Situated in a land of endless rugged beauty and untamed wilderness, Elephant Watch Camp is perched on the banks of the Ewaso Nyiro river beneath wide-spreading Kigelia and Acacia trees in Samburu National Reserve. It is home to some of the largest elephant bulls in Samburu who can often be spotted cooling down in the riverbed, resting in the shade, or hoovering up seedpods beside the tents.
The six spacious, netted tents at Elephant Watch Camp are specially designed to catch the breeze and ensure maximum privacy and protection. Each tent hangs under a wide thatched roof with it’s own verandah and stunning view. Inside, soft flowing cloths cascade to the floor that can be drawn across the windows at night.
Each room has a king-size bed with crisp cotton sheets, luscious feather pillows, bedside lamps, a flashlight, fluffy towels, a bathrobe and a “bush cupboard” with plenty of hanging space and shelves. The verandah outside is expansive and comfortable where you can relax in comfort with a book on a daybed, or simply take in the view. Monkeys will come to peek at you, but otherwise your tent is strictly private.
The bathrooms are en-suite and each is built around its own tree for maximum shade and privacy.
The Camp chef makes all of the delicious food on site to offer you a superb fusion of international flavours. Vegetables are sourced locally from the foothills of Mt. Kenya, and then spiced to perfection with herbs from the organic garden. The meat comes mostly from an organic farm in Naivasha, or from the lush cattle ranches of Laikipia, where livestock is pasture-raised and free to roam.
While staying at Elephant Watch Camp, your guides will discuss with you what you would like to do each day, and tweak plans according to your mood and their recommendations. They are in regular communication with conservation researchers and rangers across Samburu National Reserve. This makes sure you are involved with every exciting development, and are the first to arrive on the scene.
Your focus is likely to be on spending as much time with the elephants as possible. You might find them early in the morning ambling down towards the water from where they were browsing at night, or at midday in the shade of the woodland along the river’s banks. But you could also head out at sunrise to track a lion or a leopard to where they are lying up with a fresh kill.
Game drives are the core activity for elephant watching as a vehicle provides the safest platform to take you right into the middle of the herds. The camp has a small fleet of specially modified four-wheel-drives that give you the best and safest vantage point. The drivers and guides are trained to approach animals respectfully so as not to disturb them and this allows you to experience them in their most natural state, in complete safety and comfort.
Dotted across Samburu National Reserve are a series of secret spots where you can safely step down from the vehicle to spend a quiet hour or two relaxing over a picnic lunch. Some are on high ground with views stretching across untouched wilderness to distant mountains. Others are in glades in the shade of the Acacia woodland on the banks of the Ewaso Nyiro.
There are many short guided walks to do around camp, like going in search of some of the “small five” – elephant shrews, buffalo weavers, ant lions, leopard tortoises and rhino beetles – or on a meandering bird walk with close to 400 species to identify. Guides know where to find hornbill nests along the river bank or a pair of Verreaux eagle owls that live close to camp. When the river is low you can splash along in the shallows. For those who are more adventurous, nothing beats hiking up the famous flat-topped sacred mountain, Ol Donyo Sapache, or the peaks of the Matthew’s range.
After a long day exploring the wilderness nothing is better than a traditional sundowner – a cool cocktail with a clear view of the sun as its golden orb slides below the horizon. The best place for a sundowner is on top of a modest hill at the end of a snaking dry river to the west of Camp. The walk takes an hour at a reasonably gentle pace, in the company of a host of warriors.
VISIT TO A SAMBURU VILLAGE
Most of the camp’s staff come from villages that border the national reserves, and the nomadic community there regularly welcomes guests to see a little of how they live. A few hours spent in the company of the Samburu families makes a great outing for kids, who can learn how to milk goats, throw spears, make jewellery or even participate in a mock cattle raid. Elders and village leaders will answer all your questions.
The camp has teamed up with a beautiful community lodge on a distant escarpment to offer a three day camel trip that ends at Elephant Watch. Walking starts at first light whilst the day is still cool and if you get tired you can always take a break on the back of a camel. Elephants are often sighted on foot and your nights are spent sleeping out under the stars, listening to lions roar as you feast on bubbling stews cooked over a campfire. (Supplement applies – please contact us for prices).
WILD SAFARIS BY HELICOPTER
Skimming low above the treetops or soaring up and over an escarpment, the only way to absorb the full immensity of Africa’s landscapes is from the air. A day-trip by helicopter takes you from the semi-arid warmth of Samburu at 3,000ft all the way up the northern slopes of Mt Kenya to the ice-cold waters of Lake Alice, at more than 12,000ft, one of the best trout fishing spots in Africa. Or you can head into the open desert of the Suguta valley, over shimmering soda lakes, go fishing for Nile perch at Lake Turkana, or even explore the paleontological sites of Koobi Fora. All within a day’s trip with a tasty picnic from Elephant Watch Camp. (Supplement applies – please contact us for prices).
At Elephant Watch Camp the entire operation runs by a strict eco-philosophy. The sun powers all of the electricity, including fridges and freezers. Water is hand-pumped from an on-site well, carefully distributed and then re-used to nourish the trees. All of the buildings, including your luxury en-suite safari tents, are made with old fallen trees, solar-hardened earth plaster and sustainably-harvested palm thatch.
The innovative water evaporation cold-room, with its sustainably harvested charcoal walls, keeps food fresh. Firewood is collected from driftwood that is brought by seasonal floods. At Camp, waste is kept to a minimum and very carefully managed, with as much recycled as possible. And the animals are always treated with the utmost respect and minimal interference.
ELEPHANT CONSERVATION IN ACTION
Elephant Watch Camp works closely with the charity Save the Elephants, based just downstream in Samburu National Reserve. Elephant Watch guides have been trained to recognise each of the sixty-six families that are mostly resident in Samburu, many of whom have recorded histories that date back to Save the Elephants’ foundation in 1997. All of our observations are shared with the organisation’s researchers and feed into their long-term monitoring database.