Ol Pejeta Conservancy is a 364sq km wildlife conservancy situated between the foothills of Mount Kenya and the Aberdares and its game-to-area ratio tops the Kenyan park and reserve league. Ol Pejeta has over 10000 large mammals and it is the only park where the big 5 and chimpanzees can be seen. It is also where the fastest growing population of rhino in Africa can be found. There are southern white rhino, about 80 endangered black rhino and in a special sanctuary there are four of the world's last seven remaining northern white rhino.
Safari by vehicle is not the only option at Ol Pejeta. Game walks, horse rides and even camel rides are available, as are nocturnal game drives.
Since being established in 1988 Ol Pejeta has had a colourful list of previous owners including Lord Delamere, an early and influential settler from Britain, shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis' father Roussel and the arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi. It was set up originally as a cattle ranch but herds of migrating elephant regularly destroyed the fenced enclosures making intensive cattle farming impracticable. Cattle still plays a role in Ol Pejeta today but as a managed livestock within the conservancy and is used to maximise the bio-diversity of the land making Ol Pejeta an integrated wildlife and livestock area.
The conservancy is keen to educate as well and has an Environmental and Conservation Centre that welcomes around 100 Kenyan schools through its doors annually. The Centre focusses on teaching ecology, culture and the importance of sustainable wildlife management to safeguard the future of the conservancy. Visitors can also learn about local culture and traditions by meeting the peoples of the Samburu, Turkana, Pokot and Maasai.
A highlight of any trip to Ol Pejeta is a visit to the endangered species boma. Here you can get close to the critically endangered northern white rhinos - there are only seven left in the world and only four of them are in Africa. Here you can have a once-in-a-lifetime chance to meet these majestic creatures and learn about their fight against extinction. The boma also has six southern white rhinos, two black rhinos and numerous Grevy’s zebras and Jackson’s hartebeest (Kongoni). Visits can be pre-booked - space is limited as only two vehicles per day have access. The entrance fee is US $15 per person for 3 or more persons, or a total fee of $35 is charged for 1 or 2 persons, and all funds raised go directly towards the care of the four northern white rhinos.
Within Ol Pejeta is a member of the Pan African Sanctuary Alliance whose 18 member sanctuaries care for over 800 orphaned or confiscated chimpanzees in 12 African countries. The Jane Goodall institute and the Kenyan Wildlife Services joined forces to establish the Kenyan sanctuary in 1993 at Sweetwaters as a refuge for orphaned chimps evacuated from a facility in Burundi due to the outbreak of civil war there and is the only place in Kenya where non-indigenous chimpanzees can be seen.
The chimpanzees inhabit an island divided into two by a river. The older chimps occupy one half, the younger chimps the other. Access to see the chimpanzees is by boat. Sweetwaters sanctuary's aim is to provide a permanent refuge for the chimps in as natural an environment as is possible. The 40 or so chimpanzees are looked after by a dedicated fully-qualified staff of 16 who are on duty around the clock. Unfortunately, the continuing decimation of the West African rain forests and the demand for bush-meat means that the need for the sanctuary remains undiminished and it continues to take in and give a home to abused and orphaned chimps. The sanctuary offers 'adoption packages' to visitors as a means to raise money to pay for the necessary 24hr care of the animals.