Although Samburu National Reserve has been one of the lesser-known national parks, often overshadowed by Maasai Mara, Tsavo and Amboseli, over the past few years it has become a traveller’s favourite due to its bounty of biodiversity and wildlife. Situated alongside the Ewaso Nyiro River, the surrounding savannah plains are home to the Samburu Special Five which are rare, northern specialist species including the Grevy’s zebra, Somali ostrich, reticulated giraffe, gerenuk and the beisa oryx. Of course, the reserve also has an abundance of elephants, leopards, cheetahs and lions, including Kamunyak, the miracle lioness that adopted a baby oryx.
Found deep in this northern part of Kenya, the Sarova Shaba Game Lodge is an elegant oasis that perfectly fuses with the natural beauty of Samburu. It is surrounded by lush gardens and natural springs on the banks of the Ewaso Nyiro River and is in the heart of the Shaba National Park, just east of Samburu. Shaba National Park is named after Mount Shaba, an extinct volcanic mountain that lies on the border of the reserve while the Ewaso Nyiro River, has its name derived from the local community’s language and means river of muddy water.
Apart from this natural history, Sarova Shaba also basks in the legacy of “Born Free” author Joy Adamson, who raised the animals she wrote about, near the current site of the lodge. Her most successful conservation efforts are associated with the orphaned lioness Elsa, whose mother was shot by Joy’s husband, George Adamson, as she charged him while protecting Elsa and her two siblings. Joy and George found it difficult to care for all the cubs, so the two larger cubs were sent to be cared for in a zoo in Rotterdam while the couple raised Esla. Elsa was eventually set free after months of training in hunting and survival and became the first lioness successfully released back into the wild, the first to have contact after release, and the first known release to have a litter of cubs.
Only 314 km from Nairobi, you can experience the magic of Samburu from the very beginning of your trip if you decide to take on the picturesque 5-hour drive through the curving roads around Mt. Kenya and crossing the equator at Nanyuki. If you are not comfortable with road trips or are pressed for time, there is also the option to take the 45-minute flight from Nairobi to Shaba or Samburu airstrip.
The lodge owns a fleet of well-equipped safari vehicles and employ knowledgeable guides to offer a memorable safari experience as you witness the extraordinary wildlife diversity and stunning scenery at any time of the day. At the end of an evening game drive, guests have the opportunity to indulge in a sundowner cocktail along the Ewaso Nyiro River and unwind watching the sun slowly slips below the horizon, and the sound of nature fills the air.
However, driving through the savannah is not the only way to connect with animals and nature. Sarova Shaba Game Lodge also has a record of over 350 different bird species, and therefore this is a great place to partake in bird watching. Team up with a naturalist to take a nature walk and be educated on the indigenous medicinal plant common to the area as well. Furthermore, Nile crocodiles densely populate the Ewaso Nyiro River, and guests can view a crocodile feeding session from a deck. There is also a chance to feed the reptiles yourself!
Other activities include swimming in the free-form pool to relax and cool off in between drives as well as a camel safari with a local Samburu warrior to learn about their lifestyle. The lodge also contains a tranquil spa where you can be pampered with an invigorating massage and calming facials.
The lodge offers Kenyan safari accommodation in elegant, chalet-style en-suite rooms, divided into three categories:
Standard Rooms are across two storeys (four rooms to a block), designed with intricate detail and offering beautiful views of the Ewaso Nyiro River and numerous springs that run across the lodge.
Executive Suites provide luxury amid the wild, with an elaborate lounge that opens into a large bedroom and breath-taking views of the Ewaso Nyiro River.
The Born Free Suite is a stylish presidential suite that encapsulates the Samburu culture in its interior décor. Situated amongst natural springs and lily pools, the suite has a large bedroom, living and dining area and a large bathroom with a private Jacuzzi.
Dining is an essential part of any holiday, and Sarova Shaba Game Lodge excels in food quality, supported by the lodge’s vegetable and herb garden. Built on stilts overlooking the river and spectacular views of the gardens and birdlife, Surpelei Restaurant is the main eating area that serves buffet-style breakfast, lunch, and dinner with pan-African, pan-European and pan-Asian cuisine. There are also two bars, the Chemi Chemi Bar and Caralluma Poolside Bar. The former is located along the riverbank and is fully stocked with a variety of cocktails, wines and spirits, while the latter serves refreshing juices, beer, and light beverages.
Enjoy unique dining experiences through a live cooking Champagne Breakfast on the sandbank of the river against the backdrop of the Shaba game park or Bush Dinners under the stars, accompanied with traditional music and dance.
Special request lunches and dinners can also be arranged at various outdoor locations where guests can enjoy an intimate dinner or private party.
Overall, Sarova Shaba is an ideal choice to relish in the perfect Samburu vacation and create the best memories of this underappreciated but incredible destination.
Article by Sanika Shah