Tembea: LEWA DOWNS A Taste of Royal Safari

The 45,000 acre Lewa Downs Conservancy has more than 25% of the world's threatened Grevy's zebra, the endangered indigenous black and white  rhino in an area of open plains, long, waving yellowy-gray grasses and gently rolling hills in the Northern foothills of Mount Kenya, 250 Kilometers Northeast of Kenya’s capital, Nairobi.

The 45,000 acre Lewa Downs Conservancy has more than 25% of the world's threatened Grevy's zebra, the endangered indigenous black and white  rhino in an area of open plains, long, waving yellowy-gray grasses and gently rolling hills in the Northern foothills of Mount Kenya, 250 Kilometers Northeast of Kenya’s capital, Nairobi.

Yet Lewa Downs is not just another wildlife reserve. Lewa was once a cattle ranch before it became a guarded Black Rhino sanctuary with a world-wide reputation for extending the benefits of conservation beyond its borders.

Owned by the Craig/Douglas family, it was first managed in 1922 as a cattle ranch for over 50 years although unique to the rest of the ranches nearby.

The family valued the wildlife that shared the land with the cattle and developed wildlife tourism as an additional activity.

Due to increased poaching, the family decided to create a fenced and guarded Ngare Sergoi Rhino Sanctuary stocked partly with animals from other reserves and partly by isolated individuals from northern Kenya.

In 1995 the Craig family turned their entire farm on the northern slopes of Mt Kenya into the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, with a mandate to protect and conserve the wildlife of Kenya.

They had to convince the local communities to stop seeing animals as competition for their cattle's grazing land and instead see them as a source of income.

This was achieved and many fences were taken down and old migration routes were re-opened to the animals. Lewa Downs Conservancy is now an area of outstanding natural beauty with the Lewa River giving life to dense woodland and patches of open savannah providing the perfect habitat for a whole range of Kenya's animals.

In October 2010, Lewa Downs gained a new found global popularity as the place where in line to the British throne, Prince William of Wales proposed to Kate Middleton, now Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, which makes it a royal footnote to the destination.

There are of course a host of other animals native to this part of East Africa including elephants and reticulated giraffe that have bred so successfully.

There are thought to be only about 50 shy aquatic Sitatunga antelope in Kenya and Lewa Plains has about 20 living in the swampy riverine areas of the reserve.

Other antelope to be seen in some numbers are eland, oryx, impala and waterbuck. Predators are not here in great numbers but lion, leopard and hyena are around.

While at Lewa you can take nature walks, horse and camel rides, visits to Lewa's orphaned animals and horseback rhino patrol.

You can also accompany the lion tracker to collect data on the resident lion population or head for the Ngare Ndare Forest Reserve in search of black and white Colobus monkeys or visit Lewa's prehistoric archaeological site where stone hand axes are common and date back approximately 800,000-1 million years. One can find accommodation at Lewa House and enjoy the wide array of birds and wildlife.

Lewa Downs is some 65 Kilometers North of Nanyuki in an area known as Laikipia. From Nairobi, you can either drive to Lewa Downs via Nanyuki for about 4 hours, or take a light plane to Lewa Downs airstrip about 45 minutes.

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