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Take a Leap – Celebrate our Women

February 29, 2012

Today is Leap Year and according to an old Irish legend, St Bridget struck a deal with St Patrick to allow women to propose to men – and not just the other way around – every 4 years. This is believed to have been introduced to balance the traditional roles of men and women in a similar way to how Leap Day balances the calendar.  So in honour of Leap Year, St Bridget and women – let’s talk about the women of Kenya and Bush and Beyond.

Delia Craig is the matriarch of the Craig Family who founded the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy and whose offspring are still running Lewa Wilderness (Delia’s son Will) and Lewa House (Delia’s granddaughter Sophie). Delia was born in Kenya in the 1924 and her parents starting farming in Lewa in 1927 where she grew up. In 1946, Delia married Douglas Craig and they settled at Lewa where they had 3 children, Sue, Ian and Will. In 1970, they introduced walking safaris at Wilderness Trails and a few years later they created the world famous rhino sanctuary – the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy. The conservancy is now home to the Big Five, 30% of the world’s population of endangered Grevy zebra and countless other species of wildlife. Delia and her family have welcomed guests to Lewa since the 1970s and have continued to embrace their motto “leave room for the wildlife”. Delia can still be found out and about at Lewa and is the subject of a wonderful book “From Ox Cart to Email”.

Betty Nayianoi Maitai is the first female graduate of the Koiyaki Guiding School and an accredited guide at Ol Seki Hemingways Mara Camp. Betty grew up in the Masai Mara area and has guided at Ol Seki for over 7 years. Betty has been featured in Conde Nast Traveller Magazine as she like Delia Craig is a true pioneer. Her most memorable guiding moment was spotting an Aardvark which is among the rarest animals in the Mara and she was lucky enough to witness it sweeping termites into its mouth with its long sticky tongue. The experience was thrilling as the aardvark is a rare and unique animal and in Betty’s Maasai culture they believe that when you spot an Aardvark you will live a long and happy life.

Daphne Sheldrick’s involvement with wildlife has spanned a lifetime. Born in Kenya in 1934, she grew up amongst animals, both wild and domestic. For over 25 years Daphne lived and worked alongside her late husband, David, the famous founder Warden of Kenya’s giant Tsavo National Park. During that time she raised and rehabilitated back into the wild community orphans of misfortune from many different wild species. Since the death of her husband in 1977, she has lived and worked in the Nairobi National Park, her home duplicating as the Orphans’ Nursery. It is here that she has successfully hand-reared over 130 newborn Elephant orphans, some from just hours old, the first time this has ever been achieved. Daphne has also successfully raised and rehabilitated over a dozen Black Rhino orphans from newborn. The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, established after the death of her husband in 1977 in his memory, has made a further significant contribution to wildlife conservation in Kenya. Guests staying at The Emakoko can visit the Orphans’ Nursery and meet the orphan elephants & rhinos that Daphne is raising.

Kenya has had a number of legendary women in its past including Beryl Markham, Karen Blixen, Wangari Maathai and many more. Delia Craig, Betty Nayioanoi Maitai and Daphne Sheldrick are just some of the living legends of Kenya. Today, we can find many more at our Bush and Beyond properties including the three mentioned and also the Francombe women (Rocky, Julia & Chyulu) at Ol Malo; Rainee Beaton of Nomadic Encounters; Hilary Bastard & Katie Rowe of Sarara; Gil Elias at Ol Lentille all of whom besides welcoming guests are heavily involved in the community and with the wildlife.

So take a leap and come to Kenya to meet these remarkable women. St Bridget would be so proud of them!