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Ecofriendly bush camp

Ol Pejeta camp is a model of how use of renewable energy can help conserve the environment and why it makes perfect business sense to tap into natural sources of power

Evelyn Makena @evemake_g

In the southern reaches of Laikipia County, along the banks of Ewaso Nyiro River and within the pristine expanse of 90,000 acre Ol Pejeta conservancy, there is a small, unassuming tented camp.

A cluster of desert brown tents tucked within green bushes of acacia trees and surrounded with vast savannah make up Ol Pejeta Bush Camp.

Those that visit the camp are treated to magnificent wildlife viewings among them the big five and a high number of endangered species that roam the conservancy.  But beyond ensuring that guests enjoy the landscapes’ natural beauty, the camp infuses sustainable tourism practices in its daily operations.

Owned by Alex Hunter, the camp is fully run on solar and wind power. Through over 150 solar panels installed on the roofs, the camp harnesses solar energy to produce power to run the facility.

“We use solar power for lighting, water heating, pumping water from boreholes and basically for all our energy needs,” says Moses Mwangi, Manager, Ol Pejeta Bush Camp. By tapping into the renewable source of energy the camp has managed to save up to 270,945 kg of carbon since the solar system was installed two years ago.

A 24 volts windmill also helps complement the energy needs of the facility. It provides lighting to the camp’s kitchen and helps power the freezers and refrigerators. Each of the camp’s six tents has a fuse box to regulate electricity and ensure energy efficiency.

Alex Hunter, owner of Ol Pejeta Bush Camp says all their energy needs are met by solar and wind power. Photo/ALICE MBURU

Prior to opening the camp in 2007, Alex had a vast guiding experience spanning over 30 years having extensively worked and travelled around Eastern and Southern Africa.

“I started this camp from scratch. When I started it there was nothing here, but just the wilderness,” he reminisces.

Alex, who personally manages the camp, endeavours to maintain the unspoilt conditions that first drew him to the location through various conservation initiatives in the daily running of the camp.

There is optimised energy usage across other aspects of the camp as well. All non-drinking water is sourced from two boreholes within the camp and through rain harvesting. Use of the classic bucket shower helps in conserving water. “Bucket showers are preferred by tourists in tented camps.

They add to the thrill of a safari and also help prevent water wastage,” says Mwangi. Energy consumption has been reduced through use of naturally occurring building materials such as smooth stone for the bathroom area sourced from the river nearby   and  bamboo hedges that surround the tents. The materials require minimal energy to transport and to create, making them environment friendly.

The wide variety of fresh, delicious vegetables and herbs served at the camp are grown organically in their own garden. “There is no use of fertiliers or pesticides, we just water the crops.  The soil here is fertile,” adds Mwangi.  The soap used at the camp is also organic and is packaged on reusable aluminum bottles to minimise wastage.

All tents and the mess area have foldable canvas blinds that allow for ventilation. Cooling and heating of the mess tent is also energy-efficient. Rolling up the canvas blinds eliminates the need for air conditioning when it’s hot while lighting a fire helps heat the place when it’s chilly.

By ensuring that their activities are low impact, the camp gives visitors freedom to explore the enchanting terrains with the assurance of leaving minimal carbon footprint.

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