Gretchen’s Trip Report: Part 5

February 8, 2012  By: Gretchen

After learning a bit about the Ol Pejeta Conservancy, we set off on our site inspections.  First up we visited Ol Pejeta Bush Camp. The camp has 6 tents with double or twin beds, all overlooking the river. There is also have one larger tent which can accommodate a family of 4. The camp is open year-round except during the rains in April, May, and November. It is approximately 45 minutes drive from the Conservancy gate. The camp offers all of the activities available in the Conservancy listed in my previous post, as well as the chance to self-drive a vintage Land Cruiser for your own game drive (extra cost). If you’re feeling like a bit of exercise, they also offer running out in the bush (with a safety car, of course!). The camp has a rustic but comfortable feel and seems like ‘old Africa’.

Next we visited the Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary. While this does not even remotely compare with seeing chimps in the wild, it is a great educational experience. The Jane Goodall institute and the Kenyan Wildlife Services joined forces to establish the Kenyan sanctuary in 1993 at Sweetwaters as a refuge for orphaned chimps evacuated from a facility in Burundi due to the outbreak of civil war there and is the only place in Kenya where non-indigenous chimpanzees can be seen. The chimpanzees inhabit an island divided into two by a river. The older chimps occupy one half, the younger chimps the other. Sweetwaters sanctuary’s aim is to provide a permanent refuge for the chimps in as natural an environment as is possible.

The 40 or so chimpanzees are looked after by a dedicated fully-qualified staff of 16 who are on duty around the clock. Unfortunately, the continuing decimation of the West African rain forests and the demand for bush-meat means that the need for the sanctuary remains undiminished and it continues to take in and give a home to abused and orphaned chimps. The sanctuary offers ‘adoption packages’ to visitors as a means to raise money to pay for the necessary 24hr care of the animals. This is probably a 1-2 hour stop at most during a game drive and is interesting and informative.

After visiting the chimps, we headed off to see the northern white rhinos in the ‘endangered species boma’. This is another experience not to be missed while visiting Ol Pejeta. The rangers are passionate about what they do but also very practiced at making sure guests enjoy themselves. We were lucky to visit during a feeding and watched as several southern white rhinos had to be ‘shooed’ away by a ranger so that Najin (a northern white) could enjoy his meal. Seeing a lone man making rhinos run away with clapping and hand waiving is something special…and quite funny.

After the rhinos, we headed to Sweetwaters Tented Camp for a site inspection. The camp is comprised of 39 tents set amongst lush and beautiful grounds. Each tent has its own ensuite bathroom (hot and cold running water, 24-hour hot showers and flush toilets) and has a luxury canvas interior, solid floors and separate thatched roofs. Electricity is provided by 24 hour generator. 14 of the tents are on raised platforms with private balconies and the rest have private verandas. Extra beds and cots can also be provided.

Each tent features either a king-sized double bed or two twins. Mosquito nets are provided, as are hot water bottles at night. The central Rhino Restaurant offers both regional and international cuisine and the Kashoggi Bar and lounge is cozy and centers on a blazing log fire. The Waterhole Bar, built in the style of a game-viewing hide, overlooks the waterhole and offers great wildlife-watching. Massages are also on offer.

Our final site inspection of the day was at Ol Pejeta House. As with Sweetwaters Tented Camp, this property is run by Serena Hotels, though it is far more exclusive. It was originally the home of famed multi-millionaire, Adnan Khashoggi. The house offers 2 superior guest rooms with ensuite bathrooms and dressing room, 2 standard guest rooms with double bed, ensuite with bathroom and terrace and the separate Buffalo Cottage with 2 deluxe rooms and a fireplace. The house is set in extensive grounds with gorgeous views of Mount Kenya. It features a series of reception rooms, including an elegant drawing room with baronial fireplace and a series of scenic verandas that extend right around the house. The imposing dining room is served by its own dedicated chef and kitchens, and menus can be tailored exactly to suit guests’ wishes.

It’s an interesting place. I’d describe the decor as ‘late 60’s luxury’. It would be excellent for a small group that wasn’t looking for a traditional safari property.

We were finally off to Porini Rhino Camp. We enjoyed a stunning sunset en route with rolling hills and animal silhouettes providing photographic interest. We were warmly welcomed at camp by Matthew the manager and the rest of the camp staff (which was good as the night became quite chilly!) and had a chance for a quick refresh in our tents prior to meeting for drinks at the fire. Our drinks, dinner and sleep were accompanied by the sounds of a lone hyena, resident frogs and a passing lion. What a sweet lullaby.

Next stop is the Masai Mara.

Photo Courtesy Sweetwaters Tented Camp