The African Safari Camp Seamlessly Blending Sustainability And Luxury
Looking for an intimate, off-the-beaten-track African safari experience without compromising on luxury? Look no further than Sirikoi Lodge.
Situated among 68,000 acres of untouched wilderness in UNESCO World Heritage-listed Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, the eco-lodge is part of an award-winning model for community conservation.
Here, travellers can immerse themselves in indulgence while being surrounded by secure habitats for some of Africa’s rarest species – the likes of the black rhino, Grevy zebra and reticulated giraffe – all the while leaving the smallest of environmental footprints.
After dedicating their lives to the wellbeing of animals and communities alike in Kenya, Sue and William Roberts were inspired to create a luxury, low-impact eco-lodge.
“We were determined that it would be the best in Kenya,” says Sue.
The couple has a long and deep connection to Kenya and its exotic animals. Born in Kenya, in a remote area of the Rift Valley, William was just 19 years old when he built his first small lodge on an island in Lake Baringo. It was there that he met Sue when she came to work there.
Their joint adventures continued and in 1981 they prevented 8,000 acres of land in Northern Maasai Mara from being ploughed, which would have ruined the natural habitat of many animals.
Not just keen to help the wildlife, William started an association for Maasai landowners so they could collect tourism-based revenue from safaris hosted on their land. Fast-forward to the year 2000 and William set up the well-known Mara Conservancy area, known as the Mara Triangle, in a bid to stop rampant poaching and hunting and allow safer travel.
Given this solid conservationist background, it’s no surprise that when the couple heard about the land Sirikoi now sits on, they couldn’t pass it up.
“Once he [William] heard that this piece of land in the middle of Lewa was to be used to irrigate gum trees and for settlement, he managed to buy much better land with higher rainfall and negotiated a land swap,” says Sue.
“This was a win-win situation and this valuable wildlife habitat with a river and swamp became joined to Lewa.”
Since the pair welcomed their first guests in 2005, they’ve been awarded one of the highest honours: ‘Africa’s leading luxury lodge’ by the World Travel Awards in 2017.
The accolade was the first time Kenya had received such recognition for its safari lodgings and a slew of other awards followed, especially for their eco-friendly practices.
Going off the grid has long been Sue’s passion and she saw the chance to make her dream a reality with Sirikoi.
“Being so close to a river and wetland, I did not want to put a single chemical into the earth,” she says. “We love vinegar and Bi-carb and that manages to clean just about everything. We educate our staff about this and they are very conscientious.”
The drinking water comes from a spring (exclusively used by Sirikoi) on the slopes of Mt Kenya, which is gravity fed to the camp, ozonated and UV filtered into reusable glass bottles.
One of most impressive features is the large on-site organic garden where around 70 per cent of the fruit and vegetables served for breakfast, lunch and dinner comes from. You can take a tour of the garden with George, the garden manager, and you might also spot the resident chooks who supply all of the eggs for the camp. Since Sirikoi doesn’t farm animals, the camp purchases meat from neighbouring farms.
While running a luxury lodge that’s self-sufficient may seem ambitious, Sue reveals there haven’t been any challenges and with 120 solar panels to power four luxury tents, the cottage, house and main camp, there’s no risk for hiccups.
With each tent overlooking the waterhole and sprawling wetlands, you can perch on your verandah and watch the zebras, elephants and perhaps the odd rhino meander down for a drink.
In line with their passion for education and conservation, there are many activities you can choose to take part in apart from game drives.
Whether you choose to visit an adult literacy group, a local school, or meet with the Chief Conservation Officer and anti-poaching team, there is a chance to truly immerse yourself in the efforts being made to strengthen the community and wildlife.
Sirikoi is a working model of how wildlife and local communities can live in complete harmony as one and Sue agrees that it could be the future of African safari experiences:
“The discerning traveller increasingly wants to learn and to know that when they stay in this sort of lodge, they are giving back to the community, wildlife, and leaving a minimal footprint.”
(Lead image: Image: Sirikoi Lodge / supplied)
Published 03 May, 2019