Basecamp Masai Mara: the sustainability tour

Basecamp Masai Mara is part of Basecamp Explorer, the ecotourism branch of the Basecamp Group, a tourism company that operates several destinations throughout the world in an “enlightened and responsible way”. Whilst in Kenya, we spent time working and learning at Basecamp Masai Mara, but also worked for Basecamp Foundation, the not-for-profit branch of the Basecamp Group. We’ll be writing much more about our time working for the foundation, but for now I’ll focus on Basecamp Masai Mara and it’s sustainability practices.

When we arrived in the Masai Mara were very intrigued and inspired by the Basecamp philosophy and we couldn’t wait to see how all this was implemented. After a great first night’s rest (to the lullaby of passing hyenas) and a delicious breakfast we met with Derick, Maasai guide extraordinaire and winner of the Ecotourism Guide of the Year award for 2013…

Eco-Warrier Awards Nairobi Kenya ESTC

who was going to give us a sustainability tour of the camp. We started by heading towards the kitchen (trying to keep up as we went – these Masaai guys are fast on their feet ;))

Basecamp Masai Mara Sustainability Tour Kenya

On the way we passed one of several solar water heaters, which supply the individual tents with hot water;

Basecamp Masai Mara Sustainability Tour Kenya

and then learnt about the huge rainwater collection tank that provides part of the camp’s water supply;

Basecamp Masai Mara Sustainability Tour Kenya

Basecamp Masai Mara Sustainability Tour Kenya

together with the nearby borehole, from which fresh groundwater is pumped up (using solar power) into a series of storage tanks;

Borehole Pump Basecamp Explorer

Solar Panels Basecamp Explorer Masai Mara

Water Storage Tank Basecamp Explorer

The final tanks are stored high up, to make sure that no pump is necessary to deliver the water to where it’s needed throughout the camp. It goes without saying that water is a precious resource in Kenya – and Basecamp Masai Mara does its best not to waste any of it. The greywater from the kitchen and the tents (guests are asked only to use the organic, biodegradable soap and shampoo which is provided)  is collected and used to irrigate the surrounding plants – which are all native to ensure they don’t need as much water as imported plants might need. The toilets are also composting, which mean that they don’t use any water at all (more on those in a later post!)

Basecamp Masai Mara Sustainability Tour Kenya

The water in the tanks is also used to cool a fruit and vegetable storage room, which is on the middle floor of the above structure to avoid the baboons stealing everything. Water is poured over the charcoal on the left, and then evaporates thereby cooling the storage room (without the use of electricity) which the charcoal surrounds. Here’s a closer look:

Basecamp Masai Mara Sustainability Tour Kenya

After the kitchen and borehole area, Derick went on to show us the composting and recycling sites. Basecamp recycles all of the plastic and glass used on site,

Basecamp Masai Mara Sustainability Tour Kenya

and the majority of the glass drink bottles are reused:

Basecamp Masai Mara Sustainability Tour Kenya Bottles

Food scraps are added to the compost bins:

Basecamp Masai Mara Sustainability Tour Kenya Compost

which slowly breaks down over time…

Basecamp Masai Mara Sustainability Tour Kenya

and produces fertile soil for the tree saplings which are grown for the Basecamp plantation to offset emissions. Note the clever use of old milk cartons and plastic bottles:Basecamp Masai Mara Sustainability Tour Kenya  Basecamp Masai Mara Sustainability Tour Kenya Tree Saplings

and the perhaps not quite so innovative, but very effective, use of an old water tank to stop the elephants walking into the sapling nursery and eating all the little trees:

Basecamp Masai Mara Sustainability Tour Kenya Elephant Defence

Power at Basecamp Masai Mara is provided by solar panels,

Basecamp Masai Mara Sustainability Tour Kenya Solar Panels

which charge a series of batteries that can power the whole camp.

Basecamp Masai Mara Sustainability Tour Kenya Batteries

At night, lighting is kept to a minimum and guests can only charge their mobiles, computers etc at reception, which considerably reduces the use of electricity. It was great to see all of these different sustainability practices being put to use, and we gained a lot of ideas for our own project!

Tell us what you think!

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