Saving the endangered giraffe at Johari Ndogo in Maanzoni

Maasai giraffe in Maanzoni. Photo | Rupi Mangat

What you need to know:

Johari Ndogo is a wildlife estate where the residents and the wildlife share space, with Maasai giraffes and vultures 

An hour’s drive from Nairobi, we’re in the vast plains of Maanzoni that show off the ancient massif of Lukenya to the west and the hump-shaped Ol Donyo Sabuk to the east. It’s mid-morning and a handful of White-backed vultures rise with the heating thermals to soar high and spend the day in search of carcases to scavenge before returning to Maanzoni to roost for the night.

It’s a leisurely drive to Johari Ndogo, the jewel on the plains in Maanzoni, which is situated in the tropical savannah grassland, and in the heart of Lukenya, Machakos County. 

Ciku and Eddie with son Atandzi on Johari Ndogo veranda. Photo | Rupi Mangat

Tommies graze on the dry grass, a pair of Maasai ostrich run across the road and an old Maasai giraffe, his coat dark with age browses on the thorn trees, leisurely strolling from one to another. The old guys like him prefer to spend time in quiet solitude away from the herd.

30 minutes later and we’re welcomed to ‘our’ jewel by Edward Ahn and his wife, Ciku Ngigi. It looks unpretentious from the outside…but when we step inside the house on the plains, we know why the couple has called it Johari, the jewel.

Johari Ndogo in Maanzoni. Photo | Rupi | Mangat

It’s spacious, filled with natural light, with a veranda running the length of the house and open to the wide veld outside. “The warthogs come to drink water here sometimes,” says Ngigi. It gets the children excited.

It’s blazing hot outside, so we settle for cool cocktails …it’s the weekend on ‘Eddie’s Verandah’.

“We love hosting,” tells Ngigi. “So when we moved into Maanzoni in 2011, we wanted to share this space with others.”

Maanzoni is special. It’s a wildlife estate where the residents and the wildlife share space, with some endangered species like the Maasai giraffes and vultures taking refuge here. “We bought into a dream,” states Ahn. 

Johari Ndogo veranda. Photo | Rupi Mangat

Passionate about their wild heritage, Johari Ndogo came into being. “We wanted a home feel, so we designed it as such,” tells Ahn. “Hence the large verandah and kitchen which is our idea of coming together as friends or families and sharing in the cooking.”

The kitchen is the heart of the house. Facing east, the morning sun lights it. Beyond it stretches the living area and the verandah. “The house flows inside out,” states Ahn. The verandah boasts a ‘nyama choma’ area, the bar facing Lukenya that’s gorgeous for sun downers, seating areas and hammocks. The master bedroom takes the cake with a private day room and patio.

We spend the day lounging in luxury and only stroll out in the evening to return when the sun has set. It’s then that the night sky in the unpolluted arena shows its five planets in the January sky – Mercury, Venus, Mars, Saturn and Jupiter.

“We’re surrounded by nature,” enthuses Ngigi.

As secretary of the Maanzoni Owners’ Association, she’s been instrumental in securing funding from Save Giraffes Now (SGN), an NGO committed to saving the world’s tallest mammal, found only in Africa – the giraffe.

It’s to erect signposts alerting motorists to slow down because of the wildlife crossing along the 11 kilometres stretch between Greenpark Estate and Maanzoni along the dual carriageway, the only wildlife corridor left open between Limuru, north of Nairobi, and Maanzoni; the rest is lined by roadside towns, farms, truckers’ stopovers, nyama choma shacks, and petrol stations.

“The dual carriageway is great to have because of the ease of movement,” tells Ahn. But speeding cars kill animals like the giraffe. “Imagine losing 10 endangered animals in one year,” laments Ahn. In the list of 129 wild animals killed on the 11-kilometre stretch in 2022 are the nocturnal aardwolf and the svelte serval with a coat of black spots and stripes that few Kenyans are even aware off.

The giraffe today is more endangered than the elephant with a ratio of one giraffe to every four elephants. The world’s tallest mammal found only in Africa is sliding into silent extinction without us noticing it.

For Bookings Call: Ciku on 0722523787

Things to do Johari Ndogo

Biking (take your own but two are available), walking, day on Lukenya, game drives, great birding, swimming at the main house.

It’s kid-friendly with toys and games.

All rooms are en-suite.

Hire a chef but take all food to cook. A house help is available.

Longer stay: Drive across the road for game drive at Swara Ranch and a meal at Acacia Swara Lodge or a quick stroll to Nzuri House for a swim and meals.


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