Some places immediately resonate as being ‘right’— the right place to build a dream on. Beverly and I have had the incredible opportunity as Explorers to find the most extraordinary corners of the planet, and in Africa in particular.
One place just ‘popped’ for us.
The first time we went into this particular small valley in the Mara ecosystem, a lone lioness saw us. She walked downstream, winding through flat-topped Acacia kirkia trees.
Our next visit flushed a huge male leopard from his resting spot, who looked at us with the same disregard as to the lioness while turning his eyes over his bulky shoulder.
This valley lies within the Naboisho Conservancy. We had long wanted to play a role in an already conservation success, but finding a quiet place, hidden from everyone and in the shade, was the challenge.
Last month we completed our construction of a beautiful new camp on the site where we discovered that lioness and leopard, having opened a portion of it last year.
Mara Nyika Camp is now open with its full complement of tents, including two that can accommodate families. Each tent is actually a collection of adjoining tents that offer guests a wonderful space to relax in along with that architectural variety that we sometimes struggle with when designing guest tents.
In the end, we had some terrific fun designing and decorating this camp. Every day lions came in to visit, leopards called, and the entire migration seemed to charge over the hill and surround us. Because Mara Nyika is raised on high stilts and decks straddle the river, animals regularly walk underneath your tent. It is not unusual to hear the lapping sounds of a big cat drinking beneath you.
Our zero extraction philosophy, combined with maximum sustainability, ensured we employed very light touchpoints in the camp’s construction. By raising the camp’s platforms off the ground using uprights, we ensured we fulfilled this objective.
But something niggled me about stealing the shade from that lioness and male leopard, who, to a large degree, continue to call this valley theirs despite us. They are now known to slumber under the same trees and new decks.
But we could do more.
So, we embarked on a Replacement of Shade program. We have been growing more trees for this valley with the help of Paul Kamau, an expert Kenyan gardener. No, that word doesn’t even get close to describing Paul. He is rather a ‘self-taught horticulturalists and specialist botanist. Along with his protégé Joel Kijape we have just planted over 5,000 trees in the valley!
When you visit Mara Nyika, we plant a tree for you. For $25, you can grow an additional tree by visiting the Great Plains Foundation website. We want to make sure that we touch the earth lightly wherever we go, and of course, do what we can to offset the carbon you may use when you revisit us.
It’s Keeping the Green Dream Alive.