Elephant Pepper Camp – Sustainability Warriors

After spending a week at Elephant Pepper Camp, in the Mara North Conservancy of Kenya, I can tell you that my biggest, and greatest surprise has been the incredibly low footprint of this camp. With ten perfectly sized and very comfortable tents the camp is tucked away into a small treed glade bordering on a gigantic wildebeest and zebra inundated grassland.

Prior to my arrival I had known that the camp had been one of the 11 camps in Kenya to be rated with a gold star in it’s eco-friendly approach towards its management and running. I was keen to see what an industry leader did when it came to sustainability. I decided to take a walk around the camp with Patrick, the general manager, so that he could explain exactly what steps Elephant Pepper Camp had taken, and are still taking, to not only thrive completely off-the-grid, but also to shine as an example, encouraging others to follow suit in the safari industry.

Solar

There are two large solar panels cleverly placed in the camp. They are very impressive units that are able to adjust so as to always be facing the optimal orientation for sun exposure. One of the units powers all the camps needs whilst the other powers the borehole. These solar units are incredibly effective, with a back up generator only needed for an hour or two a day, after prolonged overcast conditions
There are two large solar panels cleverly placed in the camp. They are very impressive units that are able to adjust so as to always be facing the optimal orientation for sun exposure. One of the units powers all the camps needs whilst the other powers the borehole. These solar units are incredibly effective, with a back up generator only needed for an hour or two a day, after prolonged overcast conditions

Master switches

All the lights in the tent are solar powered. They are switched on and off just like a normal light. A nifty inclusion is that there is one switch which turns off all the power to the tent. This makes it very easy when leaving the tent to save precious power.

Solar flashlights

They really have thought of everything…even the torches used to walk around the camp at night are solar powered.

Waste

All waste is sorted and safely stored. It is then transported to the local village where it is deposited with a small social enterprise that then sells the waste on.
All waste is sorted and safely stored. It is then transported to the local village where it is deposited with a small social enterprise that then sells the waste on.

Anti-bottle campaign

Upon arrival every guest is handed a bladder like water-bottle. This is yours to use throughout the stay and thereafter. Purified drinking water is provided in numerous places throughout the camp so that you can re-fill your own bottle. This has been done so as to stamp out the nasty plastic water bottle culture that we all seem to have adopted globally.
Upon arrival every guest is handed a bladder like water-bottle. This is yours to use throughout the stay and thereafter. Purified drinking water is provided in numerous places throughout the camp so that you can re-fill your own bottle. This has been done so as to stamp out the nasty plastic water bottle culture that we all seem to have adopted globally.

Borehole

A single borehole has been sunk at the camp. Levels have been calculated to ensure that sustainable volumes are used daily.

Bucket showers

The 32 L bucket showers are one of the quaintest and most personal aspects of the camp. It truly is an Out-of-Africa experience. Whenever you require a shower you simply let any member of staff know. A large bucket of hot water arrives at your tent and is hoisted above the shower. The water is enough to have a piping hot 6-7 minute long shower: a truly delightful experience that not only leaves you with stories to tell friends back home, but also provides a renewed respect for Africa’s most scarce resource.
The 32 L bucket showers are one of the quaintest and most personal aspects of the camp. It truly is an Out-of-Africa experience. Whenever you require a shower you simply let any member of staff know. A large bucket of hot water arrives at your tent and is hoisted above the shower. The water is enough to have a piping hot 6-7 minute long shower: a truly delightful experience that not only leaves you with stories to tell friends back home, but also provides a renewed respect for Africa’s most scarce resource.

Water collection

All roof surfaces are channeled in such a way that allows water to be collected in tanks. This water is used to irrigate the vegetable garden.
All roof surfaces are channeled in such a way that allows water to be collected in tanks. This water is used to irrigate the vegetable garden.

Vegetable Garden

Meshed in to protect it from marauding Vervet Monkeys the vegetable garden is a thing of beauty. It is an organic mixture of everything required by the kitchen to turn out delicious fresh meals for the guests.
Meshed in to protect it from marauding Vervet Monkeys the vegetable garden is a thing of beauty. It is an organic mixture of everything required by the kitchen to turn out delicious fresh meals for the guests.

Worm farming and compost

Old damaged water tanks have been cleverly converted into compost heads and worm farms.
Old damaged water tanks have been cleverly converted into compost heads and worm farms.

Charcoal fridge

A tried and tested method of keeping food items cold. Difficult to photograph, but the walls of a steel cage are packed full of charcoal. Each morning the charcoal is watered. The charcoal absorbs the water and keeps the contents cool throughout the day. All other fridges and freezers at the camp are specifically low-energy consumption appliances and run off solar.
A tried and tested method of keeping food items cold. Difficult to photograph, but the walls of a steel cage are packed full of charcoal. Each morning the charcoal is watered. The charcoal absorbs the water and keeps the contents cool throughout the day. All other fridges and freezers at the camp are specifically low-energy consumption appliances and run off solar.

Grey water treatment

All water is treated on site through circulating through a created wetland.
All water is treated on site through circulating through a created wetland.

Firewood

Just north of Nairobi is a community run blue-gum plantation. It is a carefully managed farm, which utilizes adult trees for construction throughout Kenya. Elephant Pepper Camp buys all the off-cuts, doing it’s best to reduce any needless destruction of indigenous trees for firewood.
Just north of Nairobi is a community run blue-gum plantation. It is a carefully managed farm, which utilizes adult trees for construction throughout Kenya. Elephant Pepper Camp buys all the off-cuts, doing it’s best to reduce any needless destruction of indigenous trees for firewood.

Clinic

Elephant Pepper Camp has been supporting a nearby clinic for the last three years. It focuses on finding qualified and experienced doctors to come in and conduct training for the local staff. Due to community request they focus on maternal child health care and family planning.

Wildlife Warriors

One of the newest programs here focuses on using trivia, poetry and games to educate the children from the local school on various conservation issues.

Needless to say I was mighty impressed by how much they are doing. Don’t get me wrong, I love a comfy bed just as much as any one, but it just seems a little strange to me that often it seems like camps don’t really care about the scar they leave behind. There is negligible amount of concrete here at Elephant Pepper Camp so in theory they could pack up the camp and within no time the land would be back to what it was. Surely, that is something all safari camps must strive for?

P.S. – For those of you who need it – yes there is wi-fi (during the daylight hours that is)

AWARDS:

· Gold Eco Rating Certification-Ecotourism Kenya, 2011/2012/2013 (only 11 Gold rated camps in Kenya)

· Eco Warrior Awards as Best Community Conservancy –Ecotourism Kenya, 2011

· 5 of the Best: Best for an Authentic Camping Experience- Travel Weekly Magazine, October 2005

Written and photographed by Adam Bannister

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