issa Ole Kinyaga is one of only 59 silver guides in Kenya, working at Lengishu, a luxury family safari home in the heart of the 32,000-acre Borana Conservancy, the country’s newest and most successful rhino sanctuary. Nissa, of the Masai clan, grew up in the Mkogodo Forest, starting out as a radio signaller at the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy and then enrolling at the Kenya Utallii College for an advanced tour-guiding certificate. After studying advanced ornithology, walking wild safaris, astronomy, and first aid, he became a fulltime safari guide in 2002. We find out more about what it’s like to work side-by-side with African wildlife.
What is so unique about the Borana Conservancy?
Borana is all about conservation. The Dyer family, who founded the eco-lodge, started at a time when rhino poaching was at its worst and sanctuaries were closing. They built secure habitats for the rhinos and continue to put their revenue towards conservation costs to protect these animals for future generations. This means a lot to me as Borana has always been my neighbour and I am passionate about conservation. It’s wonderful that I can provide for my family doing what I love.
What makes a game drive on Borana Conservancy so special?
Seeing wildlife in their natural habitat never gets boring. It’s just you and 32,000 acres of wilderness, with the option to do as little or as much as you please; be it on foot, by car, on horseback, by helicopter or fixed-wing aeroplane. You can also fish for trout on high altitude lakes, mountain bike through herds of zebra, walk with rhino, race through sand rivers on quad bikes or spend the afternoon with a pride of lions. Unique to Borana, we track rhino on foot at dawn, enabling guests to get a hands-on experience of conservation.
How important is conservation to you?
It is so important to see wildlife numbers increasing in a natural and safe habitat. The revenue from tourism on Borana Conservancy goes towards the local communities and their livelihoods. We educate guests about conservation out in the field while showing them endangered species and how to preserve habitats. I love sharing knowledge and success stories with younger generations.
In the evenings, guests have the opportunity to join the team of anti-poaching rangers on a drive around the conservancy. This gives guests the chance to spend quality time with the rangers, ask them questions, share stories and get a better understanding of their way of life.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I enjoy spending time with all the animals, particularly the leopards and wild dogs. Every day I am thankful to be surrounded by such beauty in the rough mountainous terrain with its deep valleys and riverine. But mostly, it’s knowing that my job has purpose, that I am making a difference every day in the work I do here at Lengishu.
What is your biggest piece of life advice?
Always be honest, help others, travel sustainably, and share the importance of conservation with younger generations as much as possible. And visit Northern Kenya; it is paradise – one of the most exciting and adventurous parts of Africa.