In Kenya’s Rift Valley, Shompole is a community owned conservation area nestled between two alkaline lakes and borders Tanzania to the South. The lakes are the birthplace of the Lesser flamingos and at times of year, entirely pink. The Uaso Nyiro river flows over the valley wall and fresh water flows across the plains ending in a giant swamp. These features make for a fascinating diversity of habitat, animal and bird species. The possibility of engaging with the local Maasai community to develop a tourism venture, primarily to promote conservation, attracted me 4 years ago and we have steadily been building the product. To visit the area and have exclusive use of the camp, the freedom to engage in walks, night game drives and to have an immersive, cultural experience with the Maasai pastoralists is special and a highlight on any safari.
Shompole Wilderness opens its doors this upcoming safari season as the finished lodge with 6 en-suite rooms. The past year has afforded me time to focus on building the camp with my partner Johann du Toit and members of the Maasai community.
A meaningful part of the building has been teaching skills and we now have able welders, electricians, mechanics and plumbers all taught by myself. In addition, Johann has taught extensive woodworking skills as all our furniture has been made here. Almost all our staff have had no formal education and it is rewarding to see them taking their recently learned skills back to the community. Small scale farming techniques, some solar electrical applications and fabrication are finding their way now to helping the wider community. Communities having the skills to develop what they require is better practice than outside organizations dictating what they assume is best.
Long busy days with the challenges of building in a remote area give way in the evenings for us to foray into our 250,000 acre wilderness and to enjoy the wide open spaces, people, and wildlife. We have had a group of five bull elephants right in camp over the last three days – the older of the group has a missing right tusk and is very familiar to us. Elephants know that fresh, clean water exists in pipes around our camp and this particular elephant regularly used to dig up and break the supply to the rooms. Once we buried the pipes at a sufficient depth, he then went on to pulling up the electricity cables. We like seeing him . . . at a distance!
The evenings roll onto clear, crisp starlit nights without a sign of man. As we have learnt more about the nocturnal wildlife here, the night brings in stunning experiences. I have included a couple of photos taken by Will Burrand-Lucas, an eminent photographer, who spent over a month with us last year and kindly allowed me to use his photos.
As the summer season draws near, I can’t wait to show our guests this unique corner of Kenya.