Step back in time at Elephant Pepper Camp, a glorious tented camp hidden in a grove of giant ebony and elephant pepper trees overlooking the Masai Mara Plains. Modern comforts are set amidst hurricane lamps, and sumptuous meals served under a ceiling of stars.
The camp is situated in the heart of the protected Mara North Conservancy, a spectacular wilderness area on the northeastern border of the Mara National Reserve. Here now for 20 years, it is one of the original, very small and exclusive tented camps, and is located away from other lodges. With only 9 en-suite tents, this magical camp maintains the atmosphere that is usually felt only on a traditional, mobile luxury safari.
TIME TO REGENERATE
Elephant Pepper Camp was built with sustainability in mind. There are no generators, cement, or any permanent structures, making the camp completely movable. Nestling almost out of sight under its canopy of trees, it closes for two months a year to allow the ecosystem to regenerate.
Elephant Pepper was instrumental in the formation of the Mara North Conservancy, a spectacular 28,000 hectares on the northeast border of the Mara National Reserve, a core parcel within the Masai Mara ecosystem. For the exclusive use of its 12 member camps, it provides some of the Mara’s prime game viewing in complete privacy. At the same time it guarantees the more than 700 Masai landowners stable revenue, with the camps paying $112,000 a month in fixed lease payments, or $1.3 million annually. Almost twenty percent goes to conservation management with employment of rangers, vehicle surveillance, and maintenance of infrastructure.
The camp has worked with the local Masai community for nearly 20 years, with the creation of the conservancy being the latest development in preserving this vital wilderness.
Among the initiatives the camp has spearheaded and participated in: Water from Wildlife, bringing water to schools without damaging the ecosystem; it has also introduced water-catchment and -collection systems, as well as the concept of shallow wells to support the local communities.
When the area surrounding the camp was designated a wildlife conservation area by the Masai, Elephant Pepper was instrumental in helping the local Masai relocate to their new homesteads. The camp also transported their building materials for them, in order to reduce the need for tree felling. It supports the Aitong Primary School, which has, since 2007, added a new classroom, kitchen, and new desks and chairs.
WALK ON THE WILDER SIDE
Guests are encouraged, whenever possible, to go on game walks instead of drives. This experience is unrivaled, especially as all of the guides have the prestigious SilverLevel qualification, making them some of the best in the country. Over eighty percent of the staff are employed from the surrounding communities.
The camp relies on solar power, ecofriendly toilets, and traditional bucket showers. Food is sourced locally as much as possible; glass is separated and sold to a recycling plant in Nairobi, all of whose funds are donated to the East African Women’s League to support a family planning program managed by the North Lake Branch in Naivasha.