Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.
William Butler Yeats, 1899
A purpling dusk spreads over the Chyulu Hills slowly revealing a million-star-sequined canopy. At the emerald foothills of Kilimanjaro, the dull roar of black-maned lions carries on the wind as the Maasai set up lanterns around the raised wooden platforms of Ol Donyo Lodge.
It is here on Mbirikani ranch, an integral outskirt of the Tsavo-Amboseli ecosystem, that a model for balanced human-wildlife co-existence brings its message to light: A World Heritage for all Mankind.
275,000 acres set aside for the protection of Kenya’s big game; Lions, Elephants, Rhino, Buffalo, Leopards — and more. Balancing conservation and community with commerce for a low-impact tourism audience, the Great Plains Foundation aims to save these vast tracts of lands with support from its real custodians; The Maasai community, joint-owners of this vast and ravishing wilderness. The lands that these tribespeople behold have been reshaped, long threatened by poaching and population growth. The support from tourism is imperative to helping sustain Africa’s wildlife heritage and provide a shielded haven for the endangered animals that inhabit here.
“All of our work — filming, photography, research, tourism and the Big cats Initiative — fits into a single lifelong goal, to make a difference for conservation,” say National Geographic documentary-makers and founders of the Great Plains Foundation, Beverly & Dereck Jourbert. Filming African wildlife in Southern Africa since the 1980s, the Jouberts have turned from chroniclers of the conservation message to actual conservationists with a nourishing management plan given the stark change in Africa’s precious wildlife terrain over the last 30 years with more and more tracts of land becoming endangered habitats. The Big Cats Initiative is the Great Plains emergency action plan.
At Ol Donyo, they partnered with well-known Kenyan tracker and conservationist Richard Bonham of the Big Life Foundation and founder of the Maasailand Preservation Trust, a community game scout program at Mbirikani. The Bonham family history is famed as East Africa’s key wardens in the establishment of the Selous Rhino Trust and advocates for the last remaining Rhino populations in the local area. Lion monitoring, Black Rhino anti-poaching units, Educational support over land management and rural farming, and compensational resolutions toward human-wildlife conflicts are some of the projects in actual work here. Health clinics, clean water supply and schools for the children alongside a crucial Wildlife Scholarship program also aid the subsistence of the Maasai community. In turn, the training and recruitment of these dedicated scouts from the program have assisted the KWS (Kenya Wildlife Service) in the effort to prosecute over 500 poachers and illegal loggers, while rendering general border control for this significant wildlife corner.
Guided Safaris® guests visit beyond the fourth-wall perspective; not as tourists and passersby but as benefactors and real stakeholders in a humanitarian effort; A front-row, hands-on seat is offered on this important on-ground project watching daily stories unfold and contributions raised in the emergency funding required from each visit supporting the work at hand.
Your journey here links to the destiny of these prized regions, helping directly fund not only the protection of these majestic animals but also sponsoring the rural communities at the actual forefront of the anti-poaching war.
Travel with a purpose and join Guided Safaris® Journeys of A Lifetime:
OL DONYO LODGE