Lewa Wilderness – One Amazing Day
Last year I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to visit the exceptional Lewa and Borana Wildlife Conservancy, this is a truly fantastic place home to some of the best conservation work in East Africa. While not as wild and remote as many of my favourite places in Africa the folks at Lewa Wilderness did an amazing job at winning a spot as one of my top places to visit in East Africa, and all that in a stay of less than 24 hours… I hope one day to get back and experience more of this great safari destination.
I arrived at Lewa by car after quite a long drive having spent a few days in the amazing Sera Conservancy (read my blog on Walking with Rhinos). The drive from the main gate of this huge privately owned protected area was superb in itself, I was pleased to feel like I was in the wild not long having come off of a made road, but not only that, I saw 4 rhino and three lion on the way to the lodge, this sort of wildlife density is just fantastic and continued throughout my short stay.
I was at the lodge in time for lunch and I had the immense pleasure of being joined by Will and Emma Craig whose family still run the lodge, Will’s family having been on this land since 1922. We talked about all things safari, conservation and the progression of the industry that those of on all sides share great passion for, including Will’s Electric Safari Vehicle projects which I am keen to learn more about one day. Lunchtime views were stunning and a lovely light lunch was served with elephants browsing on the hillside opposite the dining area.
After lunch and a brief rest I met Will again who showed me around the seriously impressive vegetable gardens, he took me through what was being grown and in what quantities as well as all the improvements they have planned. This is one of the big things that struck me about Lewa Wilderness, it truly is a legacy and one that will one day be handed on to the next generation (who are already involved behind the scenes) but Will and Emma seem determined to continue to improve, move forward become more efficient and sustainable and more successful rather than to sit back and consider the job done as one of the longest running safari ventures in Africa.
That evening I went on a nice game drive and saw a lovely Leopard sitting on a tree just as the sun went down. There are now 9 lodges in the Lewa Borana Conservancy so there are other vehicles around but the guiding here is very sensitive and definitely not overcrowded or hectic as in some areas of the continent. Overall the game driving here is great, for pure wildlife density, variety of scenery and habitat and photographic opportunities it is up there with the best of them.
The following morning my wake up call was early and I was straight up to the main area where I met Francis who was my brilliant driver and guide for the duration of my brief stay. At lunch the previous day I had been offered the opportunity to take a flight in the Lewa Waco so I was fitted out with a flying hat and jacket and we headed to the airstrip where I met Harry the pilot, Harry looks young but boy can he fly… this was hands down one of the most incredible experiences that I have been lucky enough to have. The flight went past in an incredible blur yet it is something that will be imprinted on my memory forever, my top tip for this activity – get a small activity camera Go Pro or even a cheaper version, I found it hard to hold my iPhone and concentrate so ended up just enjoying the amazing experience.
If this was not enough excitement for one day, Miranda, the lodges Riding Manager had arranged for me to be met at the airstrip with a horse for a bit of a riding safari… This was another first for me, I rode as a child but have done little since, and this for me is now something that I would really like to get better at in order to do more ‘proper’ riding in the bush. Miranda had perfectly paired me with a really chilled horse and my guide was brilliant in the way the safari was conducted. If you have followed The Safari Specialists for a while you will know my love of walking safaris and being in the bush so this for me was a new way to obtain a similar sensation but with the added connection with the horse, it is amazing! The riding at Lewa is not just for novices, if you are a confident and competent rider then there is some incredible riding here including being able to see Rhino on horseback!
Unfortunately there was only time for another lovely meal and then a quick safari on the way to the airstrip and my flight back to Nairobi, still seeing more Rhino and Elephants on the way.
There is still so much that I did not have time for and as such it is the perfect place for those that want variety, there is walking wild which is a community run venture operated out of Lewa, guests walk while camels transport a lightweight fly camp, something for those wanting a true adventure. There is also the opportunity to visit the anti poaching hub of the NRT (Northern Rangelands Trust) and learn more about their teams, anti poaching dogs and operations. There are a number of community projects that the lodge supports which can be visited alongside all the various safari activities.
As you can tell from the longer than normal blog (and believe me it’s hard to keep it this short) I really loved this place, it’s so different from my own usual taste but maybe this is a reason that I was so taken with it… there really is something for everyone on this incredible continent, this small, family run, independent and authentic to its routes operation is just the kind of place that we love to support!