Newly built waterhole becomes magnet for wildlife; benefits local Maasai community
Over the last two years, wildlife photographer, author, and entrepreneur Will Burrard-Lucas has spent a great deal of time at Shompole Wilderness Camp in Kenya’s Southern Rift Valley. He says that in the relentless heat of the area, Shompole Conservancy seems like an inhospitable place. The Conservancy is owned by the local Maasai community who benefit from tourism revenue, while ensuring that the land is used sustainably and the environment protected.
Aware that much of the wildlife was only active during the night, he arranged for local conservationists to take him to a small waterhole where he set up a camera trap. Burrard-Lucas admits that he was “completely unprepared for just how abundant and diverse that life would prove to be”. He was able to capture an incredible array of nocturnal species, many of which it is difficult to see elsewhere in Africa. “It seemed that all night there was a constant queue of animals waiting for their turn to drink,” he says.
Recognising the potential of the area and the fact that it had a great deal to offer photographers and safari-goers, Burrard-Lucas teamed up with Sam and Johann du Toit, the owner-managers of Shompole Wilderness Camp, deciding to build a new waterhole – away from all other sources of water – and a hide from which people could watch and photograph animals as they came to drink.
The project kicked off at the end of 2021 with the digging of a shallow depression and filling it from drums of water transported on the back of a pickup truck. Shortly after this, Burrard-Lucas set up a camera trap and says that over the coming days wildlife started to show up. Following this, two shipping containers were converted into a spacious hide with windows, a toilet, and fold-down beds, and in April, the containers were lowered into a large hole so that the windows were just above the water level.
Involving the local Shompole Community, 30 Maasai helped construct a 5km pipeline from the river and a solar pump was installed to keep the waterhole permanently topped up. Shompole Hide was completed in July this year. The hide is open to anyone staying at Shompole Wilderness Camp.
Attracting tourists to the area helps the local Maasai community as they benefit from additional conservation fees. As well as this, the waterhole will also provide wildlife with a new place to drink year-round, away from communities and livestock, and this will hopefully reduce instances of human-wildlife conflict.
“Every session in the hide generates a contribution to the local community. Shompole Hide’s journey is just beginning, and I can’t wait to see what comes next,” Burrard-Lucas says.
Head to Burrard-Lucas’ blog to learn about the challenges faced during the project and find out about the difficulties he during his first few nights in the hide.
About Will Burrard-Lucas
Will Burrard-Lucas is a wildlife photographer, author and entrepreneur. He is the creator of BeetleCam, a remote-control camera buggy, and founder of Camtraptions Ltd, a company specialising in high-quality equipment for camera trap photography and filmmaking. He dedicates much of his time to working on long-term book projects in Africa. His latest book, The Black Leopard, features a rare melanistic African leopard and was published in March 2021.
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