Location: Soysambu Conservancy, Kenya
Kenya’s first ever festival, this three day event on the shores of Lake Elementaita is a glorious celebration of music, fun and conservation. With musicians from all over East Africa and beyond coming to entertain the crowd with both live performances and terrific DJ sets, and with a number of other diversions on offer, this is a glittering weekend for all your senses.
The creators of the festival, Tom Cholmondeley and Sally Dudmesh, have sewn the seed for what will be a great music festival. February 2016 saw its opening run, and it was received with wild appreciation from the 450 odd people who came. Tom and Sally invited people to come and rejoice in nature, in the company of good friends, listening to great music, meeting brilliant artists and eating delicious food; to sum it up, they wanted people to “have a wild time in this jewel of Africa and help what has been a hundred year mission to keep the Kenyan countryside Wilder.”
A portion of the proceeds raised went towards wildlife conservation; a strong part of their ethos is to raise funds and awareness towards Kenya’s wild animals and their precarious position in our eco-system. Soysambu Conservancy, where the festival is held, is home to numerous different mammals and birds, including the rare Rothschild’s giraffe, ground hornbill and golden jackal. It has been in the care of the Delamere family for more than a century; and they continue to care for it with the same dedication and persistence that has kept it alive through all the floods, droughts and recessions that have threatened it over the years.
This being its first year, the event is still relatively small and spread over just two stages – the main stage is set back a bit, nestled in to the huge yellow barked acacia trees which cast heavenly shade over the dining areas and main bar, as well as the ‘chill zone’ during the heat of an equatorial sunny day. The second stage, the Treehouse Stage, is set on the edge of the yellow fever-tree forest, just moments away from the sparkling shores of Lake Elementaita.
It is a superb spot with the most outstanding views; flamingos speckle the lake here and there, whilst zebras and impala amble about on the grassy banks beside it. Unlike many other festivals, the organisers have to give serious warnings about bumping into wildlife at night – adding to the general excitement. The day before the festival started, a poor old buffalo died behind the main campsite and had to be dragged away as the cacophony of the hyenas reached an unbearable crescendo. Plus they didn’t want any guests being gobbled up.
Aside from the music, there are also camel rides, horseback riding and a whole area dedicated to healing, massage and meditation. The conservancy is also a functioning cattle ranch, and one of the main events over the weekend was the bull parade, which saw a selection of their best bulls marching down the big red avenue of giant horns and flags that decorated the site. They were followed by camels and a host of riders in full fancy dress bringing up the rear. At the front of them all were two gorgeous female bikers in astounding feathered headdresses – it really was a unique moment. On the Saturday evening, guests were instructed to dress in red and line up by the lake shore for a photo. With thunderous grey skies above, the lake a rich blue next to the blinding yellow of the dry grass, the injection of brilliant red made the most electrifying palette.
Children are welcome here – and though there aren’t any special areas dedicated to them, there is a family campsite and you’ll find that there’s still plenty to keep them amused. The organisers invited several different catering companies to come and set up stalls – meaning that throughout the weekend there were plenty of delicious culinary options.
All in all, this a most fabulous way to spend a weekend, particularly as its goal goes beyond just having fun, and aids a good cause. After a day reveling in nature’s beauty, fantastic sounds and the best of company, what could be better than sleeping in a tent with the noises of the Kenyan wilderness to lull you to sleep?