In 1995 the Craig family turned their entire farm on the northern slopes of Mt Kenya into the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, with a mandate to protect and conserve the wildlife of Kenya. They had to convince the local communities to stop seeing animals as competition for their cattle’s grazing and instead see them as a source of income. This was achieved and many fences were taken down and old migration routes were re-opened to the animals.
Lewa Downs is now an area of outstanding natural beauty with the Lewa River giving life to dense woodland and patches of open savannah providing the perfect habitat for a whole range of Kenya’s animals.
Community development projects have also proved successful, and nearby areas have benefited from the Conservancy ‘s experience and support. Il Ngwesi is a 16,500 acre (6,677ha) group ranch, which now includes a lodge, is owned and run by the Laikipiak Maasai. All profits are returned to the community who are now avid supporters of conservation.
Lewa has developed a range of activities for its visitors, allowing people to get actively involved in conservation and community projects.
On the wildlife side these include day and night game drives and nature walks, horse and camel rides, visits to Lewa’s orphaned animals and horseback rhino patrol for experienced riders. You can also accompany the lion tracker to collect data on the resident lion population or head for the Ngare Ndare Forest Reserve in search of black and white colobus monkeys. On the education/community side you can visit schools, water schemes and other community development projects or visit Lewa’s prehistoric archaeological site where stone hand axes are common and date back approximately 800,000-1 million years.
Kenya leads the way in the transformation of private farms into wildlife reserves and the safari experience in these places is quite unique. You are often hosted by the owners and welcomed to a select lodge catering for a small number of guests. Your guides are usually people who know the area intimately, which gives a greater depth to the whole experience.
ANIMALS & BIRDS
The Conservancy has grown and now supports an impressive array of wildlife, much of it indigenous to the area. The 45,000 acre (18,211ha) area has more than 25% of the world’s threatened Grevy’s zebra (there are approximately only 3,000 left). At the end of 2002, eight new precious rhino calves were born (4 white and 4 black rhino), bringing the steadily increasing numbers to a healthy 32 indigenous black rhino and 33 white rhino.
There are of course a host of other animals native to this part of East Africa including elephants and reticulated giraffe who have bred so successfully, that the Conservancy was faced with an over population and had to relocate some of them.
There are thought to be only about 50 shy aquatic sitatunga antelope in Kenya and Lewa Plains has about 20 living in the swampy riverine areas of the reserve. Other antelope to be seen in some numbers are eland, oryx, impala and waterbuck. Predators are not here in great numbers but lion, leopard and hyena are around.
The days are usually hot and dry and the nights quite cool. Typical Kenya seasons go something like this:
Rainy Season: The long hot and humid rainy period starts around April and lasts until June, then the short rains come during the warm months of November and December.
Dry Season: January through to March are hot and dry, while July to October are warm and dry. The warm dry season is the best for game viewing and for personal comfort.
• Black and White rhino
• Grevy’s zebras
• Aquatic sitatunga antelope
• Rolling hills and riverine habitats
Lewa is malaria-free
Lewa is situated at 4,500 to 6,500 feet (1,400-2,000 meters) above sea level.