- Founded: 1989
- Sector: Eco/ Community Tourism
- Location: Offices in Nairobi, bush camps in community-owned wildlife conservancies across Kenya
- Website: http://www.porini.com/
Founded in 1989 by Managing Director Jake Grieves-Cook, Gamewatchers Safaris is a socially and environmentally responsible tourism operator based in Kenya. Gamewatchers Safaris works with local communities to ensure that they reap the maximum development benefits from tourism activities, while also helping them to conserve their local environments and to utilise their natural resources in a way that is sustainable. In its interactions with local communities Gamewatchers Safaris employs a conservancy model entering into partnerships with local communities and landowners. In this model, conservancy areas are established following negotiation between different stakeholders. Land is then vacated by communities and set aside for wildlife which is used for ecotourism activities which generate an income and economic benefits for communities. The Porini Camps are located inside the conservancies. They are small exclusive eco camps that accommodate a maximum of twenty guests. At present there are four Porini Camps located in four conservancies.
Gamewatchers Safaris and Porini camps work with communities living alongside national parks and wildlife reserves to help them derive benefits from conserving wildlife species and the indigenous habitat. Gamewatchers is committed to conserving Kenya's flora and fauna outside of national parks and believes that the best way to do this is to engage with local communities and to provide tangible benefits from eco-tourism that exceed the returns that they are able to generate from any other form of land utilization such as farming. Gamewatchers does this through the establishment of conservancies in partnership with local communities. In 1997 Gamewatchers signed an agreement with the Maasai community to establish the first conservancy (Selenkay) on 13,000 acres of their land. Following the success of Selenkay Conservancy, in 2005 the 8,500 acre Ol Kinyei Conservancy was set up in the Mara eco-system and in 2006 the 22,000 acre Olare Orok Conservancy was set up in another part of the Mara. The areas to be used as conservancies were chosen by the Maasai landowners and then were vacated by the community and set aside for wildlife. Since their creation each conservancy has seen a significant increase in wildlife numbers and the regeneration of vegetation in areas that were previously over-grazed by livestock.
The Porini Camps are situated inside these conservancies. There are four camps: Porini Amboseli Camp in the Selenkay Conservancy, Porini Mara Camp in the Ol Kinyei conservancy, Porini Lion Camp in the Olare Orok Conservancy, and Porini Rhino Camp in the Ol Pejeta Conservancy. The Porini tented camps are run and maintained with an emphasis on conservation and the environment. They were built in a way that minimised their impact on the local landscape and environment. They are lighted with solar power and have water saving safari showers and flush toilets. All of the camps also have written policies on water, land, energy, solid waste and sewerage which are adhered to by staff and in day to day operations. The camps are owned and run by Gamewatchers Safaris, which leases each conservancy from the local community paying a monthly rental that increases annually. Visitors staying at the camps also pay a fee to the community for entering the conservancy. Gamewatchers uses the income from the camps to manage and improve the conservancies, to pay the lease and to pay the salaries of camp staff and conservancy rangers and workers. The camps and conservancies currently employ over 100 members of local communities with take-home wages significantly higher than the national average.
Gamewatchers Safaris has calculated the specific monetary benefits to communities from each of the conservancies as:
• Total cash flowing into community from conservancy project: Kshs 9.15 million p.a. (approx $140,000)
OL KINYEI CONSERVANCY
• Total cash flowing into community from conservancy project: Kshs 5.9 million p.a. (approx $90,000)
OLARE OROK CONSERVANCY
• Total cash flowing into community from conservancy project: Kshs 21.6 million p.a. (approx $330,000)
A total of over $500,000 p.a. is flowing into the conservancy communities. The Ol Pejeta Conservancy is not included in these calculations due to the limited time Gamewatchers Safaris and Porini Camps have been working there. Income per hectare from the conservancies exceeds income from small-scale cultivation and is particularly high in Selenkay which is a semi-arid area. Income is paid directly to community landowners rather than via a central committee which removes the risk of loss or misappropriation of funds.
Human wildlife conflict has been and remains a major problem in Kenya. Through the establishment of the conservancies Gamewatchers Safaris is helping to address this issue in the communities it works with. Income from tourism has furthermore helped to diversify local community livelihoods which had previously revolved almost exclusively around livestock rearing. With the increasing frequency of droughts in East Africa such rearing had become an increasingly marginal activity, with communities suffering hardship and loss of cattle during drought periods. This had furthermore led to a deterioration of the natural environment through overgrazing.
St Lazarus Community School
Outside of its partnership with local communities through conservancies Gamewatchers Safaris further engages in responsible tourism by supporting the St Lazarus Community School in Kibera which provides nutrition & education for disadvantaged children. The St. Lazarus Community School was formed in 1996 when a group of people from the Silanga village of the Kibera slums and Rachel Lomosi, who is now the Executive Director, wanted to help the numerous disadvantaged children in their community have a place to receive an education, shelter and healthcare. St. Lazarus has since grown through generous donations. It is in the processes of renovation to improve the learning environment and reduce classroom crowding. In addition to education, the children are provided with breakfast and lunch at the school. For many of the children this is the only food they receive each day.
St. Lazarus now has four teachers, a headmistress, and 120 students. There is a board of directors, based in Nairobi, who meet once a month to help drive the vision of the school, provide accountability and work to expand the school to increase its positive impact. Gamewatchers Safaris takes donations for the school which go towards the feeding programme, building renovations and teacher salaries (100% of donations go to the school without any deduction). Gamewatchers also partners with booking agents to contribute a portion of every booking as a donation to St. Lazarus.
Awards and Certifications
In 2011 Gamewatchers Safaris was awarded Kenya Tour Operator of the Year by the Kenya Tourism Federation, the Porini Amboseli Camp was awarded Eco-rated Facility of the Year by the same body. Also in 2011, Gamewatchers Safaris and Porini Camps won at the Skål International "Sustainable Development in Tourism Awards, while in 2010 Gamewatchers Safaris won the Eco Warrior Award for most responsible tour operator by Ecotourism Kenya. Gamewatchers Safaris and Porini Camps are committed to socially and environmentally responsible tourism and this commitment is clearly recognised within the tourism industry in Kenya and internationally. This commitment is also apparent in the social and environmental certifications achieved by Gamewatchers Safaris and the Porini Camps. Ecotourism Kenya manages a certification scheme for tourism accommodation based on social and environmental criteria; all of the Porini Camps are Silver Rated. Only 21 establishments in Kenya have this rating. Gamewatchers Safaris as a tour operator is gold eco-tourism rated.
P.O. Box 388 - 00621
Village Market, Nairobi, Kenya
Kenya: Tel +254-774-136523 Fax +254-20-7122504
UK: Tel 0870-471-7122
USA: Tel 1-877-710-3014