An African Safari is on most people’s bucket list, to be at one with nature, but retaining some ‘home comforts’, to support responsible tourism and animal conservation, and most importantly to have an unforgettable wildlife experience.
With these criteria in mind, Jake Grieves-Cook, a former chairman of the Kenyan Tourist Board and passionate campaigner for animal conservation, established Porini Safari Camps in Kenya.
Jake was raised in Kenya, came to the UK to study at Oxford and then returned to his beloved Africa to work in tourism. He started working in one of the very first safari lodges in the Masai Mara over 40 years ago, and since then has witnessed great changes in Kenya’s tourism industry. In many ways the Kenyan safari has been a victim of its own success with mass tourism inside the Mara Reserve following over-development of too many lodges and over-crowding by safari vehicles during the high season months resulting in too many tourists, in an endless stream of minivans, all chasing after the same photo opportunity.
In order to redress the balance and give back to the local communities, Jake established the Conservancy Concept and developed Porini Safari Camps, working in partnership with rural landowners and villagers living alongside the National Parks and Game Reserves. Porini means ‘in the wilds’ in Kiswahili and all the camps are located in exclusive conservancies that are well away from mass-market tourism.
Jake’s objective was to enable the indigenous Masai people to derive benefits in return for conserving wildlife and to use the income from small-scale eco-tourism to pay for the costs of wildlife conservation on land beyond the parks and reserves. That is the essence of the ‘Conservancy Concept’. To achieve these ideals, Porini enters into lease agreements with landowners in order to establish a ‘Wildlife Conservancy’ on their land and then develops the infrastructure to include access roads, a network of game-viewing tracks, waterholes, campsites and tourist facilities. Thus the community is given help to utilise the land and wildlife as a resource and in return receives economic benefits including income, employment and education.
Jake set up the first conservancy on land leased from the local people near Amboseli National Park in 1998 and this was followed by Ol Kinyei Conservancy in the Mara in 2004 and then Olare Motorogi and Naboisho Conservancies, also in the Mara. In Kenya, because the parks are comparatively small in size in relation to the greater ecosystems that they are part of, the majority of wildlife is found outside of parks. These outer buffer lands, crucial to the parks’ survival, are generally community areas for grazing, but in the last decade, land-use has been changing rapidly. With the establishment of each Porini conservancy, it took a long time to meet with the community and get them to understand they wouldn’t be losing their land, but that working with Porini would be an opportunity to create employment and provide income from the land lease payments. The conservancy model has managed to convince the community that the wildlife they have is valuable and through a partnership with a safari company it is possible to protect and benefit from it.
20 years on and Porini now has six award winning safari camps bordering the Masan Mara and Amboseli Game Reserves and in Laikipia on the slopes of Mount Kenya. Porini also own and operate the unique Nairobi Tented Camp, offering guests an authentic safari just minutes from Nairobi city centre.
Porini offers a genuine ‘Out of Africa’ camping experience with spacious guest tents, all comfortably equipped with real beds and en suite bathrooms. A ‘safari shower’ is a welcome experience after a day of game viewing. Staff will heat water at your request and bring it to you in a large 20 litre canvas bucket that is hoisted up and connected to the shower in your ensuite bathroom, ready for you to have a relaxing shower in the privacy of your tent. You soon learn to moderate the water supply to suit your needs! As eco friendly ‘bush camps’ you won’t find swimming pools or spa facilities, but instead a team of dedicated staff from the local villages who work tirelessly to insure you have the best wildlife experience. Little touches such as early morning tea delivered to your tent, hot water bottles to warm your bed at night and delicious home cooked food enjoyed in a comfortable ‘mess tent’ all combine to enhance your stay.
All the Porini camps are run on environmentally sound principles specially designed to have minimum impact, with no permanent structures, using solar power for electricity and heating water with special eco-friendly sustainable charcoal briquettes. Most guests enjoy getting away from our online lifestyle, but for those who find that a scary thought, it is possible to pick up mobile phone signals in certain areas.
Away from the camps the gameviewing is the most important part of a safari and at Porini standards are high. Only open sided 4×4 vehicles are used, enabling all guests to have a ‘window’ seat. Another benefit of staying inside a conservancy is the opportunity for night game drives to seek out nocturnal species, something not permitted within the National parks and reserves. To avoid dazzling the wildlife on the night drives, the spotlights used are fitted with red filters so that the animals are not unduly disturbed.
Game drives are shared with up to 6 guests in each vehicle but there is also the option to arrange a 4×4 for sole use if you are travelling in a small group, or if you are a keen photographer and want to go at your own pace.
The Masai guides are KPSGA qualified to at least bronze level and all were born and raised amongst the wildlife they know so well. Their experience means they can find the most elusive animals, and the peace and quiet of the conservancy gives you the opportunity to get up close and personal to some very special creatures. Porini Lion Camp is in the Olare Motorogi Conservancy and home to many prides of big cats, all known by name and nature to the guides, these family groups can all be studied closely as cubs are born and new relationships are forged.
Porini Rhino Camp is in Ol Pejeta, a vast area between the Aberdares and Mt Kenya, home to the endangered Black Rhino. A stay at Porini Rhino Camp will include a chance to see Baraka, the first black rhino to be born in the Conservancy, and to visit the famous Chimpanzee Centre and Ol Pejeta endangered species boma.
To sum up, if you are considering a safari to Kenya I can recommend Porini Camps to deliver everything you imagined – and more.
For more information visit www.porini.com/kenya-safaris
Porini now offer a free safari planning guide – which you can order here.