At the edge of Mbulia Hills is a remote camp in Tsavo West National Park known as Kipalo Hills Lodge.
Our long journey to the safari camp started at Voi, about 50 kilometres from Mombasa.
We leave the highway onto a beaten dusty road and into the wilderness. We come across a herd of elephants wandering in the Tsavo, giraffes eating shrubs and squirrels scampering up huge baobab trees.
It was a dry season and most broken branches were lying on the ground, undisturbed.
We arrive at the lodge, deep in a thick bush, in a 12,000-acre private Mbulia Conservancy. What is special about this lodge is that it was built by locals and with locally sourced materials.
Its curtains are made from sisal ropes with pieces of woods, guinea fowl feathers, snail shell and seeds. The seats are carved out of rocks. The taps are made from pots. In the evenings, guests sit by the rock to watch the sun set.
“During low seasons, we don’t put cushions on the rock seats because snakes and lizards can hide under them,” said Samuel Kyembeni, the lodge manager.
From guides, trackers to rangers, all staff members are locals who want to boost wildlife tourism.
What fascinates guests is the location of the lodge up a rocky hill. There are walking sticks to help people climb up with ease. “Leopards prey on monkeys that relax on the rocks,” said Mr Kyembeni.
The lounge area has unique corners where one can curl up with a drink and a good book from the well-stocked library. From the deck, one can catch a glimpse of animals at the watering hole and on a clear day see Mount Kilimanjaro to the west.
A picture frame in the tent reads, “Please use water sparingly, we transport water in, from over 30 kms away. It is a rare and special commodity and we would like to spare all we can for the elephant and buffalo!”
Perhaps it is this wild animals and humans coexistence that draws visitors from Austria, Egypt, Denmark, Norway, USA, Ghana and Israel to the lodge.
“We hosted former USA president Barack Obama’s security officers and other high profile people who come here to unwind,” Mr Kyembeni said.
For flying guests, there are is an airstrip a few kilometres from the lodge which is under construction. There is a bar with antique glasses with pretty designs. A Lamu chest acts a storage for the drinks. Mr Kyembeni said the lodge has greatly benefited the society because poaching has reduced due to community awareness.
“We don’t arrest and hand the poachers to Kenya Wildlife Service. We empower them to stop the illegal trade. That is how we can eradicate this vice,” he said, adding that 14 per cent of bed charges go to the community.