By Rick Guthke
General Manager, Natural Habitat Adventures
Sitting on the roof-mounted seat atop our Land Rover, we found the first rhino in less than five minutes. Within a few hours, we’d found at least 30 individuals during our game drive across the Solio Conservancy, a private sanctuary for endangered rhinos in Kenya’s Rift Valley.
While the outline of fences, and the occasional ranger spotting tower for identifying poachers, regularly crept into our consciousness, ruining an idyllic sense of true wilderness, that awareness was quickly erased by the momentous views from the hilltops and the shady glens by the river.
The game drives were dramatic! Where else in Kenya had I ever seen such unblemished riverine forests and mature shade trees? The only animal of note excluded from this wondrous small sanctuary are the pillaging elephants — and the sweeping beauty of the landscape here reflects that.
With 175 white rhinos and 70 black rhinos in the 17,500-acre conservancy, one can’t help but run into them without too much trouble. Five lion prides, hyena, cape buffalo and leopard are some of the high-profile species keeping them on their toes.
Having worked with scheduled safaris in Kenya (among many other countries in Africa) for the last 12+ years, I’m well aware that Lewa Downs has always been the famous location commonly associated with successful rhino breeding programs. There hasn’t been a custom safari that I’ve proposed or discussed, frankly, without broaching the idea that Lewa be included along with the Masai Mara in any Kenya itinerary.
However, the incredible successes at Lewa have actually been duplicated to much lesser acclaim in other rhino conservancies like Solio Ranch and Ol Pajeta, and as a result, significantly fewer travelers find their way here.
Solio in particular is an incredible place. The ranchstead has been actively serving as a sanctuary for rhino for the last 50 years, but has only opened to limited tourism in the past two years. And on this recent trip in March, I couldn’t have been more excited to be among the early visitors!
Tucked between the slopes of Mt. Kenya and the Aberdare Mountains, Solio Lodge provides the only guest lodgings within the private game reserve. The lodge is an architect’s 5-star safari dream, blending modern appointments and design with salt-of-the-earth features such as vegetable gardens and al fresco dining with expansive bush views. Just six rooms reflect the character of their wild African surroundings.
I do fear that Solio will become popular one day, and the pressure will mount to add more rooms to allow more travelers to see what is arguably the most successful rhino breeding program in Kenya (Solio has regularly supplied Ol Pajeta and Lewa with rhinos over the years). For now, however, visitors are few and fortunate.
If you’d like to be among the first to visit this exceptional sanctuary, contact us at 1-800-543-8917, and let us arrange your custom rhino adventure!
Thanks for joining me on this virtual safari,