If you’re looking for the sort of safari that could have fallen off the pages of National Geographic, Kenya is a pretty good bet. But behind the epic landscapes and strutting wildlife is a country that’s at the forefront of wildlife conservation and community development. Not only that, but the lodges themselves have to be amongst some of the most sustainable on the continent. In this article, we go behind the scenes of Kenya conservation, and discover the top 10 most eco-friendly lodges in the country, and how they contribute to the vital world of conservation.
1. Ol Donyo Lodge
Visit Ol Donyo Lodge, set on the 275,000-acre Mbirikani Group Ranch in the beautiful Amboseli region, and a (good) percentage of your stay goes straight back to the local communities. How? The land is actually owned by 4,000 local Maasai and Ol Donyo leases from them on the understanding that they will ensure the conservation and protection of the ranch, and the beautiful animals that roam the plains. A damn fine example of Kenya conservation in action if you ask us…
2. Borana Lodge
Kenya conservation doesn’t just have to be about wildlife, and when it comes to community involvement, Borana Lodge in the Laikipia region are doing a pretty sterling job. They’ve got a ‘Landrover clinic’ – a mobile medicine-car that travels around the communities giving out vaccinations and advice, as well as an education programme that supports primary, secondary and university students. And did we mention that they also play a part in protecting the endangered rhino (white and black) of the conservancy, as well as providing training for 100 rangers?
3. Saruni Rhino Camp
Deep in the scorched red earth of northern Kenya, Sera Community Conservancy is the first of its kind in Africa to own and operate a sanctuary dedicated to the protection of black rhino. In the heart of the sanctuary is Saruni Rhino Camp, a tiny, two-bedroom camp from which you can track the iconic species on foot for a seriously up-close-and-personal encounter. Best of all, the fee for the experience goes straight back into the conservancy for ongoing research and the state-of-the-art protection required.
4. Elsa’s Kopje Lodge
Keep your conscience clean and green with a visit to Elsa’s Kopje Lodge. Awarded Gold Level status by the Kenya Ecotourism Society, the team take their commitment to environmental responsibility incredibly seriously. LED bulbs, solar panels and water heaters keep energy use to a minimum; fresh veggies are bought from local farmers; all timber is taken from renewable sources, and rubbish is recycled whenever possible. And that’s just the beginning!
5. Naboisho Camp
The Mara Naboisho conservancy on the edge of the world-famous Masai Mara is a truly special area. A ground-breaking initiative in Kenya conservation that not only conserves the (fabulous) wildlife, but also protects and empowers the local people, there’s not many places like it on the continent. Spend a night at stylish Naboisho Camp, and be safe in the knowledge that your pennies are going straight back to the Maasai landowners.
6. Desert Rose Lodge
Deep, deep in the mysterious Northern Frontier region is Desert Rose Lodge, an eco-friendly, entirely Kenyan construction (even the loo roll holders were crafted by local Samburu!). It’s the only lodge for miles around and owner Emma Hedges has worked closely with the local people since the beginning. Most recently, she has built a medical clinic, provided the primary school with water, and donated solar lanterns to the village. Wow.
7. Ol Pejeta Bush Camp
From a working cattle ranch to a trailblazing Kenya conservation success story, Ol Pejeta Conservancy is inspirational. Not only is it home to the last surviving Northern white rhinos in the world, it’s also the largest sanctuary for black rhino in East Africa, and the only place in Kenya to see chimpanzee rescued from the black market. And where to stay? It has to be the charming Ol Pejeta Bush Camp…
8. Angama Mara Camp
Elegant, stylish and with a view to end all views, Angama Mara Camp also does its bit for Kenya conservation. A fee of $10 per guest per night goes straight into the Angama Foundation, an entity set up with the sole purpose of making a meaningful and sustainable difference to the neighbouring communities. New classrooms and staff accommodation at several local schools have already been built, and a medical clinic has been up and running for over a year. We’re looking forward to seeing what comes next.
9. Camp Ya Kanzi
Amboseli & Chyulu Hills
At university, a young Luca Belpietro, wrote his thesis on “Wildlife as a Renewable Resource in Kenya.” Campi ya Kanzi is the result of that thesis, as is his joint venture with the Maasai of Kuku, an incredible project that uses tourism and the beautiful home of the Maasai as an economic resource to channel funds, medical services, jobs and education straight back to the local communities. A highlight of Kenya conservation, indeed.
10. Lemarti’s Camp
Lemarti’s Camp is simple, green and elegant. Designed to have minimum ecological impact on its beautiful surroundings, every piece of timber has been sustainably sourced and there’s not a chemical cleaning product in sight. The fresh-food storeroom is a clever, charcoal box, drip fed by water to keep things cool, and all cooking is done on gas. You don’t get much more low-energy than this!