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SAMBURU STOPOVERS

Samburu in Northern Kenya has become a favoured destination for visitors to Kenya, but getting there involves a flight or a lengthy drive. Most travelers prefer to break the journey with a stopover in the Mt Kenya region, and Serena hotels now offer a range of options in the area to suit all interests and budgets.

The unique semi-arid landscapes of Samburu, combined with a local wealth of wildlife, including numerous rare and endemic species, make it must visit destination. But visiting the Reserve means visitors must choose between a 45 min flight or an approximate 5 hour drive. For anyone who chooses to drive, the trip is best broken with a stopover on the equator, at the foot of Mt Kenya, which allows you to explore this region and arrive in Samburu relaxed.

Serena Hotels have recently expanded their portfolio to offer a range of very different accommodation options in this area, all centred around the small town of Nanyuki, beneath the impressive snow capped peak of Mt Kenya, Africa’s second highest summit.

Nanyuki lies on the Equator, which means visitors can spilt their trip at the centre of the world, while taking in views of equatorial ice and snow- one of the planet’s rarest sights.

Turn off the main Nairobi- Nanyuki road at Kiganjo and a half hour drive through cool highland forest takes you to Mountain Lodge . This timber game lodge is built in the classic Treetops style, overlooking a waterhole beneath the peak of the Mountain.

Guest rooms all face the waterhole, which means that they can relax on their balconies and enjoy the procession of wildlife that visit during the course of the day. At night special infrared lamps illuminate the waterhole. Elephants, Buffalo, leopard, hyena and herds of bushbuck and waterbuck frequent the lodge, while Sykes monkeys and Genet cats live around the lodge.

The lodge is reminiscent of an alpine ski- lodge, with night-time temperatures to remind you of the 2,195 m altitude, meaning the roaring fires in the communal bar areas and the hot water bottles delivered to your rooms are much appreciated

A hide, accessible through an underground tunnel lets guests get within feet of the waterhole, giving them a rare close up view of the wild visitors- often finding themselves within a few feet of an elephant herd.

If you’d like to explore beyond the lodge, an afternoon walk in the forest can be arranged, with a guide and armed ranger.

This fascinating walk takes you deep into the forest, to see the birds, wildlife and plants that make Mt Kenya a UNESCO world Heritage site. Guides will show you traditional medicinal plants and teach you about the forests role in local Kikuyu culture.

If you’d rather experience big game on the open plains, another option is Sweetwaters tented camp, located in the vast Ol Pejeta private game sanctuary- a cattle ranch that has been converted into a major wildlife conservancy.

The ranch abounds with game, large elephant herds, lions, plains game and a well protected population of black rhinoceros. As a guest at Sweetwaters, this exclusive private wilderness is yours to explore. The camp has large well appointed ensuite tents ranged around a water hole and salt lick that attracts a steady stream of game.

What makes Sweetwaters special is the wide range of activities available. Aside from game drives, there are escorted walks in the conservancy, either tracking big game or looking for rare birdlife. Either option guarantees plenty of excellent sightings.

Other activities available are unique to Sweetwaters. The conservancy is home to a specially designed sanctuary for Chimpanzees, which are native to neighbouring Tanzania and Uganda, but not Kenya.

The sanctuary is a refuge for chimpanzees rescued from the pet trade or bush meat trade in West and Central Africa, and now holds 40 chimpanzees with 16 fully qualified staff taking care of them day and night.

The enclosed sanctuary is partitioned into two parts, with the river acting as a natural border between the two groups. The eastern side of the sanctuary is 96 acres and home to the older group while the western side is 151 acres and home to the younger group.

The chimps can be viewed from the opposite banks of river that surrounds the sanctuary.

Another popular activity at Ol Pejeta is visiting Morani the tame black Rhino. He was brought to Sweetwaters after his mother was killed by poachers- and is now completely friendly and fond of human company. This means guests can have an unforgettable close encounter with a fully grown Rhino, and take home photos to prove it.

Ol Pejeta also offers another completely unique game viewing opportunity. Guests can join lion researchers as they track their study group of wild lions, who have been fitted with radio collars. This means not just a guaranteed lion sighting, but also the chance to learn a great deal about these awesome predators.

If you’d like an opportunity to enjoy all of this in complete privacy and luxury, the Ol Pejeta House , located at the heart of the sanctuary, is available for exclusive hire.

This fantastically appointed home has a long and history, with past owners including members of the British aristocracy and arms dealer Adnan Khashogi. The house has two huge guest suites with Kenya’s largest beds, large ensuite bathrooms and dressing rooms and four other guest rooms.

The opulently designed home has a large living room with an open fireplace, a massive dining room and several terraces with views of Mount Kenya. The grounds include two swimming pools, tennis courts and a private waterhole that is regularly visited by elephants, rhinos and other game.

So if you are planning a trip to Kenya and have Samburu Reserve on your itinerary, consider stopping off en route on the equator- for a day or more.

Contact Serena Hotels for more details.
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