Located in northern Kenya, on a small hill on the eastern foot of the Laikipia Plateau, Il Ngwesi is a community-run camp set on the Il Ngwesi group Ranch. A leading light in the field of responsible tourism, it was built with the help of international funding, and received a great deal of assistance from neighbouring ranches Lewa House and Borana.
Constructed from locally sourced materials – wood, rock and thatching – the camp itself is small and beautifully designed. Built into the side of the hill, and supported by stilts, it overlooks a watering hole, and consists of 6 rooms, a dining room, a pool, a bar, a lounge and a variety of viewing points.
food and service
Informal, relaxed, Il Ngwesi is managed and hosted by a team of Maasai moran (warriors), and families thrive on an atmosphere that places children right at the centre of an experience that is as much about the culture of northern Kenya as it is about the animals that live there. Indeed, while the area is home to a fairly large migratory elephant population, it is not known for its high density populations of wildlife, and visitors to Il Ngwesi need to know that a good wildlife experience will require a certain amount of work. The food – European and African cuisine – is excellent, the poolside barbecues particularly delicious.
The rooms, whose low hanging roofs and open fronts create both air flow and shade, are cool and spacious. Each is en-suite, each possesses a four poster bed, and the style is neither ostentatious nor fussy. One of the rooms is really a cottage, and has its own open-air deck.
Activities include wildlife drives, walking safaris, bush picnics and cultural events. The last of these – an invite to dine in the village of some of Il Ngwesi’s warrior staff – is not to be missed: expect goat meat, wine or beer, and plenty of dancing well into the night. It is very comfortable, wholly inclusive, and every last shilling is ploughed back into community projects.
Il Ngwesi has the proud distinction to be the only community owned and operated rhino sanctuary in Kenya, and possibly the world. As a measure and a testament to the successful conservation efforts of the community, the black rhino has been reintroduced to the conservancy.
The conservancy spans 16,500 acres and Il Ngwesi has 18 armed rangers to ensure the reintroduced wildlife – white rhino, grevy zebra, and african wild dog are among those who have returned alongside the black rhino – stay protected from poachers.
Il Ngwesi supports numerous health and education projects, and a partnership with VSO Jitolee (funded by the European Commission) has helped local women to market their beadwork both locally and nationally.
The six Maasai villages surrounding Il Ngwesi have benefited hugely from the lodge’s presence, and donations from guests have helped fund university degrees for local schoolchildren. The ‘Days for Girls’ programme (in partnership with the Kenya Health Care Initiative) has empowered young women by teaching them how to produce and distribute sanitary packs.