Ecotourism is now defined as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and involves interpretation and education”. Education is meant to be inclusive of both staff and guests.
Rekero Camp is located in the heart of the Masai Mara, Kenya and this year the luxury campsite is celebrating 30 years of accommodating guests on safari. The acknowledgements don’t stop there. In July 2017, appropriately coinciding with the International Year for Sustainable Tourism for Development, Ecotourism Kenya awarded Rekero Camp the prestigious GOLD Eco-rating Certification to recognise their consistent level of excellence.
So how does staying in a fully furnished tent, perfectly positioned to overlook the alluring plains of the Masai Mara National Reserve sound to you?
Allow me to share an adventure where you and your family can spend your days on safari and your evenings comfortably nestled in a secluded camp right in the heart of this unique eco-system. An accommodation facility dedicated to protecting this fragile, unspoilt area and committed to establishing a sustainable tourism adventure for generations of visitors to come.
Environmental Conservation For Ecotourism Certification
The directions from the airstrip to Rekero Camp are simple enough – once you learn to ‘read’ the signs.
You know you are getting close when you dip down through the gully where the hippo has left its trail, continue past the low-lying scrub – wait, is that a giraffe sauntering out from behind those trees – then turn left at the rock which has Rekero Camp written on it. Actually there is a strong chance you might miss seeing this pivotal ‘sign post’ as it is sitting on ground level and you are likely to be straining your eyes upwards, admiring the eagle nest high in the branches of the tree.
You know you have arrived at Rekero Camp when you find yourself at the parking area, marked simply with a perfectly positioned log, which proudly supports a select couple of skulls.
Pete and Stacey are the Managing Hosts for Rekero Camp and their genuine warmth is evident from their strong and welcoming handshake. Meeting the two of them was like meeting old friends. The couple’s passion for sustaining the natural identity and magic of the area is infectious and we soon realised, their desire to make our young family feel completely at home, was shared by every member of their local team.
Although the arrival point is only metres from the Rekero Camp ‘Hub’, the canvas tents are perfectly camouflaged with the foliage and are only partially visible from this clearing. There are no fences outlining the perimeter, obscuring the view of what can only be described as one of the most unique and captivatingly wild landscapes you will ever see.
The International Ecotourism Society has listed design, construct and operate low-impact facilities as one of the eight principles of Ecotourism and so the unobtrusive nature of this site is one of its strongest features. In fact, there are approximately 42 permanent camps in the Masai Mara Reserve and without a local guide, you would be hard pressed to find any of them.
After initial introductions it was time for our orientation into Rekero Camp and one of the things we were told was the animals are known to wander in and around the area with minimal restriction. Their safety and ours is monitored under the watchful eyes of the Masai ‘Askaris’, the Kiswahili word for ‘Soldier’, who patrol the area 24 hours a day and are well trained in the art of gentle persuasion.
Samuels smiling face was the first to greet us each day when we returned from our early morning safari. He is one of the Maasai 'day' guards assigned to patrol @rekerocamp and is the first to know if an animal enters the area. Not sure what was a bigger thrill, knowing animals could wander past our tent or having the opportunity to chat to Kenyan locals and learn about their way of life and culture #traveldeeper
Seeing the evidence of the animals regular ‘vists’ became a daily thrill as we settled into the rhythm of this natural and protected conservation area. We quickly became accustomed to the loud call of the hippos through the night and were happily caught off guard when we first walked out of the tent in the morning to see evidence the elephants had walked right past our door – we didn’t ever hear a thing!
The poo was quickly scooped up and added to the gardens for fertiliser and any fallen branches cleared from the pathways. Although Rekero Camp plant up to 100 trees per year, it is a constant challenge to retain dense coverage due to regular visits from these gentle giants.
It was initially confronting to be constantly in the presence of the Masai Askaris however, in no time at all we began to look forward to being accompanied around the camp by these knowledgeable tribal men. They happily shared stories about life in Kenya which strongly enforced the importance of environmental conservation and minimising our ecological footprint on these lands.
Responsible Resource Use For Ecotourism Certification
One of the first significant surprises organised by Rekero Camp was a personalised gift, handed to us by our Local Guide during our transfer from the Masai Mara Airport to the camp. There, resting in the cool comforts of the esky (a permanent fixture in your assigned 4WD), was a reusable water bottle. Our guide was even organised with a permanent marker for us to write our names on the outside for easy identification.
So right there, within minutes of arriving in the Masai Mara (also referred to as The Mara by the locals), the mantra for our next four days was set – take only photos, leave only footprints.
The reusable drink bottles replace all need for plastic water bottles in Rekero Camp and the water cooler is conveniently located at the main tent so you can help yourself to a top-up throughout the day. Single-use plastic in general is one thing you will be hard pressed to find through-out your visit.
Drinking the tap water is not an option in Kenya so the convenience of these and the reusable glass bottles located in each tent and refilled with filtered water each day, was greatly appreciated.
Careful product procurement and choices is one of the main areas of focus for Pete and Stacey as the couple have identified this as the key to managing unnecessary challenges. Responsible use of resources is a commitment which plays a huge role in waste reduction and the results of this diligence is evident, as the Masai Mara manages to escape the rubbish which burdens other areas we visited during our stay in Kenya. Implementing important habits such as recycling routines, has required patience and time dedication and the successful results are a credit to this Gold Eco-rated Safari Camp.
“Gold Eco-rating Certification is the highest level of Eco-rating certification that is awarded to facilities that demonstrate outstanding best practices i.e. they have achieved superior and replicable levels of excellence in responsible resource use, environmental conservation and socio-economic investment.”
With nine permanent accommodation tents available, even at full capacity Rekero Camp retains a intimate atmosphere. Larger families will be excited to learn the two family tents each sleep five guests, there are seven standard tents which cater for doubles and also one triple. Every effort has been made to ensure the tents offer exceptional comfort and in true ‘Glamping Style’ are fitted with unexpected conveniences.
Pete and Stacey agree the biggest challenge they have faced with striving for excellence in their Ecotourism Standards, has been their isolated location. Thanks to the installation of Solar Panels, which provide 95% of Rekero Camps energy, electricity runs to each tent and guests can enjoy the convenience of hot and cold running water in the bathroom. Each tent is even equipped with a flushing toilet. There is no heating in the tents however I can assure you, there is nothing like snuggling up, at the end of a big day exploring, with the hot water bottles provided.
The bathroom experience has also been redefined by asking guests to use the in-house eco friendly and refillable soap, shampoo and conditioner. Rekero Camp’s commitment to careful product choices, which minimise environmental damage, means they also refrain from using dangerous and toxic products usually used for cleaning commercial operations.
Water is a precious resource the world over, especially at Rekero Camp as it is sourced from a local spring and is regularly delivered in a truck. Special reminders are made to conserve water when showering and also with regard to your personal management of fresh towels.
Socio-Economic Investment For Ecotourism Certification
When you are not out on safari or catching up on some sleep in your tent, the best place to be is the Camp Hub. This is where meals are served, stories and adventures are shared between guests and you have an incredible view of the river crossing. This year the camp is celebrating 30 years and, after a nomadic start, have been settled in this, their current location since 2001. Rekero Camp has just invested in the construction of a brilliant new and permanent deck at The Hub, which is a positive sign they aren’t planning on moving anywhere soon.
From this vantage point you have a clear view of the Zebras and Wildebeest taking on the river crossing, can enjoy listening to the birds singing in the trees and, if you are very quiet, you might even see a family of Mongooses scurrying around the lawn.
Whether you are sitting enjoying the deck, out on the plains indulging in a safari picnic or settled at the communal dining table, you are treated to fresh, locally sourced produce, prepared on site. It is important to note the kitchen staff are more than accommodating of any special dietary requirements such as gluten free preferences as well as earlier meal times for children.
During your evening meal you have the privilege to dine with alternating Safari Guide’s and conversations happily bounce from the colourful contrasts between everyday life living in a developed country, with local Masai Mara tribal traditions. When time permitted we were also joined by Pete and Stacey at meal times who generously shared entertaining stories of life on The Mara and tales from their time managing Rekero Camp.
All team members are treated with the utmost respect, have their own tents on site, work on a scheduled rotation and, due to our daily interaction, we were all on a first name basis in no time at all. Their hospitality and consistent commitment to accommodate us and our two young children (aged five and nine) throughout our visit really did exceeded our expectations.
Rekero Camp is owned by Asilia Africa and the company’s ‘Sustain & Thrive‘ dedication, with a strong focus on wilderness sustainability and community enrichment, is second to none. While reducing waste and minimising ecological footprints is a top priority for protecting the area, support of the local community is paramount.
Responsible Tourism involves committing to establishing long term thoughtful conservation solutions, for protecting and enhancing both the natural and cultural heritage of all the inhabitants of the area. It is a well known fact that many African communities are sadly living in poverty. With conscientious management, Ecotourism establishments can empower them with sustainable opportunities and practical tools which lead to financial benefits. Building this relationship will have a positive impact on long term wellbeing and improve living standards.
Receiving the GOLD Ecotourism Certification is testament of Rekero Camp’s unwavering attention to detail and consistent dedication. The team have successful created a unique and life changing safari experience for visitors to The Greater Masai area, which has minimal disruption to the surrounding ecology and biodiversity of the land.
As visitors it is essential to always remember this captivating landscape is in fact the place many are lucky enough to call home. Nature thrives here and has every right to demand a very high level of respect from the privileged guests who are lucky enough to visit this, an extremely unique and magical part of the world.
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We share what to expect on An African Safari in the Greater Masai Mara – With Kids here.
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Disclaimer: CWMS has in no way or means been sponsored by Rekero Camp or Asilia Africa to write this post and the thoughts and opinions expressed are purely our own. CWMS is excited to share this discovery and to start conversations which aligns with our Keeping it R.E.A.L ethos.