One of the greatest reasons to visit Africa is to see its natural and diverse landscapes, its exotic wildlife. And the best way to really experience that is to camp right in the middle of it.
Few vacation lodgings put you right up close with the habitat and wildlife of natural Africa as seen in Samburu National Reserve, but Larsen’s Camp sits right in the reserve.
What Makes Samburu National Reserve Special?
Samburu National Reserve is a game reserve in Kenya. It sits on the banks of the Ewaso Ng’iro River, which flows through forests, grassland and doum palm groves where the vegetation is thicker than in the rest of the park.
In an ecological zone that’s classified as arid and semi-arid with mountains in the background, vegetation here and there and herds of roaming elephants. From anywhere in the park, you can see the glorious mountain vistas of Koitogor and Ololokwe.
The reserve is famous for Elsa the Lioness from the movie “Born Free” and Kamunyak, a lioness that adopted oryx calves. Whilst the rhinoceros population has been removed due to poaching, zebra, giraffe, cheetah, leopard, elephant, buffalo and hippopotamus are along with baboon and warthog, numerous.
Over 350 bird species add specs of bright blue, orange and red coloring to the parched landscape. Here, where you’ll see the rare Grevy’s zebra with its large furry ears and the gerenuk antelope that resembles a miniature giraffe as it stands on its hind legs to feed.
Glamping in-Style at Larsen’s Tented Camp
On a recent safari adventure with DK Grand Safaris, I had the opportunity to soak up the African landscape and wildlife at Larsen’s Camp in Samburu. The camp itself sits along the river, with natural landscape views on the other three sides.
Accommodations: Named after Erik Ole Larsen, a Dane who defined luxury safari adventures in canvas tent camping. As such, this isn’t your typical camping vacation. Rooms look more like hotel rooms, which just happen to be made out of canvas. Tents sit on natural stone with wooded floors, and have bathrooms stocked with toiletries. There’s constant hot water. The rooms are fully furnished with either one king or two twin beds.
Larsen’s camp offers 20 tented accommodations.
Amenities: Camping at Larsen’s doesn’t have to mean missing the conveniences of modern life. Electricity runs to the tents from diesel generators. As an eco-friendly lodge, the generators run for short durations and shut off during non-peak hours.
The camp is also connected to high speed wireless internet, radio and telephone so the comforts of home are readily available.
If you need a break from the game-drives, the large-heated pool has great views of the birds, vervet monkey and dik diks that wander freely around the camp. Or, if a relaxing massage is more your speed, that is also available in the indoor/outdoor spa.
Dining: A la carte menus are available for all three meals, with snacks available upon request 24 hours per day. Meal locations shift for different dining experiences. For instance, dinner could be on the riverbed one night and by a campfire the next and on a tree deck overlooking a watering hole on a third night. Sundowner drinks are also served each night by the campfire. On excursions, picnic baskets are served with folding camp table and stools.
Activities: Each morning, you’ll be awakened by a friendly butler quietly calling, “Jambo”. With fresh-brewed coffee and homemade shortbread in hand, you’ll be ready to go for the morning’s adventure. This includes a sunrise game-drive filled with opportunities to view the local residents and species indigenous to the areas such as lion, leopard, elephant, cape buffalo and reticulated giraffe.
The roof is hatched on the vehicles, so safari goers can look out at the wildlife in safety. Guides give in-depth tour information about the floral and wildlife in the reserve. If bird watching is more of an interest, bird walks are also an option with each step guided by a naturalist.
Family-Friendly: While a safari is not always your typical family excursion, Larsen’s happily hosts children. Even more importantly, baby-sitting services are available if arranged beforehand.
Climate expectations for your camping adventure
Samburu has a climate that is designated as equatorial desert type. That means the weather is hot year round, with temperatures going up to 33 degrees Centigrade, or about 91 degrees Fahrenheit. The nights, on the other hand, are cool. Which is good for sleeping. Nighttime and morning temperatures are typically around the 50’s Fahrenheit.
Larsen’s has a suggested dress code for staying comfortable in the climate. Daytime wear should consist of lightweight cotton clothing and safari boots. Flat shoes, sandals and swimsuits are also acceptable. Since nights stay moderate, all you’ll need is a light jacket or sweater.
Tips for getting the most out of African camping
Though Larsen’s has basically got you covered with food, lodging and sightseeing, you may want to come even more prepared for your camping adventure with a few insider tips.
Remember the binoculars and digital camera It might be tempting to just try using the camera off your cell phone. But when you’re looking at wildlife from a vehicle, the more advanced zoom features on a higher end camera will quickly prove their value. Similarly, a basic set of binoculars will provide an extra level of detail when viewing animals up close.
Focus on Your Own Health and Safety Although the tents are luxury accommodations and you’ll be seeing wildlife from a vehicle, you’ll still be fundamentally in an environment with harsh conditions, including searing sun and temperatures that regularly get in the 90’s. Drink plenty of liquids, keep up on the sunscreen as often as the type you’re using recommends, opt for headwear and take a pair of UV protection sunglasses. Especially if you plan to go out on guided walks.
Don’t Forget the Flashlight While you’ll be given a flashlight and you’ll have a guide walking you back to your tent in the evenings, a second flashlight for other members of your group is recommended.
Prepare for the Experience Last but not least, if you’re of the techy mindset, there are actually some apps and websites you can take advantage of before you leave to help on your safari quest:
- Xe Currency Converter is a simple online conversion calculator that will help you prepare for the change in currency.
- Though the guides are experts on the Samburu landscape and wildlife, The Kingdon Field Guide to African Mammals will help you read about all the animals you might encounter, and you can record what you’ve seen.
Now, there is just one thing left to do. Enjoy the experience as it will be something you’ll never forget.
Jon Clark is the founder of Fuze SEO, a boutique travel marketing agency in New York. An avid traveler and photographer, you can follow he and his wife’s travel experiences on Instagram or their travel blog http://1waytowanderlust.com.