Borana, at the forefront of the modern conservation movement in Kenya, offers a number of ways for guests to encounter Kenya's wildlife and wilderness from traditional 4x4 safaris and horse-back and mountain bike riding, to joining specific conservation activities aimed to give a behind-the-scenes experience and in-depth understanding of modern day conservation and the ongoing battle to protect endangered species such as the black rhino. This extra element adds a new dimension to a safari holiday and adds immeasurably to the overall experience.
Between 1970 and 1993 Black rhino numbers dwindled from 65,000 to just 2,300. Due to the concerted efforts of wildlife conservancies like Borana and Lewa and wildlife charities such as Save the Rhino International, who Real Africa is proud to be raising money for via their #RealRhinos campaign, black rhino numbers have started to recover – there are now approximately 5,000 black rhino across Africa. However many of these discrete black rhino populations are increasingly isolated due to demands on their habitat and benefit from being actively monitored. The translocation, or assisted movement of individuals to new territories helps maintain genetic diversity and strengthen the gene pool.
In 2013, 21 black rhino were translocated to Borana. Together the Lewa and Borana conservancies form 94,000 acres of contiguous ecosystem and now support around 100 rhino. To protect the rhino and other wildlife from commercial poaching 100 men are deployed day and night.
Conservation activities at Borana, and neighbouring Lewa conservancy range from joining scouts to track and sight rhino, or running with the rangers to darting and collaring missions designed to monitor the conservancies lions. Visiting the anti-poaching dog squad as Real Africa's Marketing Director, Sara White, did in May this year, is a highlight. Guests are given a truly immersive and personal experience meeting the rangers and the dogs and learning how they work to protect the rhinos of Lewa and Borana. Visitors are given the opportunity to join an exercise with the track team and to gain an understanding of the dog squad's vital role in rhino conservation.
The preferred breeds, Belgian Malinois and bloodhound, have excellent track and scent skills, being able to hold the scent of a single footstep for up to 48 hours. They can move quickly through tricky terrain, have fantastic stamina and have proved very successful not only catching and ultimately deterring poachers but also identifying illegal caches of horn and arms.
As Sara White says, "We want to look beyond the boundaries of a traditonal safari experience and embrace the modern conservation movement which sees tourism, community and conservation work together in order to safeguard Africa's wildlife for future generations. Our clients can enjoy luxury camps and lodges, expert guiding and fantastic wildlife but they can also have a far deeper and more meaningful experience by joining these optional activities and learning about the challenges faced and what is being done to combat them. They can travel in the knowledge that they are making a positive impact and that some of the money they spend on their holiday is going to support conservation projects that they have witnessed first-hand."
The lodge at Borana offers 8 beautiful ensuite cottages with stunning views over the Samangua Valley. Elephants can be seen at the waterhole below the cottages – some 300 elephants freely roam the conservancy. All the Big Five can be seen on the Borana/Lewa conservancies (Leopard, Lion, Rhino, Elephant and Buffalo), as well as elusive wild dogs and the rare Grevy's Zebra.