Il N'gwesi Lodge
About the Eco Lodge
The award winning Il N'gwesi lodge was built in 199 6 on a rocky outcrop in an area of the Group Ranch set aside purely for wildlife conservation. It is a community-run eco-lodge made out of local materials , well known for it spectacular ‘open-to the bush' design with stunning views in all directions. Water to the lodge is fed by gravity from a spring some distance away and our electricity is powered by solar energy. There are two communal areas: one at the front of the lodge overlooking a waterhole, which can also be viewed from a covered viewing platform, and a second with a superb infinity pool which drops away into the wilderness. Both have covered areas for escaping the heat of the day and open areas allowing guests to dine under the stars. The six spacious wooden ‘bandas' all have private bathrooms and ‘under the stars' showers fed by hot water. All rooms have double beds draped with mosquito nets, and some have extra single beds where required. Two bandas are connected by a rope bridge for larger groups. A further two, including the honeymoon room, have large platforms onto which beds can be wheeled for a night under the stars. Built on a slope, the fronts of the ‘bandas' are on stilts, giving guests unforgettable views, from all bandas, of the vast surrounding panorama.
Staying at the lodge is truly special: visitors get a real taste of the bush whilst enjoying some home comforts looked after impeccably by their Maasai hosts.
Il Ngwesi is 56km north west of Mount Kenya and 36Km west of Isiolo. You can drive via Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, Borana Ranch or via a new road through Ngare Ndare (map available on request).
Built in 1996, Il Ngwesi lodge is the first community-based eco-tourism initiative in Kenya, owned and run by the indigenous Maasai community, known as Il Ngwesi-translated into people of the wildlife. The lodge has six exclusively open bandas all self contained, each with its own private view, built on silts using local materials. British Airways Tourism Award, Harpers and Queens Travel Magazine, UNDP Equator Initiative are but some of the organizations that have given awards to this stunning location. A visit here will also provide you with a once in a lifetime experience of the indigenous culture of renowned Ilakipiak Maasai life. Please contact us for more information.
The lodge has six exclusive ' bandas' only. Five of them have double and single bed s , With the ‘honeymoon suite' ha ving a large double bed with wheels to enable you roll out the bed to raised platforms if you wish to sleep under the stars. The four poster beds are draped with mosquito nets and feature attractive locally printed fabrics. The bandas also have comfortable sitting vistas that are contained by half walls at the front keeping rooms cool while allowing uninterrupted views of the surrounding landscape.
Each room is self contained, with a well equipped rustic bathroom like you have may have never experienced, open showers in the sun or under the stars with piping hot water provided by solar panels.
Relax by the poolside
Guests can lie in the sun with a cool drink by the pool, take a dip or simply relax and enjoy the scenery. There are also two waterholes, one with a viewing platform, the ‘Melau', for close up encounters with animals while they drink. In the evening staff can organise a BBQ by the pool so that visitors can taste the local nyama choma (roasted meat) under the stars and take in the sounds of the African night. For those who wish, sundowners can be organised out in the ranch watching the sun set from a number of different stunning view points.
For those looking for a more active experience, mountain climbing, bush walks, game drives (including to Lewa) and camel trips can be a great way to see the bush. Our trained guides can take you to the best areas for game viewing, educate you about animal tracks and show you the stunning scenery in the area. Their wealth of knowledge of the bush and its flora and fauna will help bring the experience alive. If you wish to stay out all day, a picnic can be arranged under a shady tree out of the midday sun down by the Ngare Ndare River, or out in the bush at sunset. Alternatively you can organise an early morning walk and enjoy breakfast in the bush, or scale the Mukogodo escarpment and truly feel on top of the world.
The flora and fauna of our land
When wildlife comes back, it's really time to celebrate!! Staff at Il N'gwesi are delighted to announce that during 2006 guests have enjoyed some of the best wildlife viewing since the programme began. Lion s , wild dog s , hyena s , cheetah as and leopard s were all spotted in the conservation area. They join a long list of other species that have slowly increased in number within the ranch since the mid 1990s. Commonly seen animals include dik diks , oryxs , impalas , giraffes, gerenuks and kudus , as well as two of the big five in large numbers: elephants and buffalos. The ranch has also been home to high profile wildlife translocations of rhino from Lewa. Omni, the hand-reared black rhino, continues to enjoy special protection on the ranch along with two white rhino. Finally the endangered Grevy Zebras , more numerous in Lewa, can also be seen within the ranch.
Animals move in and out of the conservation area both north towards Samburu and south into the well-known Lewa Wildlife Conservancy and Borana. This large, mainly contiguous area is providing a real haven for wildlife of the Northern Frontier District.
The Il Ngwesi Community Trust (ICT) is a Community Based Organization (CBO) with the vision of integrating community development with sustainable environmental management, accessing knowledge and skills from worldwide partners.
The Il Ngwesi Community Trust has been formed to oversee the raising of funds to be used to implement the projects that fall under the programme. It also oversees the projects' implementation and ensures that funds raised are used for their intended purpose. The trustees are local Maasai representing the different areas within the ranch, and four co-opted members. Members have some experience in grant management, but have identified a need to develop this further if larger sums of money are to be managed. Areas for capacity building include proposal and report writing, project management and monitoring and evaluation. The Il Ngwesi Community Trust liaises with donors and well-wishers on projects that have a wider scope than the immediate ranch as well as collaborate on any joint funding proposals and particular capacity-building needs that may emerge in the community.
The local community is predominantly pastoralist, traditionally dependent on livestock. Recent droughts have underlined the value of diversifying income, and tourism can really help to reduce the vulnerability of the community to the unpredictable rains. Community projects are also an essential part of continuing to build on existing buy-in to the management approach. Il N'gwesi's five year strategic plan outlines its commitment to the following range of ranch management and community development projects:
There is considerable experience already in natural resource management because of joint initiatives with and support from the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy.
Current projects include enlarging the fenced area within the conservation area in preparation for translocations of further White and Black Rhinos, and providing more water troughs for wild animals. Careful monitoring of wildlife is also needed in order to inform wildlife management decisions, and security is paramount. Finally, it is essential that awareness in the community of the value of these projects and of natural resource management, including species protection, continues to build.
Preserving Maasai Culture
Maasai culture is known all over the world and a balance needs to be reached between preserving this rich cultural identity whilst also responding to change in Kenya. It is essential that there are individuals who can represent their communities in decision-making at a national level, and find creative ways to hold on to structures that are embedded in their cultural psyche that can benefit them in this process. The Maasai culture is powerful and a strong sense of community responsibility remains. This promotes community cohesion and the genuine participation of a wide range of community members in decision-making, and is central to the success of the programme. Maasai culture also attracts tourists, and the local community would like to do more to share it with their national and international visitors, by developing part of the cultural manyatta as an information centre on traditional Maasai culture. Local people are also committed to reducing the negative impact that tourism can have, by keeping tourist visits to local villages small in size and frequency and by educating both locals and tourists about appropriate behaviour, dignity and mutual respect.
Il N'gwesi Lodge
The lodge itself requires constant upkeep including re-roofing and care from termite damage. Water is piped from a spring several kilometres away and pipes must be regularly visited to check for elephant damage. Staff at the lodge would also benefit from training available in Kenya and from exchanges to learn from other lodges in the country. Income generating activities run directly from the lodge such as a small gift shop, excursions to the Mukogodo Forest and guided honey trips amongst others , are develop ments t hat are being considered to increase the profitability of the lodge.
Income Generating Activities
A real priority for the programme is improving household income in the community. This is central to the medium and longer-term sustainability of the overall management approach. It has been recognized that skills are lacking in both the management of small-scale businesses and that knowledge is also sketchy in relation to market opportunities for possible products. However, it is felt that there are some real opportunities for developing small-scale businesses in bee keeping and honey, animal hides, and beads. Emphasis needs to be given to the technical knowledge for the production of quality goods, as well as into the identification and development of marketing opportunities in these areas. Finally, capacity building within the communities on project/business management will be conducted where relevant.
School attendance and education levels in the area are low compared to other parts of Kenya. Improving education is an essential and critical part of enabling the Il Ngwesi Maasai to engage on a more equal footing in local, national and international debates that affect them. In the Il Ngwesi area, there are four primary schools and eight nursery schools, and no secondary schools. Although some children have benefited from funding for their education, and some school buildings have been improved, more needs to done. Scholarships for children's education at secondary schools and university are needed, as well as for young people to study at teacher training colleges so that they may return and work in the local primary schools. In addition, the renovation of teacher's accommodation will help to attract quality teachers to the schools, and strong school committees will improve the management and administration of local schools, as well as promote parent interest in their own children's education.
Along with the relatively low education levels, the health status of people in the community is low and their knowledge about basic health is limited. As there is no government health facility in the area, accessing treatment is sometimes impossible. It is strongly felt that health could be improved significantly through community-based awareness creation around disease transmission through water, poor hygiene and waste disposal, as well as through the training of health workers for each of the areas within the ranch. What is felt to be particularly urgent is the setting up of a clinic, run by a trained nurse, which can serve the Ranch.
In this semi-arid region of Kenya, water for most of the year is a scarce commodity, and a negligible percentage of households have access to clean water. There are few springs and one river, water from the wells is unreliable, and elephants often damage pipes. Focus needs to be given to the improvement of existing boreholes and introduction of wind-powered boreholes, provision of water storage facilities for the schools and piping water to points for easy community access for domestic and wildlife. This will also help to reduce the incidence of water borne diseases.
The area's infrastructure is a critical part of the smooth running of all programme activities. Work is needed on the airstrip and on the road network. Communications facilities such as phones and radios need to be improved both for managing tourism-related activities as well as for reasons of security. A team of armed security personnel has been trained to monitor and protect wildlife and is central to the improved security both for wildlife and people. A security camp has been built outside the Lodge next to the fenced conservation area. Il Ngwesi is also currently developing plans to manage operations from a central base so that it can rely less on Lewa Wildlife Conservancy's headquarters, Il Ngwesi Lodge and local community government offices. Plans include the construction of offices (and the installation of Email and other equipment) from which to manage and oversee all projects.
Il Ngwesi Lodge
P.O. Box 263
Code 1042 Timau, Kenya.
Tel.:+254 721498229 Fax.:+254 721498229
For requests via E-mail please visit the website stated below.
Note: We have contacted the lodge for photographs. They will be added, the moment we receive them.