60 Wildlife Conservancies in Kenya
Overview of Wildlife Conservancies in Kenya
In all, Kenya has about 110 wildlife conservancies, all promoting the placid co-existence of people and wildlife in mutual well-being. Solio Ranch, Taita Hills Sanctuary, Kimama Wildlife Sanctuary, and the Ol Chorro Oiroua Ranch were among the trailblazers. Improved security, better land management, income, employment and support to community projects have all encouraged the rise of conservancies in Kenya, now spread across 22 counties and covering over 7.56 million acres. Conservancies provide a range of local values including clarifying and firming up local land tenure over pasture and grazing areas, improving the security through networks of community scouts, timely communication and law enforcement infrastructure, and providing a legal systems for communities to enter into 3rd-party joint ventures with investors in order to generate revenues.
The Conservancy Concept in Kenya
The conservancy concept has evolved in Africa over the last 30 years and has spread fast. Conservancies in Kenya are regarded as a way of involving local communities with wildlife conservation. The purpose of a conservancy is not the same as a nationally protected reserve like a park and they do not replace these area, instead they complement them. Conservancies provide a range of local values, including clarifying and firming up local land tenure over pasture and grazing areas, improving security through networks of community scouts and communications infrastructure and law enforcement bodies, and providing a legal structure for communities to enter into third-party joint ventures with tourism investors in order to generate revenue from wildlife. Conservancies in Kenya are represented Kenya Wildlife Conservancies Association “who work with landowners and communities to sustainably conserve and manage wildlife and their habitat outside formal protected areas to perpetuate Kenya’s heritage.
Map of the National Parks and Reserves in Kenya vis-a-vis the Wildlife Conservancies in Kenya
1. Ruko Conservancy
Hugging the eastern littoral of Lake Baringo, Ruko Conservancy that was once teemed with vast wildlife is slowly and steadily been rehabilitated to its former glory. This beautiful sanctuary now under the guidance of Northern Rangelands Trust is on the right course to become a top-rate touring site in Baringo County. Recently, several Rothschild’s giraffes were reintroduced to Ruko Conservancy. Given the success of these relocations’, it is hoped that motley species to include gazelles and zebras from multiple conservancies will be trans-located here, as a way of replenishing its wildlife. Travellers to Ruko Conservancy may also visit the nearby Ol kokwe, Lokoros and Samatian Islands found within Lake Baringo.
2. Kaptuya Conservancy
Located about 10 kms east of Ruko, along the boundary with Laikipia in Churo Ward of Tiaty, Kaptuya Conservancy is, despite the scorching sun, a beautiful and colourful boondocks. On the Laikipia side it is contiguous with the wildlife rich plain between Ol Donyo Ari Nyiro and Mugie Wildlife Conservancies. The 80 km2 Kaptuya Conservancy, on the upper slopes of the Laikipia Escarpment or the eastern edge of the Rift Valley is home to a plethora of wonderful vistas epitomized by the spectacular Mukutan Gorge. Similar to Ruko, Kaptuya is not well developed and both lack easy access routes and accommodation. They have abundant game but because of scanty parkways it is a spine-rattling excursion. Nevertheless, they offer adventures into very unusual flora. It is necessary to be self-sufficient specially at Kaptuya and is also prudent to liaise with the warden.
3. Kabarion Conservancy
Established in 2011, the 800 km2 Kabarion Conservancy 50 kms northeast of Lake Baringo is part of thirteen wildlife sanctuaries and nature conservancies which Baringo County has taken huge steps-forward to rehabilitate and restore. Baringo County developed a community conservation bill, which was passed in 2015, directed to provide financial support to the conservancies. To date, it has spent close to Shs. 20 million in the development of the conservancies with an aim of broadening its touring products and boosting its competitive-edge. Other conservancies in this latest effort include Ruko, Kaptuiya, Morop, Nge, Irong and Kimngochoch. It was intended that Kabarion would be functional by 2018.
4. Kimng’ochoch Conservancy
This was begun in 1979 by Former-President Daniel T. Moi along with Morop-Tarambas Community to conserve indigenous trees, wildlife and the culturally important sites for the communities living round it. The Royal Campsite found at Kimng’ochoch, covering 5-acres not far from Kabarnet Town, is a top-rated spot for camping. Callers to the conservancy may also enjoy hiking and a look-see of the Kerio Valley. The site was traditionally used by the Kalenjin Elders to host unique gatherings and is still upheld as a ‘traditional-shrine’. The hilltop contains 3 rumpty sheds (thought to be used by the elders) and a decrepit cross.
5. Morop-Tarambas Community Conservancy
Any skeptic in needs of affirmation that Kenya’s forests are being regenerated, or, any nature-lover in need of inspiration, ought to visit the 265 km2 Morop-Tarambas Conservancy where more than 100,000 trees have been replanted in the last two years. Officially founded in 2010 and encompassing 3,500 homes in the Morop, Tambrass and Kipkolel Forests of Tugen Hills, it is a working model of people harmoniously co-existing with nature. The main driving force of this noble initiative was to restore, regenerate, preserve and perpetuate the zestful forests of Tugen Hills; the most indispensable highland within Baringo County. Currently, there are over 20 active tree nurseries assigned to the four different quarters of the Morop-Tarambas Community Conservancy – Riwo Zone, Sessia Zone, Kasore Zone, and Kapkomoi Zone. What’s more, this is an all-permeating community project. And, one and all – from mothers, children, political leaders and youth – cheerfully take part in the tree planting venture. The local schools have also started outreach programs and tree-planting days. Some of the places not to be missed on a trip here include its tree nurseries, its bamboo project, the fine Kasore Valley, Morop Hill, Kikojo Falls and Kimng’ochoch Royal Campsite.
6. Ishaqbini Hirola Conservancy
In the southwestern quarter of Garissa at Ijara sits the 19 km2 Ishaqbini Hirola Conservancy, globally-famous for retaining part of the last remaining Hirola or Hunter’s Hartebeest. A trip up to this conservancy gives you a scenic driving tour, especially from Garsen – 166 kms south of Bura – to Kotile location, 36 kms from Garsen. Here again, the route is served with bushland strewn with acacia and far-between hills. Much the same as Bour-Algi Giraffe Sanctuary, Ishaqbini Hirola Conservancy was begun as a local innitiative by the people of Korissa, Hara and Kotile to conserve wildlife. “The conservancy has employed 20 community scouts to patrol the conservancy 24 hours a day and a team of managers and labourers also from the community to build the infrastructure” – Rupi Mangat. In a rare twist of conservation, these communities built houses around Ishaqbini to ensure wildlife was secure. Today, it holds a collection of the rarest, and in 2016 a pair of white giraffes also known as leucistic giraffe were spotted in Ishaqbini Conservancy. This became the second reported of its sighting in Africa, next to one in 2015 in Tanzania’s Tarangire’s National Park.
Homa Bay County
7. Gwassi Hills Forest Conservancy
Rising abruptly from Kavirondo Gulf to 2,133 ms, the highly dissected massif of the Gwasi Hills, in part forested, covers 1,048 km2 at the northwest corner of Homa Bay County, south of the Mfangano Island. Only along the upper reaches and hilltops of the steep-sloped Gwasi Hills do the deciduous seasonal forests occur, and much of the lower regions are outgrown with thickets and savanna type vegetation which eventually merges with the Lambwe Valley, immediately south and south east. The outer extent of the Gwasi Hills are typified by steep, deeply gullied stack ridges of volcanic rocks called Kisingiri with high points at Gembe (6,230 feet), Sumba (6,034 feet), Gwasi (6,384 feet) and the Usengere, also known as Kwirathia (7,454 feet). The Gwasi’s form a magnificent backdrop at Mfangano, Rusinga, Takawiri and Kimamboni Islands – south of these hills – and at the Ruma National Park, which sits east of these hills. Locally known as the Gonsi or Usengere Hills, meaning ‘the revered and sacred shrine’, the steep-sloped Gwasi Hills are endowed with a pleasant diversity of biota and scenery.
8. Leparua Conservancy
The 34 km2 Leparua Conservancy situated in Burat region of Isiolo County was originally used as a shared common-grazing ground by the Turkana, Samburu, Somali and Borana Pastroralist Communities is a worthy of mention wildlife corridor linking the conservancies of Il Ngwesi, Nasuulu, Lekurruki and Mpus Kutuk. Lepaura Conservancy aims to emulate some of the models in the nearby conservancies, including Lewa, with regards to their land management, peace-building and wildlife conservation. At the moment, it has no accommodation. Due to its prime located just west of Isiolo Town, Leparua hold great prospects.
9. Ol Lentille Conservancy
The expansive 64 km2 inter-territorial Ol Lentille Conservancy, which straddles the boundary between Isiolo and Laikipia Counties, is distinguished as one of “the most secluded wildlife conservancies in the region.” While the 41 km2 Ol Lentille Conservancy sits in Isiolo County, the 24 km2 Sanctuary at Ol Lentille is located in Laikipia County. Collectively, this conservancy offer total privacy, seclusion and an intimate safari experience. It has impressive golden savannas too. The Sanctuary at Ol Lentille has four private houses, perched on a crag on the rocky hill – Colonel House, Chiefs House, Sultans House and Eyrie House – all with astounding views of the plains and access to its horizon swimming pool.
10. Oldonyiro Conservancy
Formerly known as the Mpus Kutuk Conservancy, the mega 111 km2 Oldonyiro Conservancy, which was established in 2007, covers the entire Oldonyiro Ward which is made up of four locations bordering Samburu and Laikipia Counties. It is set on the western edge of Isiolo County and is almost completely surrounded by several community conservancies, excepting its western side, and flanked by River Ewaso Nyiro. It is contiguous with Ol Lentille Conservancy on its eastern side. Over the past few years, it has struggled with spells of insecurity, elephant poaching and its atrophied rangelands. It’s hoped that the establishment of the conservancy will enable communities to spearhead dialogue and foster tourism.
11. Nasuulu Conservancy
The 34.9 km2 Nasuulu Conservancy is strategically located between the Buffalo Springs National Reserve and Samburu National Reserve forming a part of the Laikipia Ecosystem – which hosts an impressive population of the endangered Grevy’s zebra as well as being a refuge for significant numbers of elephants and various large herbivores. Started in 2012, Nasuulu Conservancy currently has representation from each of the four communities who call this place home, and which has greatly edged-off decades of fierce inter-tribal conflicts and poaching. “Nasuulu is one of the youngest NRT conservancies, and serves as an important buffer for the wildlife in the Buffalo Springs National Reserve. Nasuulu is in the process of building a new conservancy headquarters. The 12 rangers employed in Nasuulu represent the diversified ethnicity around this conservancy” – NRT.
12. Nakuprat Gotu Conservancy
The 393 km2 Nakuprat Gotu Conservancy under the umbrella trust of Northern Rangelands Trust is a prolific wildlife plain, that also supports close to 15,000 patrolalists mostly from the Turkana and the Borana Tribes. “In 2010, leaders from both the Turkana and Borana communities from Ngare Mara and Gotu locations came together to discuss founding of a joint conservancy.” Nakuprat-Gotu acts as a buffer reserve for Sera Community Conservancy and for Shaba, Samburu and Buffalo Springs National Reserves, making this a critical wildlife dispersal area with plenty of opportunities for wildlife viewing. Wildlife aside, it has many places of interest which include the variegated flora along the Ngare Mara River, Gotu Falls, Akunoit Forests, the Boji Dera Springs and Campsite, Simpirre Camp, and the Magado Crater. Its eastern flank, which supports vast plains, is home to one of the abounding herds of Beisa oryx remaining in Kenya.
13. Sera Community Conservancy
More proper Sera Wildlife Trust, the 3,450 km2 Sera Conservancy forms the largest widlife conservation area in Northern Kenya. Its western border runs astride the A2 Isiolo-Archer’s Post-Merille Road for 104 kms from Archer’s Post until Merille Town; extending about 30 kms at its widest easterly towards Merti and Barata. It was established in 2001 under Northern Rangelands Trust with the aim of bringing together three historically rival ethnic groups and to foster conservation and sustainable use of resources in their traditional lands. Unique to Sera Conservancy is that it is the only place in Eastern Africa where visitors can actively track the black rhino on foot, and is the only sanctuary in Eastern Africa to operate a sanctuary principally dedicated to the vital conservation of the endangered black rhinos. Despite its size, Sera Conservancy has real beauty about it with plenty of mind-blowing landforms. The landscape is typified by a mix of bush and grassland with a few forest patches, teeming with respectable wildlife. It is also well watered. Some of its perennial streams including Kisima Hamsini, Lenkolii, Lerigrig, Lontopi and Lchoro losowan. Other water sources include boreholes, hand pumps and shallow wells at Kapai, Chapulo, Lesura, Losesia, Laresoro, Lbaa Lolparuai, Sereolipi lugga, Kauro, Naitolai, Lenkaya, Lantana and Turgung. In recent times, the discovery of a Rock Gong and Rock Painting at Kisima Hamsini, thought to several thousand years old, highlighted its historic importance. Its HQs office is located about 47 north of Archer’s Post.
14. Rimpa Estate Wildlife Conservancy
Names and places rarely strike as canny a compeer as does at the Rimpa Estate Wildlife Conservancy located midway between Ongata Rongai and Kiserian via Magadi Road. If for no other reason its names should suggest a visit. ‘Rimpa’ is the Maa equivalent of paradise and pleasantly enough sited at the foot of Ngong Hills. So much so, that it was the setting of several scenes in the oscar-winning 1985 film “Out of Africa“. Owned and run for decades by the Ole Siens Family, who are immensely dedicated to restoring a devout balance between people and nature while promoting social and economic improvement, the pleasurable 40-hectares conservancy, with very friendly hosts, has memorable mountain views and beyond-money tranquility. It’s also the best of both worlds at Rimpa, with the farm rearing cattle juxtaposed with a sanctuary that harbours giraffe, zebra, antelope and plenty of avifauna. A small cover charge is payable for a day pass – either for picnics, camping, game drives or hiking trips. It is found 6 kms from Ongata Rongai via Magadi and Rimpa Roads, and 4 kms before Kiserian Town.
15. Shompole Conservancy
Just a short 28 kms drive south from Lake Magadi sits the inter-territorial 141 km2 Shompole Conservancy, shared between Narok and Kajiado Counties. Set between Amboseli National Park and Masai Mara National Reserve and made up of two community ranches – Olkiramatian and Shompole – this wilderness is teemed with spectacular wildlife. Its location enables holiday-makers to pack many exciting experiences which elsewhere in Kenya will require considerable travel. As a bonus, Shompole is also strategically located between Lake Magadi (north) and Lake Natron (south); two of the famous lakes seen in the southern Rift Valley and the largest hatching spots for the lesser flamingos in the world. Shompole Camp, a small and exclusive camp of only 6-luxury tents, nestled in the shade of the giant fig trees along the banks of the South Ewaso Nyiro River, offers an intimate experience of one of the most beautiful wilderness landscape in Kenya. Other highlights include game safaris, scouting the Shompole swamp, tubing, kayaking, canoeing or walking along River South Ewaso Nyiro, walking with baboons, hiking Shompole Hill or Nguruman, and excursions to the Lakes.
16. Olkirimatian Conservancy
This is found just a short hop north of the main Shompole Conservancy and was brought together by the association of Maasai landowners to put their land to sustainable use. “Deep in the plains of the Great Rift Valley, beyond the volcanic lunar landscape surrounding the soda lakes of Magadi and Natron, at the heart of Olkirimatian Conservancy, lies the oasis of Lentorre Lodge. Nestled in this natural amphitheater, Lentorre provides uninhibited views of Mt Shompole, Ol Donyo Gelai and the active volcano Ol Donyo Lengai”. Lentorre comprises of four large villas that hold either a double or twin bed configuration, a family villa and the honeymoon villa. The Lodge has a maximum capacity of 16 guests.
17. Mount Suswa Conservancy
Sometimes known as ‘Ol Doinyo Nyukie’, the dormant volcanic dome of Mount Suswa, popular for its 12 kms long double crater, rises to near 8,000 feet at the summit. 16 kms to the north sits Mount Longonot, another volcanic dome with an breathtaking 9 kms wide caldera set at 9,000 feet. Mount Suswa’s vegetation is, generally speaking, semi-arid, composed of stunted thorn bushes (whistling thorns and Acacia) and patches of grass; but, river and stream beds are often marked by lines of trees and seasonal rivers such as the South Ewaso Nyiro, Siyabei and Kedong, which have thicker vegetation along their banks. On the central island block and in the annular trench, the vegetation consists of more evergreen smoggy woodlands. Suswa is shared mainly by Narok, Nakuru and Kajiado Counties. A small part of the eastern side falls within Kiambu County.
18. Sidai Oleng Conservancy
Sidai Oleng Conservancy, established in 2012 with an area of 28 km2, is owned and managed by the Maasai community from the Kuku Group Ranch. Its name translates to “very pretty” or “very good”, an idiom that answers to its pleasing location between Amboseli and Chyulu. It sits astride the Kimana Sanctuary, with Mount Kilimanjaro occupying much of its southerly views. “Sidai Oleng actively engages the native Maasai community with education and advocacy programs that grows their personal sense of purpose and value in preserving, even restoring their land. In addition, it employs local Maasai warriors from different villages as scouts and vigilant protectors of both the wildlife and the ecosystem”. The only development within Sidai Oleng is the five-acres research center constructed using local and natural material, with a camp ground for 50.
19. Selenkay Conservancy
Formerly Eselenkei Group Ranch, the 52 km2 Selenkay Conservancy is situated immediately north of Amboseli National Park. It is focused on the conservation and preservation of both the wildlife resources and the gallant Maasai ancestry of Amboseli. Selenkay is community-owned under Eselenkei Group Ranch. The area is also an important dispersal area and corridor for wildlife migrating out of Amboseli. Ergo, Selenkay is home to impressive wildlife including elephant, lion, leopard, cheetah, gerenuk, impala, oryx, lesser kudu, zebra, jackal, hyena, bat-eared for, wildebeest, giraffe, warthog, among others, in addition to being a veritable birding area. Porini Camp in the only lodge at Selenkay Conservancy. “The camp is built and operates on low impact, limited to 18 guests at a time. The guest tents and staff quarters are made out of beige and green canvas tents that blends in with the surroundings. Natural vegetation within is undisturbed. Paths ways are naturally aligned with sand to demarcate the way.” From here, callers to Selenkay can enjoy unlimited safaris within the conservancy or in the adjoining Amboseli National Park. It is located 16 kms north of Amboseli Park.
20. Chebulu Conservancy
The proposed Chebulu Conservancy is 100 acres of indigenous land situated on the western flank of Kericho. It is about 30 west of Kericho, along the Sosiot-Sondu Road in the Singowet area of Belgut Constituency. The idea to establish Chebulu Conservancy was mooted in 2013 to preserve the 21 acres Chebulu Forest, which is one of the last remaining indigenous forest patches in this fast-developing region. Likewise, residents living around the pocket-sized forest, in Chemiromben and Ainamoi villages, gave up some of their land to bolster this effort, with the County Government setting aside Kshs. 86 Million towards its revamp. Nevertheless, the idea failed to take off, and despite its beauty, with some wild animals like monkeys, baboons, snakes and plenty of birds, Chebulu Forest still faces a serious threat of being wiped-out, if nothing is done urgently.
There is such an unfortunate irony in photography these days. For as people pursue desires to visit and capture images of unspoiled landscapes, they inadvertently in the process turn these beautiful locations into anything but unspoiled, regardless of ideals of conservation. And more-so, so many ruin natural beauty by exploiting these magical places with their greed and dreams of success, and their regrettable egos with overdeveloped look-at-me-syndromes…sadly sometimes, for so many of us, now the only way today to truly protect an unspoiled place is to not share its beautiful photo or location with anyone, anymore.