For us, Sarara is one the most exciting camps in Kenya today. Located in northern Kenya, in the southern end of the Mathew Mountains, on Namunyak, a 185,000 acre community ranch, it is one of the leading examples of how eco-tourism and sustainable land practices can help kick-start a revival in animal populations, and so begin to regenerate the local environment.
With much of the work led by Lewa’s Iain Graig, and by the camp’s present manager, Piers Bastard, the area, which in 1996 recorded no elephant, is now home to several thousand elephant, and, consequently, to a rich variety of animals. The knock-on effects have been unremittingly good. The local Samburu are once again re-engaged in digging singing wells (see below), in projects that directly affect their well-being, and in the daily running of Sarara.
A mixed material build – canvas, wood, thatch and stone -the camp itself consists of 5 luxury tents and a main lodge. Shared areas include a seating area, dining room, bar and natural swimming pool. The main lodge is open, clear and welcoming.
Each sleeping tent has a private veranda, a large bedroom, and a changing area to the rear. Bathrooms are not en-suite, but are built to one side out of imaginatively crafted wooden beams. Hot water is brought in buckets, and hoisted into the trees above. The whole feel of the place is one of function, and of gently tweaking nature: luxuries are to be found in the bed linen, in the beautiful throws, the colourful cushions, and in how objects – both useful and decorative -accentuate the beauty of Sarara’s immediate environment.
Activities at Sarara include game drives, guided walks, cultural visits, elephant watches, donkey hikes, fly camping, bush picnics and forest treks.
Singing Wells: The practice of digging singing wells in the dry river beds to water their cattle has been a local tradition for as long as anyone can remember. The Samburu form human chains into the well and each family will sing its own unique song. Once the well is ready, the livestock run directly to the well of their owners, whose songs they recognise. Afterwards, the elephants move in and invariably trash the wells. The Samburu have to rebuild the wells on an almost daily basis, but recognise this as an important part of the commitment to the wildlife on Namunyak.
The camp is powered by solar energy generated by several sets of solar panels. Fresh food is kept, not in a refrigerator, but in a specially designed charcoal store. Twice a day the charcoal is soaked with water and evaporation keeps food at cellar temperatures.
All water is gravity feed a fresh, pure mountain springs – no pumps required – and then pass through a UV filter. Bottles/glass/plastic/tins are all removed from Sarara and recycled. Solar panels run all freezers etc. Minimal chlorine is used in the pool. Sewage is sent into soak away tanks. And the buildings all use local naturally felled trees and local stone.
Between 1977 and 1995 over 30,000 elephant and rhino where killed by poachers and with all the elephants gone, the Grevy zebras and reticulated giraffe went too. Set up in 1995, the Namunyak Wildlife Conservation Trust was established to bring peace to this troubled region.
Working with the indigenous Samburu people, the trust has changed attitudes of the local communities towards wildlife and, most importantly, made the area safe from poachers. With the income from the camp, and from people like you, the trust hopes to keep attracting more and more animals back to the area.
Today 4,000 elephants have returned to the Mathews range. And where there are elephants, the other animals know it is safe to go and they too are coming home.
Northern Rangelands Trust
This umbrella organization is a home-grown institution aimed at addressing home-grown problems and creating long-lasting local solutions. It connects these different interest groups with a goal of collectively developing strong community-led institutions as a foundation for investment in community development and wildlife conservation.
Specific objectives of the Northern Rangelands Trust are:
• Ensure the conservation, management and sustainable use of the natural resources within the Trust Area;
• Promote and develop tourism and all other environmentally sustainable income-generating projects within the Trust Area;
• Promote culture, education and sports of the residents of the Trust Area;
• Promote better health of the residents of the Trust Area through the provision of better health services and facilities;
• Alleviate poverty of the inhabitants of the Trust Area through improved social services, provision of employment and establishment of community-based enterprises;
• Promote and support trusts, corporations, NGOs and other charitable organisations with similar objects to those of the Trust.
Tusk was established in response to an urgent need to halt the decline in Africa’s natural heritage and find a way to combine the interests of people and wildlife alike.
• PROTECTING WILDLIFE
• SUPPORTING COMMUNITIES
• PROMOTING EDUCATION