Spotlight on Sustainable Safaris: Gamewatchers Safaris

Recently, I’ve turned my attention to the captivating land of East Africa — specifically Kenya — where it’s been an interesting and informative process learning about all the details that go into a sustainable safari. The last piece in this series In Search of a Responsible Safari highlighted a few outstanding options for safaris in Kenya. Along the way I also learned about a few companies who are less than sustainable, too (despite their marketing efforts).

However there was one company who stood out above the crowd and that was Gamewatchers Safaris.
Luckily, I got to ask a few questions of their Managing Director, Jake Grieves-Cook who is a wealth of information. When someone shows such dedication and passion to a cause, it’s simply infectious!

This quick Q&A will help you decide which companies to look for when booking a safari to Kenya and what sort of questions a responsible traveler should be asking in advance of booking!

Porini Lion Camp, Image Courtesy of Phil Edwards

Porini Lion Camp, Image Courtesy of Phil Edwards

In your view, what unique challenges does East Africa face when it comes to responsible tourism?

A major challenge is that the land available as wildlife habitat is shrinking as the human population grows. Kenya is one of the 30 most populous countries in the world and in the last three decades the human population has doubled to over 45 million today. This has meant that the space for wildlife is disappearing under a tidal wave of human settlement and environmental degradation.
For those of us involved in wildlife conservation through tourism it has meant that we have had to find ways of preserving the existing habitat outside the country’s state-controlled national parks and reserves as these account for less than 8% of the land surface area in Kenya.
In order to expand the area of protected habitat for wildlife we have been involved in setting up wildlife conservancies in partnership with local communities to give the wildlife more space. (Details can be seen on this video clip.)
This places a huge extra overhead on us as a company engaged in responsible tourism since we are bearing all the costs of leasing the land and paying the conservancy running costs from the income from our small safari camps.

Image Courtesy of Gamewatchers Safaris

Image Courtesy of Gamewatchers Safaris

How is your company making a positive impact on the triple bottom line (economic, environmental, and social) in East Africa?

As a safari company located in Kenya, we have developed a new form of safari tourism which is based on our “conservancy concept”: leasing large tracts of land from local communities to set up wildlife conservancies of thousands of acres where the animals have more space to live in their natural habitat, and paying for this from the income from visitors staying in our small safari camps where there is a limit on the numbers of tourists in order to ensure low-density tourism with minimal impact on the environment.
The communities earn an income from the rents that we pay for the land and their family members have jobs staffing the camps and as rangers in the conservancies which makes a positive economic impact on the local people. As a result the wildlife numbers have increased in the conservancies which have become safe havens for all the big cats and for elephants as well as teeming with all the other animals of the African savannah plains. This gives a memorable safari experience for our visitors and has added to Kenya’s tourist attractions.

Image Courtesy of Gamewatchers Safaris

Image Courtesy of Gamewatchers Safaris

Does your company support (either directly or indirectly) canned hunting?

We do not support canned hunting and there is no hunting of any sort within the conservancies which we manage. We depend upon the income from tourism to pay the conservancy running costs so we need to encourage more visitors to stay at our Porini Safari Camps in order to secure the future of these areas for the longterm.
Image Courtesy of Gamewatchers Safaris

Image Courtesy of Gamewatchers Safaris


Do you think one tourist can make a difference (either positive or negative) and if so, how?

Yes, I believe that every tourist can make a difference. By choosing to stay in a small bush camp in one of our conservancies, not only is the tourist visitor going to have a memorable and rewarding safari experience but is also contributing directly to conservation and to the welfare of the communities which own and benefit from the conservancies. And by refusing to buy wildlife products from illegally killed animals, tourists can reduce the demand for such items which will discourage poaching.

Are you able to cater to vegan travelers?

Answer: Yes, we can cater for vegan travelers and our chef at each camp is always ready to discuss their diet preferences with our guests and to cater accordingly
Image Courtesy of Gamewatchers Safaris

Image Courtesy of Gamewatchers Safaris

Please feel free to add anything you’d like to share with the audience on what makes your place(s) so unique.

We own and run six of our own exclusive, eco-friendly tented camps in Kenya, the Porini Camps, all located in the heart of unspoilt wildlife habitat.

These Camps are small and exclusive with no more than 10 guest tents so that your guests have just a few other like-minded people as company.

PORINI AMBOSELI CAMP is an exclusive bush camp of 9 guest tents in the Selenkay Conservancy, a private reserve beside Amboseli National Park in unspoilt wilderness and well off the beaten track.

PORINI MARA CAMP is set up on similar lines with 6 tents and is in the first private conservancy in the Mara eco-system at Ol Kinyei. We operate daily departures by air from Nairobi – a 45 minute flight.

PORINI LION CAMP is located in the exclusive 33,000 acre Olare Motorogi Conservancy which borders the Maasai Mara Game Reserve. The Camp is situated along the Ntiakatiak River and consists of 10 spacious guest tents.

PORINI BUSH CAMP shares its space with Porini Mara Camp in the Ol Kinyei Conservancy.  Porini Bush Camp is a seasonal camp open between 15th July to 15th October for the high season.

PORINI RHINO CAMP  with only six tents, located in the 90,000 acre Ol Pejeta Conservancy near Mt Kenya. All of the Big 5 are found here and this is the largest Black Rhino sanctuary in East Africa!

NAIROBI TENTED CAMP the only property inside Nairobi National Park, home to lions, leopards, rhino, buffalo, giraffe and numerous other game. There’s no need to stay in the city when you can be on safari on your first and last day in Kenya!

A HUGE thank you to Jake for taking the time to answer these questions and let us know where Gamewatchers Safaris and Porini Camps stands — and it’s definitely on the responsible side of safaris and conservation in Kenya.

For additional information on how Gamewatchers Safaris is supporting the local community please check out their Conservancy Concept which is full of rich information and issues that all responsible travelers to Kenya should be aware of. When booking your next trip to Kenya, think of them for a sustainable safari and a certainly unforgettable experience.

Please note that this is not a sponsored post and I sought out Gamewatchers Safaris on my own to do research in preparation for an upcoming trip to Kenya.

Brandy Bell loves adventuring around the world. She's been a solo female traveler since 2006 and has visited over 25 countries, made countless international friends, and now writes to inspire you to travel in a sustainable and responsible way.

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