The Wild Spirit of Lewa

By Christopher Rhys Howarth


As our Airkenya flight plotted its course above the rugged, sun-scorched landscape, the thrill of adventure began to swell in me. We had been flying for less than 30 minutes and the bustling metropolis of Nairobi was already a distant memory. We had crossed over into another world; one where a wild spirit was running loose through the hills and across the dry savannah stretching out below us. This was an untamed, raw wilderness made from shades of brown, red and gold as the hot sunburnt the earth. Touching down in the Conservancy I had become infected by this wild spirit.

I stepped onto the red soil of Lewa with the warm breeze on my face and was greeted with a broad smile by Daniel, our guide from Lewa Safari Camp. I hopped into our spacious safari van, open on all sides and sat back in the comfy chair ready to head into the wilderness. We wound our way through narrow, dusty roads lined with thick bush, eventually opening up into wide savannah plains stretching as far as the eye could see. We descended through gorges and ascended to the tops of valleys that looked out across nature at its finest; nature that has been protected, conserved and allowed to flourish. We eventually arrived at Lewa Safari Camp, part of the Elewana Collection, where we were met with a warm welcome and cold drink.

The main house of Lewa Safari Camp offers a rustic, homely feel with wooden floors and ceilings, comfy sofas with books to read and beautiful African art hanging on the walls. Outside, the verandah looks out towards the endless savannah, whilst the surrounding flora attracts an array of birdlife who wait patiently for tasty morsels of cake to be shared with them by the guests during afternoon tea. Those who are patient will still enjoy the birds calmly sitting on the verandah and feeding on their hands. Away from the house, each luxury tent is nestled among trees and bushes giving space, privacy and an ever-present connection with the wild that surrounds you. I laid down to relax on the soft bed with the breeze gently blowing through the
open tent and waited to head out for our game drive. Like any safari, the thrill and anticipation of what we might see filled everyone’s thoughts and conversations as we weaved our way through the conservancy, marvelling at the landscape and breathing in the fresh air. The wild spirit I had felt seeing Lewa from above was now all around us and it didn’t take long before we spotted a pride of lions sitting in the long grass. Our knowledgeable and fun guide Daniel edged his way towards them, respecting their environment but giving us the breathtaking opportunity to see the lions stride past us only meters away before stopping to look out imperiously at their kingdom. As we sat alone in peace and stillness observing the lions I realized the Lewa experience offers the opportunity to witness incredible wildlife on an individual and intimate level. The vehicles are few, the wilderness is raw and rugged, and the dedicated conservation work by Lewa rangers has protected and nurtured a full and diverse breadth of wildlife that seems to greet you at every turn.

From Lewa Safari Camp we travelled to another of the Elewana Collection - Kifaru House. As we meandered through the conservancy towards our destination the wildlife experience only got better. We witnessed the mating ritual of two elephants; their raw power thundered across the savannah before stopping to gently caress trunks. We followed a single cheetah as he bound through the long grass, eventually resting on a fallen tree. A herd of elegant Grevy Zebra, found almost exclusively in Northern Kenya and sadly endangered, stood on the rise of a hill and slowly moved towards us in formation, each one following the other. The spectacle of Kifaru House is majestic. Perched atop a hill, the stunning views across the conservancy make you feel like you have reached the heart of Lewa; deeply immersed in its wild beauty. Kifaru’s main house and separate drawing/reading room reflect stately home opulence accompanied by a warm, welcoming atmosphere. Each bedroom is its own home. Stepping inside you are greeted by rich, dark wood floors and high ceilings, handcrafted antique furniture and a large four-poster bed sitting proudly in the middle of the vast space.

Staying at Kifaru is to briefly exist in a dream; a place of refined luxury, full of character and charm, nestled in the heart of the pristine wilderness. Together, Kifaru House is one of the finest places anywhere in Kenya. As the evening drew close we travelled to our sundowner spot and enjoyed our choice of drink as we watched the orange fireball sun slowly descend behind the hills, the last sun flares casting light on the campfire before the night set in and the chatter of insects filled the air. It was a chance to reflect on Lewa and remember its authentic, unhurried and wild energy. Much effort and commitment are put in every day to preserve and protect the magic that lives in the conservancy. To me, that magic is the wild spirit that flows; a spirit that will flow within anyone who is lucky enough to experience Lewa Wildlife Conservancy.