Safari Corner: Enjoying the Riches of Tourism in Kenya
by Virginia Haynes-Montgomery
“Isn’t it amazing?” our driver asked when we first arrived in bustling Nairobi. “The U.S. government has Kenya in the same category as Iraq and Afghanistan.”
Cottars Camp at the Maasai Mara Reserve, Kenya
After spending a week in the bush, we got his drift. When you are here, your intuition tells you that you are where human life began. In recent years, things were not all good with Kenya. But, now we have good news! Some movers and shakers in Kenya tourism have taken the hippo by the horns (in a manner of speaking) and are changing Kenya for the better—a boost for the people, wildlife, the ecosystem, and tourism.
Over 70 percent of the land in Kenya is outside of the National Parks and much of this land had been overgrazed by livestock, leaving it degraded. The local communities who own the land were impoverished with little hope for a better future. So they partnered with one another and with tour operators to form conservancies. The conservancies rent out the land to camp owners and all partners receive income directly. In addition to paying rent, the camp owners then hire their staff from the locals. They help the community build enclosures to keep the livestock in to protect them from predators. They teach the importance of conservation. The land is no longer over-grazed and seedlings are flourishing. It is coming back and with it, wildlife.
The conservancies are using funds to build better schools and health facilities They are working to alleviate malaria, waterborne diseases, HIV/Aids, and tuberculosis. Scholarships are available for those who want to learn.
Ura Gate Primary School in the Meru region of Kenya
This is sustainability at its best and the reason that in Kenya today, more people are enjoying the riches of tourism.
Here are a few camps located in conservancies.
, a classic luxury safari camp built on 40 acres of community-owned land leased from the Kitirua Conservancy right next to Amboseli National Park has views of Mount Kilimanjaro and a huge elephant population. More than 60% of the staff comes from the local community.
Lewa Safari Camp
is located within Kenya’s most successful wildlife conservancy, the 62,000 Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, the leading model for conservation and low impact tourism in Kenya. The Camp reinvests all profits generated from park fees and the camp into community and conservation programs.
, a 10-tented camp in Shaba National Reserve (shown at right
), on the site where
Joy Adamson lived and raised Penny the Leopard after she wrote Born Free
, is working toward holistic wildlife conservation between Shaba National Reserve and the Nakupurt-Gotu Wildlife Conservancy under the umbrella of the Northern Rangelands Trust. Every care is taken that the impact of the camp on the reserve is positive.
is a major part of a thriving, private 60,000 acre conservancy. One of the Star Beds (Koija Star Beds), which enables guests to sleep out under the stars on raised platforms, is owned by the local community who run the program and receive its benefits. 80% of the Loisaba workforce comes from the local area.
A traditional bush camp in the Mara North Conservancy, seven-tented Serian Camp
practices low impact, low density tourism. The Mara North Conservancy is vital for sustaining the famous Serengeti wildebeest migrations and the highly threatened African wild dog and black rhino.