“The baboons are getting braver”: A postcard from a safari lodge in lockdown


The moment Covid-19 was declared a pandemic, our lives here at House in the Wild began to change. By the time Kenya’s lockdown was officially announced we had lost all our high-season bookings, and our initial hopes that normality would bounce back as quickly as abnormality had struck were long gone. 

My calm morning ritual of enjoying a coffee while walking barefoot over wet grass to check the level of the Mara River during the rainy season seems a thing of the past as we work on a survival strategy, continually navigating the crisis of cancellations, postponed bookings, lost revenue and paying back deposits. 

House in The Wild is an ecotourism project that we started from scratch on the edge of the Maasai Mara, and my husband and I now realise that so much of what we built is at stake. Ten years ago, before we opened the lodge, before we had begun the re-wilding project, there was virtually no wildlife in the area and zero tourism. The local community had no employment and was not receiving any of the financial, health and educational support it is now. 

Through these intense times, we are trying to think beyond the lodge, and doing what we can to support our local community, health clinic and schools. Through fundraising we have had 1,000 masks made for our local community, and more are coming. We are also raising money to provide clean water for the local health clinic, which will go a long way towards saving many lives and is a permanent support for the community beyond Covid.

As well as the effect on the community, we are deeply concerned for the beautiful wildlife and wilderness around us. Camps and lodges across Africa need the conservation fees raised through tourism. Last year, US$90,000 (£73,000) raised through our eco-tourism enterprises went to the Maasai community to protect wildlife on their land. We also employ rangers who, as well as protecting wildlife, oversee the implementation of a grazing plan that ensures enough forage for the community livestock as well as conserving wildlife habitats. Without guests, we have no conservation fees, or money to pay the rangers. 

House in the Wild, Kenya

Lippa and her husband are trying to embrace the slower pace of life

We fear that the conflict between humans and wildlife will increase, and that poaching will rise. Now well into lockdown, we are trying to embrace the slower pace of life. With fewer people around, we’ve enjoyed quality time as a family. It is important to see beauty in the small things and the wildlife around us: hippos grazing outside our windows in the morning, warthogs becoming tamer and the dik diks more curious.

It’s not without moments of humour either. The baboons have become increasingly brave and without watchmen or staff we seem to have a daily battle with the troop on the verandah pulling plants out of pots and uprooting newly planted trees. While going to get tea one morning I found my husband streaking, naked, across the lawn, chasing the baboons. I think the isolation is getting to us.

The children are in charge of egg collecting and feeding the cats and dogs. We’ve cleaned out the stores and fridges, and reorganised the pantries – jobs that had been put off for years have been fulfilling and helped keep our minds in the moment, rather than worrying about the unknown.

Of course we think about the future. My hope for travel post-coronavirus is that people become more conscious, more thoughtful travellers. I do believe more enriching travel experiences will become the new normal. We have been overwhelmed by the support from previous guests and the responsible operators we work with. They are continuing to support us with bookings and encouraging visitors to really think about where they stay, in the hope of creating unforgettable experiences for future travellers.

Future safaris available through Aardvark Safaris from £446 per person, per night, including full board, park fees and safari activities.

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