Over the years, we have found many exciting ways to get out into the wilderness and really experience all it has to offer. Now, we want to offer you the fruits of that knowledge. While staying at Elephant Watch Camp, our guides will discuss with you what you would like to do each day, and tweak plans according to your mood and their recommendations. They are in regular communication with conservation researchers and rangers across Samburu National Reserve. This makes sure you are involved with every exciting development, and are the first to arrive on the scene.
Your focus is likely to be to spend as much time with the elephants as possible. We adapt our schedules to match their daily rhythms. You might find them, early in the morning, ambling down towards the water from where they were browsing at night, or at midday in the shade of the woodland along the river’s banks. But you could also head out at sunrise to track a lion or a leopard to where they are lying up with a fresh kill. Aside from the wildlife, many of our guests tell us that some of their most cherished memories are of the moments they spent getting to know the Samburu people.
Dotted across Samburu National Reserve are a series of secret spots where you can safely step down from the vehicle to spend a quiet hour or two relaxing over a picnic lunch. Some are on high ground with views stretching across untouched wilderness to distant mountains. Others are in glades in the shade of the Acacia woodland on the banks of the Ewaso Nyiro. Our chefs will have packed delicious food for you – ice-cold soup with fresh focaccia, Moroccan rice salad with mini burgers and seared chili broccoli, finished off with rum-laced melon mix for pudding – and plenty of chilled drinks in the cooler box.
Walking in Samburu is one of the highlights. There’s plenty of short walks to do around camp, like going in search of some of the small five – elephant shrews, buffalo weavers, ant lions, leopard tortoises and rhino beetles – or on a meandering bird walk with close to 400 species to identify. We know where to find hornbill nests along the river bank or a pair of Verreaux eagle owls that live close to camp, and there’s nothing more fun or unpredictable than answering the call of a honey-guide who leads you on a merry dance to find the closest bee-hive. When the river is low we can splash along in the shallows and show you where the crocodiles have slid into caves under the banks to estivate during the dry season, and the warriors are always up for a game of football in the dry river bed. For those who are more adventurous, nothing beats hiking up the famous flat-topped sacred mountain, Ol Donyo Sapache, or the peaks of the Matthew’s range.
After a long day exploring the wilderness nothing is better than a traditional sundowner – a cool cocktail with a clear view of the sun as its golden orb slides below the horizon. We like to take time to appreciate these celestial moments – the change from day to night, the rising of the moon, or lying beneath the dizzying expanse of stars. The best place for a sundowner is on top of a modest hill at the end of a snaking dry river to the west of Camp. The walk takes an hour at a reasonably gentle pace, in the company of a host of warriors. Often, by the time you arrive at the hill, the warriors are in a celebratory mood and keen to dance a renyatta – the traditional leaping competition of young men – that they may well invite you to join! This is often followed by a host of exhilarating games – like lions trying to steal calves from a mother cow – that are hugely popular with guests and warriors alike! We often suggest a gift of a goat as a thank you.
VISIT SAVE THE ELEPHANTS
Elephant Watch Camp is very closely connected to the world-leading conservation charity, Save the Elephants, established by Iain Douglas-Hamilton as part of his pioneering research on the world’s largest land mammal. We highly recommend that you drop by the organisation’s visitors centre, a little way downstream from camp. There you can learn all about the elephant collaring programme, how radioactivity from the atom bomb helps us age ivory or how a successful beehive fencing project is preventing elephants from raiding crops. Outside the centre a display of lower jawbones shows you the sad relics of poaching but also how the researchers can age and sex elephants from their bones. Equally fascinating is learning how good scientific research can contribute long-term to elephant management in a rapidly changing world, where habitat loss is an increasing problem.
VISIT TO A SAMBURU VILLAGE
Most of our team come from villages that border the national reserves, and the nomadic community there regularly welcomes our guests to see a little of how they live. A few hours spent in the company of the Samburu families we know well makes a great outing for kids, who can learn how to milk goats, throw spears, make jewellery or even participate in a mock cattle raid. Elders and village leaders will answer all your questions. If there’s something on your mind, why not pop in to see the local wise-man, who is enormously generous with his insights and blessings. Eco-tourism offers important alternative livelihoods or income streams for these stoic nomads, and by finding ways to reinforce their culture and build on their natural conservation ethic, it helps protect the wild animals too.
HIKE UP OLOLOKWE
Looming temptingly on Samburu’s northern horizon is Ol Donyo Sapache (Ololokwe), a flat-topped mountain with dizzying rock walls that is sacred to the local people and only a couple of hours drive from camp. With permission from the tribal elders, Elephant Watch guides can take you up to its peak for unparalleled views into what used to be called Kenya’s Northern Frontier District. A forest with ancient trees shrouds the top, and eagles soar along the cliff edges to catch thermals. You can ascend and descend in one day – a walking round trip with a picnic takes between four to five hours. Or we can set up a simple bush camp so you can overnight under the stars and experience the marvel of dawn from this exceptional vantage point.
For the more adventurous we have teamed up with a beautiful community lodge on a distant escarpment to offer a three day camel trip that ends at Elephant Watch. Walking starts at first light whilst the day is still cool and if you get tired you can always take a break on the back of a camel. Elephants are often sighted on foot and your nights are spent sleeping out under the stars, listening to lions roar as you feast on bubbling stews cooked over a campfire. On the last day you splash across the Ewaso Nyiro river to arrive in the sumptuous cool of Elephant Watch Camp where you can soothe your aching muscles under a hot shower and be spoiled rotten for a few days as your muscles continue to tingle from all the exercise.
WILD SAFARIS BY HELICOPTER
Skimming low above the treetops or soaring up and over an escarpment like an eagle on a rising thermal, the only way to absorb the full immensity of Africa’s landscapes is from the air. A day-trip by helicopter takes you from the semi-arid warmth of Samburu at 3,000ft all the way up the northern slopes of Mt Kenya to the ice-cold waters of Lake Alice, at more than 12,000ft, one of the best trout fishing spots in Africa. Or you can head into the open desert of the Suguta valley, over shimmering soda lakes, go fishing for Nile perch at Lake Turkana, or even explore the paleontological sites of Koobi Fora. All within a day’s trip with a tasty picnic from Elephant Watch Camp.