LIVING WITH WILDLIFE – OL PEJETA BREAKS NEW GROUND
When international wheeler dealer and notorious arms trader Adnan Kashoggi bought the then 160.000 acre Ol Pejeta estate outside Nanyuki on the Laikipia plains in the 1970s, it was to ranch cattle and create a private retreat where the Happy Valley Days of yesteryear were being recreated when he was there, but at times also when he was not there, if memory serves me right. Kashoggi of course lost the ranch when he defaulted on several loans provided to him by the late Tiny Rowland, then chairman and absolute ruler over his Lonrho empire and the property was taken over by Lonrho at the time as part of the securities provided for the loans. Of course much has changed since those days and Ol Pejeta is now a byword for wildlife conservation in Kenya.
Today the Ol Pejeta mixed conservancy, home to the largest concentration of Eastern Black Rhinos in East Africa, home to 4 of only 7 surviving Northern White Rhinos, home to a chimpanzee sanctuary, home to the Big Five and home to such upmarket safari lodges like Serenas Sweetwaters and Porinis Rhino Camp, is a prime example how a visionary management team can turn conservation into a profitable business. Cattle ranching and wildlife conservation now go hand in hand since the strict division of both has been lifted in what proved a masterstroke for the bottom line of the company. As witnessed directly and close up the ranching does hardly interfere with the game drives of tourists staying on the conservancy, as the cattle herds are largely kept out of the way of the core parts of the sprawling 90.000 acres conservancy which has the equator run right through it, offering the added attraction to visitors to repeatedly cross from the Northern to the Southern hemisphere and vice versa.
News were now received that Ol Pejeta is set to create a 1.000 acre Mount Kenya Wildlife Estate along the Eastern boundary of the conservancy, on which in a secure gated community will be created. Depending on demand, which is set to get a considerable boost through a weekend site visit for prospective buyers on 03/04 March, between 65 and 100 homes will be constructed, with adequate infrastructure like road, track, water and electricity connections, although solar technology will rank high on the agenda to minimize the carbon footprint of the new development. Residences, offering between 3 5 bedrooms, are available for purchase and while foreign buyers cannot get a freehold title, they can obtain 99 year leases which are renewable on expiry. Estate management will be undertaken by the company and a dedicated club house and swimming pool area will be available to the residents, since no private pools are permitted due to the policy to conserve water in this often dry part of Kenya. An owners association committee will take care of giving the residents of the estate their own voice.
Spectacular views of Mt. Kenya, weather permitting of course, will be a hallmark of the estate, as will be the presence of plains game and other wildlife at their doorsteps, attracted by specially created watering holes, fed by a permanent river running across this part of the conservancy.
The new estate can be reached with ease from Nairobi by air with several scheduled daily services by SafariLink and other airlines from Wilson Airport, or by charter to the Ol Pejeta airstrip and of course by road from Kenyas capital Nairobi, which should take not more than 3 hours, depending on traffic, with scenic views along the way as one gets near the central highlands and the Aberdare mountains and Mt. Kenya come into sight. This correspondent intends to visit the site during an upcoming trip to Kenya and will return with more details and updates from Ol Pejeta. Meanwhile, for more information visit www.olpejetaconservancy.org or www.mountkenyawe.com