By Alfrique Mwana
Lewa Conservancy is widely known for the annual marathon race that takes place in the wild to raise funds to protect flora and fauna in the ecosystem. Competing along the rugged paths that are trodden by animals, and coming close to a herd of zebras, giraffes, rhinos, gazelles, and antelopes known as herbivores is exciting and adrenaline provoking. Lewa, is located in the corner of Meru County, bordering Laikipia and Isiolo counties. It is 250-square kilometers square and has a mixture of grassland and woodland vegetation, making it is home to abundant wildlife.
Lewa is home to different species of animals that include: – the gravy zebras, giraffes, elephants, rhinos, leopards and wild dogs that are ever elusive. At an altitude of 5500 feet above sea level, Lewa Conservancy enjoys a spring-like climate -the short rains all year round, make it a low malaria risk area; long rains come in April, May, and November.
Deep inside the Lewa Conservancy lies the Sirikoi Lodge, a small, magnificent, and beautiful chalet that offers unrivaled wilderness charm. A green lawn that is well manicured, neatly trimmed hedges that lead from one area to the next, and the scent of nature are the highlights of your welcome to the lodge. It is Afro-centric, designed and built to resemble a traditional Kenyan home; offering comfort, a sense of luxury, and value for money. The roofs are grass thatched, in sync with the natural surroundings. Sirikoi Lodge is cooler during high temperatures partly because of the grass thatched roof.
The main lounge is spacious and decorated in African art and textile blending luxury and authenticity. Its furniture is artistically crafted and placed within the lounge; bronze animal sculptures and artefacts collected over-years and strategically placed add to the glamour in the lounge.
The huge windows overlook the lush grounds letting in enough fresh air and light that enables you to view animals walking and grazing by the waterhole. From the lounge, staff escort you to the designated accommodation unit. The House is a private wing with 3 en suite bedrooms, a dining room, a living room, and a deck that overlooks the wetland and a fire pit for bonfires at night. This unit has a package that includes a private safari, a guide, a chef, and staff.
Cottages are equally private units with 2 en suite bedrooms and can accommodate four people. The cottages have central living and dining rooms, and a kitchenette and share a living space that opens to the deck that faces the waterhole. These cottages are suitable for families with children or those travelling in groups. The deck has safari armchairs, sitting poofs, and a fire pit. The tents located far apart are the best units; each tent is en suite with either a large double bed or twin beds with a wardrobe. The tents have en-suite bathrooms with a free-standing bath and rain shower overlooking beauteous views of the conservancy. On the deck are two sitting poofs.
Days and nights at the Sirikoi Lodge are quiet. Spend time at the deck and main lounge, listen to refreshing – music playing in the background as you enjoy your lunch or dinner, or when you are meditating, reading a book, or marvelling at the unpretentious nature. The deck is dotted with coaches to make you comfortable and more relaxed as you relish your armchair game view.
Beyond the deck is a waterhole that is frequented by animals day and night according you an opportunity to take close-range pictures and selfies. The nights are beauteous and calm, save for the chirping of the birds, or occasional trumpets sound of the elephants, or the yappy bark of the zebras. Sundowner moments are exquisite, sunset rays peer through the forest as the sun drops to the horizon and soon it’s dark. Darkness is deep under the acacia tree canopies but the security lighting within the lodge does the magic. Lantern lamps are used to illuminate the paths, the units are well-lit, bright enough for visibility yet warm and romantic. It is as if Sirikoi management was deliberate with the lighting system to make you fall in love with the lodge.
At dawn the cocks crow at the Sirikoi botanical farm, birds chirp to usher in the new day as the sun takes to the sky. At the horizon, the sun like a fireball sends forth its golden rays to illuminate the earth and warm the ground. It’s a beehive of activities at the lodge as staff set up the dining for breakfast. The aroma of tantalizing dishes fills the air, the stomach rumbles, and the mouth waters, as you wait. All the food is fresh from the Sirikoi botanical garden.
A drive in the wild brings you close and personal with the endangered black and white rhinos, reticulated giraffes, elephants, buffaloes, wild dogs, cheetahs, and leopards. Driving through the bush and beneath the towering acacia trees; the air is fresh, the smell of poop is raw, and the ecosystem is unadulterated. The rough roads throughout the conservancy, muddy pads, and often bumpy rides make the experience memorable. Night game drives are more exciting; it is hunting time for the predators the leopards, cheetahs, and wild dogs are on the loose, agile, and ready to pounce. On the other hand, the preys are tired after a long day, they lie down to rest cautiously for fear of being turned into a meal. It’s a catch twenty-two situation for the animals under the cover of darkness whereas it is a thrilling occurrence for guests when the animals are in action – a night theatre it is!
Bushwalking is another exhilarating activity, you get to see animals that cannot be seen from the pop-up tops or large windows of the vehicle. It is an opportunity to come closer to less harmful animals, take close-range pictures, feed the giraffes, and explore by foot the remote valleys, hills and plains, and the neighbouring Maasai community conservation areas. Trekking across the Lewa takes days and you must be accompanied by a guide(s) who are mostly the Maasai assisted by Carmels that carry your luggage. Maasai are among the few communities that hold onto their traditions; it is a great chance to understand why and how they do it despite the modern influence beckoning them.
The long trek comes to an end at the camping site where another group of guides has prepared your food and your tent for the night. Nights in the Wild is an experience like no other. The nights can be dark except when the moon is out. The bonfire is lit to keep the cold away, crickets chirp all around you, and nocturnal animals peeek from their hiding place to see the events at the camp but are afraid of the Maasai. Deep in the night it’s all quiet, and before you know it, it’s dawn; wake up to the sounds of birds singing. The sun peaks from the sky through the acacia tree canopies illuminating the forest floor. After breakfast, the journey begins to the next campsite or back to the lodge.
To the South of Lewa Conservancy lies the Ngare ndare forest reserve at the foothills of Mount Kenya. Ngare ndare is known for its high walking foot bridge and the blue glacial pools inside the forest. Towering about 10 meters high is the bridge that offers an aerial view of the forests and its residents who move in silence unless disturbed. The bridge is made of ropes and wooden planks that swing as you walk through, every step you make activates your adrenaline, but the picturesque view is an antidote. The forest is lush and draped in thick vines, herds of elephants move in families or individually enjoying the food that is plenty in the forest as the black and white colobus monkeys swing on the vines.
A 14-kilometer corridor that allows for the movement of elephants from the Mount Kenya forest to Ngare ndare habitat crosses through the Lewa Conservancy, linking the central and northern parts of the Mount Kenya ecosystem; the corridor enables elephants to search for food, and to mate and procreate. Plunging into the clear Azure pool is the climax of the tour of the reserve; it is found in a spectacular rocky grotto below the waterfall. The water is clear, clean, and fresh but cold because of the mountain climate, only the brave can dare to swim.
Lewa plains are a good site for horse riding, sightseeing, and marvelling at the scenic landscape. Lewa horses are accustomed to the wild, they are not paddocked but graze free range with the zebras, elands, giraffes, impala, and baboons. Riding one of the Lewa Wilderness horses enables you to enjoy the wildlife in its most natural form, without the sound of a car engine or the sight of a road – it’s truly invigorating.
Sirikoi Lodge offers air safari – this is a good opportunity to fly the wilds of Kenya. You can fly to the snowcapped peaks of Mount Kenya, or along the tree tops as you try to spot elephants along the Ewaso Nyiro River. You can weave through the gorges that show off the beauty of Lewa Wildlife Conservancy.
The writer) is a communication expert