The Sanctuary at Ol Lentille
The Sanctuary at Ol Lentille is a ground-breaking partnership between private investors, conservation organizations and the neighbouring Maasai and Samburu communities balancing luxury travel and economic development with ambitious conservation and community development programmes.
Ol Lentille is perched on the flanks of a wooded rock kopje, in the heart of a private conservation area comprised of 20,000 acres of grassy hills and deep valleys, heavily wooded with many acacia species and African olives. It is named for Ol Lentille, a huge hill from the top of which an astonishing panorama of Northern Kenya unfolds. The Ol Lentille Conservancy is home to the endangered African wild dog, greater kudu, leopard, striped and spotted hyena and klipspringer, as well as many elephant.
The Sanctuary at Ol Lentille is a collection of four private, full-service, fully staffed houses for the discerning few. The Chief’s House has three double bedrooms, sitting and dining rooms, and kitchen. The sitting room has a charming open fire, as well as a plunge-pool on the outdoor deck. The Sultan’s House has one enormous double bedroom, a huge sitting/dining room and a kitchen. The space of this house is such that it can be converted to a two bedroom house if you prefer. The Colonel’s House has two double bedrooms, sitting and dining rooms, and kitchen. Each bedroom has a dressing room and a sunken bath. The courtyard has a plunge-pool. Finally, The Eyrie has one bedroom, a sitting and dining room with open fire and kitchen. It is seductively furnished and perfect for honeymooners.
All the Houses at Ol Lentille have access to a spectacular horizon swimming pool with lounging “pods” and the Library where you may read, write, relax, or chat with fellow guests and hosts. Atop the Library is the viewing deck, which has an open fire, a bar and a GPS-controlled telescope to bring the heavens even closer. As well, great food is tailored to your tastes served wherever and whenever you want by our Chef.
The Sanctuary at Ol Lentille – your own private paradise in the bush.
Game drives – day and night to see the wildlife and beauty of the conservancy
Bush walks - get up close with the landscape and wildlife on guided walks
Spa – massage, reflexology, aromatherapy and beauty treatments
Horizon swimming pool – a great place to chill, lounging “pods” filled with cream cushions and a dining/sundowner deck under sails.
Library – a rotunda with a soaring stained glass dome, this is the “club” room where you may read, write, relax or chat with fellow guests and hosts. Atop the Library is the viewing deck, which has an open fire, a bar and a GPS-controlled telescope to bring the heavens even closer.
The Craft Manyatta – The manyatta (village) has been built by the women of the community totally from local traditional materials. It is open to guests to take part in and learn about the Maasai culture. The songs and dance of the women and the warrior group add colourful and energetic entertainment. Guests will learn about the uses of local medicinal herbs, traditional cooking and food including the Maasai practice of taking blood from a cow, childcare practices, house building techniques, animal husbandry, fire lighting, musical instrument and weapons making, games such as mbao, the complex gambling systems of the wazee (elders), and beadwork. Guests will have an opportunity to support the women further through purchase of beads and other artefacts.
Balancing the three-legged stool of Conservation, Economic Development, and Community Development is an enormous challenge. Increased wealth in pastoralist communities can lead to more livestock, and increased grazing pressure on fragile semi-arid lands. This leads to environmental degradation and the flight of wildlife. In turn, such degraded land is useless for tourism, which is one of the few routes open to these communities for economic development.
The most common “eco-tourism” model in Kenya is for an investor to take a concession or lease on a tract of land, to erect a camp or lodge, to pay bednight fees to the host community, and to exclude livestock and community from the area.
At The Sanctuary at Ol Lentille we have set out on a different path. Here, there is no concession on land – the community itself has designated and protects its conservation area. Here, the community owns the fixed assets of the tourism business, as well as earning an income from it. Here, the community has designated livestock quotas, rotational grazing areas, and separate settlement areas – resulting in good wildlife populations in non-protected areas, and bigger stronger livestock able to better withstand perennial drought. Here, the community has invited, and entered into a contract with us to manage its tourism business and its Conservancy for the long term.
Thus, instead of investing its income in livestock, the community here is investing in education, healthcare, and animal husbandry, as well as new businesses, tourism development and conservation.
The Ol Lentille Conservancy, while small in relative terms at 20,000 acres, is a vital keystone in the protection of the Laikipia and greater Ewaso Nyiro ecosystems. Covering an area of 30,000 square kilometres, Laikipia is the second largest wildlife ecosystem in Kenya after Tsavo. Laikipia is the richest ecosystem in Kenya in terms of endangered species, and is the richest in terms of wildlife diversity. Laikipia is second only to the Masai Mara in terms of wildlife density, and is the only district in Kenya where overall wildlife numbers are increasing.
For ten years with the support and encouragement of The African Wildlife Foundation, we and our host Maasai community have excluded livestock from the area. We have been increasingly successful in attracting and holding an increasing population of wildlife including a significant number of endangered species. Vegetation has recovered from the over-grazing of the past, springs have come back to life, and damaging erosion halted.
Now, seeing community conservation in action, neighbouring communities are developing their own conservation plans. On our Northern boundary, the Samburu community of Narupa have created a community conservancy which we manage on their behalf. And, to our west, Tiemamut Group Ranch has appointed volunteer Rangers, asked us to train them, and added 5,500 acre conservation area to the Ol Lentille Conservancy.
In time, we hope the land will recover enough for cattle to be allowed to graze in selected areas of the Conservancy under a regime of “conservation grazing”. This has been shown in other places to have habitat benefits for both cattle and wildlife.
These new projects, while enormously exciting and encouraging are not without risk. The core ingredients for successful community conservation are an iron-clad community will, and the capacity to secure conservation areas from livestock incursion. The will comes from sustained leadership and conservation education. Security means the employment of Rangers, their training, and a communications infrastructure. So, conservation is not free, but over the long haul it can be made to pay.
Gill Elias, General Manager, pictured here with husband and business partner John, is British and has lived in Kenya since 2004. She is a former lawyer turned school teacher. Gill manages all the hotel operations, as well as all the community development programs. John focuses on conservation, marketing and finance.
Augustine Mulei is a young but highly experienced chef with international credentials, having been trained in some of the finer points of Italian cuisine. As well, he has worked extensively on the East African coast, and he has brought a real lightness of touch and an eclectic flair to our food at Ol Lentille.
Stephen Navade, Head Butler, heads up the front-of-house at Ol Lentille. He does this with enormous good humour, warmth and charm. He has a college diploma in hospitality. A former semi-professional rugby player, he is a force to be reckoned with on the soccer field here.
Timothy ole Mosiany, as well as being in charge of guiding at Ol Lentille, heads our community healthcare program, and somehow finds time to be a full-time student in Conservation at the University of Nairobi. He is a son of our local Maasai community.