“I do” – a safari fit for a royal

2.02.15 | Nathan Collins

Lewa Downs in Kenya – a paradise of royal proportions

Lying just to the north of Africa’s second highest mountain, Mt Kenya, lies Lewa Downs, a paradise of royal proportions.

Lewa started out as a settler farm in 1924 when the ancestors of the Craig family sought a new life in the colonial outpost of Kenya. In those days it must have been a pretty tough area to farm, and one can imagine the constant battle to keep the livestock safe against marauding lions and stealthy leopards. On the plus side, the altitude would have certainly helped against those pesky tropical diseases, and the beauty of the rolling hills set against the majestic mountain must have gladdened the heart daily.

Today, the Lewa Conservancy covers some 62,000 acres, of which 14,000 is national forest and the rest privately owned land. The area is extremely diverse, with grassland interspersed with acacia forests, riverine woodland, gorges and ravines, montane forest and the Lewa swampland.

The history of the conservancy starts at the height of the rhino and elephant poaching days of the mid-1980s when Anna Mertz asked the Craig family to set aside an area to use as a rhino sanctuary. After a few years, the family decided to proportion more of the land to wildlife and slowly the emphasis changed to what Lewa is today – one of Kenya’s finest wildlife destinations.

To support the conservancy, the original Craig family homestead evolved into the small 18-bed personalised lodge, Lewa Wilderness, offering a high standard of comfort and personal service.

It is still run by Will and Emma Craig. A second tented lodge catering for just 28 guests, Lewa Safari Camp, was developed to host tourists in the area near the rhino sanctuary. Between them, the lodges offer a range of game-viewing activities including both day and night game drives by open four-wheel-drive vehicles, walks, horse and camel riding, and multi-day walking trails using lightweight mobile camps. And for the more romantic, take to the air ‘Out of Africa’ style in Will Craig’s personal bi-plane.

Today, Lewa is home to some 34 black and 33 white rhino. In addition, it’s also home to around 25 percent of the world population of the rare Grevy’s zebra, whilst other animals to be seen include giraffe, all the major predators and a host of antelope species including the swamp-dwelling adapted sitatunga. The birdlife is superb with over 440 species recorded – from the ridges, it is possible to photograph vultures and eagles within a few feet. There is also a prehistoric site where Acheulian hand axes can be found scattered on the ground.

Although most of the conservancy is set aside for wildlife, there are horticulture, stud cattle, and farming practises that are still carried out. Furniture making (from local acacia woods) and rug weaving businesses create further employment for the local people. If you are interested, a visit to see the working side of the ranch and conservancy can be arranged. There is also conservation centre which is worthwhile visiting.

No surprise then that it was whilst staying at Lewa that Prince William popped the question – a paradise fit for a king.

For more details about visiting Kenya for a safari holiday call us on 01543 258 631.


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