Armed guards blocked the entrance to the Kenyan wildlife reserve on Saturday as the Duke of Cambridge attended the wedding of his ex-girlfriend Jessica Craig.
The guards, who said their job was to prevent poachers, said entry to the sprawling 55,000 acre estate was only open to guests invited to the wedding.
They patrolled the driveway leading to the gate to the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy where "Jecca" Craig, 34, will marry conservationist Professor Jonathan Baillie in a hilltop ceremony.
Catering vans and 4x4s were seen going in and out of the reserve, which was founded by Miss Craig's father, the conservationist Ian Craig.
Security is high outside the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy Photo: Paul Grover for The Telegraph
A five hour scenic drive from the Kenyan capital through green hills, farming land and small, colourful towns leads to the vast conservancy – although most guests arrived by air using the estate's private landing strip.
The 55,000 acres of savannah, wetland and forest are shielded from view from the quiet road that skirts the outside of the reserve, with entrances stringently guarded by rangers.
The early afternoon service was planned to take place outdoors, on a hilltop overlooking the reserve, which is home to rhinos, zebras, elephants, cheetahs and lions, followed by a reception at Lewa House lodge.
Lewa House, which usually hosts guests on expensive safari trips, has a large swimming pool and grows organic food on site. It overlooks a watering hole, said to be one of the best spots on the reserve for game-viewing.
Upwards of 300 guests are expected at the wedding, on a bright, clear day amid blue skies with temperatures reaching nearly 30C.
A wooden sign pointing towards the wedding could be seen at the heavily guarded entrance to the estate today. Staff said all the lodges on the estate were fully booked for Saturday night.
A simple sign points the way to the nuptials Photo: Paul Grover for The Telegraph
Jonathan Odongo, assistant conservation and education coordinator at the conservancy said the wedding was taking place "right inside" the estate on a hilltop.
"The location is far away," he said. "So many people have arrived, actually over 300 or something."
Locals said guests had been seen arriving for the past few days in large expensive cars including Range Rovers and Land Cruisers.
Shadrack Asiche, who runs a shop opposite the main entrance to the reserve, said he had seen large tents being brought in for guests to sleep in.
The celebrations began with a champagne reception on Friday evening, where catering staff said 150 guests were served a rich array of canapés including salmon blinis, beef bruschetta, scotch quail eggs, falafels with tzatziki sauce, chicken skewers, prawns and feta and coriander samosas.
The Duke was seen laughing and chatting with friends at the event and stayed until the end, but a barman said he stuck to Coca Cola rather than enjoying the alcoholic options.
The occasion is expected to be an emotionally-charged one for the Duke, who has remained closed to Miss Craig since they dated as teenagers. Guests said he was “very much attached” to the conservancy, where he spent time on his gap year and later returned for a holiday during which he got engaged to his now wife.
The Duchess of Cambridge has remained in the UK Photo: GETTY IMAGES
One wedding guest told the Telegraph: “I believe Prince William did his gap year on Lewa. So long before he was married and everything like that and had kids, he spent his year on Lewa.
“And he’s always been very much attached to Lewa and has been back here several times. He brought Kate here a few times and actually proposed to her in Mount Kenya.”
On Friday the Duke met with Lewa rangers, who told him about their work protecting rhinos from poaching.
The estate is home to 72 black rhinos - 12 per cent of the species' entire population in Kenya - as well as 22 lions, around 10 leopards and between 100 and 400 elephants depending on the time of year.
Among the high profile guests are BBC news presenter Kate Silverton and her husband, Mike Heron, a former Royal Marine. The newsreader, like the Duke, is a prominent supporter of wildlife charities and was photographed with him at the Tusk conservation awards last year.
On a JustGiving page set up by the couple ahead of the wedding to raise money to help elephants around Mount Kenya, Ms Silverton and her husband left a message which read: “Darling Jecca & Jonathan – so looking forward to what will be a magical day! All our love and congratulations”.
She posted pictures on Twitter of her son exploring the reserve.
#gleeful the boy runs wild in #africa @MagicalKenyaUK @lewa_wildlife #whyilovekenya pic.twitter.com/NFVwEFqjE8— Kate Silverton (@katesilverton1) 26 March 2016
The boys stretch their legs @lewa_wildlife @LewaWilderness pic.twitter.com/lOEaZ0bD5W— Kate Silverton (@katesilverton1) 25 March 2016
Also invited was BBC wildlife presenter Saba Douglas-Hamilton and her husband, Frank Pope, chief operations officer for charity Save the Elephants.
"Kenyan weddings are generally outside and very beautiful and a celebration of nature,” Mrs Douglas Hamilton said before the event. I have no doubt Jecca's wedding will be like that. There’ll be a beautiful view, it’ll be a celebration of nature and love.
“She’s a great conservationist, her family are great conservationists. t'll be spiritual and beautiful."
The Duke became close to Mr Craig, and in turn his daughter, after they met during one of his first trips to Africa in 1998, when he was 16.
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Miss Craig has long been referred to as the Duke’s first girlfriend, and they reportedly became so close as teenagers that they had a “pretend engagement”.
The speculation about their relationship became so intense that the Duke ordered his staff to issue a public statement denying they were a couple.
She remains the only woman about whom he has issued a public statement other than the Duchess of Cambridge.
He is so close to the Craig family that he attended Miss Craig’s brother Batian’s wedding in Africa in 2008, an engagement that meant he missed his cousin Peter Phillips’ nuptials on the same day.
Jecca also reportedly joined the Duke and Prince Harry for a hunting holiday in Spain in 2014.
Miss Craig studied for a geography PhD on environmental conservation at University College London. Her undergraduate degree, at the same university, was in History of Art – the same subject initially taken by the Duke at St Andrews before he switched to Geography.
She has worked for a political risk firm and for an initiative trying to prevent the illegal ivory trade.
She and her brother are believed to have been born on Lewa, a former cattle ranch that her father turned into a conservancy in the 1990s.
The Craig dynasty has been in Kenya for four generations. Mr Craig no longer runs the estate, but is still involved as a lifetime patron. The family hosted a party for the local community on Wednesday ahead of the wedding.
The Duke paid for his own flights to Kenya, arriving on Maundy Thursday for what Kensington Palace described as a “private” four-day visit. The cost of his police protection officers is paid for out of public funds.
He met with Kenya’s President Uluru Kenyatta at the request of the Foreign Office.
The meeting to “deepen relations between the two countries on a broad range of topics including defence and security, and conservation” meant that a private secretary had to fly out with the Duke just for the meeting, at an estimated cost to the taxpayer of £4,500.
The official announcement of his trip made no reference to the wedding. A spokesman for the Palace said he would not comment on personal matters.
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