Introducing guest writer Simon Beck: Simon represents some of Africa’s great safari properties, and is a wealth of knowledge for all things safari-related. Here at Imagine Africa we work with him very closely to make sure our clients get the best possible experiences and excellent deals in some of Africa’s best-loved safari destinations. In the below blog Simon tells us why Kenya’s Samburu National Reserve is a safari spot not to be missed…
Kenya is the heart of the safari industry and for good reason – its parks, reserves and concessions are responsibly managed and operated, protecting and conserving the incredible wildlife by working in partnership with the local communities. But when people think of Kenya, they often only think of the Masai Mara. Yes, the Mara offers world class game viewing, but so do numerous other areas of Kenya. My advice would be never to restrict yourself to just one part of Kenya. For many, safari is a once in a lifetime experience, and with a two-centre safari you maximise your budget as well as your time in the country, and get a much more well-rounded view of this fabulous country! Cue Samburu – a celebrated wildlife sanctuary in northern Kenya that is off the beaten track and offers excellent game viewing. Guests who venture to Samburu are rewarded by something totally unique and unspoilt, and combining it with the Mara enables you to experience two very different parts of the stunning landscapes of Kenya, with varied wildlife and contrasting cultures. An efficient network of light aircraft flights means Samburu and the Masai Mara are easily combined and can both be reached by direct flights from Nairobi.
So, what’s so great about Samburu?
The Samburu National Reserve has a very evocative and iconic landscape that reminds visitors of “the Africa of dreams”. It is dry and stunningly beautiful, wild and at the same time serene. On top of that, the wildlife is fantastic; Samburu has one of the highest concentrations of elephant, but also good numbers of lion, leopard and plains game. Then, there’s the Samburu Special Five: Grevy zebra, reticulated giraffe, Beisa oryx, Somali ostrich and gerenuk (species that are found only in this part of the country and spotting all five really is something to tick off the bucket list). Wild dogs are also regularly seen. Another great pull of Samburu is the lack of crowds. A limited number of vehicles are permitted within the Samburu National Reserve, so you won’t experience crowds gathering around a sighting.
Samburu isn’t all about game drives either, you can also take insightful walks, tracking in the sand the many animals which populate the reserve, explore the Samburu caves and discover their rock art, or make a visit to a remote Samburu village. A key part of your experience in Samburu comes from interacting with the Samburu people. The Samburu is one of the most traditional tribes in Africa: warm, fun and extremely hospitable people. As they guide you through their ancient lands, you will feel humbled as you learn all about their culture, history and traditions. For the more adventurous, you can climb Mt. Ololokwe, the sacred mountain of the Samburu people. Take in the magnificent views of Samburuland from the top, before beginning your descent with the prospect of a delicious lunch in the shade of the ancient Moran’s cave.
Where should I stay?
In my opinion, having stayed at a number of properties in the area, there really is no better place from which to experience this epic wilderness than Saruni Samburu. Saruni Samburu has the ‘WOW’ factor from start to finish – imagine 360 degree views and not a visible light at night… It’s like you have stepped back in time! Some say it’s simply the best lodge in Kenya, admired and loved by many connoisseurs over the years. What’s more, if you stay at Saruni Samburu you have exclusive use of the private wilderness of Kalama Conservancy, a vast and pristine wilderness of over 200,000 acres, making your game drives unique and uncrowded. Saruni offers gentle and slow-paced safaris; you are encouraged to savour bush breakfasts and sundowners in stunning locations – why rush your experience? Every guest staying 3 nights or more should also experience the famous bush dinner. As you dance around the fire with Samburu warriors under the vast African skies, you are seeing the real culture of the area in a spectacular and dramatic setting.
The discreet eco-design of the lodge is spread out over different levels, offering privacy and exclusivity and maximising the incredible vistas and views. It is perfect for couples, honeymooners and families alike – with just six villas, Saruni Samburu offers a very personal stay. All villas have open sides to take in the fabulous panoramic views. After a thrilling game drive, unwind at one of the two infinity pools, indulge in a rejuvenating spa treatment or simply relax in your private lounge; you really will feel like you are on top of the world. Saruni has also hosted a number of exclusive-use weddings – there is no better place to start a lifetime of happiness together than in the vast African bush!
Saruni Samburu really involves the local community in their work too. 80% of their staff and guides are local Samburu people, and many of them actually built the lodge and work in partnership with Saruni. If you’re travelling with children, I highly recommend you participate in the Warriors Academy – a child-friendly experience teaching kids about bush skills, Samburu traditions and how to become a warrior! Finally, Saruni Samburu is a responsible choice. They are members of the Northern Rangelands Trust, an organisation that works with 26 communities who own and manage an area greater than 25,000 km, and is now widely seen as a model in Africa of how to support community-owned conservancies. By choosing Saruni Samburu as your base to discover this wonderful wilderness, you are helping towards the conservation of this vast land and the protection of the local community.