Exploring Samburu with Faith Kanja
The Great North has been on our bucket list for a long time now. As with every great challenge, to conquer it requires patience, particular planning & a systematic approach. We decided to start off with Samburu National Reserve.
Famous for its indigenous fauna, Samburu National Reserve has gained publicity of late for more than just its attractive wildlife. Clashes spilling over from Laikipia between rival tribes have befallen Samburu of late & this was on our minds as we set off on our journey on a clear Saturday morning.
This trip was ambitious, to say the least. Our schedule was tight and time was not a luxury.
With this on our mind, we were on the road by 6:30 a.m. Early enough to catch the sunrise as it rose over the Thika Superhighway.
Our route was simple. Follow the A2 past Nanyuki to Isiolo Town. From Isiolo proceed to Archer's Post where we would branch off in to the Samburu National Reserve for a game drive and afterwards drive back to Nanyuki where we would be spending the night. Google Maps estimates the distance between Nairobi to Archer's Post at about 310 kilometres.
As we approached Naro Moru we took advantage of the vast open landscapes to get some portraits out of the way.
At about 10:00 a.m. we arrived at Barney's Restaurant for breakfast. Barney's is located next to the Nanyuki Airstrip, allowing one to enjoy a plate of waffles and a hot cup of coffee while seeing the small Cessna airplanes land and take off.
As one leaves Nanyuki town and approaches Timau, the landscape shifts from a sea of human settlement to unadulterated fields of cultivation. The famous ranches of Timau are breath-taking. Be it the golden fields of wheat or the fantastic yellow display of pyrethrum, the color displays of nature make Timau one of the most beautiful places in Meru County.
Remaining on the A2 and branching off from the B6 that leads to Meru Town, we were finally in Isiolo Town. Isiolo is a developing town, fast growing due to the various enterprising businesses spunning from there. No doubt this growth will be accelerated once the Isiolo International Airport is complete, a project that will definitely open up the North Eastern part of our country to more business and tourism.
A2 to Archer's Post
There are three ways in which one can enter the Samburu National Reserve. There are two entrances within Laikipia county and there is a third on the other side of the Ewaso Nyiro River that is accessible once you cross over the bridge at Archer's Post. We were advice to proceed to the third entrance at Archer's Post as we would sight more animals from that side of the river.
The A2 road that goes all the way to the border of Kenya and Ethiopia is simply fantastic. A road that was previously avoided due to the many cases of bandit attacks is now refurbished and a delight to drive on. The hills that form the landscape give this road an almost cinematic feel and the authentic experiences of camels roaming free and crossing the road unattended add to the flavor of this road. Contrasting this beauty however is the derelict conditions in which the local people live in. The state of their housing is dire and the recent famine has the kids begging for water from people as they pass by. Painful to see, but a story that mustn't remain untold.
This is a small town located near the Ewaso Nyiro bridge. It is a bustling town and the locals are mostly from the Samburu Community.
Having paid 430/- per person, 1000/- for the vehicle and 1000/- for a KWS Officer to accompany us, we started our game drive.
As you enter the reserve, you notice the significant human activity as young Samburu boys herd their goats on the plains. This is definitely a problem as there is competition for pasture between wildlife and goats/cows.
After a 15 minute drive we arrived at the banks of The Ewaso Nyiro River. Low on water, the river is significantly wide but quiet. You shouldn't expect a raging flow of water. The water flows quietly across the Samburu plains.
Not far from the river, we had our first encounter with Samburu warriors. Slim figures set upon the blazing horizon, as we got closer we saw they were dressed in no more than a vest, shorts and sandals while rifles were slung over their shoulders. They paid us no mind as we drove past them. As the KWS Officer told us, their battle was not with tourists but with the unforgiving famine that had claimed their livestock. They were in search for pasture and they were forced to search for it in the Samburu National Reserve. As for the guns and where they got them? There was no answer to that question, but one could allow their imagination to assume.
Animal-human conflict was very apparent in this reserve.
When we were not crossing paths with armed herdsmen, we were sitting quietly admiring passing elephants. And we are talking lots of them! Families of these fantastic beasts were easy to spot across the plains, at one time we even finding ourselves in the middle of a 14 member herd!
It is reported that Samburu is home to about 1000 elephants and to see them roaming freely and healthy was heart-warming and splendid.
This game reserve is famous for its unique animals such as the long-necked gerenuk. Grevy's Zebra, reticulated giraffe and oryx.
It's a task spotting all the animals but we were quite glad once we found the reticulated giraffe. Their beautiful and intricate patterned skin gave off warm tones that resonated with the brown and dusty savanna.
As daylight fell we drove to a vantage point over looking the expansive Samburu, with its lulling landscape and The Ewaso Nyiro River snaking across.
Satisfies with our game drive we headed to Nanyuki where our accommodation awaited us. Stopping briefly in Isiolo for nyama choma, we were soon in Nanyuki Town. Whenever we are in Nanyuki we always stay at Storm's Resort. Their warm hospitality, beautifully designed & clean rooms always keep us coming back.
They surprised us this time and offered us the luxury tents which came equipped with a King-Size bed and toilet/shower area.
The early morning rays that greeted us in Nanyuki.
photo by Selina Onyando
Our final stop on our way back to Nairobi was Trout Tree. This exciting restaurant is famous for being engineered as a tree house. The architecture of this restaurant is something to behold and enhances your dining experience. Winding stairs around a thick stem of a fig tree lead you to your seat and table, ready to be served.
As you are seated having your meal, you have a view of the fish ponds beneath the tree where they harvest their fish before serving you, assuring you fresh fish on your serving plate. The menu varies from prime Laikipia beef to a vegetarian array that leaves no one unattended.
There is also some wildlife as Trout Tree has a family of Tree Hyrax and Black and White Colobus Monkeys. One interesting fact about the Colobus Monkey is that they are the only monkeys with no thumbs.
Trout Tree do not use electricity this are only open between 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. thus you ought to plan your time accordingly if you wish to visit this lovely restaurant.
Although ambitious, we were able to complete all our targets for our trip and it was a wonderful beginning to unravelling North Eastern Kenya.
Photography by the talented Faith Kanja.