BORANA LODGE -
BORANA RANCH, LAIKIPIA, KENYA
Borana Lodge is set on the edge of the Samangua Valley with panoramic views of Mount Kenya and Kenya’s
Northern Frontier. The property is a small, luxurious lodge, situated on a 35,000-acre
ranch, 16 miles north of the equator, at an altitude of 6,500 ft. The area is a haven for a wide diversity of wildlife, including lion,
elephant, Jackson’s hartebeest, buffalo, reticulated giraffe, Patas monkeys and great herds of antelope
roaming the plains, while the cool forest shelters bushbuck, colobus monkeys and leopard. Borana is a working
ranch, named after the doe-eyed Borana cattle.
Borana Lodge was built is 1992 by local artisans. Only local building materials and dead wood from the ranch were used in its construction. The result is a supremely comfortable and luxurious lodge which is totally in keeping with its surroundings; it seems to have grown organically from the rocks on which it was built.
Borana lodge overlooks a dam which fills with the floodwater flowing off the surrounding hills. It is the local watering hole for all the wildlife in the area so there is constant activity for the guests to watch. There is also a game blind built right on the edge of the dam so that visitors may go down and see the activity at close range: elephants swimming is a favourite.
The nights are cool and there are fires in the rooms every night of the year. The clear view of the occasional snow and permanent small glaciers on Mount Kenya is a wonderful contrast to the huge panorama of mountains and desert to the North.
images of Borana Lodge, click Borana Lodge
There are eight private and spacious guest cottages at Borana. The cottages are decorated in unaffected but luxurious up-country style. Four have large double beds and four have twin beds - both of which are queen size. Extra beds can be provided for children.
Each cottage has its own veranda except for the family cottage, where two cottages share a spacious veranda that has a phenomenal view over the dam. Each cottage also has an open-fireplace, lit every afternoon by the room stewardess. A basket of firewood is kept in each room. The bathrooms are the epitome of luxury: spacious, clean and with exceptional views over wildest Africa.
Borana Lodge is built primarily for privacy; each cottage is exclusively sited with its own special view, totally secluded from its neighbor. This ensures guests have a chance to appreciate the wilderness and loneliness of Africa.
Borana is set in a verdant garden; almost all the plants are indigenous and chosen for their scents, colours, flowers and hardiness. Water is sufficient to keep the lawns alive, but all other plants have to rely on rainfall. Walk up a cedar ramp and you are confronted with a dramatically sited swimming pool. Guests can swim in a spotlessly clean eye-level pool while watching the elephants wandering down a well-trodden path on their way to the watering hole. The pool veranda, furnished with roman couches, is a favourite place for a relaxed lunch and a chance to lie in the sun. Just above the pool is the Borana shop. This shop gives guests the opportunity to purchase some of the best of African art, as well as beadwork from the local tribesmen, handcrafted jewellery and many other knick-knacks and curios from Kenya.
Electricity is provided by a 240v generator which runs from 18h30-20h30 and from 06h30 to 10h30.
When the generator is on, hair dryers can be used but need to inform the managers – hair dryers can be
Phone and camera batteries can be charged in rooms when generator is on.
There is a central eating and sitting area: comfy leather sofas surround a huge fireplace with picture windows looking onto the valley below. A massive rosewood table in the dining room is where meals are served by friendly and attentive staff. Local artists' paintings and sculptures decorate the lodge, and are also available for sale.
All food is freshly prepared in the kitchen; vegetables and farm produce from the farm, freshly squeezed juice from the ranch's orchard and wines from around the world.
Horizon swimming pool.
Masseuse on site.
Gift shop which can accept visa and mastercard.
Limited internet access for emergency use for clients.
Mobile phone network in certain locations around the lodge.
Laundry services provided.
Full board accommodation, house wines, beers & soft drinks.
Laragai House For
images of Laragai House, click Laragai House
Laragai House is the private home of George and Lucilla Stephenson and is available for rent when they are not in residence. Laragai is a house of spectacular beauty which can sleep twelve guests in extreme comfort. Laragai includes four double bedrooms and two twin rooms, all en suite, and two children’s rooms sharing a bathroom. There is invertor power day and night and phone/camera batteries can be charged in the rooms.
The swimming pool at Laragai has stunning views to the west over Borana ranch. The area is cleverly sheltered from the weather. The pool is heated and can thus be used at all times. The swimming pool house is equipped with its own bar, kitchen and bathroom facilities. It is a perfect place for long leisurely lunches and siestas in the stone alcoves that surround the pool. There is a clay tennis court at Laragai; racquets and balls are provided. The property has its own airstrip and access to the all weather strip at Borana Ranch.
Borana borders two vast properties to the north which are wholly owned by the local Maasai community. Borana and its neighbour - The Lewa Wildlife Conservancy - helped to build two small lodges on these ranches. They were constructed entirely with local materials in harmony with their surroundings. The resultant income generated by these previously moribund ranches has paid for bursaries and scholarships, the digging of new wells and crucially, extra security. These areas - previously the haunt of poachers and bandits - are now havens for big game, forming a corridor between the wildlife reserves of Samburu, Shaba and Buffalo Springs south to the Laikipia Plateau. Great migratory herds of elephant have become accustomed to use these corridors as a matter of course. It is not uncommon to see herds of elephant in excess of 400.
Tassia was built in 2000 - entirely from local materials. No live trees were cut down to build the lodge and even the cement used was eco-friendly. The lodge is owned and run by the local Maasai community. 6 cottages of breathtaking beauty line a ridge around a central living area and a swimming pool. The pool overlooks a natural water hole and is fed by an underground spring. Tassia is at the foot of the Mokogodo Forest; it looks out towards the Mathews Range, sacred Mount Lolokwe and further north to Ethiopia - one of the most spectacular views in East Africa where at night no other artificial light can be seen. Guest rent the entire lodge. It sleeps twelve adults and any number of children in a separate bunk-house. There is an excellent chef at the lodge who will cook food brought by guests, or if you prefer not to self-cater, full catering can be arranged through Borana Lodge.
Life on a Kenyan ranch isn’t just about living close-up with a whole album of Laikipia’s unique wildlife, including some of Kenya’s most habituated elephants. It’s about so much more. Each day some sort of equilibrium must be sought between the needs of Africa’s predators and abundant wildlife and those of the doe-eyed humped Boran cattle that give the ranch its name. Alongside this, they have to ensure that the commercial viability of the ranch's smaller-scale projects, such as the Hide and Sheep Ltd and leather workshop, manned by blind and disabled workers, whilst also putting energy into the success of schemes to enhance the lives of Borana‘s pastoralist neighbours.
A stay at Borana is a unique opportunity for total immersion in the life and goings on of a working ranch where environmental and ecological considerations rank alongside the responsibilities they feel towards their neighboring communities, be they pastoralists or agriculturalists, be it in the form of development partnerships and mobile health clinics, or the workings of the ranch’s education trust.
Of course a visit to the high altitude rose farm or to the organic essential oil distillery is by no means compulsory; there are plenty of other ways to entertain you on Borana. Two strings of horses, mountain bikes, game walks, cross-cultural experiences and plenty of excuses for a night fly camping await our visitors. We just want you to know that there’s more to Borana.
Then again you could just put your feet up, sit back in your open 4 x 4 and be taken to the game, eat delicious, home grown organic food and maybe muster up the energy to drag yourself away from your exclusively comfortable sleeping house for an afternoon massage overlooking Mount Kenya and, of course, the pool.
Shared game drives and walks in the company of guides and trackers with a broad local knowledge of the
Relax in a blind or a tree house and let the wildlife come to you
Night drives to see the nocturnal species
Picnics and bush dinners are a regular feature
Horse riding for both experienced riders and novices. We breed our own polo ponies and children’s ponies
Mountain biking on Giant Iguana mountain bikes
Fly Camps with or without horses
Heli fishing on Mount Kenya – by pre-arrangement
Visits to the adjacent Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, to see the endangered Grevy’s zebra and Black and White rhino
Visits to the Kisima floriculture project
Cultural excursions to nearby Maasai Manyattas
Masseuse and beauty therapy using home-produced organic essential oils
Borana has a fleet of custom-built four wheel drive vehicles, driven by supremely knowledgeable driver/guides. Since Borana is private property, there are no Game Park rules and no one else will ever obscure your view of the big game that lives here. Night game drives - when most animals are active - are very popular, allowing guests an insight into the nocturnal life of the bush that is denied them in most of the parks. The experienced guides know the ranch intimately and can always find the animals that guests most want to see. And the radio-linked open sided vehicles will never let you down in the bush.
Guided Game Walks
One of the best ways to see wildlife is on a guided bush walk. Jay MacLoed, Ant Kaschula or one of the experienced local Maasai guides lead these hikes and give guests the benefit of their extensive knowledge of the bush and its ways. Ant and Jay were both brought up in the African bush, Ant is from Zimbabwe. They have an intimate knowledge of the land and its inhabitants. Guests can walk through the bush in complete confidence - aware that they could be with no better guides. Seeing big game on foot is extremely satisfying and allows guests to stalk game in completely safety. The slower pace means that guests also have a chance to see smaller animals that they would miss if speeding past in a car.
Borana, the Lewa Conservancy, the Ngare Ndare Forest Reserve and the Il Ngwessi and Lekerruki Group Ranches share a joint conservation management policy. This shared enterprise covers an area of about a quarter of a million acres. There are over 3,000 elephants in the whole Laikipia area. More than one tenth of this healthy and growing population roams freely over this conservation area. There are a dozen matriarch cows with radio collars in the Laikipia area, so that their movements can be monitored. One matriarch took her extended family of sixty for 92 miles in one week. This research is of great importance in the search for a way in which they and humans and elephants can continue to live together in the future.
Cattle ranching in lion country is challenging, but Borana is proving that it can continue successfully by building secure bomas (enclosures) for the cattle at night. There are four lions on the ranch that are fitted with radio collars, so that they can monitor their movements. The ranch loses about a hundred head of livestock each year to lion, leopard, cheetah, hyena and jackals.
The ranch has recorded 334 different species of birds over the past 20 years.
There is a vast number of trees and plant species that occur around Borana Lodge. In the lodge library, they have reference books to tell you of the many handsome and interesting plants growing around the lodge. The management are trying to create a full collection in the lodge gardens. To give you a hint of the abundance of varieties, there are already 48 different kinds of indigenous trees growing in the garden at Ngare Ndare. Gilfrid Powys, his wife Patricia and their daughter Anne are accomplished botanists and are regularly adding new plants to the collection.
All the firewood for the lodge comes to us by courtesy of elephants. What most people look upon as devastation is really all part of a natural cycle. They merely chop up the trees that elephants have pushed over for use as firewood at the ranch. In the long term it is certain that a combination of elephant destruction followed by fire will create open grassland. It has been seen in recent years that if the elephant are removed from the scene, heavy bush growth will return in a few years. It is only in the last few years that there have been resident elephants on Borana. The first accounts of elephants in the area date back to 1895 from the diaries of Arthur Neumann. He had to trek another forty miles to the north before he found any elephant.
Borana would not be the place it is today without horses. When the Dyer family first came here, they were the only means of personal transport. Today, all the farms still have stables.
One of the best ways of seeing big game is on horse-back and this is recommended for anyone keen to try it. The ranch has horses to suit all riders from beginners to experts. At the foot of the escarpment is the Ngare Ndare River. Here Rose Dyer keeps a stable of horses that are suitable for novices. They are Patent Safety horse which have been trained to be careful with children and non-experienced riders.
Guests can ride through the plains at the foot of the escarpment among giraffe, hartebeest and impala or into the forest that cloaks the foot of Mount Kenya. Further up Mount Kenya at Kisima, they keep a stable of polo ponies which are only suitable for experienced riders. Guests are welcome to stick and ball at the North Kenya Polo Club or ride up into the heather on the mountain-side where day long trips can be arranged.
Back at Borana itself, there are a number of horses that are suitable for the more experienced rider. Guests can explore the ranch with guides to show them the special places and the big game that abounds here. Picnic lunches and sundowners can be organised for those wanting a day's ride but a quick hack before breakfast is just as easy to arrange.
A team of eight grooms look after the 26 Borana horses. They are supervised by Nicky and John Kinyua, to ensure that they are always at the peak of fitness, they never run out of food, or miss a bath! Most of the horses are thoroughbred or a throughbred-cross, standing between 14.2hh and 16.3hh. All the horse are well-schooled and ridden in snaffle bridles. Most of them are forward-going and spirited, however in addition we have several older more steady horses for less confident riders.
The ranch uses English saddles, Wintec saddles, a few Australian stock saddles and a couple of South African western-style saddles. These are chosen specifically to ensure the comfort of both the horse and rider. Sheepskin seat-savers and saddle bags are provided.
Guests can leave Borana after an early morning cup of tea, a quick trip to stables, leap on to their horses and then off for a couple of hours riding. A surprise and a welcome treat as they enter into one of the secluded valleys and a picnic breakfast is set up under an olive tree. Fresh fruit on the table and bacon and eggs sizzling on an open fire.
Borana and its environs is a spectacular area in which to ride bicycles. The silence and off-road ability of the top of the range mountain bikes allow guests to get very close to big game - quickly and in safety. All bikes are in perfect condition and there are back-up crews to deal with any punctures or maintenance problems along the way. Mountain bikes give guests the opportunity to travel long distances, at their own pace and in a completely natural environment. There are few better ways to see the bush.
On Borana Ranch
Borana is not just a game sanctuary it is also a working ranch. Many guests have found that spending a day on the ranch is equally as interesting as looking at the animals. Michael Dyer – who runs the ranch – is happy to take guests on his rounds. He shows guests the challenge of ranching in these hostile conditions – elephants in the vegetable patch, lions in the cattle bomas, flood, drought, famine. It all goes to show why Borana is the place where cattle sleep with one eye open.
The ice-capped peaks of Mount Kenya are visible from almost anywhere on Borana. This magnificent 17,058 foot mountain, which straddles the equator, has an eco-system of its own. Heather and bamboo forests crowd its lower slopes - home to elephant, hardy leopards and even lion. Above the tree line bizarre groundsels and other Alpine plants abound on the volcanic slopes. It is a place of great natural beauty and is sacred to the Kikuyu people.
Trips to climb the mountain can be arranged through Borana Lodge. The climb takes a minimum of three to four days and requires no specialist equipment. Porters, warm clothing and a sense of adventure are however, essential.
A more leisurely way to see the mountain is to spend a night or two at Rutundu - a couple of small log cabins that sleep six people in great comfort and style. Rutundu is a wonderful place for walking and the fishing there and at slightly higher Lake Alice is extremely rewarding. There is fishing tackle kept for guests at the cabin. Guests rent the cabins in toto and are provided with a cook for self-caterers. Catering can though be arranged through Borana Lodge.
Borana Ranch has over 2,000 head of cattle. The cattle are kept for beef production though there is also a dairy herd for ranch consumption. The cattle are primarily of the 'Boran' breed; this is for their ability to withstand droughts and pests, though they do a single with the 'Sementhal' breed in order to improve the body form.
The herds of cattle on Borana are made up of breeding cows, most weaners being sent up to Kisima - another farm in the Dyer Empire - where they are fattened and sold.
There is constant conflict between livestock and carnivores on Borana and the ranch is forever experimenting with ways to lessen this financial burden, with lion-proof bomas, lighting at night and armed gun-guards. The most effective method is to move the weaners as soon as possible and hope that the tourism will cover the cost of the carnivores.
Borana also has a home flock of dorper sheep, known for their succulent meat, which is served on the menu at the Lodge.
The Seven Elephants Tree Nursery
The Seven Elephants Tree Nursery was founded in 2000, inspired by what Michael had seen at the Seven Ravens Tree Nursery in Rongai in Kenya's Rift Valley. This tree nursery now produces over 30,000 trees annually for reforestation efforts on the ranch and throughout the surrounding areas with communities. An on-ranch recycling effort now supplies most of the containers for the trees. Dozens of multi-purpose species are produced. All the indigenous species are used for replanting denuded areas in the wild, whereas the exotics are geared towards agro forestry to supply timbers, fruits, fodder, fibres, medicines and trees for erosion control. Each year many trees are donated to schools for educational purposes and competitions are held for the best maintained trees.
Hide and Sheep, Ltd.
In 1966 Will Powys began an ambitious project to employ the local handicapped people of the area.
He opened Hide and Sheep Ltd, which from its humble beginnings in a small wooden thatched building, today employs a talented group of blind and physically disabled people from the local community, who together create an impressive variety of top quality sheep and calfskin products.
In an area where polio and other debilitating diseases are far too common, the Hide and Sheep, Ltd. has given those affected an ideal means to express their creativity and desire for independence, while at the same time giving them a livelihood which they would otherwise not have.
The tanning, using a traditional vegetable process, is performed by the blind members of the group, whilst the stitching and product design is expertly carried out by those with other physical disabilities. The work of the Hide and Sheep, Ltd. is complimented by an enthusiastic self-help group of Maasai women, who stitch small glass beads onto several of the products, giving them their unique character and style. Under the critical eye of their charismatic chairlady, Resiki, the women's handiwork is guaranteed to be of the highest quality.
"It means a lot for blind people to have this Hide and Sheep Ltd. First and foremost it allows me to work alongside people who are getting salaries. It means that I don't have to go begging in the streets and gives me a chance to send my kids to school, to clothe them just like any other normal person. It enables me to make my home more civilized, to build a good house for my family and to get water. We thank the owner of the farm. It has given many of us jobs -blind and crippled, who could've stayed without anything at home, leading to begging and other troubles." Martin Ekilu
Borana is closed for the month of November.
Daily schedule services to Lewa from Wilson Airport, Nairobi. Then a 1.5-hour road transfer to Borana.
Private air charter to Borana airstip.
By road – a 4-hour drive from Nairobi.
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