Samburu tented camps

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Feb 19th, 2005, 07:59 AM
  #1
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Samburu tented camps

Habari gani? Iíve just found this forum and I have some questions.

Iím thinking about going to Samburu this year. As Iíd rather spend 5-6 days (or more) in one park than 1 or 2 in a couple of parks I canít go on an organised tour and a private safari would be far too expensive as Iím travelling on my own.

My idea is to take the bus to Isiolo, be picked up by a tented camp in Samburu and do the game drives on a ďnon exclusiveĒ basis - I did this in Tsavo East last year.

Iíve found four tented camps in Samburu: Bedouin and Elephant Watch (looks very interesting) seem to be extremely expensive so Iíll have to chose between Larsenís and Intrepids. They are expensive as well though Intrepids is a bit less so than Larsenís (am I right?). Also, Intrepids follows ecotourism principles though I donít know how they combine that with ďmahogany furnitureĒ. What favours Larsenís is that it hasnít got a swimming pool and that itís smaller than Intrepids. Larsenís and Intrepids are booked through Block- and Heritage Hotels, but I think it would be easier to negotiate a good price emailing directly to the owner or manager.

Does anyone know about a small low-key tented camp thatís not easily found in guidebooks and on the Internet? Has anyone taken the bus (or a plane) to Samburu and can tell me about the vehicles, drivers/guides and prices of Larsenís and Intrepids?

All thoughts and ideas are appreciated.
Thanks
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Feb 19th, 2005, 11:46 AM
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sandi
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When will you be traveling and what is your budget? In addition to your single room/tent rate, there is the daily conservation fee of $30

While the Samburu area is lovely, it is a small area even including Buffalo Springs and Shaba Reserves, 5-6 is a long time here.
 
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Feb 20th, 2005, 03:36 AM
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Thanks Sandi.

Iím not sure when Iíll be travelling, but I think itíll be the end of June. Iíve been to Kenya twice Ėboth times Iíve done the safari bit in June. It must be very low season because Iíve been almost the only guest in the camps. Iíve seen that the prices go up on 1st July, but Iíve been told that everything is very quiet until the second part of July. If I could manage to travel in April Iíd catch the lowest season, wouldnít I? My safari budget, at the moment, is no more than USD 1000.

On my first trip in 2003 I paid for everything in a package, including international flights from Sweden. I flew to the Masai Mara where I stayed for 9 days and then I had a couple of days in Nairobi. I can really recommend the camp where I stayed, Basecamp, and where I had a driver and a Landcruiser for myself although I hadnít paid for exclusive use. A couple of months ago I emailed Basecamp to ask their price and was told it was USD 85 for food and accommodation, USD 40 per game drive and USD 30 for park tickets. USD 195 per day is too expensive, even though I understand itís NOT if you consider whatís included. Now Iím afraid that the tented camps in Samburu are even more expensive. The prices vary between the guidebooks and I donít know whatís included. Last year I spent 6 days in Tsavo East for USD 120 per day (including game drives and park fees). I got that price bargaining with the camp owners via email. They normally donít have guests that come without a driver/guide and I got a special price (maybe they donít like that I write about it). My driver wasnít really a guide, but he was absolutely lovely. The place is called Tarhi Camp and itís amazing with elephants and buffaloes walking around among the tents.

Iím a slow person and I could stay for months or years even in the smallest Kenyan national park/reserve. Of course, you have to weigh it against the fact that there are many wonderful places to see in Kenya (and the rest of the word), but when Iím calm I reason that I have the rest of my life for doing that Ė when Iím not calm I panic and think that Iíll never be able to return to Kenya.

This year I would like to stay in Samburu for about 6 days and then take the bus to Naivasha and Nakuru where Iíll stay in hotels for 1000 shillings a night or less and make a day excursion to Lake Nakuru National Park. Itís a pity because I like campfires and lion roars just as much as game drives. Iíd also like to go to Lamu where there are a lot of inexpensive hotels. The problem is itís so far away and Iíll have to investigate the flight prices. Coming years Iíd like to visit Amboseli, Lake Turkana, Aberdares, less visited places in western Kenya, Iíve begun looking at Tanzania and Iíd definitely want to return to the Mara and Tsavo.

Sensible advice for me would be to recommend a budget camping tour for USD 80 per day, but those are fast paced safaris and, for reasons to silly to mention, I need a bathroom. Iíd define myself as a luxury traveller on a backpacker budget. Itís not the smartest thing to be.


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Feb 20th, 2005, 03:59 AM
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Hello Nyamera, seems we have much in common as far as kenya and the way we do things there. I stayed at Base camp in 2001. I liked it. But I still prefer basic camping. Any way, if you like e-mail me at:
[email protected]
We can trade stories and ideas. Be easier that way.
Thanks, david
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Feb 20th, 2005, 04:01 AM
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You are correct that at the beginning of June there will be less tourists and the prices are still low. And while I'm certain there are probably some hidden camping sites in the Samburu area, but I wouldn't know where to begin to direct you. Since you are truly looking for a budget safari, I would suggest you post your request with Lonely Planet, where you will find like travelers to assist you.
 
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Feb 20th, 2005, 07:32 AM
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Jambo Nyamera:

Interested seeing your request for info on Samburu. I just returned from my second stay there. I stayed at Elephant Watch Camp which is marvelous. It is a very eco-friendly camp run by Oria Douglas-Hamilton, the wife of the elephant researcher Iain. The camp is fantastic, the tents are so very comfortable, guests are limited to 10 people, and you always have dinner with Oria and/or Iain who can impart some tremendous knowledge of elephants and Kenya. It is expensive but it is really worth it.

The other plus is that their drivers and guides know all the elephants personally and vice versa which means you will get much closer than you would with any other guide in Samburu. I experienced things with Alfred and Sumaro that no other vehicle got close to, and it was thrilling. They know which musth bulls are dangerous and which are not. They found things for me in August which I had never seen before in six previous trips. Admittedly the beginning of this month it was hard for them to find anything, but that is because the animals had deserted the park after the rains.

I would not think of driving to Samburu. It is about a 6 hour drive over very bumpy roads. You can fly Air Kenya for about $180.00 round trip.

I applaud you for going to Tsavo East. I too love that park. I always stay at Satao Camp which is not too far from Tarhii. It is a wonderful camp, particularly in the dry season where about 1,000 elephants a day come to their borehole. In the dry season you usually also see cheetah near by camp and some times lion in camp.

Since you have an idea of where you want to go and when, why don't you email [email protected] and ask him to give you a price. I have used this travel company on all seven trips and I recommend them highly. I travel alone and they always see that I am safely taken care of.

Jan
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Feb 20th, 2005, 08:20 AM
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Jan

I've never heard from anyone who actually went to Elephant Watch Camp. The concept just sounded great. Thanks for the firsthand report.

How long were you at the camp?

Also appreciate your travel agent tip.
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Feb 20th, 2005, 10:36 AM
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For Jan, glad your back : ) Jan, when you could. Drop me an e-mail?
Thanks, David
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Feb 20th, 2005, 12:31 PM
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Jan,
Since you've been to Samburu a few times, I was wondering if you've visited Larsen's and Intrepids. If you have, do you think one has a better location or setting over the other? Elephant Watch looks fabulous but it's a little too expensive for us.

Or if anyone else has stayed at either camp and has any comments, I'd appreciate it.
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Feb 20th, 2005, 01:47 PM
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sandi
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Patty - Larsen's and Samburu camps and the Serena Lodge are all situated along the river, but at a distance from one another. It's not like you can see one from the others. Also Samburu is a relatively small park, so where one camp or lodge is located, to me, wasn't an issue.

The Serena is a lodge. Larsen's is a more rustic camp then Intrepids, though Intrepids is larger and tends to get group travelers. However, when we visited in November, we were only one of two couples occupying two of the 25 tents. Doubt it will be crowded in June. While on game drives, only once in two days did we come upon the other couple staying here. They went out in the camp vehicle as they flew to Samburu; we had our own guide/driver. We did, however, join them for dinners and are friends to this day.

We found the tents roomy, with 4-poster queen bed, mosquito nets, double washbasins in bathroom, outside deck, all tents are raised (not on the ground)... and if you're as lucky as I, you'll have vervet monkeys join you for breakfast and a cervet cat walk across the dining area while your enjoying your dinner. Before the end of June you can probably get the tents here at about $200/pppn, plus the $30/day park fee.

Yes, Elephant Watch is lovely, but expensive; as is Bedouin Camp... newer and rather exotic, more remote, but also up there pricewise. While many camps change/raise their prices as July 1, some increases go into effect as June 15.
 
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Feb 20th, 2005, 03:59 PM
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sandi,
Do the tents at Intrepids have a view of the river? If not, what do they overlook? Thanks.
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Feb 20th, 2005, 06:17 PM
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Atravelynn:

I have stayed at Elephant Watch Camp on two occasions - in August 2004 and February 2005. I stayed for three days on each occasion. It is indeed fantastic. Check out
www.elephantwatchsafaris.com and you can read more about the camp.

Oria and Iain are the perfect hostess/host and have many wonderful stories to tell. Iain's office Save the Elephants is only a couple of miles from camp and I have also visited there and met several of his researchers who help him when they dart and collar one of the elephants for tracking purposes. It it most interesting.

The travel agency is one that I whole-heartedly recommend. As I said, I have used them on seven occasions and they are willing to set up anything you want. Not many groups are willing to do ala carte-type safaris. The only thing I do is book my own airfare from here to Kenya and let them know in advance where I want to go and for how long. They do all the rest. They do it superbly.

Jan

Jan
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Feb 21st, 2005, 05:02 AM
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Patty - I didn't see all the tents, but the camp is basically along the river front. We did stay in a tent along the river and though we didn't hear them, the ellees did come to drink during the night or very early mornings - signs were there (their droppings). You can specifically request a tent on the river. We happened to have been lucky, I guess, in that we were placed in that tent. Don't recall exactly where the other couple was situated, but not far from us, though I didn't see theirs, nor inquire if they were river front.
 
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Feb 21st, 2005, 06:55 AM
  #14
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Jambo Jan,

When I was inquiring about Tsavo East I was told you donít see many animals there. I wanted to go anyway because I was attracted by the name and by what I had read. There where red elephants absolutely everywhere and I saw very big herds of buffaloes. There were grandtís, gerenuks, impalas, hartebeests, oryx, waterbucks, zebras, kudus in the bushes a giraffe behind almost every tree and many other animals. I didnít see as many cats as in the Mara; I saw just one cheetah and from a distance, but I saw lions every day and heard them at night. A couple of time I saw elephants just ten metres from my tent and every night two huge buffalo bulls came to graze just in front of the tents. One of them was just two metres away when I got out of the tent to go to dinner. Also, there is the David Sheldrick elephant orphanage. Iím definitely going back some day.
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Feb 21st, 2005, 07:05 AM
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Hi, Nyamera, we need to talk,: ).
Catch ya soon.
david
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Feb 22nd, 2005, 06:42 AM
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Jed
 
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Habari ya asubuhi -

A few years ago we stayed at Intrepids for 3 nights. At first they gave us a tent by the kithcen which was noisy, then we moved to a much better one which was near the river. We enjoyed it, but felt that 3 nights was too much for us. There really was not a lot to do besides go on a safari in the morning and afternoon. Other activities either looked dull or cost too much. The food was very good.
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Feb 22nd, 2005, 11:54 AM
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Jed - Curious - what other activities were offered and at what cost?
 
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Feb 22nd, 2005, 04:06 PM
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The included activites were the 2 daily drives, pool, and a talk by a Masai at night.

Otherwise, everything else was extra: massage, nature walk, bird walk, village visit, cultural dance, sundowner barbeque, river rafting. I don't remember the costs. We felt that some of these should have been included.
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Feb 23rd, 2005, 05:25 AM
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Jed - Massage is usually extra at most places. As far as the other activities that you felt sould be included - Considering that the prices at Intrepids can be half that at Elephant Watch, a third of Bedouin, no surprise that the "extras" you list were offered at an additional cost.
 
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Feb 23rd, 2005, 03:35 PM
  #20
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Whatever.
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