El Karama Lodge is one of the founder members of our association, and they have remained LTA members consistently over the years.
Last month, we visited the lodge briefly and learned about some of their sustainability initiatives and one of their latest projects. For our visit, we were joined by scholars from PASTRES (Pastoralism, Uncertainty, and Resilience: Global Lessons from the Margins). PASTRES is a research program that aims to learn from pastoralists about responding to uncertainty and resilience, with lessons for global challenges.
They were keen to learn about El Karama’s conservancy model and human-livestock-wildlife interactions and will share a blog on their observations in due course.
The lodge is owner-operated by Murray and Sophie Grant and hosted by warm and attentive team of 25 Kenyan staff. The owners live next to the lodge with their two children.
The award-winning lodge is found inside a 14,000-acre private conservancy known for its commitment wildlife and habitat protection using sustainable land use practices.
It is a species-rich area that guarantees wildlife and bird sightings. At El Karama, you can see over 430 verified bird species and Northern Kenya Species such as the Grevy’s Zebra, Gerenuk and the Vulturine Guinea Fowl.
Guests here are also treated to exceptional natural Views, from the imposing Mt Kenya and the Ewaso Nyiro River.
At the lodge, you can also enjoy numerous activities such as; Walking Safaris, Day and Night Game drives, Fly camping, Horse riding, Fishing, Swimming, Farm visits and so much more. The lodge team also offer a Bush School activity for children between 1030am and lunchtime every day!
We were fascinated by the lodge’s commitment to sustainable practices during our stopover.
The lodge relies exclusively on renewable energy for its operations- They rely on solar power for lighting, electricity, water heating, an eco-washing machine, et cetera.
The lodge design has incorporated recycled materials such as fallen wood, stone from the El Karama Wildlife Conservancy, recycled cotton from mitumba and repurposed wine bottles and glasses used to make vessels and vases. They have an in- house Acacia Nilotica seed germination and tree planting effort and an artisanal project making fashion, homeware and beadwork called L’Atelier Kenya.
They have cut down on light and noise pollution. They do this by using low energy Led bulbs, not using outdoor flood lights/spotlights, and they also ensure that car numbers at the lodge are not more than four, and this helps to minimize the impact on the area or the wildlife around. All spotlights for night drives have red filters to protect the night vision of wildlife.
The renewable energy, tree planting and other measures have ensured that Carbon emissions are monitored and controlled and that this lodge will be carbon neutral by the end of 2023.
El Karama has ethical employment strategies and personal development goals for their staff, creating a nurturing environment.
We interacted with two staff from the lodge, which provided more insight on this.
Jane Wanjiru has worked at the lodge for five years and worked as Sophies House assistant first before becoming a chef at the lodge and has now been head chef for a year.
She hails from the Endana community, which neighbours the lodge. She was keen to mention how everyone should read their new cookbook, available at El Karama Lodge, The Bush Kitchen: Notes and Recipes from the Wild. The book explains how they grow and prepare their food.
Lovi Maritim is the Assistant Manager and has worked here, even building the lodge with Sophie and Murray for 15 years. He is an example of the lodge’s development strategy as he has worked his way through the business and now mentor’s younger team members coming in.
El Karama Lodge assistant manager Lovi Maritim on the left and the ever-smiling Jane Wanjiru(right), El Karama Head Chef, Photographed by Albie Venter
The Bush Kitchen: Notes and Recipes from the Wild.
I previously referred to the bush kitchen as a cookbook; however, from our conversation with Sophie, it is more than that. She mentioned that the book also helps to tell El Karama’s story.
The book contains illustrations, poems, and stories that describe life at El Karama over the years.
Sophie saved up money for a while to channel into this two-year project and has produced an initial 300 copies.
The Bush Kitchen is available for purchase now in Kenya from El Karama Lodge, Northern Nomad Collection and Greenspoon Kenya – all profits will go to the conservancy and lodge teams until the end of 2022.