The press trip adventure continues…
The group was staying at the aptly named Elephant Bedroom Camp, set deep in Samburu National Reserve without any barriers between the tents and the bush. After sundown guests need to be accompanied back to their rooms by the camp guards as inquisitive elephants visit the lodge on a nightly basis, thumping against nearby trees for nuts. This luxury camp has been created with eco-tourism and CSR in mind. Every tree was left in place bar one and employees including the security team and safari guides come from local Samburu tribes, wearing their bold tribal coloured robes around the camp. The 12 tented bedrooms are spacious and beautifully finished combining Kenyan, Moroccan and Western touches. The ‘front door’ of each room is a zip which opens onto your private veranda and plunge pool (big enough for four people!) overlooking the rugged doum palm-lined banks of the on the Ewaso Nyiro River where you can see animals passing by unaware of their audience.
Each night in Samburu we gathered as a group of ten or so for a tailor-made four-course dinner. The camp prides itself on being able to suit the needs of the guests and is happy to make adaptations to the menu if requested. We were joined by the camp management team and other guests around the camp fire, swapping fresh and time-honoured wildlife stories over gin and tonics late into the night.
When people think Africa they think wildlife. Nowhere else on Earth is graced with such a vast array of animals. Samburu was a perfect location to showcase Kenya’s wildlife with an epic backdrop of the rocky mountain ranges surrounding us. Each time you leave camp on a game drive its like stepping inside a wildlife documentary, but with all your senses heightened and awakened. You can smell the grass, the heat, animals, you can feel the African sun on your shoulders, the wind on your face, the rumble of the ground as herd of wild creatures cross your path. Then the sounds of the bush wash over you in layers, insects, birds, monkeys. On our first morning in Samburu we came across two young adult lionesses lazing in the sun after their morning hunt. It was the very first time I’d seen lionesses in the wild and was such a treat for us all.
As well as game drives we took a cultural excursion to a small Samburu village with just 19 families. After some welcome dances and songs from the village women it was time for audience participation with the ladies in the group being taught the traditional ostrich dance while the guys were taught how to jump like the Samburu men – a memorable experience!
Before bed one of the group spotted a tiny genet cat eating moths in a close-by tree and we went to sleep to the sound of baboons viciously fighting around the camp.
After spotting huge numbers of giraffes, oryx and zebra we were treated to a surprise lake-side bush breakfast, which is not the coffee-flask and enamel bowel of cereal affair one might expect! We turned up to fully laid tables with the Elephant Bedroom Camp cooks on hand to serve up fruit juices, and made-to-order food as well as fresh cafeterias of strong Kenyan coffee.
Funnily enough we saw more game on our transfer to Buffalo Airstrip than on the game drives, which certainly made a change from my journey to Heathrow where if I’m lucky I’ll see a London Underground mouse! We came across a cheetah protectively hunched over the body of a gazelle that it had taken down just 20 minutes earlier. Then, after admiring a family of blue monkeys and an eagle, we almost missed the most striking sight, a female leopard high in a tree having dragged her latest kill up there to eat in peace away from other big cats and birds of prey. The leopard was sprawled across a branch staring down at us with huge yellow eyes while balancing what was left of an impala against the tree trunk, its antlers and rib-cage still intact.
Our 17-seater SafariLink plane gave a birds-eye view out over the savannah we’ve spent that last few days exploring by road and a chance to bid a silent farewell to the herds of elephants and other groups of grazers we could see below.