One more new year’s long weekend to celebrate. One more place to visit. Where to go next? One night when sitting around with friends in our home, we thought, hey why not Samburu and beyond? We have never been to Matthews Ranges so what better time! Our friend Al-Karim Versi, founder and director of Routes and Boots Africa Ltd., arranged the whole itinerary for us. If you ever need some advice or a trip plan, they are your people!
Day 1 – Nairobi to Samburu. We started off at 5am, and drove as the sun came up. Breakfast at Le Rustique Nanyuki (oh how I have missed their waffles!) and after a solid tummy tank fill, it was off to Samburu. Now usually when we go to Samburu, its dry, and dusty and we see elephants here and there. NEVER in all the times there have we ever seen these many ellies! Males just ending their musth season meant we saw females with their babies running around, chased after excited bulls! We drove around for about 3 hours before getting to our campsite and wasn’t that just adventurous! My husband Sam, driving infront of me in our friend’s car, came across a just-born ellie calf in the middle of the road – the parents must have been scared off by the noises of cars but came back shortly after to take care of this little baby. Have you ever heard a tonne of elephants trumpet in glee? Well it’s an experience! We finally set down to camp as the sun set, watching the Ewaso Nyiro river flow, as we made our first gourmet meal – chicken tikka in the wild!
Day 2 did not turn out at all as we planned – one of our cars had major vehicle trouble and 40km from Kitich campsite we were grounded in the middle of nowhere for the night. We did, however, get really lucky and see the Reteti Elephant Sanctuary, a recent initiative of the local Samburu community in Namunyak. They currently have 13 orphaned elephants that they are hand raising and will reintegrate into the wild. I love how hospitable Kenyans are, no matter where in the country you go. When we were stuck in the dark, we had the local headmaster of a nearby school stop to assist, and we ended up camping at the boma of the matriarch of the community, where everyone treated us like kings and gave us everything they could. I could not be more grateful.
Day 3 was an early start as we packed up camp (after a really nice tow company from Nanyuki had sent a flat bed truck in the middle of the night to pick the grounded car) and drove to Nanyuki – we were told the car would be ready early the next morning, so where to go next? We needed to be close enough to Nanyuki so the perfect place was the campsite at Mount Kenya National Park’s Sirimon Gate – boy was it cold but beautiful! Crisp, clear, cold water to bathe with and wash hands – and for dinner, the gourmet chefs made coconut chicken and some hot rice to quell the tummy’s noises!
Day 4 – Finally got our car back, and went off to Ngare Ndare to spend two nights. and finally just chill out. Stop one – the clear blue pools for a cold swim! Boy was that refreshing! Our evenings were punctuated by chai and biscuits – next day we did some climbing (and it’s been a while for me!) – I felt powerful again after a long time. Both nights, we had a bull elephant right there, right behind our tents, munching away happily!
This trip felt like such an adventure, but as always, too short. To get up to Northern Kenya, past Samburu, I highly recommend more than one 4WD vehicle with you. The Kitich and Debrazza campsites that we were originally going to are in Namunyak Conservancy, and booking for them can be done through the Northern Rangelands Trust. I would also recommend being well stocked – the Chandarana in Nanyuki is pretty good, and you can buy most stuff there if you don’t want to travel with a fully loaded car all the way from Nairobi.
Photos credit to Al-Karim Versi and Naish Malde in addition to my husband and I