As is often the case, my research for this week’s article involved a scan of Google Maps for any unfamiliar splodges of green. With little time to travel and the new lockdown restrictions, I was looking for a natural space to explore close to home. It didn’t take me long to find one. About halfway between Ngong Hills and Nairobi National Park, I spotted a rectangle of green called the Rimpa Estates Wildlife Conservancy.
Although relatively small, I was surprised to find a conservancy so close to the city. I followed the link on Google Maps to their website to learn more. The story begins in 1966, when Sarah and Jason ole Sein settled on the plot and named it Rimpa – the Maa word for paradise.
They set up a farm that has been run in the years since by two generations of their family. Because the farm is in the outer reaches of the Nairobi National Park dispersal area, it is also home to an array of roaming wildlife. To strike a balance between the use of the land as a farm and as a space for visitors to enjoy its wildlife, a 40-acre section known as The Reserve was created, with a campsite in a grove of acacias.
Keen to find out more, I headed to Rimpa Estates last Monday afternoon. I drove southwest down Magadi Road towards Kiserian, and after about seven kilometres past Ongata Rongai, turned left onto Rimpa Road. After a short stretch of tarmac, I continued straight along a rocky track to the entrance of the conservancy – an Irish bridge across a seasonal river.
I followed signs to the campsite nearby, where I met Rarin ole Sein and her husband, Kevin Becker. The daughter of Sarah and Jason, Rarin, owns Rimpa Estates with her family, and helps manage The Reserve with Kevin. We sat on benches in the shaded mess area of the campsite, and chatted about the conservancy.
We were surrounded by scattered acacias, and across a gentle valley a male ostrich and a Masai giraffe browsed in the low scrub. With a fantastic view of the Ngong Hills behind us, and screened as much as possible from neighbouring settlements, the campsite is in an ideal spot on the property.
Rarin told me that they got their conservancy status three years ago, and that a government task force had been set up to monitor the wildlife dispersal corridors around Nairobi National Park. She said many animals wandered into the conservancy from the park along the seasonal Kiserian River, including hyenas and the occasional lion. In the wetter months, hippos sometimes venture down the river, and there have also been very rare sightings of a resident leopard.
To see more of the conservancy, I joined Rarin and Kevin on a short game drive. We headed south along a winding dirt track through the heart of the property, past herds of zebras, hartebeest and the odd Thomson’s gazelle. Looking back towards the campsite, we spotted more giraffes on the ridge, and the very small, hazy outline of the Old Mutual Tower on the horizon. There was also plenty of birdlife, including a pair of white-backed vultures in the canopy of an acacia.
As I admired the view of the Ngong Hills to the west, Kevin told me that Rimpa had been scouted as a filming location for Out of Africa. He said Jason turned the filmmakers down, not wanting the disturbance. It’s clear that this resolve to maintain the integrity of the farm has been passed on through the Ole Sein family. As the city expands, their paradise still stands.
To learn more about camping, hiking, game drives, biking, team-building and other activities on offer at Rimpa Estates, call 0712 657998, or visit www.rimpaestates.com.