Samburu National Park: a day at Sasaab Lodge

As I’ve already mentioned, there is nothing typical about a typical day at Sasaab. Even just waking up to this sight would be enough to make any average day pretty cool…

Sasaab Lodge Samburu National Park Kenya

And of course this sight, along with the fresh hot coffee waiting for you on the deck, makes waking up at 5.30 slightly more bearable :-). The sun shines very hot in Samburu, and the dry park becomes extremely hot in the day – so all game drives and activities start very early in the morning. So after a quick coffee, we would rush up to the lounge, hop onto our 4×4 and set off for the day – at around 6 in the morning.

Sasaab Lodge Samburu National Park Kenya Game Drive

The scenery around Sasaab is different from anything I’d ever seen – it’s a beautiful red desert. We were there in the dry season, and the whole park had changed in order to survive till the rains came again. Riverbeds were dry,

Samburu National Park Kenya Dry Riverbed

and the acacias had shed their leaves and waited patiently for some water. Our guides told us that everything looks different in the rainy season – the dry twigs bloom and blossom, and everything is green. I didn’t mind it one bit though –  I was fascinated by the colours.

Samburu National Park Kenya Game Drive

Even this very dry part of the land is bursting with life – these massive termite nests were everywhere, going up to two metres high sometimes and looking like something designed by Gaudì (apparently, if the nest has big holes like the one in the picture, it means that the termites have abandoned it, and other small animals live in it):

Samburu National Park Kenya Termites Nest

There are so many small animals running about, hiding in the twigs and red dust, like these rock hyraxes,

Samburu National Park Kenya Rock Hyraxes

funny looking dik-diks (they always run about in pairs, and are the smallest antelopes) and cheeky squirrels that looked like gangsters.

Sasaab Lodge Samburu National Park Kenya Dik Diks

In order to reach the banks of the Ewaso Ng’iro river, where all the action is, we passed a few Samburu manyattas, or villages, flimsy constructions quite different form the ones we had seen in the Mara – here they seem to make them much airier and open, which makes sense considering how much hotter the climate is.

Sasaab Lodge Samburu National Park Kenya Manyatta

(we didn’t get to visit the local village, but we did catch a glimpse of a little manyatta from above as we flew in the previous day) :

Sasaab Lodge Samburu National Park Kenya Manyatta

Despite the lack of water, even in this driest part of the land, there were so many animals around – impalas,

Samburu National Park Kenya Impala

whole families of baboons (look at the little one catching a ride!),

Samburu National Park Kenya Baboon Family

and these beautiful blue-breasted fowls that were everywhere, in groups of fifty or more.

Sasaab Lodge Samburu National Park Kenya

But as we drove on the scenery began to change. The dry red dust made way for a few trees and some patches of green here and there, and the atmosphere became a little bit cooler and more forgiving, and we started seeing even more signs of life. Samburu national park is prime game-viewing territory, and we were amazed at the concentration of animals we saw on every single drive! As we got closer and closer to the river, there was something to see at every turn, like this Somali ostrich (whose legs and neck are blue and not pink like the regular ones),

Samburu National Park Kenya Somali Ostrich

and probably my favourite animal there, these silly looking gerenuks:

Sasaab Lodge Samburu National Park Kenya Generuk

Their swahili name is “swara twiga “, which means “giraffe antelope”, and they really have earned that name! They like to stand on their hind legs and stretch up their long slender necks, since this allows them to reach parts of the tree that regular antelopes don’t, which in turn ensures that they will get their fair share of food. You wouldn’t think these skinny legs could be very useful – but they are strong and they can ran very fast and for a long time (though apparently these long thin bones are prone to breaking). They are such sweet, odd looking things, don’t you think?

Sasaab Lodge Samburu National Park Kenya Generuk

When we got into the forest, that’s when things became even more interesting, and we started spotting the bigger beasts here and there, like this giraffe popping its head out of the bush,

Sasaab Lodge Samburu National Park Kenya Giraffe

or this Grevy’s zebra hanging out in the shade (see its white belly? this is how you can tell it apart from a regular zebra!).

Sasaab Lodge Samburu National Park Kenya Grevy's Zebra

And then there were more giraffes, so many in fact that we stopped counting (but I didn’t stop pointing at them excitedly at every turn. They are my favourites. Well maybe it’s a tie with the gerenuks.)

Sasaab Lodge Samburu National Park Kenya Giraffe

I mean, look at that face! And those beautiful brown eyes! And the colours! These are reticulated giraffes by the way – they have a nicer colour, and their pattern is somehow more regular. Way more beautiful than other types of giraffes in Kenya (the Rothschild and Masai giraffes). Thank you evolution for creating these beautiful silly dudes! They make the world a cuter place.

Samburu National Park Kenya Reticulated Giraffes

The shaded forest offers shelter to everyone – familes of gazelles can hide from their predators,

Sasaab Lodge Samburu National Park Kenya Gazelle

clumsy elephants can walk around and break trees to their hearts’ content (they do that a lot apparently),

Samburu National Park Kenya Elephant

and as you look around you in amazement at all the cool things that are hiding in the bush, you realise you just arrived at the coolest thing hiding in the bush: the river.

Samburu National Park Kenya Ewasa Ng'iro River

We pulled up on the bank to stretch our legs, and had the most delicious bush brunch imaginable.

Samburu National Park Kenya Bush Breakfast

Eric and David, being the great guides that they are, prepared everything from pancakes to scrambled eggs and bacon. And they had chosen the coolest spot – we sipped coffee, devoured everything and chatted away, all in good company:

Samburu National Park Kenya Bush Breakfast Warthogs

Interesting bit of trivia: “pumba” in swahili means “silly, foolish”. Also, “simba” means “lion”! But we’ll get to that one later :-). There were also vervet monkeys everywhere – you can recognize them by the bright blue colour of their, hmm-hmm, valuables:

Samburu National Park Kenya Vervet Monkey

And, most importantly, look who showed up on the other side of the river:

Samburu National Park Kenya Elephant

Samburu National Park Kenya Elephants

We watched in amusement as a couple of older elephants tried to coax a baby into the water, and then noticed that we had another visitor:

Samburu National Park Kenya Crocodile

It was a lone baby crocodile, quite small, and not very intimidating. Chris randomly said “I’m sure I could take him”, but I doubt he could to be honest ;). After our perfect breakfast we packed up and hit the trails again. We drove along the river for a bit, where we saw little kids from the neighbouring communities bring their goats to the water, do their laundry and splash around fearlessly in the (crocodile-infested, see above…) waters.

Samburu National Park Kenya Laundry and Goats

The Samburu people have such style, and they wear so many bright and beautiful colours, whether it’s in their bead jewellery, or in their clothes. These kids’ outfits are probably the least colourful ones we saw! They make us and our clothes look so boring, and I decided to bring more colour into my life in any way possible. Anyway, as we were driving along the bumpy trails, we noticed a big tree loaded with the funniest fruit : a troop of about forty baboons!

Samburu National Park Kenya Baboons

While the little ones were playing on the ground and on the lowest branches, the biggest ones had climbed to the top, where they lounged in the sun and kept an eye out for predators. And it’s a good thing they did, because here’s what was lying in the shade under a nearby tree: 

Samburu National Park Kenya Lion

Samburu National Park Kenya Lion

This beautiful lioness was lazily observing the troop from afar – she didn’t seem eager to make a move, and Eric explained to us that lions are really pretty lazy. They don’t like to put a lot of energy into hunting unless they have to, so mostly they wait for their prey to make a mistake. This one was probably waiting to see whether one of the little baboons frolicking around would maybe come close enough for her to grab easily.

Samburu National Park Kenya Lion

The elders of the tribe were on to her, however – as she made a discreet move in their direction, they started barking furiously, warning the rest of the family of the impending danger, and gathered all the little ones up in the tree. The lioness, obviously annoyed (but playing it cool), stood under their tree for a bit (presumably to show them who the boss is), then casually strolled away in search of greener pastures (so to speak).

Samburu National Park Kenya Lion

We tried to keep track of this fierce girl for a bit, but didn’t want to annoy her too much or get in the way of her actually getting some food, so we just let her be and drove around aimlessly, enjoying the drive and the refreshing river breeze,

Samburu National Park Kenya Palm Tree

but it wasn’t long till we thought we ran into her again… but it turned out to be another lion, a male one this time, as is evidenced by this picture :-) (it is too hot in Samburu, so the male lions usually only have a very poor excuse for a mane). He was massively built, much bigger than the female, but was still able to walk stealthily and silently next to us. You can see why this strong and silent type is the king of the animal kingdom.

Samburu National Park Kenya Lion

As we started heading back to the camp, Eric called our attention to something moving around in the bushes – it was a cheetah, hiding in the grass a few metres away from us! 

Samburu National Park Kenya Cheetah

After such an exciting game drive, it was great to chill out and nap on the deck or cool down in the plunge pool (afternoons are seriously hot in Samburu, even for a greek person…)

Sasaab Lodge Samburu National Park Kenya

And then, before we knew it, it was time to head back up to the lounge for the time-honoured safari tradition of the sundowner! After bumping around in the car the whole morning, we felt like walking to wherever we were going, so Eric accompanied us along a dusty path leading up over the hill.

Sasaab Lodge Samburu National Park Kenya Sundowner

And he was not our only escort! John, a park ranger in army clothes and carrying an AK 47, led the way. John was a man of very few words. It was a pretty weird feeling to be escorted by an armed guard while taking a walk, and it wasn’t very clear why we needed such protection – was it for the animals, or for fear of other dangerous activity?Whatever it was, we felt safe in his company. As we walked up and down the hilly trails, we passed Sasaab’s camel herd, and realised the resort also offers camel safaris! We didn’t have the time to try it in the end, but it sounded like lots of fun. Have you ever ridden a camel? I’d be so curious to try it one day.

Sasaab Lodge Samburu National Park Kenya Camel

See the big rock up ahead? That’s where we were heading.

Sasaab Lodge Samburu National Park Kenya AK47

We scrambled on top, and while snacks were being prepared,

Sasaab Lodge Samburu National Park Kenya Campfire

we enjoyed our G&Ts with the most beautiful view of the Ewaso Ng’iro valley. Everything looked so small from up there, and at the same time so big. It was for me like a concentration of Africa (also, I couldn’t stop thinking of this).

Sasaab Lodge Samburu National Park Kenya

We had to head back to the camp before it got dark, but… these sundowners on the rock! It was a magical moment. Before dinner, it was nice to hang out by the main pool and watch the night roll in.

Sasaab Lodge Samburu National Park Kenya Infinity Pool

On our second and last light, Chris surprised me by arranging for a private dinner to be served on the deck, and that evening was the perfect end to our short stay in that crazy beautiful place.

Sasaab Lodge Samburu National Park Kenya

As we went to bed tired but excited after a very full day and a great evening, neither of us was looking forward to leaving the next morning.

Sasaab Lodge Samburu National Park Kenya

And indeed, we were so sad to go… As we said goodbye to everyone that helped make our stay there so special – Jess, Sikele, David and Eric, I kept thinking about how special the place is. Who knows- maybe we can go back one day!

Sasaab Lodge Samburu National Park Kenya