CAMPS: Environmentally-friendly Eco-Camps in Exclusive Conservancies
aim is to work closely with communities living alongside national
parks and wildlife reserves to help them derive benefits from
conserving wildlife species and the indigenous habitat. They
do this by earning an income from eco-tourism through setting
aside areas of their land as wildlife conservancies and thereby
creating wildlife dispersal areas outside the parks, increasing
wildlife numbers and species variety, habitat and bio-diversity.
view, the key to conserving Kenya's spectacular flora and
fauna outside the parks is to engage the local communities
and to provide tangible benefits from eco-tourism that exceed
the returns that they are able to generate from any other
form of land utilization such as farming. We have succeeded
in making wildlife pay its way in the areas where we operate
and we take every opportunity to share our experience with
others interested in setting up conservancies.
In 1997 we signed an agreement with a Maasai community to establish the first Conservancy (Selenkay) on 13,000 acres of their land. Following the success of Selenkay Conservancy, in 2005 the 17,500 acre Ol Kinyei Conservancy was set up in the Mara eco-system and in 2006 the 22,000 acre Olare Orok Conservancy was set up in another part of the Mara. These were followed by the establishment of two more conservancies in the Mara: the 11,000 acre Motorogi Conservancy and the 50,000 acre Naboisho Conservancy. We have now renamed the Olare Orok Conservancy and Motorogi Conservancy to Olare Motorogi Conservancy as it proudly sits at 33,000 acres.
The areas to be used as conservancies were chosen by the Maasai landowners and then were vacated by the community and set aside for wildlife so that they could be utilised for eco-tourism to generate an income and economic benefits for the community. Within a short time each conservancy saw a significant increase in wildlife numbers and a regeneration of vegetation in areas that were previously over-grazed by livestock. At Selenkay, elephants returned after an absence of twenty years and in the Mara conservancies the number of lions increased very quickly with several residential prides totalling over 120 lions in an area of 100,000 acres, while breeding cheetah took up residence in addition to an influx of other species.
More details of our conservancy projects in the Mara, including maps, can be seen here: The Conservancy Concept
Camps, situated inside the Conservancies, are exclusive small
eco-friendly tented camps that accommodate a maximum of 20
guests. The camps consists of 6 to 10 spacious tents situated
under acacia trees, comfortably furnished, lighted with solar
power, with water-saving safari showers and flush toilets.
Porini Camps are owned and run by Gamewatchers Safaris, a
well established Kenyan safari company, which leases each
conservancy, paying a monthly rental that increases annually,
and which is also responsible for paying entry fees to the
community for all visitors entering the conservancy. The income
from the camps is used to manage and improve the conservancies,
pay the lease and tourist entry fees and pay salaries of the
camp staff and the conservancy rangers and workers. The camps
and conservancies currently employ over 100 members from the
communities with take-home wages significantly higher than
the country average. There are over 1,000 Maasai families who are directly benefiting as a result of our conservancies. Last year the conservancies with which we are involved hosted over 5000 guests totalling over 12,000 bed nights
that our partnership with the local communities in setting
up the Porini Camps in the three Conservancies has made a
significant contribution to improving conservation of the
wildlife and habitat of these areas. The five community
areas are located near two leading parks in Kenya and are
crucial wildlife dispersal areas. The Selenkay area was previously
an important wildlife dispersal zone and elephant migrated
in from Amboseli during the wet season. However during the
1970s and 1980s, prior to setting up the conservancy, there
was increased hostility towards wildlife by the community.
Elephant were harassed to the point that they stopped migrating
into Selenkay. Before the Selenkay Conservancy was established
there was also wide scale snaring of wildlife for the "bush
meat" trade while leopard, lion and cheetah were frequently
The Mara eco-system, where Ol Kinyei, Olare Motorogi, Motorogi and Naboisho Conservancies are
located is under serious threat of being degraded and fragmented
as land is being divided into individually owned plots. Tracts
of wildlife habitat are being permanently lost with this subdivision
of the community ranches. Many small individual landowners
are now selling their plots to the highest bidders, who are
setting up non-sustainable mass market concrete lodges or
becoming involved in intensive farming and fencing of their
small holdings. Snaring of herbivores and poisoning of big
cats has increased and wildlife is being driven out.
the Maasai were entirely dependent upon their livestock and
in recent years have lost much of their rangeland where there
is permanent water. As a result of the increasingly frequent
droughts in East Africa there has been degradation of the
environment through over-grazing and the Maasai communities
have suffered hardship with loss of livestock.
Our five Conservancies have provided a solution to this problem by providing additional income and alternative livelihood opportunities to livestock ranching. The specific monetary benefits to the communities generated by Gamewatchers Safaris from each of the Conservancies are:
cash flowing into community from conservancy project: Kshs
19 million p.a. (approx $230,000)
cash flowing into community from conservancy project: Kshs
22 million p.a. (approx $265,000)
cash flowing into community from conservancy project: Kshs
30 million p.a. (approx $360,000)
of over $855,000 p.a. is flowing into our 3 Maasai community
per hectare exceeds income from small-scale cultivation and
is particularly high in Selenkay which is a semi-arid area.
The lowest take home pay for the lowest paid workers in each camp, after government deductions and inclusive of gratuities, is normally over $100 per month which is significant for a country where the majority earn barely one dollar per day. For those who own a plot of land within the conservancy that figure is doubled through the addition of the monthly rental income.
As a result
of the community receiving direct benefits from wildlife there
has been a change in attitude towards the concept of wildlife
conservation. The community members have given their positive
support to conservation and there is no snaring or harassing
of wildlife within the three conservancies. The members see
the wildlife as a resource which belongs to them and are enthusiastic
about encouraging wildlife to move into their conservancies.
They also recognize the vast improvement in vegetation and
grass cover within each conservancy which is now a valuable
source of controlled grazing for livestock during severe drought
the conservancies were established there has been a big increase
in biodiversity. We have resident lions and cheetahs in addition
to over 20 species of large mammals. Birdlife is prolific
especially birds of prey. A major positive result is that
at Selenkay elephants have now returned to the area after
an absence of over 20 years.
Camps are run and maintained with the conservation of the
environment at the forefront. We have a written environmental
policy for water, land, energy, solid waste and sewage which
is adhered to by the camp management. We pride ourselves in
having highly qualified safari guides and they enhance the
experience by educating the guests about the flora, fauna
and people of the surrounding areas.
We feel it is important to effectively communicate the project’s actions to stakeholders, locally and internationally. Our mission statement and environmental policy are also viewable on our Gamewatchers Safaris website. Our company literature
which is given to each client emphasizes our goals. The project
and its benefits have been featured in newspapers such as
The Guardian, The Observer, The Times, The Independent, Mail
on Sunday and in numerous magazines such as Condé Nast Traveler
and National Geographic Adventure magazine.
Gamewatchers Safaris Ltd is the proud Winner of the Kenya Tourism awards for 2011 in the Tour Operator of the Year category – Large Tour Operator.
These awards have been created to award achievements in the tourism sector and celebrate great strides made in time of difficult circumstances.
Gamewatchers Safaris presented an outstanding performance in the nomination criteria which were:
- Use innovative marketing and promotional tactics for sustainability and growth.
- Development and marketing of new tourism circuits and concepts
- Undertake continuous staff training and development
- Membership to registered association with code of ethics and adherence to the same.
- Undertake responsible tourism business practices including:
- Use of sustainable and eco-friendly materials
- Resource saving initiatives
- Waste reduction and management
- Health and safety policy and procedures
- Supporting local economy/community by supporting local initiatives
Gamewatchers Safaris are the proud winners of the 2010 Eco-warrior award for "Most Responsible Tour Operator”!
Launched by Ecotourism Kenya in 2005, the Eco Warrior Awards honour creativity within the tourism industry in Kenya and are meant to inspire innovative actions that protect the environment and integrate local people into the business of tourism. The criterion for this award was based on outstanding innovation, key achievements and sustainability & replicability of the initiative.
The 'Most Responsible Tour Operator’ Category (Sponsored by Kenya Wildlife Service – KWS) was awarded to Gamewatchers Safaris Ltd as they presented clear written policies on their engagement in all areas of sustainable tourism including energy, water, waste and land management, conservation of natural resources and promotion of community integration and partnership.
Gamewatchers partner with booking agents to contribute a portion of every booking as a donation to a school they have supported in Kibera which has doubled its enrolment from 70 to 140 students. Gamewatchers Safaris is the exclusive booking office and marketing arm of Porini Camps which as a result of Gamewatchers Safaris business has been able to help conserve over 57,000 acres of wilderness and employ over 120 community members.
Ecotourism Kenya awarded the low-impact Porini Camps the 2009 Eco-Warrior Award in the Accommodation category for "working with communities next to national parks and reserves to create protected wildlife areas". This award champions Porini Camps for the formation of wildlife conservancies that provide dispersal areas for Kenyan wildlife. There are now more than 40,000 acres of additional land set aside for wildlife and 500 families are benefiting from the Porini Camps located in the conservancies.
Safaris and Porini Camps won the Responsible Tourism Award
for Best for Conservation of Endangered Species outside Protected
Area at the World Travel Market in London, November 2008.
“The winner was recognized for demonstrating that a high revenue, low impact
tourism development approach can benefit the local Maasai
through developing conservancies and tourism in partnership
with safari companies to create employment and community income
and to conserve their land for wildlife.”
Tourism Awards sponsored by Virgin Holidays are the most competitive
and prestigious awards of their kind in the world and are
a collaboration between online travel directory responsible
travel.com, who founded and organise the Awards, UK
media partners - The Daily Telegraph, Geographical Magazine
and BBC World News, and World Travel Market, who host the
Goodwin, Professor of Responsible Tourism Management at Leeds
Metropolitan University and Chair of the Judges commented:
tough again this year and the judges debated long and hard
the Responsible Tourism achievement of the companies, organisations
and individuals who had been nominated. "It was good
to see the achievements of some of the larger companies being
recognised, demonstrating that the Responsible Tourism Movement
now includes large businesses as well as the smaller specialist
businesses in the UK and in destinations on five continents
who did so much to establish the approach."
Geographic Adventure magazine, in the November 2008 issue,
has rated Amboseli Porini Camp as one of the top 50 ecolodges
in the World.
that "these 50 ecolodges are redefining travel for
a greener generation."
TOP ECOLODGES - A decade ago, you could count the number of
true ecolodges on two hands. Today we are witnessing one of
the most significant transformations in the history of modern
travel. Welcome to the new green standard: the 50 most Earth-friendly
retreats in the world's most spectacular wilds. These cutting-edge
green escapes are the best of the best at treating their visitors
as well as they do the environment - sparking impactful conservation
initiatives, supporting local communities, connecting guests
to cultures on an authentic level and increasingly placing
adventure at the center of the experience. National Geographic
Adventure Global Travel Editor Costas Christ and writer Kate
Siber scoured the world to compile the most comprehensive
ecolodge survey ever assembled, examining five key features:
luxury, active adventures, wildlife, local culture and family
The BBC Fast Track team visited Kenya to discover how the tourist industry was recovering from the impact of the post-election violence of early 2008. The TV programme [Click Here to View] includes an interview with Jake Grieves-Cook, MD of Gamewatchers & Porini Camps, and highlights how our Porini Lion Camp in the Olare Orok Conservancy is leading the way in working with communities to conserve the environment while providing a high quality wildlife safari experience for clients.
on their "Inside Africa" program recently featured
Mara Porini Camp and the Ol Kinyei Conservancy as a positive
example of eco-tourism.
Few regular visitors to Kenya have more experience of the Masai Mara than the writer Brian Jackman. His first book on the reserve, The Marsh Lions, written with Jonathan Scott, is being re-released and in this issue of Travel Africa magazine he explains why there is no better place to observe Africa’s big cats than in the conservancies next to the Mara Reserve.
Holidays at their 2008 Annual Awards Ceremony presented
Porini Safari Camps with the prestigious Gold Partnership
Award for Sustainable Tourism. This was the 2nd
year in a row that Porini won the top Sustainable Tourism
award, in competition with all the destinations and accommodation
that Virgin Holidays sells worldwide.
to this, our project has recently been included in a British
school textbook as an example of an ecotourism project that
is working with and benefiting the local community and environment.
Porini Camp is included in the World Tourism Organisation’s
Directory of Best Practice in Ecotourism as a positive example
from Kenya. Three of our Porini Camps have been awarded a
Silver Eco-rating from the Ecotourism Society of Kenya.
believe that Porini Safari Camps can serve as a model for
other community-owned ranches that may be interested in establishing
conservancies in partnership with a private sector safari
community members’ lives have been greatly improved; they
are directly benefiting from the unique natural resources
and now do not have to rely on livestock as their sole income
source. Previously opportunities for jobs were almost non-existent,
especially at Selenkay, and now this project employs over
100 people. Take-home earnings of individual members are
over USD100 per month for the most junior staff which is significantly
higher than the norm in remote rural areas. Our projects are
now generating a cash flow of over US$500,000 p.a. directly
into the local communities and increasing annually with no
direct expense to the community.
committed to promoting Best Practices across the board. We
pay well above the national average, have a written environmental
policy that is strictly adhered to and monitor other safari
companies in Africa to be sure that we make every effort to
stay abreast of new developments in our industry and are always
looking to implement improvements.
is unique as it doesn’t depend upon donor funding. It is a
partnership between the local community and a commercial safari
operator, where both parties’ goals are aligned. We believe
that one of the keys to our success is recognizing that the
community must derive fair benefits and not be taken advantage
of. Important aspects include taking the time to educate
them on the goals of the project, how conservation and ecotourism
can benefit them and their children and helping them set some
realistic expectations. In setting up the Conservancies a
long period was required for meetings, discussions and spending
time together, in order to build trust between the local community
that this can serve as a model to be adapted in many regions
of the world. Proof of this is that we’ve now replicated the
concept with the new Ol Kinyei & Olare Motorogi Conservancies
on Maasai owned land in the Mara ecosystem. There we have
set up the Mara Porini Camp & Porini Lion Camp, employing
members of the local community. We are delighted to see that
our initial conservancies and years of success have produced
a track record that others in the industry have now taken
note of and there is now a real momentum towards more operators
setting up conservancies along similar lines. Having a successful
project to model makes the setting up of future projects simpler
for all those interested. We believe that conservancies, like
ours, where the local communities are deriving a benefit from
eco-tourism that is greater than other forms of land utilization
is the way forward for Conservation in Kenya and one that
can be duplicated in other parts of Africa.