Karen Karimi Knaust @Karimi_Karen
On a chilly Sunday morning, I was super excited about my road trip to Northern Kenya. I had heard so much about Samburu people, their culture and wildlife and of unique lodges in the Samburu National Game Reserve. This was my first time in Samburu.
Our team left Nairobi by road at 10.30am and arrived in Nanyuki town around lunchtime. A 20-minute lunch break is all we needed before proceeding to our designated hotel, which took another three hours.
Upon our arrival at Samburu Simba Lodge, we were warmly welcomed by a troupe of Samburu traditional dancers and Justus Kyumwa, the acting hotel manager. The weather was amazing but pretty hot. It was about 4pm and the welcome, cool drink of mocktails was delicious. While waiting for room allocations, Justus took us on tour of the hotel.
Situated 300 km north of Nairobi in Buffalo Springs National Reserve in Isiolo County, Samburu Simba Lodge promised an exceptional up-close-and-personal African experience. On the other side of the river is the Samburu National Reserve and further to the north is the famous Shaba National Reserve.
Buffalo Springs Game Reserve is one of the lesser-known national parks, but is nevertheless teeming with wildlife. Situated alongside the Ewaso Nyiro River, there is plenty to attract wildlife from the surrounding savannah plains.
Kamunyak (meaning Blessed One), the miracle lioness that once adopted a baby oryx, was once a resident in the adjacent Samburu Game Reserve. She is famous for having adopted at least six oryx calves and fighting off predators and lion prides which attempted to eat her charges.
A film on her, Heart of a Lioness, was first shown on the BBC and later premiered in the US on Animal Planet in March 2005. She was last sighted in February 2004 and is presumed dead. Wild dog sightings are also a common attraction to this unique protected area, which offers over 450 bird species.
Since my team and I were in Samburu for work, our breakfast was freshly packed and given to the driver by 4am.
November was low season for them and had about 15 guests at that time we visited. Justus did mention that December bookings are high, with both local and international guests flying in – so book early.
By staying at Simba, you can explore both Samburu National Reserve and Buffalo Springs. On our game drives, we spotted Samburu’s Special Five – Somalia ostrich, Beisa oryx, reticulated giraffe, Grevy’s zebra and gerenuk.
“Gerenuks are an unusual kind of antelopes that have long graceful necks and are sometimes also teased as giraffe-necked antelopes,” our tour guide said.
We also saw other grazers too such as kudus, Grant’s gazelles, dik diks and many others, each on the alert for predators like lions, cheetahs, leopards and wild dogs for which Samburu is well-known. Samburu also boasts of more than 450 species of birds that can make your avian-watching expeditions and bush walks more memorable.
Samburu Simba Lodge is a huge hotel consisting of a delightful collection of structures with sloping roofs covered with wooden slats and paved stone floors.
The lodge has seven villas that house 70 rooms in all. Every villa has six rooms on the ground floor and four on the first floor. Two of these rooms are interconnected for smaller families, but the top floor rooms offer better views of the bush.
The lodge does not permit guests smoking in the rooms, but they have separate smoking areas visitors can use. Some of the guest rooms have twin beds while others have double beds. A few of the rooms offer a third bed.
Large, sliding double doors open onto the private verandah outside where you can spend time in comfortable lounge chairs and watch herds of elephants, impalas and waterbuck, among others roam the Samburu landscape below you. A bathroom provides basic amenities you might expect in a budget hotel.
The lodge has two swimming pools, one of which is a low-level infinity pool offering views of the gorgeous Samburu wilds. Tall yellow fever trees provide shade while lounge chairs furnish the stone deck around the pool.
Talk about food! Mouth-watering meals were being served for sure, a mix of both continental and African. And for those who are vegetarians like me, all options are available. One thing I realised, samburu people love meat, for all the meat lovers out there, and you will not go a day without their signature nyama choma.
Their deserts are amazing from their variety of cakes, puddings, fruits, different flavours of mousse, tarts and soufflé. The lodge’s food and beverage manager, Shukri, ensured there was no complaint on our meals.