camel safari

Old May 4th, 2006, 01:57 PM
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camel safari

Has anyone had experience with a camel safari in the Sanburu area?
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Old May 4th, 2006, 02:45 PM
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Are you doing a safari for a day or a few days... or just for an hour or so? If the latter, it's fun. And the price is right.

Don't know about the longer camel safaris, but with those, there is as much walking with the camels as riding on the camels... the camels used mainly to transport supplies.

 
Old May 4th, 2006, 06:05 PM
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Can only speak to the couple hour safari.

You will probably go with a few other people. The camels were lead by several young Samburu men. We did not see game while on the camels, but on a 1/2 day camel safari at Lewa Downs we saw quite a bit. After about 30-40 minutes of riding we dismounted and the young men showed how they made fire from sticks and stones. We mounted again and continued on the camels to a village where we had a typical interesting village visit. The we got on the camels again and headed back to an area where the driver was waiting. It was enjoyable and lasted about 2 hours. The specifics could be slightly different now.
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Old May 4th, 2006, 09:48 PM
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This is more for the experience of the whole thing vs real quality big game viewing/experience/photography

I would just do a short ride/walk with the camels for the experience of it......any game will just be a bonus
 
Old May 6th, 2006, 12:56 AM
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I've been researching this for the past few months and actually meant to summarise my findings here for those who might be interested. I have to go to a funeral in a couple of hours but in the enxt two days I'll take this opportunity to write my long-promised report on camel safaris in Kenya.

Note I have not done one, so if anyone with real experience can post I'll be incorporating their comments into my report ;-)

Anyway, I'll be able to give you an idea of what to expect, how much it will cost and who has good reputations etc.... I'll post as soon as I can.
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Old May 8th, 2006, 07:44 AM
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Oedonahue hi

Camels as mentioned are not the most comfortable thing in the world to Bride! but walking with them be it a morning or a week is absolutely one of the greatest experiences. If you are upto stretching your legs for a little then this is for you. For those that get a little tired then you can always hop on the back.

Just the mention of the word brings back memories of many days walking in the NFD north of Mt Kenya. Most camel walks in kenya are located in the north from Laikipia to Marsabit. I have been with Simon Evans from his Sabuk home several times though he has now sold and Verity Williams has taken over his string. They use a great route down the Uaso Nyiro. Alterantely Kerry Glen and her husband have a string of camels that they use through the Karisia hills and down into the northern rift valley. Another possibility would be to do the most amazing walking in northern Samburu using donkeys instead of camels as pack animals. I did a safari several years ago with Alex Walker using camels as pack animals and horses to ride up and around the milgis lugga. We had to ride out in a different direction from the camels as they dont seem to get on too well with the horses.

Really the idea is that you walk and the camels carry your gear. Sleep out on the sand river beds under the stars and spend a lot of time in the company of the Samburu and Rendille trackers and herders. Real Safari! though topping it off with a little R&R at a nice comfy camp after a few days hard walking is very refreshing. Try asking alex on [email protected]
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Old May 11th, 2006, 10:34 AM
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OK Paul, it's been 5 days, where's your report? You know my Kenya plans are up in the air again!
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Old May 11th, 2006, 10:55 PM
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Coming Patty.... next couple of days for sure! I have REALLY been busy at work and this report is going to take a couple of hours to compile because if I just cut and past everything it'll be a short book!
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Old May 12th, 2006, 04:01 AM
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Okay here is the first bit.You can put an "apparently" or an "it is said that" before every sentence here if you so wish. Sources are guidebooks, writings of Wilfred Thesiger, Web sites of operators, trip reports from people who have done camel safaris at various places posted on the Web, shiny-bright and jolly travel jouranlism, email exchanges with various operators, this board and others like it, and bits and pieces picked up here and there when I was looking for something else. What mzeetembo says above concurs with what I've heard from other sources (except for the plug for Alex Walker and Serian - although I'm not saying he doesn't do camel safaris; just that I've not heard him mentioned in that context in my cyber-travels; and I'm not sure I would want hime to "share his passions" with me - quote from his Web site).

Kenyan camel safaris vary significantly as to what they comprise. You can do it by the hour by the day or by the trip (i.e. a regulalry taken route that the particular operator uses).
If you do it "by the route" then safaris vary from 3 to around 11 days in length. The long ones are real expeditions covering quite a lot of ground and seem to be
designed to at least partially mimic the experience of the old-time explorers and adventurers who used camel trains to get around northern Kenya - it being too dry and hot for horses or for expeditions carrying your own gear. It is the most affordable and easiest way to really do it like grandad used to do! As mentioned above, camel safaris were traditionally walking safaris, with the camels used to carry gear - most importantly food and water, which can be difficult to come by in the arid north - even today. However, camels are ridden in Kenya - either to rest legs or to enable the train to move for quickly for a time. Since the camels will be loaded up, unless a large number of specific riding camels are taken along, people did- and still do - take turns riding camels. This is not tremendously comfortable (although Sandi of this board found it peculiarly erotic apparently ) and can be a bit scary to some - you are up quite high - but it is pretty easy and not too bad at all. It can only be done on suitable terrain - I presume that excludes hills and along ridges ;-) I think of it as a cross between a donkey and an elephant expereince-wise. In the end, though, most people seem to end up walking the vast majorityof the time. Camel safaris are usually accompanies by Samburu or Rendille warriors but rearing camels is not a single tribe thing and other tribes seem to have similar expertise (I assume that since the Samburu were among the most helpful tribes to the British during their occupation of the country it would have been natural for Europeans to prefer Samburu companions on safari; in addition the Samburu lands are around the points which were the furthest north the British ever tried to really control - anything north of Malaral, except perhaps Marsabit, they seem to have left pretty much to its own devices).

Lots more to follow....
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Old May 12th, 2006, 07:15 AM
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Those who are afficiandos agree that you should do a quite a few days to get the feel of a real camel safari. Of course the operators also say this ;-) All camel safaris that I have noticed operate out of the north of the country, with the furthest south being from Nanyuki (pardon my geography if that's wrong). What all "serious" camel safari operators (I think by their standards the one hour rides are to their safaris what riding donkeys on the beach at Brighton (sorry if you don't get the reference) is to horse-riding ) the idea seems very much to be to get away from everything into the 'real' bush. They usually follow rivers (often dry), go through passes, and either up into the hills or through desert (safaris around Laikipia are more hills and rivers, while you need to go further north to get into the desert). Some go somewhere (e.g. there is one from Lewa Downs to Il Ngwesi in Laikipia)but most are just traveling without a particular destination. They generally have set itineraries, though, which seem to be chosen to provide particularly scenic routes. Game spotting is very much incidental, and many people seem to have been on a camel safari and seen little except the odd dik dik and antelope. Elephants, giraffes and all sorts
have been seen by others but few predators - which is probably the way the camels like it. Lots of birds of course.. and silence. The experience we are talking of here is just you and the tribesmen in remote and beautiful
areas populated by animals which you will see traces of and hear, but only occasionally see. Generally travel is 4-6 hours per day, with few people complaining about being exhausted at 4 - more at 6, and it is often, quote, "hot" and "dusty". Camp is set around lunchtime - or later if you are doing 6 hours (some of the more upmarket operators seem to move a good part of the gear around by vehicle so that the camp is set for you when you arrive).The interaction you could expect sounds like it would be very similar to what the poster "dlo" described recently with regard to his donkey safari, (i.e. a chance to get to really know some of these people a bit, on their own turf ) but a number of the trip reports barely mentioned the tribesmen except for the normal stuff about bright red and bright sunlight, etc., so I would guess that's a sign it depends on the particular people on both sides. There will often be a white lead guide and I am not aware of any of these operations run by black Kenyans. Tents are generally of the smaller variety, and with bedrolls rather than beds in all cases so far as I am aware (I don't think it really goes with the experience to have beds, anyway). Bush showers and toilets are provided (again as far as I know these are not "en suite" but I didn't ask about that - perhaps it could be arranged
if it is important to you?). It's fairly basic, even at the top end, and I think the major differences between top and bottom end are locations, slightly more luxurious everything, more exciting food, and possibly guiding (I say"possibly" because there is no way I could comment on that - in the reports I've read people did seem slightly more taken by the guiding, but only slightly). Hopefully someone will be able to comment on this further. Ice is pretty much out of the
question, although some operators keep wine chilled in wet straw and then in the river.

The best place to get an idea of what's available and what it'll cost is to go to the Let's Go Travel WEb site - they do a lot of the bookings for these places in the north.

The most interesting-sounding camel safari operators I have come across are:

Sabuk - A long-standing operation near Samburu but now under new ownership. Can do any length of safari, but the classic safari is 4-5 nights. Travels mostly on Laikipia ranches and therefore probably a good chance of some animal sightings - although keep in mind that this is not the reason to do a camel safari. Have a beautiful campsite for the first night - or for one day safaris - and have read no less than five reports, all very positive (again, all with Simon Evans and family,so I am not sure if it will be the same) and they certainly seem to take excellent care of their guests. Lots of opportunities for swimming, very sedate pace - you're finished for the day in time for a swim before lunch. Nature walks and the like in the afternoon. Very small groups and often just your group, or with one other. Cost is from $300 per night, which is the same as Sabuk lodge in low season - not 100% sure whether it goes up during the high season like the lodge - I had the impression it didn't use to. I've been so tempted so many times by this and I still may go for it. Contact through Cheli & Peacock.

Bobong Campsite - Ol Maisor- Run by John and Amanda Perrett who owns the Bobong campsite near Rumaruti, which is a little north of Lake Baringo, on teh way to Malaral. Another long-standing operation. Starting point is Bobong Campsite, which is a stop on a number of budget camping tours and for adventure/educational/ornithological tours has a campsite and basic bandas (with a nicer, quieter and slightly more expensive one next to the river if you don't want to hang out with the budget travelers and the tame cheetah - actually I didn't ask if the cheetah
was still around). Not publicised much (find an email address for Bobong Camp by googling - there is no Web site). They do very cheap camel safaris at as low as $10 -$20 per day, but John will also do you a tailor made one - this is what we enquired about - and the cost is still very, very good. $100 a day will get you a lot - at least tents, bed-roll, bush shower and bush loo - and you don't have to do the cooking unless you're on one of the budget tours ;-) My impression is that the countryside around here (not necesarily on the ranch) is a bit drier and plainer than that out of Sabuk, for example, (except for the nearby swamp) but still very nice, and although there is not a lot of wildlife in the immediate area they have an arrangement where you can end your safari in an game reserve area (Malaral or Lewa perhaps - I'm afraid I didn't ask) if you're willing to do four days and have someone to pick you up - otherwise you'll need another 3 days to get back of course. Anyway, they seem flexible and honest and I have two trip reports say they are good too. This is however, a famous area for birds (and I do mean El Maisor... I'm not getting confused with nearby Lake Baringo). Definitely worth a look if basic camping at $300 per night doesn't do it for you. Group tours sound "energetic" to say the least, with quite a lot of walking, some working and a few blisters
("knackered". "fantastic but I'm pretty wiped out" were some quotes from young people) but if you do a private tour you can of course set the pace.

Have to take a rest and do some other things ... I'll continue later (and not necessarily today). If anyone else wants to add some other information I will not be at all upset ... gathering the information is a labour of love, but typing certinly is not

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Old May 12th, 2006, 07:25 AM
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Patty, you seen this?
http://www.lets-go-travel.net/?q=node/view/418
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Old May 12th, 2006, 07:41 AM
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Sorry, it is Rumuruti... a typo... and I should mention that Jasper Evans is the camel man at Ol Maisor but I dealt with John Perrett.
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Old May 12th, 2006, 10:54 AM
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Thanks for sharing your research! I was able to confirm availability at Elsa's by switching around the order of my itinerary, so I'm sticking with my original plans (at least I'm trying very hard to do so), and I feel that I must reassert some fiscal control over my safari

I was really torn though and strongly considered Sabuk. If we'd gone with Sabuk, I would've eased into the experience by doing just an overnight safari since I'm not sure how well (or not so well) I'd handle the heat. I must admit reading comments like "scorching hot", "the heat was relentless" and "an hour was beginning to feel like a day" (quotes from king's trip report) scared me. And I think Mark would be somewhat embarrassed if I had to ask for a helicopter lift out

Can you post links to the other reports you mentioned (for both Sabuk and Bobong)?

Go on the camel safari so I can live vicariously through you!
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Old May 12th, 2006, 01:35 PM
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Lots of good detail.

Sabuk is under new management. But this doesn't change the fact that they are known for camel safaris. Located in Laikipia (not near Samburu) on the same ranch as Loisaba Lodge (they're about 20-minutes drive from one another; about 2-hrs by camel, either walking or atop.

As to the "hot" - it sure is during their summer months of January - March when temps rise well into the 100s. Not when I'd want to be walking or riding out there. Believe camel safaris would be ideal during their winter months between July thru September, though it's always hotter up this way than what would be down in the Mara.

 
Old May 12th, 2006, 01:48 PM
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sandi,
What were the temps like when you were there? Early part of June, right?
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Old May 12th, 2006, 02:12 PM
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Patty - yes, early June. The daytime temps were probably in the mid-70s, though there were times I thought it was more like 80. However, it was "dry heat" (think Sin City) so relatively comfy.

We went out on our "sundowner" camel safari - about 4pm till about 6pm - including the ride to, time spent at the kopje (Eileen up top; me mid-way... that height thing) and return to camp. We were in crop pants and t-shirts/tank tops and wore the same at night. It really didn't get that much cooler once the sun set. Believe it was in the high-60s... and sleeping was delightful.

The bandas at Sabuk are completely open on one side, though your bed is surrounded/protected by mossie nets. But remember - the altitude here is relatively high, so it was more moths to the flame (light in our room) then mossies.
 
Old May 14th, 2006, 08:44 AM
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Sandi.. Thanks for the comments. As you know I'm fumbling around in the dark here. With the Laikipia/ Samburu thing - actually I know it's in Laikipia but I had this thought that I should say it was near Samburu because Laikipia is such a amorphous sort of area - I can never quite work out where it begins and ends - would have been better to say "the Isiolo side of Laikipia" or something, I guess? It was something I meant to go back and think about later and forgot.
I made a point of the new owners because of the name the Evans family seem to have in the camel business (I'm sure Jasper Evans at Ol Maisor/ Bobong is a very close relative (father or uncle?)of Simon Evans of Sabuk). I'm not suggesting it won't be just as good now - and for all I know Simon Evans could still be doing the camel safaris - but my impression was that the camel safaris were previously associated with the Evans family as much as with Sabuk as a place. Good point about the heat depending on the time of year too .... I didn't think to look when most of these people had actually been travelling... come to think of it, the height you travel at will have a bearing too - some of the tours seem to travel on pretty high ground.

Patty... I have the same problem with my wife... you should have seen her face when I was trying to explain why we should do a camel safari. She's game but there's an unspoken threat that I better have a Plan B if it's too much for her... (anyone reading this and being put off ... my wife wants to know where we are going and why before she walks anywhere - she completely does not get the idea of walking as a leisure activity). Maybe we can get Julius to trail us! Otherwise it's Flying Doctor time and a hefty bill for getting them out for no good reason ;-) Like you I am so tempted... but driving and walking in the Aberdares is something I really want to do as well. Will have to toss a coin or something.

Sorry I have not had time to finish or to provide links... I had a a bit of time earlier today but couldn't get a connection to Fodors for some reason.. and now it's bedtime and them I'm going to be busy again ... will finish soon and get you some links to the trip reports - unfortunately I didn't save them all, because I wasn't planning to do this when I started looking into it..
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Old Jun 13th, 2009, 01:15 PM
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Topping because this is still on my radar. Sabuk has gotten a little pricey for me but I've been looking at Karisia's expedition safaris. Has anybody done one of those? I did find a past trip report http://www.fodors.com/community/afri...rip-report.cfm but I think they did something that's a bit cushier than what I'm considering.

I also came across a very old Bobong report http://www.outtoafrica.nl/engnairobinairobi.html
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