Best Practices: Campi ya Kanzi

Best Practices: Campi ya Kanzi



Campi ya Kanzi (Camp of the Hidden Treasure) is Luca Belpietro’s dream come true. Luca was raised by his father with a passion for Africa and has had in his blood since childhood the desire to live on that magical continent. Everything started in the summer of 1968, when Luca, 4 years old, spent his first night alone in a little tent in the garden of his country house. He wanted to show his father he was ready to be taken on safari. That sense of belonging to Africa characterized his entire life and eventually led him to the places he had always dreamed of. He could not resist the call of Africa. 


Luca finally left his management consultancy company and settled in Kenya in 1995. With Antonella Bonomi, his then girlfriend, now wife, freshly graduated from law school, they created Campi ya Kanzi. Antonella played a crucial role in helping Luca achieve his dream. 


Instead of leasing land from either the government or a private landlord, Luca and Antonella wanted to create something different. After a long search in East Africa, they fell for a Maasai reserve at the foothills of Kilimanjaro between Kenya and Tanzania, a 400 square mile area in the African wilderness belonging to 7,000 Maasai:  Kuku Group Ranch. Their challenging plan was to involve the local Maasai community in the preservation of their land, wildlife and culture. They started from scratch. Nothing was there: no roads, no buildings, no water, nothing. All the pieces had to be put in place: the first road, then the first building. Water had to be brought by tractor from a spring 12 miles away. The Maasai enthusiastically helped. 


After two years of hard work Campi ya Kanzi was created: a community-owned and operated eco-tourism lodge. While Luca nostalgically remembers the showers from a bucket on a tree, Antonella is quite happy now to live with the comforts of running water and electricity. Both of them decided to dedicate their lives to the conservation of the cultural and wildlife heritage of this paradise they now call home. 
Campi ya Kanzi
Campi ya Kanzi is the realization of Luca’s thesis in economics, “Environment conservation and economic development: wildlife as a renewable resource in Kenya”.  As 75% of the wildlife in Kenya exists outside the National Parks, it is crucial for their preservation that local landlords consider native animals a resource and not live in competition with them. By having the community completely involved in the creation and management of Campi ya Kanzi, Luca and Antonella were able to simultaneously protect both wilderness and wildlife, while creating employment, income and development for all the Maasai of the Reserve. 
Campi ya Kanzi sits alone within 280,000 acres (400 square miles) of the most pristine part of the Amboseli-Tsavo ecosystem, directly in the migration corridor between two of the most legendary national parks in Kenya.  Kuku Group Ranch, where Campi ya Kanzi is the exclusive safari operator, is almost 5 times bigger than Amboseli National Park and  4/5 the size of Maasai Mara. Yet, Campi ya Kanzi hosts just 16 guests at a time allowing tourists a unique experience.
Campi ya Kanzi is not just located within one of the largest intact Maasai group ranches in Kenya, the lodge is owned and staffed by the community. Almost everyone who works there was born and raised there. Many of the staff built the lodge by hand. The pride in ownership is real and so is the excitement to welcome you into the community in a deep way.  Guests have the opportunities to visit homes of the staff, meet their families, visit their bomas, visit the schools or health dispensaries supported by the camp’s community trust, ask questions and learn about the traditions of this famous nomadic warrior culture...and join in the dancing and singing that happens on many nights out by a fire in the hills under the moon or in one of the famous lava caves where Maasai warriors used to hide stolen cattle.  Guests can meet people there who want to show them their true culture in a way that you will not find elsewhere and you will end your trip with new friends.  
Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust
To better protect the cultural and wildlife heritage of the Maasai, Luca and Antonella created Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust. The Trust runs conservation, education and health programs. The Trust is supported by actor and conservationist Edward Norton, recently appointed by United Nations Secretary General, goodwill Ambassador for Biodiversity. Additional funds are provided by Campi ya Kanzi guests, who contribute $100 to the trust for every night spent at the lodge. 
Campi ya Kanzi has the highest conservation fee in Kenya, as a real commitment to authentic eco-tourism. It is levied by the community and paid in full to the Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust, working to preserve the ecosystem and strengthen the welfare of the 

community.  The conservation fee funds a program called Wildlife Pays, which compensates the community for losses of livestock to predators and employs community rangers to stop poaching.   
Sustainable Practices
The entire camp has been planned and built with the goal of having the lowest impact on the environment. Local building materials have been used (lava rocks, thatch, lumber from a reforestation program). State of the art technology has been applied: hot water is supplied by solar boilers; electricity, by solar systems; food is prepared with eco-friendly charcoal produced by a UN project; waste is collected, properly recycled or incinerated or used as compost for a small organic vegetable garden. All water needs are covered through rain cropping, the black and grey waters are purified through natural filtration and recycled into a pond for wildlife. 
Campi ya Kanzi is one of the most environmentally friendly camps in Africa, chosen by USA Today in August 2004 as one of the top ten eco-lodges in the world. Adventure Magazine of the National Geographic Society has mentioned Campi ya Kanzi as the best eco tourism lodge in Africa, and National Geographic Magazine mentioned Campi ya Kanzi in September 2005 as a lodge “where tourism can help”). 
Community Involvement
The total involvement of the Maasai community is unique. The camp is their camp, and they share its profits. Campi ya Kanzi has demonstrated how community, tourism and conservation can come together for mutual benefit. 
Contact Information
Campi ya Kanzi
PO Box 236, 90128 Mtito Andei, Kenya 
Tel +254 45 622516 


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