Kenya is the safari capital of East Africa. A place where elephants, buffalo and wildebeest roam across vast plains. Flamingo flocks wade in the shallows, lions doze on sun-baked savannahs and herds of hippos graze by river banks. Yet in the scramble to see the country's wildlife, local culture often gets overlooked. Tribal people have historically been marginalised from the financial benefits of their land's natural riches.
Happily, there is now a new breed of lodges where the local tribes manage the camp, train as guides and receive a share of the profits. These profits then go towards environmental and wildlife conservation. Below are some of the best safari lodges in Kenya, which have embraces these progressive ideas. From these camps local guides will take you on some of the best safaris in Africa.
To arrange your own trip to Kenya, get in touch. Rough Guides works with local experts in the country to plan fully personalised experiences. They can arrange stays at all of the lodges listed below, and many more.
Lewa Safari Camp
Chances are you’ll tick off the Big Five easily while on safari in the 250 sq km Lewa Conservancy. In the foothills of Mount Kenya, Lewa is Primarily a sanctuary for endangered animals. It's home to all the big game, including black rhinos, white rhinos and Grévy’s zebras. As well as the usual game drives, there are bush walks and camel-trekking safaris led by local Maasai guides. What's more, all profits from Lewa Safari Camp go to the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, which funds local education and medical clinics. Lewa Safari Camp is closed in April and November. Lewa is approximately five hours’ drive from Nairobi.
Giraffe at Lewa Conservancy, Kenya © Joseph Sohm/Shutterstock
Amboseli Porini Camp
Come to Amboseli Porini for some of the best birdwatching in Africa. And that's not all. You'll see elephants, lions, leopards, wildebeest and giraffes, and enjoy spectacular views of Mount Kilimanjaro. You'll find the camp in the Selenkay Conservation Area, a 60 sq km private game reserve bordering the northern boundary of Amboseli National Park. It is co-owned by the local Maasai and Gamewatcher Safaris – a Nairobi-based travel company. Track game with the Maasai and you’ll learn a trick or two from the people who have lived here for centuries.
The wild Secretary Bird in Amboseli National Park, Kenya © worldclassphoto/Shutterstock
Superbly positioned for a close view of the migration of wildebeest and zebra along the northern plains of the Maasai Mara, Eagle View is definitely off the beaten track. It's set on an escarpment in the Mara Naboisho Conservancy – one of the most remote and undeveloped parts of the Mara. At the camp you'll find nine tented suites overlooking the Koiyaki river. The lodge offers day and night drives, and even walking safaris with the local Maasais. The game here is as good as anywhere else in the park – with all those wildebeest running around there are lots of predators about. Wildebeest migration is from mid-June to the end of October.
Wildebeest crossing the Mara River © Jane Rix/Shutterstock
Il Ngwesi and Tassia Lodges
Both of these luxury safari lodges lie among the wild scrubland and ancient migratory routes of northern Kenya. Il Ngwesi is on a rocky outcrop by the Ngare Ndare River on the edge of the dramatic Mukogodo Hills. There are six double thatched bandas and an infinity pool with wonderful views of the Samburu Game Reserve and the Mathews Range.
Tassia Lodge is perched on the edge of a rocky bluff, looking out over the Northern Frontier District towards Samburu, Shaba and the Lolokwe Mountain. The lodge has six rooms (including a children’s bunkhouse which sleeps six) and is a four-hour walk or a morning’s game drive from Il Ngwesi.
Both Tassia and Il Ngwesi are owned and run by local Maasai. They lead guided safaris and birdwatching tours in the Ngare Ndare River Valley. You’ll have a good chance of seeing elephants, buffalo, lions, wild dogs, hyenas, cheetahs and leopards. This is community-owned pastoral land, so expect to come across herders and their cattle – and the real Africa.
Top image and above: Leopard at Samburu Game Reserve, Kenya © MicheleB/Shutterstock