The magic of Lewa, a wildlife conservancy
ARTS & CULTURE
By Thorn Mulli | February 20th 2017
A 50 minute flight from Nairobi is all it took me to get to Lewa Downs. Should you choose the more scenic road trip option, the journey to Nanyuki will take you three hours. From Nanyuki, drive on the main road to Meru. You will pass through the beautiful Timau filled with picturesque views of wheat and flower farms.
The road peaks at Kisima farm and then gets steep downhill for a few kilometres. At the bottom of the valley you will see a main junction with huge advertising sign-boards above it. Turn left at this junction to the Isiolo Road (if you go straight ahead, you would end up in Meru). Follow this road for about three kilometres and then on your left you will see one of the Lewa gates; the Matunda Gate.
I had been to Lewa before for its equally famous marathon. While the experience had its highs, animal sightings were minimal and the marathon campsite basic. Away from the marathon time, it seems more alive. I made my way to Sirikoi, a place filled with luxury safari tents. Each tent has a viewing deck with incredible panoramas of the waterhole fed by the Sirikoi stream. When it comes to experiences, try beating an hour-long massage in this serene environment only broken by chirping from birds and later sipping tea draped in an afro-chic robe.
If you prefer a more solid accommodation, they also have two-bedroom cottages that are perfect for families or a group of friends. I chose to have my meals on the shaded deck overlooking the waterhole inches away. I was lucky enough to view some animals peacefully quenching their thirst.
Few minutes into my excursion in Lewa, I came across lions and some rhinos. Before my adventure was over, I had sighted the Big Five. I can now confidently say that the probability of encountering the Big Five in Lewa rivals even the world famous Mara.
As the conservancy has grown, the amount of wildlife it supports has increased and now you can enjoy some rewarding game viewing here. Grevy's and common zebras can be found on the open grass plains alongside Grant's gazelles, buffalos, Somali giraffes, Beisa onyxes, elands, the rare swamp-dwelling antelopes and impalas. You may be lucky to see the black and white rhinos, lions, cheetahs, leopards and hyenas.
In the early afternoon heat, many of these animals converge at the swamps to drink water. The waterbucks are always nearby and large elephant herds are frequent visitors so sometimes it is possible to see hundreds of animals all in one spot.
Top activities to do in Lewa
• Enjoy horseback or camel safari taking you through the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy with its abundant wildlife. Comfortable camping facilities, excellent cuisine, and experienced guides will ensure your wellbeing on your safari.
• Climb Mt Kenya and visit Lake Rutundu on Mt Kenya for a fly-fishing excursion and stay at the rustic and ultra-private Rutundu Log Cabin where Prince William proposed.
• Day trips to the adjoining Ngare Ndare Forest to look for the elusive Columbus monkey population and to learn about the indigenous flora and its local uses.
• Lewa wilderness hosts and flies the only open cockpit biplane in East Africa which will take you around the conservation areas of northern Kenya. It is a truly magical. The pilot, Will Craig, has over 5,000 hours experience flying mostly in the Lewa area and can show you how the conservation project is improving and positively affecting the local communities.
• Educational tours on the history and day-to-day operations of the conservancy: Whether it's a visit to the pre-historic archaeological site, a local school, water project or feeding a baby rhino there are plenty of activities that will peak your interest for a behind the scenes look at the conservancy operations.
• A helicopter ride to Mount Ololokwe for breakfast.
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