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Ecology and Conservation in Kenya

Study AbroadStudy Abroad Kenya

Program Overview

This program is split evenly between Brackenhurst, an eco-campus in Limuru, Kenya, and a Conservancy in the infamous Maasai Mara ecosystem. It aims to provide students with an understanding of the complex relationships between Kenya’s indigenous communities, land, water and wildlife. Students will be presented with modern challenges and solutions that can help preserve some of the world’s most diverse ecosystems – from African forest, to wetlands, to the savannah. As Kenya’s human population grows at an ever-increasing rate, improved land management, payments for ecosystems services, and control of human-wildlife conflict are all required to stem the loss of biodiversity and the habitats that sustain it. This program will provide students with an understanding of historical and current threats to biodiversity in East Africa, expose them to ecological regenerative practices, and equip them with field-based skills to observe and apply practical solutions to the needs of specific target groups.

Optional: Coastal Marine module. This five-day module will run directly after the last portion of the Ecology course at an additional cost, exposing students to Kenya’s marine ecosystems. Students will be able to obtain a basic PADI certification, as well as visit remarkable coastal sites such as the Arabu-ko Sokoke Forest, the Gedi Ruins, and The Watumu Turtle Watch rehabiliation center.

Program Dates

2019: 1 – 28 July


A background in environmental science, conservation biology, agro-ecology, horticulture, development studies, wildlife studies, or related subjects is ideal (entering 200 level and up). Participants need to be culturally-aware and open-minded to thrive in this program. All lectures and tutorials are conducted in English; hence a good command of the English language is essential.


Brackenhurst is approximately 40km north of Nairobi set in a safe and peaceful environment among the rolling hills of Limuru, which is famous for its tea fields. Brackenhurst is home to one of the largest collection of indigenous plants species in East Africa, with over 1,000 tree and shrub species, many of which are endangered or thought to be extinct within their original distribution zones. It’s also an ideal base from which students can explore the surrounding Kenyan wetlands.

The Maasai Mara, part of the expansive Maasai Mara-Serengeti ecosystem, has 15 conservancies. These conservancies, the majority of which have been formed over the last 10 years, cover over 300 000 acres and provide connected critical wildlife habitats that complement national parks and the reserve; they also secure major wildlife migratory corridors. Their vast open plains, Acacia-Commiphora woodland, rocky outcrops, and varied riverine vegetation provide habitat for around 400 bird species and over 60 mammal species and host some of the highest wildlife densities in Africa. The conservancies are established under the rationale of conserving the environment and its wildlife alongside a mandate to protect, empower and improve the livelihood of the local Maasai communities. Over 10,000 land owners are engaged in the various conservancies and are direct beneficiaries; in this way, their communities are placed at the center of wildlife conservation. The Maasai Mara Conservancies provide an ideal location to study ecology, human influences on the Savannah, and community-based conservation in East Africa.

The Watamu Marine National Park, where the optional coastal module will be based, runs through Watumu and is one of the oldest Marine Protected Areas in Africa. The Park spans over 10km² of shallow lagoon containing coral, seagrass, sand and mangrove habitat. It is home to over 150 species of hard and soft corals and over 500 species of reef fish, offering students access to spectacular marine biodiversity. The National Park is largely considered one of the world’s top diving areas, with whale sharks, manta rays, octopus and barracuda commonly sighted. It is also a vital turtle breeding area.

Learning Outcomes

At the end of the 4-week course, students will be equipped with:

  • Broaden their knowledge of historical and current threats to tropical wetlands, forest, and African savannah ecosystems
  • Demonstrate an understanding of key terms, theories and concepts related to East African wetlands, forest and savannah ecologies
  • Use appropriate evaluative techniques in wetland plant and animal investigation
  • Understand the basics of submontane forest regeneration in Kenya
  • Explore human-wildlife relationships in East Africa
  • Gain critical insight into community-based conservation, incentivizing conservation, and restoring damaged ecosystems

Key Study Topics

  • Forestry and agroforestry
  • Ecological restoration and monitoring techniques
  • Indigenous vegetation and biodiversity
  • Ethnobotany, traditional knowledge systems and their uses for conservation
  • Tree nursery management (species identification/propagation)
  • Wetlands health and ecosystems services
  • Community-based conservation vs. state protection
  • Wildlife monitoring/research practices (transect game counts, camera trap grid design/maintenance, mammal identification techniques)
  • Human-wildlife conflict
  • Nomadic pastoralism, rotational grazing, and grassland management
  • Marine biology (coastal component)


  • Lectures
  • Individual & group projects, local community involvement, and presentations
  • Individual & group ecological monitoring, data analysis, and presentations
  • Individual reflection journal
  • Recommended reading

Academic Credit

We will help by supplying you with all the necessary documentation and supporting information you will need to apply for credit through your home university or college.


“It was great to be immersed in such rich culture whilst sharing the experience with a range of international students with a range of different perspectives on the world. Kenya is a beautiful country with wonderful people offering an all-around enriching experience.”

Oli Barnes, Participating Student


Zarek Cockar

Zarek is a fourth generation Kenyan, and has grown up with a great appreciation for Kenya’s wild places and natural history. Zarek experienced many safaris and camping trips with family and friends from a very young age. He has nurtured a passion for the smaller aspects of life beyond the ‘Big Five’; birds, plants, spiders, insects and frogs interest him far more than a sleepy lion under a tree.

When he is not guiding or working on bookings, Zarek is happy to pack a tent in his car and head off on his own to learn the birds, plants and arthropods in a new area of Kenya. His qualifications include; Kenya Professional Safari Guides Association – Gold Level, Field Guides Association of Southern Africa – Level 2 Back Up Trails Guide and Cybertracker Track & Sign – Level 3.


Dr. Stewart Thompson

Stewart is a Professor of Biodiversity Conservation and has led the Spatial Ecology and Land-use Unit in Biological & Medical Sciences at Oxford Brookes for over 20 years.  He has a particular interest in how threatened species use landscapes in response to policy and management initiatives. 

Much of his current work surrounds understanding herbivore population changes and movement patterns in protected areas.  For the last decade he has been working on projects in the Masai Mara investigating herbivore response to the creation of wildlife conservancies and assessing aspects of eco-tourism impacts to wildlife

Dr. Sharon Kahara

Sharon is now based in her home country, Kenya, but is on staff with Humboldt State University, California as a lecturer and research associate. Sharon specializes in wetland ecosystem functioning in natural and modified landscapes, as well as wetland wildlife use.

Past research activities included evaluating impacts of urbanization on aquatic systems in developing countries, and investigating effects of climate and human activities on wetland ecosystem service delivery.


Fees and additional expenses are based on all known circumstances at the time of calculation. Due to the unique nature of our programs and the economics of host countries, EDU Africa reserves the right to change its fees or additional expenses as necessary.

Tuition: $1700

The tuition fee covers the following program components:

  • Lecturers and lecture facilities
  • All field trip excursions
  • Conservation fees
  • Course-related stationery and some texts

Room & Board: $2700

The room and board fee covers the following program components:

  • All accommodation during the 4 week program
  • All meals for the entire program period
  • All transport related directly to the program

Optional Coastal Module: $1250

Additional Costs (not accounted for above):

  • International airfare to Nairobi
  • Visa expenses (vary per country of origin)
  • Immunizations (requirements vary per country of origin)
  • Recommended reading
  • Personal health & travel Insurance
  • Optional activities

Discretionary Expenses

Individual interests and extra-curricular activities determine how much extra each student needs to budget for their stay in Kenya. All meals and accommodation are covered in the room and board fee. Incidental expenses as well as any non-program related travel costs are the responsibility of each student. Optional activities in Nairobi National Park, Karura Forest, Gatamaiyu Forest, and Hell’s Gate National Park are also at the discretion of the student.

2018 Participant Blog Post: My Study Abroad in Kenya experience


Featured Experiences

Kiambethu Tea Farm

Touring the Kiambethu Tea Farm gives insight into the colonial history and economics of Kenya, as well as the process undergone to transform the leaves of a tea bush into one of the most well known beverages of all time. The tour includes a walk through indigenous forests rich with medicinal trees, as well as a delicious colonial luncheon on the lawn.

River Rafting Rapids Camp

River Tana is the perfect place for white river rafting, with rapids ranging from grades three to five. It is also the only place in for white river rafting in Kenya. Upstream and downstream currents, including waterfalls, provide different technicalities that challenge beginners as well as more experienced rafters. Rafting River Tana is a worthy adrenaline rush!

Big Cat Monitoring

Incredible wildlife is one of Africa’s most appealing icons, and is desperately in need of protection through conservation and educational projects. Many conservation efforts give rise to amazing volunteering programs, such as the opportunity to research and monitor big cats. Taking part in this project gives students a chance to deeply experience and engage with some of Africa’s most powerful and breathtaking wildlife.

Brackenhurst Botanic Gardens

Brackenhurst Botanic Gardens is a vibrant gateway into the world of pre-colonial climate diversity. Rising out of misty, rolling hills of emerald-green tea, these gardens stand as a testament to the power of environmental restoration and protection. The project began in the year 2000 and includes an arboretum of rare tree species that are critically endangered across the continent. 

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