Meet Naitamany, the Mother of 3 Black Rhino Calves in Sera Conservancy
The northern part of Kenya has had a troubling history of poaching of the black rhino species. Meet Naitamany, the Mother of 3 Black Rhino Calves in Sera Conservancy. With the reintroduction of black rhino species in the remote areas of the northern frontier, Kenya embraced a holistic community-focused conservation strategy. The government aimed to restore the iconic black rhino species through the repopulation of the rhinos within a maximum protection sanctuary. After 40 years of rapid depletion of the black rhino species, the government and other stakeholders joined hands in bringing back the glory of Africa’s black rhinos.
Tracking black rhinos on foot in the wilderness of Kenya is the latest thrill in wildlife safaris. The black rhinos of East Africa are endangered species. And to be a part of their life in the most trivial way is the desired experience. At Saruni Rhino Camp, tracking black rhinos is a popular activity among tourists. Popularly termed the ‘walking safari,’ tracking rhinos in a 54,000-hectare rhino sanctuary is quite an engaging experience.
The venture begins with a security briefing from Saruni guides and Sera rangers, followed by a game drive up to a safe distance where tourists can quietly walk up to the rhino’s grazing area. Then, from a vantage but secure point, guests can take photos or videos of the black rhino. Being one in nature is an unforgettable experience that guests love. The adrenaline rush you get when moving closer to a rhino is enough to peak all your senses. But beware that any false move can startle a black rhino while browsing on bushes. And that wouldn’t be convenient for the viewing session.
All black rhinos are tracked using traditional Samburu methods to enable guests to find them as they move around the conservancy. As a highly engaging and potentially dangerous activity, tourists are accompanied by a Saruni Camp guide and an expert ranger from Sera Community Conservancy. Eighteen black rhinos are protected in the 54000-hectare sanctuary. This rhino sanctuary is the first in Africa to be owned and run by the local community. The sanctuary is located in the northern part of Kenya. It lies within the Sera Conservancy that covers an area of 350,000 hectares.
The Story of Naitamany and her 3 Calves
Tourists from all over the world come to see the black rhino in its natural habitat. Being an endangered species for decades, the government of Kenya, in collaboration with camp owners and the local communities, has promoted campaigns to save the black rhino. Saving the black rhino has been a full-blown activity, from hiring security personnel to educating the masses on the importance of wildlife conservation. Over time, those efforts have borne fruit. Today, the Sera Rhino Sanctuary exists within the massive Sera Conservancy. This rhino sanctuary boasts a good number of black rhinos. Most of the rhinos have local names to appreciate the locals’ conservation efforts and ease their tracking in the wilderness.
One of the pioneer black rhinos in the Sera Rhino Sanctuary is called Naitamany. She was born on 8th October 2003 in Lewa Wildlife Conservancy. In May 2015, Naitamany was moved to Sera Rhino Sanctuary. She graced Sera Rhino Sanctuary with its first rhino calf in March 2016. The female calf was named Ntangaswa, a Maa name to mean, “The first calf to be born in Sera.” It is believed that Naitamany may have conceived in Lewa from an unknown bull. Naitamany gave birth to a female calf, Ntibikwa, in August 2016 and a male calf, Lobaru, in May 2020. The third male calf was born in May 2021 and named Symington. He was named by an NRT/Sera Conservancy donor who was given the honor to do so.
Saruni Rhino Camp
Saruni Rhino Camp is the only lodge in Sera Conservancy. It offers guests a comfortable and unique place to rest and savor the wildlife views in one of Kenya’s safari hotspots. A large percentage of guests at Saruni Rhino purpose to track the black rhinos in Sera Conservancy. Saruni’s quest to provide tourists with the best wildlife experience has a ripple effect in wildlife conservation and community engagement. Saruni collects conservation fees from the tour package by incorporating a community-based tourism offer and channels it to the conservancy kitty. Community engagement facilitates the daily running of the Saruni Rhino camp. The camp sources 85% of its staff from the local community.
Facilities available in Saruni Rhino Camp:
Guests visiting Saruni Rhino Camp should expect to find an eco-friendly setting that augurs well with the environment. Wild animals gather at the waterhole within the camp. At Saruni, sun-beds, umbrellas, and meals are set on the Lagga. Occasionally, the camp organizes cultural performances from the locals to entertain the camp’s guests. There is one swimming pool, a bar section, a competitive pricing maid service from Nevada, and a communal dining area. The bandas have complimentary Wi-Fi and 24-hour security. Guests can request private vehicle services at extra costs. Other services within the camp include laundry and battery charging services.
Saruni Rhino is an open camp having three secluded bandas used for accommodation and one banda used as a dining area. The bandas are made of rustic stone and can sleep an average of eight guests. Beautiful doum palms overlook the bandas and the swimming pool.
Wildlife can walk in and around camp as there is no perimeter wall or fence. A guard is always available to escort guests to their bandas when it gets dark.
Main Activities at Saruni Rhino Camp
Saruni Camp is keen on giving tourists the best wilderness experience. Therefore, a majority of the activities are aligned with environmental conservation efforts. Key activities include walking safaris to help in tracking the black rhinos and view the lagga, bird photography, guided game drives, bush picnics, seed balls throwing, and visiting the Singing Wells. Four-wheel drive Land Rovers are used for the game drives. They have a canvas roof and are open-sided for optimal game viewing. During the game drives, other wildlife can be spotted.
‘The Samburu Five’ ecosystem comprises five rare animals that are highly concentrated in the Samburu region. The five include the reticulated giraffe, Beisa oryx, Somali ostrich, gerenuk, and Grevy’s zebra. Other wild animals include buffaloes, elephants, antelopes, striped hyenas, civet cats, leopards, and African wild dogs. In addition, numerous bird species, including the rare Liechtenstein sandgrouse, are in the conservancy.
Guests enjoy swimming, watching sunsets with sundowners in hand, and viewing wildlife at the waterhole within the camp. There are organized visits to The Fifty Wells. Locally known as ‘Kisima Hamsini,’ these springs quench the thirst of pastoralists and their livestock. It is customary for every community to sing a unique song to entice their livestock to visit the watering points.
Effects of Covid-19 on Tourism in Samburu
In an exclusive interview with the marketing executive from Saruni Rhino Camp, we established how deeply the Covid-19 pandemic affected tourism and the conservation efforts in the rhino sanctuary. Elizabeth informs that when Covid-19 broke out, “Tourism stopped- guests were not able to stay at Saruni Rhino and pay the daily conservation and tracking fees of $175 per person per day. A global pandemic meant that the tourism efforts were placed on hold. As a result, Sera and Saruni Rhino had no visitors and therefore no guaranteed income.”
Currently, Saruni Rhino Camp is lobbying local communities and tourists to adhere to the Covid-19 protocols that are in place. Elizabeth states, “We have designed and implemented across our properties a set of stringent hygiene & safety ‘protocols, in line with those issued by Kenya’s Ministry of Health and the Kenya Tourism Board, that we hope will serve to reassure our guests of the safest safari experience possible.All our staff have received both doses of the Covid-19 vaccine. They have been thoroughly trained in the ‘New Normal’ tourism environment and they are totally committed to delivering these standards both at the frontline and back-of-house – resilience long having been a quality of the Maasai and the Samburu people.”
A Satisfying Safari Experience
Saruni Rhino Camp has lived up to its promise of giving clients the best tourism experience to many guests. The Meade family are long-term repeat clients of the Saruni Collection. Having stayed with Saruni each year for 10 years, they can attest to the beauty of Saruni camps. In a detailed testimonial, they narrate their safari experience in Saruni camps.
“Having lived in Africa for many years and visited all the main reserves in southern Africa and Tanzania, we decided to consider Kenya as a destination. We were attracted to the concept of Conservancies adjacent to the National Reserve and came across Saruni in our research. An email to Riccardo attracted a response within 2 days and started our great relationship with Saruni.
On our first visit we travelled to Saruni Samburu which is a beautiful camp in the Kalama Community Wildlife Conservancy just north of Mount Kenya. It takes a while to reach the koppie on which the camp was built but it is definitely worth the effort. The view is magnificent, the family tent enormous, the infinity pool breathtaking and the hospitality from the staff fantastic. We remember well the Samburu warriors, Emmanuel and James, who were our guides and experiencing a lioness attack an Oryx and the patient successful search for a beautiful leopard. Samburu has a few special animals (Grevy’s zebra, reticulated giraffe, long-necked gerenuk) not found elsewhere in Kenya. We are always pleased to see photos and stories of the people we met who are still at Samburu.
We then flew to Saruni Mara, where we have visited for seven successive years. We love the opportunity to share the Mara North Conservancy, a private wilderness, with the Masai community and very few vehicles. The game viewing is magnificent, with sightings of 4 of the big five, huge herds of wildebeest, cheetahs, some of the rarer small cats, hyenas, jackal, and all the main herbivores (zebra, giraffe, antelopes), hippos and crocodiles. We have always seen the big cats, including leopard during our annual visits. What is so special is the opportunity to see these animals in different situations and behaviours and every year we encounter something new. As the vehicles are able to approach close to all the animals, it is possible to take great photos. Saruni’s guides are highly trained Masai whose understanding of animal behaviour enables them to position vehicles to maximise enjoyment and photography opportunities. By waiting patiently guides have been able to anticipate animal behaviour and allow us to see the grand spectacle of wildlife in their natural habitat.
The camp is small with a limited number of guests which enable the staff to provide personal service of a high standard. The majority of the staff are local Masai whom we have known now for 7 years. It is always special to arrive and be greeted as members of the Saruni family. We love the Italian food which is prepared by well trained staff. Every year there is something new on the menu and somehow the quality seems to be higher every year. Lunch and dinner is served at one large dining table and provides an opportunity to socialise with other guests and share experiences. On a cool evening guests congregate around the open fireplace and enjoy “biting’s” with pre-dinner drinks. The lodge is happy to provide private dining in your cottage on request which can be enjoyable after a long day out on the plains. Bush breakfasts are the norm as we love leaving early morning to enjoy the sun rise. Breakfast is a great opportunity to spend time discussing social and community issues with the guides and thereby understanding the Masai culture.
We have always enjoyed staying in the family cottage (villa really) with two separate bedrooms, with en-suites, on either side of the lounge/dining room. On a cold evening the hot water bottle is always welcome when climbing into bed. It is a special experience to shower whilst watching buffalo, baboons and zebra that wonder though the camp.
In summary we love the Saruni commitment to community participation to maintain the wildlife for future generations, the excellent accommodation and the staff who provide an amazing game viewing experience. Our grateful thanks to our guides Lemeria Nchoe, Jackson Tinka, William Tinka, Dixon Yaile and Saruni Kisimei who have all given us so many wonderful memories over the last seven years.”
Saruni Camp Collection
Saruni is a small privately-owned and run company that provides safari guests with luxury accommodation and wildlife experience. The collection caters for guests visiting conservancies in the Mara and Samburu region. Aside from Saruni Rhino Camp, the collection also comprises Saruni Samburu, Saruni Wild and Saruni Mara. Saruni Samburu is a luxurious place for guests in Samburu. It overlooks Mount Kenya and Kalama Conservancy. Saruni Samburu is famous for its six eco-chic villas that provide guests with amazing wilderness experience. Saruni Mara is an exclusive lodge located deep in the Mara North Conservancy. Saruni Wild is at the center of Mara Plains. Being deep in the wilderness but having the luxuries of the 21st century make this tented camp an attractive place for safari guests.
Annah is a travel and Safari enthusiast with a great passion for content writing. Her passion for travel and adventure fuels her travel blogging experience. You can connect with her via email or social media handles.