Campi ya Kanzi
Campi ya Kanzi - "Camp of the Hidden Treasure" This eco-friendly lodge lies on the slopes of Kenya's Chyulu Hills (Ernest Hemingway's Green Hills of Africa), which look toward majestic Mount Kilimanjaro. Campi ya Kanzi is the most-awarded eco-lodge in East Africa and was chosen as one of the 50 Best Eco-Lodges in the World by National Geographic. It is built from local materials and uses solar technology to supply hot water and electricity to its six luxury tented cottages, two tented suites, and one guest house. The camp is located on a 400-square mile Maasai Reserve with many different environments, resulting in a great array of wildlife. Beside the famous Big Five (elephant, rhino, leopard, lion, and buffalo), many other uncommon animals are present, including cheetah, wild dog, and lesser kudu. In addition to the classic game drives, a game walk with your professional Maasai guide and Maasai tracker will be the highlight of your safari. Campi ya Kanzi is proud to pioneer a new method of conservation through the involvement of the local Maasai landlords. Guests assist this effort by contributing a daily conservation fee of $100, which is spent toward the welfare of both men and wildlife. Responsible eco-tourism preserves the wildlife heritage of this important East African wilderness and allows the Maasai to continue their traditional way of life, which is more than a millennium old.
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The incredible wilderness and wildlife of Africa’s grasslands and the famous culture of the Maasai people both face daunting threats to their long-term survival. The fate of both rests with the Maasai themselves as they work to figure out how to benefit from their incredible natural resources while preserving them. That’s what MWCT is all about—a pioneering partnership between professional conservationists and dynamic young Maasai leaders to show that the Maasai community can not just survive but thrive by managing their ecosystem wisely.
MWCT’s efforts are focused on the Maasai communities and landscapes of Kenya’s Chyulu Hills, within the world-famous Amboseli-Tsavo Ecosystem. The Maasai communities of this area own all of the land between the protected National Parks and within their land lie critical wildlife migration corridors and habitat reserves, forests that are carbon sinks and rivers and springs that supply the fresh water not only to this ecosystem but to more than seven million people in Kenya. MWCT funds and operates programs that promote sustainable economic benefits from conserving this ecosystem. Lease payments for conservancy zones, carbon credits, payments for watershed protection, sustainable ecotourism, wildlife monitoring and security, conservation and tourism employment—these are just some of the ways MWCT is crafting a cutting-edge model of successful community-based conservation.
Our Commitment to Responsible Tourism
As a destination for responsible tourists, our focus on environmental sustainability is a key part of our core values. True eco-tourism requires a full commitment, without cutting any corners or sacrificing important beliefs. We think of this daily in the operation, maintenance, and future plans of our eco-lodge, and it has guided our decisions since our humble beginnings more than 15 years ago.
We use only renewable energies – more than 100 photo-voltaic solar panels provide the camp's electricity and solar boilers heat our hot water. We cook our food in Agha stoves using charcoal made from coffee husks rather than wood, and 12 years ago were the first ecolodge in the world to begin using this technique.
We fulfill all our water needs through a rainwater collection system, cropping the rains and storing water in special PVC bladders. This makes us self-sustaining and eliminates further pressure on the already-sparse wells; it also eliminates the time and fuel necessary to bring in water from many miles away. We have a water catchment range of approximately 8,500 square metres and water storage of approximately 1,200,000 litres.
Our connection with the Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust (MWCT) means each guest's stay directly benefits the local Maasai. Our nightly Conservation Fees contribute to a fund called Wildlife Pays that compensates herders for livestock lost to predators, thereby preventing these herders from hunting and killing lions and leopards. Through Payment for Ecosystem Services models like Wildlife Pays we are not only helping the Maasai, but also teaching them to live in harmony with their surroundings.
More directly, we employ more than 60 Maasai at our lodge as chefs, waiters, guides, housekeepers, trackers, handymen, and mechanics. This direct employment strengthens our connection with the Maasai; local villagers are happy to host guests evening in their home, showing how they live, eat, and work. Many of our workers have been with us for more than 10 years, gradually moving up the employment ladder, and now hold management positions with extremely competitive wages.
On our camp grounds we also operate an international-style primary school for local gifted students who come from all over the Group Ranch to board and study at the school. Additionally, we purchase handmade items and crafts in the local village at fair prices; we then offer these crafts for sale in our Maasai showroom and shop. We meet frequently with tribal leaders to discuss conservation, healthcare, and education projects with direct benefit to the local people with whom we share this land.
Preservation of wilderness is essential not only for our day-to-day function as a safari camp, but as part of our broader mission. Campi ya Kanzi and MWCT share the same mission – preserving the Maasai wilderness of the Greater Kilimanjaro Ecosystem. By carefully monitoring wildfires, working with tribal leaders on projects to reduce water use and overgrazing, and using carbon grants to employ rangers to protect the cloud forests of the Chyulu Hills, we take an active role in preserving and conserving our surroundings.
These same principles apply to our treatment of wildlife - ecotourism is fundamentally about protection of natural resources; the most valuable resource in our ecosystem is wildlife. Our guides have decades of combined experience and are practiced at giving the best possible safari without disturbing the natural lives of the plants and animals being observed. Furthermore, we filter all our black and grey waste water and recycle it to a waterhole used by the local wildlife, providing them with valuable water and maximizing our guests’ wildlife sightings.
We reuse or recycle all possible items and waste – organic waste is composted and utilized in our on-site organic vegetable garden; we recycle glass, plastics, cardboards, and papers. Any non-recyclables are incinerated in an incinerator specially-built to minimize impact. We closely track our carbon footprint and purchase carbon in the Chyulu Hills to offset our use; all guests are charged for the carbon generated during their stay, a nominal fee.
Our buildings are constructed solely with sustainable materials collected locally such as lava rocks and thatched grass roofs; we avoid any landscaping. Apart from the foundations no soil was removed in building the camp, and no existing trees were felled. We utilize only local labor for construction, using no outside contractors.
We buy locally when it is a good environmental practice, but unfortunately this is not always the case - local farming is very unsustainable and rapidly leading to subdivision and degradation of community land. For us, "buying locally" and saving on logistical costs is not worth supporting these environmentally harmful habits. When necessary we buy from Nairobi in bulk, using the best of our knowledge to support suppliers who care about the environment.
In the words of famed actor and environmentalist Edward Norton, the President of Maasai Wilderness Conservation Fund, "The contribution this camp makes to the Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust is a shining example of the way the romance and adventure of tourism in the last, best wild places can actually help preserve those places for the future."