Endless Ribbon of Time: Samburu with @HeritageKenya

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As you pull up and away off the Wilson airport, you immediately feel like you’ve been transported away from the urban jungles of Nairobi to a vast wilderness. The lush green of the open airfield, filled with the previous night’s rainwater, and the plane climbing into the clouds, and the diminishing treetops of the Ngong forest invite you to her leafy embrace.

Mt. Ololokwe

We were heading to Samburu, after leaving the wild expanse of Voyager Ziwani

The one time I had been to Samburu, I had tagged along on a charity mission, and after a 3 hour trip to a little village in the middle of nowhere. Then, the ride was bumpy and we had to figure out how to get there using tyre tracks made by previous forays, occasionally getting lost. This time, the weather made the flight bumpy but I didn’t have to lose my breakfast.

Less than an hour later, we were in a different country altogether. The hills shimmered in the heat while the plains of Samburu beckoned invitingly. Stepping out into the open, the area was hot, the sky bare but there was a sense of humidity around. Rain had come down on the land recently, and the green plants sang its praise. Driving through Archers’ Post, we were soon at the Samburu National Reserve which would later turn out to be a land of surprises.

Remember the lioness who adopted an oryx?

We checked in to the Samburu Intrepids camp, a Heritage Hotels’ outfit. The camp is a perfect mixture of bush and luxury – where you’re spoiled, but not too much to destroy the feeling of being in the wild. The staff were gracious and made us feel quite at home. The rooms are raised off the ground on stilts. This precaution is to avoid water seeping into the room in the event of floods. The area had been hit by a great flood in the year 2009 and some of the hotels in the area had unfortunately been so badly hit that they never reopened.

As I checked into my room, I heard a scratching going on under my tented room, and I peeked out to find a lizard of sorts foraging for food. He seemed unperturbed by my presence, and I sat watching him for a while.

Spectacular sundowner by Uaso Nyiro

The Samburu Intrepids camp is set along the banks of the Uaso Nyiro, and you could hear the rushing of the water as it went by, tumbling over rocks in its bed. Birds called out and baboons were brave enough to walk a few steps forward, but if you made any movement they scampered off into the bush, only to reappear and peek at you in a few more minutes.

After sumptuous lunch and a cat nap, we were ready to go out for an evening game drive in the reserve. A great view of the hills welcomed us, spotted with huge herds of elephants and necking giraffes. Dik-dik startled us as they sprang out of their hideouts in the bushes by the road, stopping a few meters from the car to gaze back with their huge, round eyes.

Grey-headed kingfisher

In the distance, Mt. Ololokwe, sacred to the people of that land glimmered in the evening glow. The mountain is shaped like an upside-down bowl, and sacred ceremonies are often held on and around it. Our guide for the duration of our stay was Tilas – a local whose vast knowledge of the area, its people, cultures and wildlife was astounding. He even taught us how to read the stars at night, Samburu style.

Our amazing guide, Tilas

In the three days we spent there, we were completely mesmerized by the sights and sounds of Samburu, from the people and their gentle yet regal nature, to the wondrous wildlife in abundance. I will never forget the feeling of sitting in a car by the banks of Uaso Nyiro as a herd of close to 80 elephants crossed the river. You could just about touch them if you put your hand out the car. Some of the younger ones even pretended to mock charge, only for their parents to hustle them back onto the route and into the bush. Not to forget watching the little ones as they played in the mud, happy as pigs, rolling about knowing that they were protected and watched by their mothers.

Whachulookingat?

Samburu is often mistaken for desolate country, but it holds amazing sights and sounds. Remember to spot the Samburu Five. Stay at the Samburu Intrepids and get ready to be spoiled: bush breakfasts and dinners, and surprising sun-downers while listening to the serenade of a traditional flute, ndule, and game drives full of information and lessons about the bush.

If I ever wanted to find a magical place, I’m sure this is one of them that God created.

Stark beauty in dead trees

 

More about Samburu:

 

The Samburu National Reserve is rich in wildlife with an abundance of rare northern specialist species such as the Grevy’s zebra, Somali ostrich, reticulated giraffe, gerenuk and the beisa oryx (also referred to as Samburu Special Five). 

The reserve is also popular with a minimum of 900 elephants. Large predators such as the lion, leopard and cheetah are an important attraction (Kamunyak the miracle lioness that adopted the baby oryx is a resident in the reserve).

Wild dog sightings are also a common attraction to thisunique protected area. Birdlife is abundant with over 450 species recorded. Birds of the arid northern bush country are augmented by a number of riverine forest species.

Source: Magical Kenya

 

He heard me taking about a Zebra crossing ...

 

How to get to Samburu Intrepids:

Samburu Intrepids is 345 kilometres and a six-hour drive from Nairobi via the scenic settler towns of Nanyuki and Timau, while the all-weather Samburu airstrip is an hour’s flight and 20-minutes drive away. The airstrip, which is located on the Buffalo Springs National Reserve is serviced twice daily by both Safarilink and Air Kenya from Wilson Airport in Nairobi.

Accommodation:

This luxurious tented lodge set in the Kenyan semi arid north, offers 30 modern and newly refurbished tents with a private view over the wildlife-rich banks of the Ewaso Nyiro River. Each tent sits on a raised deck overlooking the brown river where the elephants sometimes make an appearance or the crocodiles come out to lounge by the river’s banks.

 

Echakala, the tame Beisa Oryx at the airstrip

 

Activities

Among many others, indulge in:

  • Samburu Astronomy – Take a celestial journey and discover the secrets in the sky
  • Guided Game reserve safari: the early morning drive from 6 am to 9 am; and the late afternoon from 3.30 pm returning to camp at sunset.
  • Camel rides: a wonderful opportunity to meet the Samburu villagers whose camels you are riding and by doing so, helping them to raise income for their community projects like building schools and taking their children to school.
  • Cultural visits: Learn more about the Samburu who have a rich history, a people who tracked down the Nile many centuries ago and separate from the Maasai.
  • Nature walks and excursions: Take a walk and unlock the secrets of the wild with a naturist and learn more about the animals and birds and the history of the land.
  • Adventurers’ Club: Recommended for children accompanying their parents on safari this family program provides an fun and exciting opportunity for the kids to learn about the wild from our Samburu naturalists who specialize in plants, wildlife and survival skills.
Tips
Take the game drives EACH and every time you have a chance to. You never know what you will spot
Enjoy the sundowner by the shore of Uaso Nyiro – absolutely magical!
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