Nguruman Escarpment - The Great Rift Valley, Kenya
Standing high above the Great Rift Valley, the extraordinary Shompole Eco Lodge was built as a joint venture with the local Maasai community and offers a uniquely uplifting experience that has been much praised by international and local travel writers alike.
Constructed using entirely natural materials and inherent Maasai traditional skills, the lodge combines flowing water and smooth white walls with colourful Maasai traditional icons and handmade furniture.
Situated on the side of the Nguruman escarpment, overlooking the stunning expanse of the Great Rift Valley, the camp is positioned ideally to make the most of both: an incredible view and the cool breeze. Constructed using naturally occurring white quartz stone, pale thatch and other materials, and using water as a prime feature, each tented Shompole room provides a very spacious, shady oasis in this green desert environment.
The colorful Maasai that are Shompole's partners in this project remain traditional in much of their life-style and dress. They are fully involved in the project, employed in the lodge and included in any decision-making involving the business. They welcome visitors to both the camp and their villages and are an important focal point of a stay at Shompole. In addition, the area is also home to the Tanzanian Maasai whose white beads and very traditional way of life, distinguish them from the Maasai of Kenya.
Shompole, the brown land is on the Tanzanian border, three hours' drive southwest of Nairobi. It is one of several ranches set up by nomadic, cattle-herding Maasai in Southern Kenya. It supports an estimated 6,500 people, and covers a section of the Rift Valley between two flamingo-rich soda lakes, Magadi and Natron. It is dry, blasted by the sun, but the Brown River (Ewaso Nyiro) flows through it into Lake Natron. It boasts grassland, acacia woodland, papyrus swamp, glistening white saltpans and - along the river - a fig forest. Visitors can hope to see: antelopes, anteaters, baboons, monkeys, cheetahs, giraffe (under threat elsewhere in Kenya), leopards, lions, pythons, ostrich, zebra and over 300 kinds of bird live on the ranch, the Maasai having little interest in killing game for meat. The relative safety of the conservation area has already attracted a herd of 85 elephants.
The Conservancy area is home to many species of animals and birdlife and includes one of the most ecologically diverse areas in Africa with environments ranging from rainforest, through acacia woodland, grass plains, riverine forest, salt plains and soda lakes. There is an abundance of plains game and night animals frequently seen include aardwolf, civet, serval, leopard and striped hyena. Elephant, lion and cheetah are found in the swamp and grassy plains, while the birdlife is varied and plentiful. All funds collected from Conservancy fees contribute to the maintenance and patrolling of the area and to projects that benefit the community as a whole; such as the establishment of schools, clinics and other self-sustaining businesses.
• Shompole is located on the edge of the Nguruman Escarpment overlooking the Great Rift Valley, 120 kilometers south of Nairobi on a 35,000 acre Conservancy, surrounded by 140,000 acres of Shompole Group Ranch, which provides a dispersal area for wildlife and buffer zone. It is a short private charter flight (30 minutes) from Nairobi, the Mara or Amboseli.
Kenya hotels and accommodation
Amongst the wide range of Kenya hotels, some make the ideal Kenya safari destination. Choose a safari lodge, safari hotel, bush camp, luxury lodge, safari camp, tented camp or bush lodge. National park accommodation usually takes the form of a traditional safari lodge or tented camp, but numerous other options exist on the park boundaries. Luxury lodges and luxury camp options are also offered in the private wildlife conservancies.
With privacy, comfort and relaxation in mind, each room consists of cool-pool and informal sitting areas, a bathroom with a view and a specially designed tent, which includes vast windows and a high-canopied roof. There are 6-tented rooms: 4 doubles, 2 twins. All rooms en-suite with private cool-pool and lounge. Extra beds can also be added.
Away from the main lodge, are two suites referred to as Little Shompole, which share a lounge and dining area and have their own staff, guide and butler service. Guests can also elect to spend a night or two in Shompole's rustic Bush Camp, which is equipped with canvas tents, camp beds, bucket showers and flush toilets and offers excellent game viewing and bird-watching in the surrounding grasslands.
Dining and bars
The main lounge and dining area consists of a high thatch roof overlooking Mount Shompole and the Rift Valley. Various levels accommodate seating areas and a lofted recess high in the roof provides an additional quiet area. Should guests wish to take meals by their tent, the main pool or in the bush, Shompole can make special arrangement to provide for their individual needs.
• Solar energy provides approximately 70% of the electricity used here, a clean renewable energy source. The remaining 30% is supplemented from a generator, as a back up charge to the battery bank. In time, Shompole is looking to further invest in renewable energy so that all the energy comes from the sun or other renewable sources.
• All of Shompole's water comes from a natural spring near the lodge. The off-take is proportionate to the quantity sustainably produced from the spring. Shompole estimates to use 20% of its total output on 120,000 liters produced in a 24-hour period. Unused water is allowed to spill over into the water hole below camp and is carried back from the water hole to the tree-lined river below the lodge thus continuing the natural cycle. The drains from the washing areas have a grease trap, which separates the grease from the water before it is released back into the surrounding environment through a system of natural sumps.
• In the rooms you will notice that there is hot water. Shompole have eco-heaters that can burn anything to heat the water, which in the initial stages after construction were all wood remnants and off cuts that the lodge still use today, as well as the cardboard boxes, waste paper, and cattle dung in proportion.
• Shompole aims to capture and keep as much nutrient in the surrounding ecosystem and minimize the losses from it. They compost all organic wastes from the kitchen, like all fruit/vegetable peelings and wastage. These all add a valuable source of nutrients into the soil of the garden, and through careful management it produces an exceptional array of fruit and vegetables back to Shompole's kitchen, without the use of inorganic inputs.
• In the kitchen Shompole has created a system of inorganic waste collection in the form of glass and plastics, which are collected, bagged and sent out of Shompole. The glass is recycled through a local glass making industry near Nairobi. For plastic, Shompole is linked with a fencing scheme, which recycles plastic into fence posts, used to reduce human wildlife conflict in areas of Kenya and to reduce the use of wood, a resource under increasing pressure in Kenya today.
What to do and see
The camp offers guided walks, game drives, canoeing, bush dinners, sundowners, visits to Lake Natron, horse-riding and clay pigeon shooting.
The variety of landscape available at Shompole allows for a great range of activities from early morning and evening walks, night drives, sundowner visits to Lake Natron to see the flamingos, picnics and nights spent out in romantic fly-camps.
• Horse-riding, camel-riding clay pigeon shooting and river trips are among the many activities that are planned for the future.
• The pre-historic site of Olorgesaille offers an interesting day out. The experience and skills of Maasai guides and trackers play an important part in the experience Shompole offers.
• Activities are unscheduled and organized according to the preferences of the guests. Guests will also have ample time to relax and enjoy the facilities of the camp itself.
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