The picturesque grounds of the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, surrounded by huge valleys and rolling mountains, are a shelter for endangered wildlife with a long history. The conservancy is a positive force in the face of the ever-present menace of illicit poaching to thrill while on Kenya Safaris .
THE LEWA CONSERVANCY IN A NUTSHELL
The 62,000-acre conservancy was established to protect and raise the population of some of Africa’s most critically endangered species. It has a wide range of habitats, from plains to rolling hills, swamps to woods.
Aside from animals, Lewa values community projects and has sponsored a number of programs to help education, water improvement, and healthcare in the local community. The conservancy is home to the Big Five and has a high level of variety. It is well-known for having one of the world’s largest rhino populations.
The Craig family and Anna Merz founded Lewa. After being awarded the land by the colonial government, the Craig family arrived in the 1920s and utilized it as a cattle ranch for 50 years. Unlike other ranches, they always appreciated the local fauna and shared it with the animals while also allowing tourists to visit.
In the 1980s, Anna Merz contacted Craigslist and asked if she might construct a sanctuary for rhinos, which were extremely endangered and on the verge of extinction due to poaching, with just a few hundred remaining.
The effort, which began with 5000 acres of walled property, was a huge success, with rhinos breeding and being protected by an electric fence and security. The Craig were then granted permission to relocate many of Kenya‘s rhinos in order to protect them.
The breeding and conservation programs were so successful that tourists from all over the world began to visit, prompting the Craig family to dedicate the entire 40,000-acre ranch to the non-profit Lewa Conservancy. The perimeter was enclosed, with a few openings to allow for animal mobility.
Many prominent people have visited Lewa, including HRH Prince William, who worked here during his gap year. It’s said that he loves the place so much that he proposed to Kate Middleton in Lewa while they were on safari together.
In addition to animals, Lewa is also home to the famed yearly Lewa marathon, which attracts about 1500 runners. In its 20-year existence, the marathon has raised over $8 million and winds its way through the park, making it one of the most gorgeous marathons in the world.
WILDLIFE IN THE LEWA CONSERVANCY
Lewa Conservancy is home to some of the world’s most endangered species, including 214 black and white rhinoceroses, the most of any safari park in the world. It serves as a haven in a turbulent zone where banditry and poaching are common.
Lewa is home to about 90% of all Grevy zebras found outside of captivity, as well as reticulated giraffes. The conservancy is home to lions, cheetahs, wild dogs, leopards, and a variety of wildlife, making it one of the most ecologically varied parks in the country.
During the migratory seasons, Lewa also experiences an increase in animal activity, with approximately 400 elephants passing the grounds during each cycle. The show may be seen from a specially constructed elephant underpass.
ACTIVITIES IN THE LEWA CONSERVANCY
There are numerous activities available in Lewa, ranging from those based in the campgrounds to horseback riding, camel riding, and sunrise hot air balloon rides. Most camps will also include walking safaris, night drives, bush breakfasts, and sundowners in beautiful locations. There are further waterfalls and trekking trails in the Ngare-Ngare forest further out.
Cultural excursions to Maasai settlements are also provided. They are intriguing and allow you to witness how the tribes live; typically, you will be met with a welcoming ritual that includes a dance (participation is often encouraged). Although it may appear voyeuristic, the villagers like showing off their homes, and the visits bring much-needed revenue for them, so please remember to tip generously and buy gifts.
NGARE NDARE FOREST
Outside of the reserve, the nearby Ngare Ndare Forest is an excellent day trip. The lush shrubs and densely packed trees of the forest contrast with the conservancies broad, calm grasslands.
The main trail through the woods eventually ends at a waterfall. The flow from the falls is seasonal, and it is at its peak during the rainy season or shortly after. Swimming is permitted in the pool below the falls.
When visiting outside of the dry season, the waters are not as clear as they are in the summer, becoming muddy and murky. After the falls, continue your climb across the canopy for 360-degree views of the conservancy and surrounding farmland.