The two places could not be more different, yet are so complementary in every respect, offering the best of both worlds – the very best game viewing in Africa together with amazing cultural interaction and incredible scenery.
The Sanctuary at Ol Lentille is based in Kenya's Laikipia region, north of the equator and is the finest lodge to start off a safari, simply relaxing and immersing oneself in Africa as well as offering the very best cultural experience. This is a very special place which commands some of the finest views in Laikipia.
Ol Lentille is equally good for families who want the privacy of their own house as well as couples who simply want to spend time relaxing in a truly beautiful place before or after a safari. The walking is fantastic and one could easily spend a week here as the views are intoxicating. The lodge occupies 20 000 acres which they have turned from farmland to an area for wildlife and in so doing they have supported the local people.
They also have some tremendous elephant here and the walking is superb. Ol Lentille comprises of a handful of private villas, all with exquisite views. Some have small, private pools and there is a main swimming pool on a deck for communal use. There is also a dining area at lunch time on the deck where superb light salads are served. There are nature drives, walks and visits to the community. Other activities on offer include quad biking to perhaps the sand dam.
Camel treks to a sundowner or picnic spot or simply walking alongside the camels. There is a walk to Ol Lentille rock which is literally the roof of the world. They also offer horse riding (not on site), and mountain bikes as well as kayaking on the river and rock climbing. You can get a helicopter to go fly fishing on Lake Alice or perhaps visit Lake Turkana. From here, one can undertake special photography courses, astronomy courses and a one day bush skills course which again would be perfect for a family or anyone interested in wildlife!
It is owner managed by entrepreneurs and philanthropists, John and Jill Elias. But it’s the work that Jill and John have done, with the co-operation of the local communities, to ensure the sustainability of both the people and the land with a lasting legacy that is so extraordinary.
Cottars 1920's Camp is third generation, now ably owned and managed by Calvin Cottar. Located in 7000 acres of pristine land abutting the Masai Mara game reserve, south of the equator, Cottars offers not only the most wonderful game viewing experience but also an important insight into the strategy for the survival of species through community partnerships.
It is located on the Olderkesi Conservancy - a place of incredible natural beauty, abundant wildlife, and innovative conservation thinking. Comprising of a handful of gorgeous cream tents with Persian rugs and beautiful views and a romance and feel of yesteryear, the camp offers game drives by day and night, walks, spa treatments and visits to the cultural villages.
There is also a private house with a swimming pool. The guiding is some of the best here and one can even pay additionally for Calvin to be your guide, should you so wish. Cottars also has a fly camp, where one can sleep beneath the stars away from the main camp.
This one could easily do for one night and adds a fun element. The Masai Mara is home to Africa’s greatest wildlife phenomenon, the wildebeest migration which occurs in the Mara from July through September (although it is rain dependant).
But how much more rewarding to know that your stay enriches the lives of both people and animals and that you personally are directly contributing to two of the finest philanthropic projects in the country?
The Ol Lentille Trust supports education and healthcare of the group ranches and communities who own this land and are contributing to the programme objective of overall conservation.
The objective is to build community capacity for self-management and sustainable socioeconomic development through four programme sectors. Objectives are achieved through the provision of technical expertise and management of programmes.
This is just a tiny proportion of what they actually do, but broadly speaking, the four programmes are based on:
Conservation and holistic grazing - (protecting wildlife and their habitat, especially grass, which is key to increasing the resilience and fertility of land to sustain the whole ecosystem).
Water development - the objective is to minimise human/wildlife conflict (mainly this refers to elephant) by:
Education - currently benefitting 1500+ children)
OLT supports nine government schools to ensure that every child in the target area accesses quality nursery, primary and secondary education. Of these schools, one is Secondary and the remainder are Primary.
OLT also provide bursaries to students for Secondary education.
Health - OLT aims to improve the overall health status of the community through ensuring access to primary and secondary care, provision of education/sensitisation on key issues.
They support an HIV/AIDS program – monitoring the health and ARV uptake of 60 registered patients and providing them with food on a monthly basis.
OLT’s Anti-FGM program has been ongoing for seven years, through community sensitisation and education.
This project works because it creates a much needed haven for wildlife while empowering the local Maasai community. In simple terms it’s known as 'Land Leasing‘. The conservancy is managed by two trusts: Cottar’s Wildlife Conservancy Trust (CWCT) and Olderkesi Wildlife Community Trust (OCWCT).
These two groups have worked closely together over the past 20 years to create a vital, truly sustainable conservancy management plan. Olderkesi Conservancy is owned by the Maasai, but it is rented by Cottar’s Wildlife Conservancy Trust.
CWCT arranges a long-term lease of land from the OWCT, paying fair rates that exceed what could be charged by sub-dividing land for increased human habitation, farming, and ranching. This is most easily described as ‘renting land for wildlife.’ Rent payments go to the entire community, not just a few leaders in the group- everyone gets an equal share. CWCT also assists with creating opportunity and growth for the community in other ways.
To date, the CWCT has built schools, provided medical and ambulance services, employed security scouts from the community, installed radio communication networks, built water troughs for cattle, and provided bursaries and local assistance to protect local cedar forests from predatory logging. In return, the leased land is to be left alone, free of settlements, farming, and grazing, and exists to create safe habitat and passage for wildlife.
The Maasai agree to live on other sections of their land, supported in part by the payments from the Conservancy. The land use policies are enforced by the Maasai people, with assistance from CWCT where necessary.
Images provided courtesy of Cottar's 1920s Camps and The Sanctuary at Ol Lentille