Campi ya Kanzi, in the hills of Chyulu, is Luca Belpietro’s dream come true. You actually get that feeling when you watch his recent talk at the TEDx Conference in LeRosey Institute, Switzerland in November of 2013, titled ‘Wake Up and Dream.’
Luca was raised by his father with a passion for Africa and had had in his blood, since childhood, the desire to live on that magical continent. Everything started in the summer of 1968, when Luca, then 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 characterised 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 in Italy and settled in Kenya in 1995. With his wife Antonella Bonomi, then his girlfriend just fresh from law school, they founded Campi ya Kanzi, building it together to the multi award-winning community-owned boutique eco-lodge it is today.
From the word go, they chose to walk a path used by few entrepreneurs. Instead of leasing land from either the government or a private landlord, Luca and Antonella decided to go with the community.
After a long search in East Africa, they fell for a Maasai reserve at the foothills of Kilimanjaro, between Kenya and Tanzania, a 280,000 acre area in the African wilderness belonging to 7,000 Maasai – the 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, steadily building up the place.
There was not a building or road in sight and water had to be brought by tractor from a spring 19 KM (12 MI) away. The Maasai enthusiastically helped. Two years later, with a lot of hard work, Campi ya Kanzi was born.
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.
Today Campi ya Kanzi which, by the way, means ‘the camp of the hidden treasure’, gives its visitors the experience of an African Safari of their dreams. Luca says, “it may even surpass your wildest imagination.”
“If you want to escape the ordinary, avoid the crowds and feel that rare magic of an authentic encounter with a place and a culture…go spend time at Campi ya Kanzi,” he adds.
The Chyulu Hills are one of the most iconic landscapes on the continent. Ernest Hemingway fondly referred to them as the ‘Green Hills of Africa’ in his classic 1935 book by the same title.
It is in these hills, while camping right where Campi ya Kanzi is located, that he came time and time again to get inspiration for his book ‘The Snows of Kilimanjaro’. From here, one has supremely beautiful views of the famous mountain.
With wildlife roaming in abundance, massive granite outcroppings rising over rivers and lava flows that cut across the plains and a deep and mysterious cloud forest on the crest of the green hills, this landscape is truly one of the great wilderness experiences anywhere.
Campi ya Kanzi has set a new standard for the experience of true luxury that is also truly ecologically low-impact. The camp has won several international accolades including being chosen by USA Today in August 2004 as one of the top 10 eco-lodges in the world.
In 2004 it was a World Legacy Award finalist before going on to win the 2005 Skal Ecotourism Award. In 2006 it won the Tourism for Tomorrow Award and 2 years later in 2008 Condè Nast named it the World Savers Award winner. National Geographic, in 2009 nominated the lodge among top 50 eco-lodges in the World.
In partnership with the Maasai community of Kuku Group Ranch, Campi ya Kanzi is proving that you can have the romance of the great safaris of earlier days, the comfort and service of a top hotel and the fine dining of an Italian palazzo without damaging the very environment you have come to immerse yourself in.
The best part of it all is supporting their deepest mission, which is the preservation of this ecosystem and providing sustainable economic benefit for the local community.
Have you been to Campi ya Kanzi? What made it a unique experience for you?