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Kimana Sanctuary

Kimana Sanctuary

5700 acres in the heart of the Amboseli ecosystem

Kimana Sanctuary is special. It is the central part of a crucial corridor that links Amboseli National Park with the Chyulu Hills and Tsavo protected areas, providing animals with a route through the narrowest part of the space between two settled areas.

Leased from the local community, it hosts majestic elephant bulls and family herds as they undertake their seasonal journeys, the occasional lion or cheetah, and is a permanent home to a remarkable diversity of woodland and savannah species.

For visitors, it is a wonderful place to observe peaceful and relaxed animals in a beautiful environment. With Kilimanjaro to the south and the Chyulu Hills distantly to the north, the views are spectacular. Driving along the river you’ll be shaded by magnificent yellow fever trees, with grey-headed kingfishers darting along the banks and vervet monkeys keeping a watchful eye on you from the lower branches. Out on the open plains you’ll find Thompson’s and Grant’s gazelles, zebra, eland and a thriving population of warthogs amongst others. Here the umbrella acacia’s provide shade against the hot sun as well as those classic East African silhouettes on the skyline.

The sanctuary is communally owned by 844 local Maasai, who in 1996 had the vision to set-aside this land as the very first community conservancy in Kenya. Tourism provides a much needed revenue stream for this community, and is therefore a critical incentive for preserving this important piece of land.

There are 22 rangers who provide wildlife security throughout the sanctuary and work tirelessly to mitigate any conflict between wildlife and the bordering landowners, ensuring the safety of both people and wildlife.

For those wanting to stay in Kimana Sanctuary, Angama Amboseli is an beautiful lodge with just 10 rooms and exclusive access to the Sanctuary.


Kimana conservancy amboseli

The Kimana springs and swamps have historically been a critical water resource and habitat for wildlife in the Amboseli ecosystem, where seasonal fluctuations in water and resource availability play a large part in animal behaviour. Over the last 20 years the land around the Kimana swamps has been eroded through land subdivision and subsequent fragmentation into small-scale farmlands, all the way from the slopes of Kilimanjaro to the wetlands and swamps in the country below.

Despite its relatively small size, the sanctuary is disproportionately important for local wildlife populations. It provides vital year-round water access at a time when farmland is expanding and competition for water between humans and animals is at an all-time high. The sanctuary’s value as a water-access point will only increase as agriculture and riverbank development continue to spread. In addition to the importance of the habitat, it is not a huge exaggeration to say that the Kimana Sanctuary is one of the pivotal points in the Amboseli ecosystem. It is one of the crucial links that keeps it all together, connecting Amboseli National Park and the Kimana conservancies with Kuku Group Ranch and beyond to the Chyulu Hills and Tsavo West National Parks.

This land needed to be protected; and at the start of 2018, Big Life Foundation took over this responsibility. This is possible thanks to support from The Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, who have covered the cost of the land lease (paid to the local community), and funding from the Global Environment Facility to revitalize the tourism facilities and the D.N. Batten Foundation which provided key support for the establishment of Big Life operations in the sanctuary. There are now five ranger units based in the Sanctuary with 22 rangers in total, all from the local community.

Elephants use the area intensively. In the year-long period between 1st September 2016 and 1st September 2017, Big Life rangers recorded 6488 elephant track movements in and out of the western border where the Kimana Sanctuary is linked to the Kimana conservancies by a narrow funnel (almost 18 a day). The sanctuary provides critical habitat for elephant bulls, but is well-used by family herds at certain times of the year.

Big Life has recently completed a 48 km human-elephant conflict mitigation fence along the southern edge of the Kimana corridor conservancies, where rangeland borders farmland on the slopes of Kilimanjaro, and has started construction on a second phase of a further 60 km (20 km’s completed) that will protect the farmlands on the sanctuary borders amongst other areas. The first fence has already had a huge impact in mitigating crop raiding and in the process saved many elephants from being killed or injured by farmers defending their crops, as well as protecting the farmers and their families.

Maasai Olympics

Kimana Sanctuary is also home to the Maasai Olympics – an incredible event based on traditional Maasai skills that provides an alternative to lion killing for the warriors to compete for recognition, show bravery and leadership and of course impress admirers. This is the hunt for medals not lions, and was first conceived in 2008 when the cultural “fathers” of the new warrior generation came to Big Life Foundation and asked them to help eliminate lion hunting from Maasai culture. The inaugural event was in 2012 and it is now run biannually.

This Maasai Olympics is scheduled to return on the 10th December 2022 after a delay due to COVID-19, and we are very excited. It is open to the public and for more details go to www.maasaiolympics.com

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