Samburu National Park: Arriving at Sasaab Lodge

It has been snowing in Freiburg the past couple of days and, even though it’s beautiful, the cold weather has made me daydream about warmer climates. I can’t stop thinking about our last trip to Kenya, and what a stunningly beautiful country it is. Volunteering with Basecamp in the Masai Mara was an unforgettable experience – and it would have been just as special if we had only stayed there, but we were lucky enough to be able to visit a few more parts of Kenya and get a more complete impression of what the country is like. And the reason why we were able to travel around on our very limited budget was Chris’s incredible good luck: whilst attending the TIES conference in Nairobi, before I joined him, he participated in a conference raffle and won what were probably the best.prizes.ever: four nights’ stay in two very high end resorts in central Kenya, including the flights that would take us there (unbelievably, Chris actually won another night’s stay in a luxury lodge in eastern Kenya, but we didn’t have time to go there and so gave the prize to Grace – our internship organisation angel at Basecamp Foundation, which she thoroughly deserved). Even though we rarely travel that way, and would never even dream of spending so much on a getaway, I have to admit that our trip to central Kenya turned out to be pretty spectacular.

Our first stop was Sasaab Lodge in Samburu National Park. We had done very little research – we had just been just told that “it was pretty dusty up there”. When we stepped onto the little plane (that we had all to ourselves!) we had no idea what to expect.

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Samburu Safari Link Kenya

As we left cloudy Nairobi, we watched the scenery of Kenya unfold beneath our feet – we passed grasslands, villages and deserts, and stared in fascination at Mount Kenya as we flew by:

Mount Kenya from the air

We landed at a small airstrip covered in red dust in the neighboring Kalama Conservancy, a couple of hours’ drive from our final destination, where we were picked up by our guides Eric and David.

Kalama Airstrip Samburu Kenya

Kalama Aistrip Samburu Kenya

Kalama Aistrip Samburu Kenya

We drove through the conservancy and into Samburu. The park is indeed “very dusty”, as we had been warned, but it has a rugged wild beauty, and it was love at first sight for me.

Samburu National Park Kenya

Samburu National Park Weaver Bird Nests Kenya

About two hours later, dusty, hungry, thirsty and excited, we saw Sasaab’s thatched roofs in the distance:

Sasaab Lodge Samburu National Park

We still had no idea what to expect – and what awaited us over the hill was beyond out wildest dreams. We stepped into the lounge to find that Jess, the very cool manager, was waiting for us with some fresh ginger juice and wet towels to get the dust off our faces. It was just what we needed, but that wasn’t even the best part!

Sasaab Lodge Samburu National Park

Sasaab Lodge Samburu National Park

It looks pretty nice, right? Wait till you see the view from the lounge:

Sasaab Lodge View Samburu National Park

I think we just stood there staring for about five minutes, trying to take it all in. And just when we thought it couldn’t get any better, we were led down a steep dusty path to our tent – and I do use the word “tent” in the very, very large large sense of the word – I could not believe my eyes when we got there. Words will not do it justice to, so i’ll just let the pictures speak for themselves here:

Sasaab Lodge Samburu National Park

(Yes, that was our private deck, with a private plunge pool. Yes, the deck was right on the Ewaso Ng’iro river. And what Chris is pointing at is Mount Kenya, visible in the distance)

Sasaab Lodge Samburu National Park

Sasaab Lodge Samburu National Park

Open air shower Sasaab Lodge Samburu National Park

Sasaab Lodge Samburu National Park Plunge Pool

Notice the elephants in the distance, on the other side of the river? I could spend hours lounging by/in the pool, just watching them stroll by and play in the water, and it was the most amazing thing! All the rooms in Sasaab are stunning, but our tent was really spectacular. I mean, imagine napping with a view like this :

Sasaab Lodge Samburu National Park

Also, speaking of napping, here’s an interesting bit of trivia: in the Masai and Samburu culture, a man’s wife may also be, hmm-hmm, let’s say enjoyed, by her husband’s “circumcision group” (the boys of about the same age that were circumcised on the same day as him). So if a Masai or Samburu warrior came home to find another man’s spear planted in front of his house, he would know not to enter, since it meant that another man was with his wife. Where am I getting with this? This was our “do not disturb” sign: a spear that we could plant on the path leading up to our lounge!

Sasaab Lodge Samburu National Park

As we got to explore the place we were more and more fascinated by Sasaab – everything about it is just simply beautiful. The infinity pool by the bar,

Sasaab Lodge Samburu National Park Kenya

the lounge and restaurant area with the gorgeous view

Sasaab Lodge Samburu National Park Kenya

to the river (and a telescope!),

(not pictured here: the food! it was an orgy of delicousness), the spa where you can relax completely whilst taking in the view…

Sasaab Lodge Samburu National Park Kenya

There’s no denying Sasaab has that “wow” factor, and it is everywhere. But my favourite thing about it was that you didn’t even need to step out of the camp to see the wildlife – the lodge is so well integrated in the park that the wildlife comes to you. All you have to do is sit quietly and look around, and you will realise the place is bursting with life. I never thought I’d get so excited about birdwatching, but I remember spending three hours of a blasting hot afternoon by the pool, with a copy of the Field Guide to the Birds of East Africa (there’s one in every room, and it’s pretty cool), trying to identify the different kinds flying about. I learnt to recognize these funny weavers’ nests that hang like Christmas ornaments (and they have two doors, so that the weavers have an escape route):

Samburu National Park Kenya Weavers Nests

and was blown away by the beautiful bright colours of the little visitors. Also, I realised how little I know about birds. Do you recognize any of those?

Sasaab Lodge Samburu National Park Kenya Superb Starling

Red Billed Hornbill Samburu National Park Kenya

Yellow Billed Hornbill Samburu National Park Kenya

Sasaab Lodge Samburu National Park Kenya Red Bishop

Sasaab Lodge Samburu National Park Kenya Yellow Necked Spur Fowl

The lodge itself is a birdwatcher’s paradise. But the birds were not our only furry visitors! We had to share Sasaab with all sorts of beasts big and small, like these funny looking little hyraxes that used to just sit and look at us curiously and nibble at absolutely everything,

Hyrax Sasaab Lodge Samburu National Park Kenya

or this half-tame genet that spent its evenings spying on us from the thatched roof of our tent,

Sasaab Lodge Samburu National Park Kenya Genet

not to mention the really big ones, like this elephant family crossing to our side of the river and hanging out literally a few metres from our deck:

Sasaab Lodge Samburu National Park Kenya Elephants

Sasaab Lodge Samburu National Park Kenya Elephant

Also, quite a few funky reptiles made an appearance, like this red-headed rock agama:

Sasaab Lodge Samburu National Park Kenya Red Headed Rock Agama

Everything was so exciting and new that I could hardly believe we were there. I’ll write a little bit more about what we did and what we saw whilst in the park, but that deserves a different post, because a typical day in Sasaab has nothing typical about it. The place is just magical! Do you think i’m overselling it? I’ll just let the pictures speak for themselves once again…

Sasaab Lodge Samburu National Park Kenya

Sasaab Lodge Samburu National Park Kenya

Sasaab Lodge Samburu National Park Kenya