infinity edged pool. Everything about this camp is perfect, yet it also boasts quite a pedigree in the safari conservation field and has been an asset to Kenya tourism. Built near the site where George and Joy Adamson raised their famed lion Elsa, immortalised in the 1966 movie ‘Born Free’, the camp pays homage to these famous pioneering conservationists. Elsa is buried here on Elsa’s Kopje (Kopje means hillock), and Joy’s ashes are scattered there too. The brainchild of Stefano Cheli and professional guide Liz Peacock, it has minimal energy consumption, uses solar power, and conserves as much water as possible in this dry region of Kenya.
Lemarti’s Camp, Laikipia Region
Named after the Samburu guide, Lemarti who married Anna Trzebinski (a Kenyan designer specialising in Afro-chic clothing), this camp truly grew from organic roots, starting out as a favourite camp site for just the two of them, and growing gradually into the lovely commercial camp it is today. With livestock and wildlife roaming freely together, and a general sense that you are in the home of a local in the Maasai, you get to see the bush from their perspective, harvesting honey, learning about medicinal plants and getting insight into their everyday way of life. It’s comfortable and tastefully decorated of course and offers guests one of the most unforgettable Kenya holidays! The camp is powered by solar, or gas (for all refrigeration). Lemarti’s Camp is a camp like no other in the sense that guests and locals enjoy meaningful interactions that leave lasting impressions.
Mike’s Camp, Kiwayu Island
Not specifically a safari camp but eco-friendly none-the-less and equally as rewarding as a true Kenya safari experience, this camp sits on a small mangrove island among national reserve North of Lamu on the Indian Ocean coast. Mike set it up as a simple eco-lodge where everything is powered by solar and wind, and uses mostly local materials. The camp sits on one of the most pristine Kenya beaches and they run a turtle breeding program in conjunction with WWF and the Kenyan Wildlife Services. There’s plenty of marine life to discover, a lovely long beach and it is very much the Robinson Crusoe experience. This is a great option for families!
We often include Kenya in our itineraries as it is such a classic safari destination in terms of savannah landscapes, all of the Big Five, vast herds of animals and the predators, Mount Kenya, the fascinating Maasai people as well as gorgeous white palm tree fringed beaches along the coast. Most of our Kenya trips start from the capital Nairobi, so we’ve put together a list of awesome things to do while you’re on an airport layover.
Tourism in the 21st Century is about being awed by the animals you will encounter in the wild, meeting the local people, contributing to sustainability and conservation, all the while leaving only footprints behind and taking home memories in the form of stories and photos to show your children and hopefully inspire them to want to experience Africa in a similar (ideally even better) way. We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below, or Contact Us here.
Ready to jet off to Kenya? Be sure to read our Kenya pre-departure checklist before you go.