Loisaba: Place of Seven Stars

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When one looks up Laikipa in the Kenyan map, all you tend to see is the vastness of seemingly empty land. Hidden therein, in plain sight, are some of Kenya’s best travel destinations.

Cure your soul with open, wild spaces. Image credits: Tatiana Karanja for TNC

“Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” – Ibn Battuta

I was going about the usual, when I got a call from the team at The Nature’s Conservancy, offering a trip up to Loisaba. Of course my bags were packed as soon as the call ended. Who wouldn’t jump at a chance to take a trip anywhere? I’m always ready for travel. I was recovering from two stressful months at home and work, and the nasty flu that has plagued Nairobi, and R&R was just what I needed.

My travel crew, awesome people! Credits: Naomi Mutua
My travel crew, awesome people! Image credits: Naomi Mutua

The word Loi means ‘stars’ in Samburu, and saba is seven. I was about to experience the calm tranquility of Northern Laikipia.

Taking the Nairobi – Nanyuki route, we headed out on a clear morning, fresh from a heavy downpour the previous night. We set out early: 7:00am, since this was going to be at least 6 hours on the road. About 3 hours later, we were in Nanyuki for a quick refresh and breakfast at Barneys, at the Nanyuki Airstrip. Barneys has some great food, but the service can be a bit slow. So be patient after ordering, and maybe wander around – take in the sights and sounds of planes and helicopters landing and taking off, or visit the curio shop adjacent to the restaurant, where I found some heavenly honey, harvested from bees who feast on Acacia tree pollen. And this little elephant who wanted to come with me on my adventures.

Such a cute souvenior, find him at Barney's, Nanyuki. Image Credits: Naomi Mutua
Such a cute souvenior, find him at Barney’s, Nanyuki. Image Credits: Naomi Mutua

Then began the bumpy ride. The Doldol – Loisaba route is not the most comfortable, especially after a month of heavy rains. Some of the road is dug up in deep gulleys, and in others you have to be careful not to get stuck in mud. The best cars to navigate this have to be 4×4 wheel drives, or you will be spending a long time stuck in the middle of nowhere, with few vehicles passing through to rescue you. We drove through Mpala Ranch, emerging to the lower side of Loisaba, and into the tented camp. It was fun though, and we spotted quite a number of wildlife, making it our first game drive for the weekend: In plenty were Impala and Grant’s Gazelles, Thompson Gazelles, Zebra, Warthog, Giraffe, Ostrich, Guinea fowl, tortoises, elephants, Egyptian Geese and more that I can’t remember – I should have kept a written list.

Looks like he wants to peek inside the car. Image credits: Tatiana Karanja, for TNC
Looks like he wants to peek inside the car. Image credits: Tatiana Karanja, for TNC

Being in the company of a photographer and her 1 year old adorable daughter, it was interesting keeping the little one amused, but the best moments were of her awe whenever she spotted an animal. If only adults had the same wonder and awe as we grow!

Nothing prepares you for the grand views of the landscape that you see when you walk into the main chillout area at the tented camp. Sweeping, open spaces and a calmness that fills you when you take in the breathtaking sight that lies before you. I can only explain this using the image below.

Looking out from the main deck to sweeping valleys below. Image credits: Naomi Mutua
Looking out from the main deck to sweeping valleys below. Image credits: Naomi Mutua

It’s amazing right? “Wow” doesn’t cover it.  This was the sight that greeted me when I stepped onto the deck in the chillout area.

If you think that the view there was amazing, wait till you see what view I woke up to each morning. The rooms at the Loisaba Tented Camp are spacious, more than enough for two, and have the best things in life: a grand view to the hills, and you don’t have to close your tent! Double sinks – little things that make a difference, and a great spacious shower area.

Imagine sleeping with a window to life. Image credits: Naomi Mutua
Imagine sleeping with a window to life. Image credits: Naomi Mutua

There’s space outside on the deck to lounge and laze around as you enjoy the calm, and I chose to sip a few cocktails here. It’s so chilled out, you could easily fall into a nap. That looks delish, right? Best dawas in town!

A dawa a day is my recommended dose. Image credits: Naomi Mutua
A dawa a day is my recommended dose. Image credits: Naomi Mutua

Each morning started with a wakeup call – and the team is graciously kind, bringing your morning beverage to the tent so you can kickstart your day. After that we took a game drive through the conservancy, taking in the sights and sounds. But not before you took in the sunrise!

Fresh air, pink rays. What's life without it? Image credits: Naomi Mutua
Fresh air, pink rays. What’s life without it? Image credits: Naomi Mutua

We did have a chance to explore most of the areas around the tented camp, but another magical area that blew my mind was the Kiboko Star Beds.

Many of us are afraid of sleeping in open spaces and outdoors, and I can’t blame you. Bugs, weird creatures, and just a sense of security means we can’t be that daring. But if you get to Loisaba, you’ve got to try the Star Beds.

Feels like a bedroom with heaven as your sky. Image credits: Naomi Mutua
Feels like a bedroom with heaven as your sky. Image credits: Naomi Mutua

The beds are set on wheels, mkokoteni style, making it easy to wheel them in and out of the deck and under the open sky. With the great weather in the area, and since it’s not usually rainy, you get the magical experience of watching stars twinkle invitingly above you. Don’t worry about security: the rooms are set almost at the edge of a cliff, that’s hard to climb undetected. And there’s always security around the rooms day and night, ensuring that you don’t come to harm. It’s amazing if you love stargazing. Even better, the sunrise each morning.

Tatiana, our amazing photographer, captured some of the best moments, and I’ll share more of her work with you in another post. It so happened that she won the Best Photography Blog at the BAKE Awards 2018, squeal! I worked with my phone, and got some amazing snaps, if I may say so!

Tranquility is everywhere. Image credits: Tatiana Karanja for TNC
Tranquility is everywhere. Image credits: Tatiana Karanja for TNC

Loisaba Conservancy started off as  a wildlife conservancy and working ranch owned by the Ancilotto family. The Nature Conservancy facilitated the transfer of the same in 2014 to the Loisaba Community Trust,a Kenyan registered trust led by Kenyans, and works with various partners to keep the natural resources intact and improved through collaborative community projects.

Our quest to Loisaba that weekend was to snap some amazing pictures, for the 2018 Photography Contest held by The Nature’s Conservancy. They want you to showcase your best pictures, and show us what nature looks like in all its glory. The deadline is May 31st 2018, so I hope it won’t be passed by the time you’re reading this. And if it has, there’s always a next year, right?

Like this guy who waited patiently for me to take a quick snap.

Hello! Is anyone home? Image credits: Naomi Mutua
Hello! Is anyone home? Image credits: Naomi Mutua

With the conservancy in the western edge of a key elephant corridor, it’s essential to keep the land intact for future generations, and for the immediate community through letting it function to serve both the animals and people. Connecting Samburu and Isiolo lands, the area is vital to the Ewaso ecosystem. When you have time, visit the main office and conservancy center to learn more; the team will entertain you with stories, and give you lots of information on why the team works to make this corner of the world special for us.

A bush breakfast will start the day right. Image credits: Naomi Mutua
A bush breakfast will start the day right. Image credits: Naomi Mutua

I learned so much from the team there about nature, and how the wild needs to thrive alongside us. I’ve got so many stories to tell you about Loisaba, but you must allow me to do this in my next post. We’ll explore what the conservancy does and some of their future plans, my acting skills, posing as a poacher, learning medicine from the bush and much more . I’m also hoping I get to go back and explore some more, cause there’s so much to do! Hint, hint!

Doing 'nothing' is highly encouraged. Image credits: Naomi Mutua
Doing ‘nothing’ is highly encouraged. Image credits: Naomi Mutua

For now, lemme tell leave you with some essential information:

Getting there:

While we took the Nairobi -Nanyuki – DolDol – Loisaba Route, I highly recommend the Nairobi – Rumuruti – Posta – Loisaba road. The tarmac gets you right on the edge of the conservancy, and you only have about 30 mins of a slightly bumpy ride to get to the tented camp.

You can also fly in via SafariLink, who have daily flights.

 Accommodation:

As part of the Elewana Collection, each guest is spoiled for choice.

  • The Loisaba Tented Camp hosts 12 tents, and are able to host families too.
  • The Loisaba Starbeds are a unique adventure, and host four rooms, opening the skies to magic.
  • The Acacia Campsite lies close to the largest dam on the property, and here you have acacia trees for sentries as you enjoy the open plains.

For contacts, talk to the team here:

Lengai House, Wilson Airport, P.O. Box 743, 00517 Nairobi, Kenya

+254 (0)730 127 000, and info@elewana.com

Essentials

Gadgets:

  • Carry your camera, or a phone with a great one! I used the OPPO F7 on this journey and the pics are amazing.

Your basics:

  • Other than clothes and toiletries, carry a jumper for the cooler mornings and evenings especially if you take a game drive. A scarf or shawl is a good addition too
  • Sunscreen, cause you know how the Kenyan sun can roast you unknowingly
  • You’ll be provided with a lovely water bottle at the camp, so just remember to refill it daily as you go on your excursions
  • Comfortable shoes, especially if you’re going for breakfast in the bush and sundowners, or exploring on foot.

You don’t need much else, the team will take great care of you.

So, who’s up for a trip to the wild north?

4x4s are the best in this terrain. Image credits: Naomi Mutua
4x4s are the best in this terrain. Image credits: Naomi Mutua

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.” – Mark Twain