*As seen in The Logbook.
Gamewatchers Safaris and Porini Camps are setting the highest standards for photographic wildlife tours with accommodation in authentic bush camps, demonstrating that business can flourish beside wildlife without encroaching or disrupting it.
Speaking with the Chairman and Founder, Jake Grieves-Cook, he explained that each of the eco-friendly camps is situated within a private wildlife conservancy to offer an intimate and exclusive safari holiday experience. Something memorable that is away from the hordes of minibuses crammed full of noisy tourists.
“A safari holiday in the Porini Camps is perfect for the true wildlife enthusiast who wishes to get close to nature and enjoy an undisturbed personal adventure with a knowledgeable and qualified safari guide,” he says.
Imagine a guided walk with a Maasai warrior, learning to see the African wilderness as they do and tracking big cats and their prey. Or, night safari game drives in safari jeeps providing you the opportunity to spot the nocturnal civet cat and caracal. Or perhaps you would like to sit in comfort in one of the camps and simply enjoy listening to the night sounds of the bush ringing out as the nocturnal creatures come alive.
DESTINATIONS FOR THAT PERFECT SHOT
Wildlife safaris that provide the chance to observe and photograph wild animals in their natural habitat have always been very popular. Offering the best locations to secure great wildlife shots is part of what makes Gamewatchers so popular with photographers of every level who have the opportunity to capture something wonderful and share their experiences.
Jake says, “Kenya is perfect for dramatic shots. There are a huge variety of landscapes, scenery and habitats including dry bush country, Rift Valley lakes, high mountain ranges with dense montane forests and open savannah plains. It is a good thing that our guests can store thousands of pictures digitally instead of relying on carrying rolls of film!”
With such a variety of landscapes that always seem to be shifting and changing with the seasons and animals that thrive there, it is difficult to have favourites. But there are a couple of places that Jake is particularly fond of.
“If I had to choose,” he says, “I’d say that Amboseli, Laikipia and the Mara are definitely up there.”
WHAT CAN A GUEST EXPECT?
Jake reveals that Gamewatchers Safaris is one of the longest established safari outfitters based in East Africa and one of the most competitive. Guests usually spend between five and twelve nights at the Porini Camps and this can include a number of different safaris and outings during that period. For example, a six-night safari itinerary will give enough time to visit two or three different wildlife areas, each one offering something slightly different.
The day starts with a dawn wake-up call with tea or coffee served in a guest’s tent. Then an early morning game drive coming back for a late breakfast or a picnic in the bush before returning to camp for lunch and to relax in the heat of the day. Then afternoon tea followed by an afternoon game drive returning in the evening for dinner. The game drives are in open-sided vehicles with expert Maasai guides who grew up in the area.
“We take the guest’s enjoyment seriously,” Jake explains, “You book your international flight to Africa and from our base in Nairobi we take care of everything else for you, from arrival to departure. That includes meeting you on arrival at Nairobi, providing transfers to the hotels, booking accommodation and internal flights to the parks as well as booking the best camps and providing safari transport for wildlife viewing. In addition to Kenya we arrange trips to Tanzania as well as to other leading destinations in Africa.”
Jake founded Gamewatchers Safaris nearly thirty years ago and today they take over 7000 people on safari in Kenya annually. They operate eight small safari camps as well as managing wildlife conservancies on thousands of acres of land. These are leased from rural communities to create areas of protected habitat for wildlife, “We manage the conservancies in partnership with the communities and employ wardens and rangers to protect the wildlife.”
By employing family members of the local communities and relying on their experience and knowledge of the land and incorporating this into the safari, Gamewatchers creates an environment of greater understanding and appreciation for the importance of sustainable and non-invasive wildlife viewing.
Gamewatchers have been a pioneer in eco-tourism for nearly thirty years, combining environmental protection with cultural preservation by working with local communities on conservation projects. Under the guidance of Jake and managing director Dr Mohanjeet Brar they have committed themselves to preserving Africa’s unique wildlife, landscapes and giving support to local communities.
“We believe that the best way to do this is through sustainable ecotourism ventures that benefit the local communities and give our guests a rewarding experience,” Jake says, “Our Porini Camps are a sustainable model that practically implements these principles. We are dedicated to providing our clients with exemplary personalized service and strive to have them leave as friends.”
The Porini Camps are situated within exclusive wildlife conservancies in the Amboseli eco-system, Laikipia and the Mara. As well as the Porini Camps, they also operate two Adventure Camps, which have simpler facilities but with the same high-quality experience normally associated with much more expensive safaris. Including day and night game drives, open-sided 4×4 safari vehicles, guided walks and expert guides but at a hugely reduced price. This is achieved by offering basic accommodation camps that are ideal for those who are travelling on a budget but who don’t want to compromise on their wildlife-viewing opportunities.
Gamewatchers Safaris has received numerous international awards including “Africa’s Responsible Tourism Award 2018” in the World Travel Awards for 2018. They have also consistently won awards for “Kenya’s Leading Safari Camp Brand” and “Africa’s Leading Tented Safari Camps”. In 2015, they were “Kenya’s Tour Operator of the Year” in the 2015 Ecotourism Warrior Awards.
“All our camps consistently receive excellent customer reviews and we have also been recognized as TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence Hall of Fame winners,” adds Jake who stresses the importance of giving the highest priority to seeing that guests have a great experience resulting in a high level of repeat visits and recommendations.
He certainly appreciates the awards for his business’s hard work and the amount of effort that his team have had to put into their services to bring them to this level. But the award that means the most to him is to see clients return year after year for advice and support with their safari travel plans.
“I think if you’re going to measure your success by anything,” he says, “It should be by how many clients return the following year.”
THE MISSION OF GAMEWATCHERS SAFARIS
Gamewatchers Safaris pioneered the “Conservancy Concept” in Kenya. This is the leasing of land to form community-owned wildlife conservancies adjacent to the national parks. This creates a buffer for any animals straying out of the National Park areas and has also transformed the areas adjoining Amboseli National Park and the Mara Reserve. The wildlife habitat here has regenerated, enlarging the area available for wild animals.
As a direct result of these efforts wildlife numbers have been able to increase in these protected areas, including the famous Big Five of Africa. Rare and endangered species numbers have also risen and benefit greatly from the restricted numbers of visitors allowed into these areas.
“By strictly controlling the number of people allowed in we avoid over-using the land, so guests who choose to stay at the Porini Camps located within the conservancies benefit from premium game-viewing with few – if any – other tourist vehicles present.” Jake says.
The local people have also benefitted from the Conservancy Concept, with over 200 members of the local community working with Gamewatchers Safaris and Porini Camps. Over 1,000 families earn a steady monthly income from leasing land inside the conservancies which Gamewatchers was instrumental in setting up.
“It is a cooperation to protect the natural heritage of this area,” Jake says, “It is something we all believe in very strongly and trust our guests will appreciate it too.”
Gamewatchers Safaris & Porini Camps, Nairobi, Kenya
TELEPHONE NUMBER: Kenya +254-774-136523
PRICE/NIGHT: Range of tours featured on website: www.porini.com