Ol Pejeta Conservancy - Laikipia, Kenya
The semi-permanent Porini Rhino Camp, which is entirely ‘under canvas' has been erected by a seasonal river in the far western corner of the unique and beautiful conservancy. Unfenced and therefore totally open to the wilderness that surrounds it (elephants and other animals regular pass through) the camp has the feel of an authentic safari camp in the classic style. Overlooking a water hole, it has long views over the bush and at night is cooled by a strong breeze. With only six widely spaced tents and a central mess, the camp is both intimate and exclusive. Exceptionally well-run it is warm, welcoming and high on safari style.
The camp lies at the centre of the 110,000-acre Ol Pejeta Conservancy, which lies on the Laikipia plains 17 kilometres from Nakuru and 217 kilometres from Nairobi. Just three hour's drive from Nairobi, the conservancy is open from 7am to 7pm and is accessed via its main gate, which is 14 kilometres from Nanyuki (signed just before the outskirts of town). The camp is in the western sector of the conservancy, 38 kms from the gate.
By road: transfers by road from Nairobi take approximately 2-3 hours.
By air: the airstrip is 2 kms from the camp and a ‘meet and greet' and transfer service is offered.
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.
The camp has been open over three years and is part of a chain of Porini branded eco friendly camps which run their own tours and vehicles. The camp is one of only three establishments on the conservancy, the other two being the Serena Group's Sweetwaters Tented Camp and adjacent Ol Pejeta House.
The Ol Pejeta Conservancy, Nanyuki, Kenya
Situated between the foot hills of the Aberdares and the magnificent snow-capped peaks of Mount Kenya, the 110,000-acre private wilderness of the Ol Pejeta Conservancy boasts an astounding variety of wildlife, including all the members of the ‘Big Five' (the endangered black and white rhino , leopard, elephant, buffalo and lion).
Offering one of the highest wildlife densities in Kenya and a higher wildlife to acre ratio than any Kenyan national park, the conservancy offers sanctuary to a number of endangered species, most notably the rare Grevy's zebra and the Jackson's hartebeest. The largest black rhino sanctuary in East Africa, the conservancy also hosts the only sanctuary for chimpanzees in Kenya.
The largest black rhino sanctuary in East Africa
The conservancy is home to 79 critically endangered black rhinos (Diceros bicornis michaeli). At present there are only 539 black rhinos in Kenya, though it is hoped that this population will rise to 650 by 2010. Take into consideration that fact that in the 1970s, Kenya's population of black rhinos was thought to be in excess of 20,000, and that by the 1980's it had dropped to only 300, and the scale of Kenya's conservational challenge becomes all too clear. As the largest black rhino sanctuary in Kenya, the conservancy is at the forefront of the present conservation schedule and already runs a number of revolutionary tracking and monitoring schemes. Additionally, the conservancy is working towards contributing a further 75,000 acres of prime black rhino habitat towards the national conservation programme.
The conservancy is home to 40 lion, 20 cheetah, 30 leopard and 60 spotted hyena as well as numerous smaller predators such as; jackal, caracal and bat-eared fox.
Elephant migration corridor
There some 300 African elephant on the conservancy, though their numbers are dependant upon seasonal migration patterns. The conservancy features a number of major wildlife migratory corridors, which link the Laikipia/Samburu ecosystems, and which offer vital migratory paths for the elephants.
Preserving ancient cattle species
The Conservancy holds the largest single herd of pure Boran cattle in the world (2,000 top quality Boran breeding cows). The Conservancy is also a pioneer in proving that livestock ranching and wildlife conservation need not be mutually exclusive.
Glorious game drives
So abundantly populated is the conservancy that every game drive offers the possibility of sightings of elephants, lions, rhinos and hippos and the virtual certainty of sightings of giraffes, zebras, gazelles, warthogs and buffalos. Visitors can also enjoy the varied scenic habitats of; the elephant swamp, the hippo hide, the oryx plains and the winding reaches of the Ewaso Nyiro River.
One of the few places to enjoy a night game drive
Because the conservancy is a private reserve, it is not restricted by the usual rules that apply to the national parks, where night game drives are not normally permitted. A uniquely specialized activity, a night game drive is the ultimate safari luxury. Night is the exclusive domain of such hunters as lions and leopards, and the only time when you may catch a glimpse of such elusive nocturnal creatures as aardvarks and bush babies. Typically, safari vehicles will be equipped with a powerful hand-held lamp, which can be used to sweep the bush for likely sightings. Amongst the many creatures you can expect to see are: aardvarks, bat-eared fox, porcupines, bush babies, bushbucks, mongoose, genet cats and a number of nocturnal birds.
A non-profit organization devoted to the preservation of wilderness and wildlife, the conservancy charges fees for entry, the proceeds of which go towards the support of both the conservancy and the human community that surrounds it. Typically, these fees will be included within the rates charged to those staying overnight in one of the conservancy's accommodation options. Alternatively, and in the case of day visitors, conservancy fees are chargeable.
The camp offers six very large canvas tents divided into bedroom and bathroom - both exceptionally spacious and high-roofed. Each tent has a double and a single bed with excellent bedding. Solar-powered lighting in tent and bathroom. Large outside deck with safari furniture. Bathroom has flushed WC, basin with vanity mirror and large walk-in shower.
The camp is closed April to May.
Dining and bars
There is a central tented mess tent attractively presented with an interior dining table (communal seating unless guests request otherwise) where breakfast and dinner are served. Lunch is typically served outside in a grove of trees (buffet selection). All food is cooked in a canvas bush kitchen (gas fridges, coffee husk charcoal ovens), which is maintained to faultless standards. The standard of the food is excellent: plenty of vegetarian choices and meat (beef and lamb) direct from the Ol Pejeta Ranch - which is excellent. Fresh fruit and vegetables, eggs and some dairy produce sourced from the local farms. Chilean wine served on a complimentary basis.
The mess tent also features a lounge area attractively presented with hand woven pure wool rugs and charming furniture made from recycled fencing posts (made on the ranch). Additional external seating (shaded) is offered on a raised deck immediately outside the mess tent; in the evening a fire is lit and this area is attractively lit with fretwork brass lanterns. Sundowners are presented with home-cooked snacks. All or any meals can be provided in picnic form.
Conference and event facilities
The camp can be adapted so as to serve as a conference or weekend retreat venue with catering and entertainments tailored accordingly.
Children over the age of 8 are welcome and additional beds can be provided.
What to see and do
The camp offers a range of game drives in specially adapted 4x4 safari vehicles (6-seater, open sided, every visitor guaranteed a window seat). Early morning, mid-morning, late afternoon (inclusive of sun downers) and after dinner. Guided walks on the open plains escorted by Maasai warriors are also offered. All are included in the price.
A number of the conservancy's 30 lions are equipped with GPS radio collars, which are linked to GSM (Global System for Mobile communication technology) tracking devices. The collars allow the movements and behavior if the lions to be monitored; they also allow the conservancy staff to maintain the balance of wildlife on the conservancy by observing the impact of the lion upon such prey species as hartebeest, whose population had fallen by 50% over the last ten years, largely as a result of lion activity. With prior arrangement, guests may accompany the lion-tracking patrols on their rounds, affording a unique insight into the life of lions in the wild.
The Ol Pejeta ‘Morani' Conservancy Centre
The Ol Pejeta Conservancy Centre is a research station dedicated to the preservation of this unique environment, which is one of only four such reserves in Kenya. The Centre offers a colourful educational facility where visitors may look, touch, feel and learn more about the wildlife, the birds and the flora. It also offers a basic grounding in the ancient art of bush craft, such as spoor identification, tracking and the use of medicinal herbs.
The Centre is open 8 am-6 pm daily.Entry to the Centre is free, as is the guided tour offered by the professional rangers.
The Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary
Established in cooperation with the Kenya Wildlife Service and the Jane Goodall Institute for Conservation Projects for Chimpanzees Throughout the World, the sanctuary is a non-profit-making venture and the only sanctuary of its kind in Kenya. A gentle and charming diversion for children and adults alike, it introduces the visitor to two communities of chimps, one of which can be viewed from a timbered hide, and the other from across the Ewaso Nyiro river. A total of 43 chimps live in the sanctuary, most of them rescued from captivity in Burundi and now adjusting to a new life of peace and harmony within the natural environment. The sanctuary also offers a fascinating interactive information centre where visitors can learn more about the chimps by means of a series of hands-on activities.
The Sanctuary is open 9 -10.30 am and 3- 4.30 pm.
The Ereri Multi-Cultural Community Manyatta
Located just beyond the boundary fence of the Ol Pejeta Conservancy, the Ereri Manyatta (village), offers a charming and unusually authentic cultural experience that is not to be missed. The village is home to three groups of nomadic people, the Maasai, Pokot and Turkana; who though historically often at war, have been brought together by a common need to escape the crippling droughts of northern Kenya, earn a living and preserve their culture. The manyatta visit includes; a traditional welcome, an invitation into 3 homesteads, a tri-cultural display of dance and song, a meeting with the medicine man or ‘witch doctor' and a colourful range of interactive demonstrations ranging from fire-making to the fashioning of traditional tools. The tour is guided by an English-speaking ‘moran' (warrior) who will be delighted to promote questions, cultural exchange and photographic opportunities. Children are welcome.
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