June 2008 Trip Report - Kenya and new Saruni Camp

Jun 15th, 2008, 09:33 AM
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June 2008 Trip Report - Kenya and new Saruni Camp

Our twelve day Kenya adventure was fantastic and I would highly recommend Northern Kenya to anyone considering a trip to East Africa. We stayed at Borana Ranch for six days and then moved on to the new Saruni Samburu camp adjacent to Samburu National Park. Borana is a 35,000 acre reserve with prolific game. We chose Borana because it offers Horseback Safari and we were able to ride twice each day. There are actually two groups of horses from which to choose: Somali/Thoroughbred crosses that are smaller in stature and fairly quiet in nature AND Thoroughbred Polo Ponies that are the Ferraris of the equine world. As you can imagine, we opted for the mad gallops on the thoroughbreds! We were delighted with the gameviewing at Borana: Grevy's Zebra, Reticulated Giraffe, Beisa Oryx, Gerenuk, Eland, Waterbuck, Hartebeast, Leopard and a pride of twelve lion!

Although Borana is a working cattle ranch, the scale of the property seems to dwarf the cattle aspect. It feels like a game reserve teeming with animals and you occasionally see a few small herds of cattle being tended by Masai herders and their dogs. The accomodations at Borana are spacious and I looked forward to a roaring fire in the bedroom fireplace each evening. The bathrooms are enormous and each chalet has a large veranda from which to enjoy incredible views of Mt. Kenya. The property is at altitude (6,000 feet) and quite hilly, so this might be a consideration for some people. The payoff is certainly 360 degrees of panoramic splendor, as the terrain is mountainous and overlooks the Lewa Conservancy. After seven trips to Africa, I would rank Borana as one of my most favorite places and do hope to return again.

One of the sublime experiences at Borana is spending one morning riding with Rose Dyer, one of the daughters of the original landowner. Rose is in her mid-70's and rides horses every day! She has habituated the herds of reticulated giraffe to the horses, which enabled us to get within 10 feet of these beautiful creatures. It was somewhat surreal to be able to become part of the giraffe herd, as they quietly browsed on acacia. Rose is an absolute inspiration and has convinced us that we have many more years of horseback safari ahead of us!

The new Saruni Samburu camp is perched about 300 feet above the Kalama Reserve (95,000 acres) on a rock cliff overhang. Once again, the views are both dramatic and breathtaking. Part of the 'road' leading to the camp takes you through a boulder field and you end up parking on the top of a huge cliff. The individual houses could be right out of Architectural Digest and have a Morrocan design motif. The accomodations are stunning and spacious. Because we arrived shortly after the June 1 opening, there were several facilities that were still under construction (dining area, pool, lounge area). It might be best to wait until the camp is complete before booking a stay.

Game viewing in the Kalama reserve was scant, with just a few elephants and giraffe. We would make the 30 minute drive to Samburu National Park for better game viewing, but it mostly consisted of impala, gerenuk, giraffe and some elephant. We were somewhat disappointed in the game viewing, but the ecosystem is harsh and it is easy to understand that it cannot support large herds. I would have to believe that Saruni Samburu offers one of the most stunning and dramatic settings for a safari camp anywhere in the world. This alone is worth the visit.

A final highlight was our visit to the Sheldrick Elephant and Rhino Orphanage. If you plan on visiting Nairobi, I would encourage you to adopt an orphan ellie or rhino online. This will allow you to visit the facility at 5PM for a much more personal experience. It was a thrill to watch the elephant keepers bring the babies in for dinner and then watch them bottle feed the little ellies. We were able to give the ellies a scratch around the ears, as they grabbed our hands with their trunks. It is simply one of the most amazing animal interactions one could possibly hope for and the babies were relaxed, impish, naughty and engaging.

To our delight, we were able to meet Dame Daphne Sheldrick and enjoyed a long conversation with her. She was awaiting the arrival of yet another orphaned ellie whose mother had recently been poached. The youngest ellie at the orphanage is just three weeks old and it is heartwrenching to realize just how traumatized the little dears must have been before arriving at Sheldrick. Dame Daphne and her elephant keepers are selfless heroes and you leave the facility with a deep appreciation for the amazing work they are doing each day. Another highlight of the visit was the opportunity to give a good scratch to Max, a blind Black Rhino baby, who was rescued from the bush by the staff. For those of you who have already visited the Sheldrick facility, you know just how special that hour with the babies can be. It is something I will carry with me for a very long time.

I look forward to returning to Kenya someday soon. We found it to be magical in every way.

girlpolo33 is offline  
Jun 15th, 2008, 10:08 AM
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Sounds like a dream (except in my reality I am falling off my horse during the mad gallops, so a gentle trot is in order).

Thanks for the report!
Leely2 is offline  
Jun 15th, 2008, 10:39 AM
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thx a lot for your trip report. especially the samburu serian part if of great onterest.

i also appreciate your lines regarding the sheldrick foundation.
we have got 5 elephants there and always appreciate their monthly news on them.
kimana - the one which arrived on the day you visted - is number 6!
just in order to give something back to the country and its animals which we really adore and which adds so many great moments and memories to our lives!!
divine54 is offline  
Jun 15th, 2008, 11:44 AM
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Enjoyed your report, thanks!
Patty is offline  
Jun 15th, 2008, 01:39 PM
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Thanks girlpolo for the excellent report. I rode horses at Lewa Downs a few years ago, and was also surprised at just how close you could get to the giraffes. At one point we were actually so close that I couldn't get the giraffe's head in the camera shot. It's amazing to be up so close, be able to make out their eyelashes, and see their tongues coaching the leaves from the acacia trees.

Glad you had a wonderful trip. Kenya is a magical place.
Dana_M is offline  
Jun 15th, 2008, 03:13 PM
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Divine54: Samburu Serian part i think you meant Saruni Samburu (Kalama)

Girlpolo33: I was at Saruni Kalama before and during the opening for 5 days and had a blast, isnt it beautiful? I very much loved it but you are right, better to wait for everything to be finished, especially the pool cos its hot hot hot up there. Which villa did you stay in?
Sandi will be back soon and she also had 2 nights at Saruni Kalama, looking forward to read her opinion. While i was there we went to see the Rhino charge up in Namunyak...fun.
Alejandra is offline  
Jun 15th, 2008, 05:18 PM
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Divine54: You have a very big heart to sponsor six orphaned elephants. I left wanting to sponsor more than my little one, Dida. The round-the-clock care the ellies receive is truly a labor of love.
DanaM: So glad to hear you also enjoyed communing with the giraffe while on horseback. It certainly provides for a very different vantage point while on safari. I can't think of a better way to immerse oneself in the experience.
Alejandra: Great to hear you enjoyed the stunning setting at Saruni Samburu. Yes, it was hot, hot, hot during the midday; so the pool will be a welcome addition once completed. I travelled with a friend, so we stayed at the first 'villa', which has two separate bedrooms and a shared living area and veranda. It was incredibly spacious and luxurious. Ricardo spent three days with us and he was the perfect host and such a fascinating conversationalist. We enjoyed several meals with Sandi and it was great to finally meet her. All in all, a wonderful stay.
girlpolo33 is offline  
Jun 17th, 2008, 12:01 PM
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Just back and much to do but had to pop in to see what's been happening during my absence.

As girlpolo and her friend, along with Alex, I have to concur that the views at Saruni Kalama and the 'rooms' (read: houses) are breathtaking. Could have had a nose bleed at the altitude of the space I laid my head at the very top of the hill.

Yes, still some work to be completed, especially the pool which will be most appreciated in the very hot northern environment, but well worth the wait. Believe all will be completed end of June.

Be back when I've had some sleep.
sandi is offline  
Jun 17th, 2008, 12:19 PM
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Sandi, good to read you again...have a nice rest
Alejandra is offline  
Jun 17th, 2008, 01:00 PM
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@ alejandra
THANK YOU - of course your are right!

it's not only the elis but also snow leopards, cheetas in nam/bot, moon bears in china, animal shelters in europe........
we are very much involved in conservation so it's not really a big deal but the natural consequences.
divine54 is offline  
Jun 17th, 2008, 04:18 PM
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Thanks for your account of wildlife viewing and wild gallops. Another excellent trip to Africa for you!

atravelynn is offline  
Jun 18th, 2008, 04:52 PM
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Atravelyn: Thank you for your kind words. As you well know, the 'trip of a lifetime' occurred seven trips ago! I continue to utilize the wisdom of the fellow travellers on Fodors and this has enhanced my trips immeasurably.
girlpolo33 is offline  

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