A friend of mine recently suggested that I take a few days off work to join him on a trip through Kajiado, Amboseli and Kimana. I didn’t take much convincing.
I was excited by the prospect of tracking wild dogs near Kajiado, in an area where they are frequently spotted. But that turned out to be more of a wild goose chase. The rest of the trip made up for this early disappointment, though, particularly our stay at the newly refurbished Kimana House.
The house is within the 5,700-acre Kimana Sanctuary – about 80km south of Emali, down the Emali-Oloitokitok road. The sanctuary is a vital parcel of land that links up the greater Amboseli ecosystem with the Chyulu Hills and Tsavo West. Its lush fever tree forests are fed by a stream replenished by rain and meltwater from Mount Kilimanjaro. It’s a popular spot for elephants, including some of the biggest left on the planet.
The responsibility of protecting this crucial wildlife corridor was recently taken up by the Big Life Foundation, with support from the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, who are covering the cost of the land lease paid to the local community. Their combined expertise will undoubtedly improve the management of the sanctuary, keeping the wildlife, the adjacent communities, and their crops safe.
To help fund the lease and the operations of the ranger team on the ground, there has been a renewed push for eco-tourism within the sanctuary, with the renovation of Kimana House and the improvement of camping infrastructure. We were lucky enough to be the first guests at the newly-refurbished house, and the first to spend a night at the Elerai Campsite with the new bucket shower facilities. The campsite is at a tranquil spot by the river, shaded by acacias with broad canopies and trunks that have been gnarled by years of elephant rubbing and stripping.
The house is also by the river, upstream from the campsite and within the same acacia forest. It’s a very attractive property, both inside and out. Four en-suite rooms sleep eight comfortably, and surround a large living-cum-dining area. The kitchen is fully equipped with all the necessary utensils for guests to prepare their own meals, including an oven, a barbeque and a chest freezer. We were also well looked after by the on-site managers, Joshua and Eric.
A wide veranda faces the lawn out front, and a path winds to a shaded seating area by the river – which we found to be an ideal sundowner spot. There’s a natural plunge pool in the river, too, created by a curved rock dam.
For large groups or families, Kimana House offers great value, at Ksh. 24,000 per night for more than four guests, and Ksh. 18,000 per night for four guests or less. This excludes the sanctuary entrance fee of Ksh. 1,000 for residents, and Ksh. 2,500 for non-residents. Alternatively, to stay at one of the campsites, the fee is Ksh. 2,000 for residents and Ksh. 3,500 for non-residents – although there are reduced rates for children.
We found it very difficult to tear ourselves away from the plunge pool in the heat of the day, but spent most of our time driving around the sanctuary. We were joined one afternoon by a Big Life ranger, Jonathan, who told us that some of the big tuskers had recently passed through Kimana and were making their way towards Amboseli National Park
But the sanctuary was still teaming with life. Herds of zebras and wildebeest grazed on the plains, while giraffes browsed within the forests. The views were impressive, too, with Kilimanjaro to the south, and the Chyulu Hills to the north.
For bookings and more information about the sanctuary, visit their brand new website, www.kimanasanctuary.com, or follow them on Instagram, @kimanasanctuary.
Published in Kenya’s Sunday Nation