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SARARA- A WILD SUCCESS

Many hotels and lodges claim to have ‘million dollar views’, but never has any view seemed so deserving of that title than at Sarara Camp, where the sky, the towering Matthews ranges and the plains of the Namunyak conservancy all blend together with the waters of a natural rock pool to create a vision that stretches on forever.

Dip into the pool for a refreshing break from the sun, and you will find yourself literally lost in space, awed by the endless wilderness that surrounds you.

The camp overlooks 75,000 acres of wildlife conservancy folded around the southern corner of the Matthews Mountain range of Northern Kenya. Right by the edge of the customized rock pool, a smaller waterhole routinely attracts herds of elephant giving visitors an eye to eye encounter as they swim.

The presence of these elephants is part of the Sarara success story. As a result of the severe ivory poaching crisis of the mid 1970's and early ‘80's, there were no recorded elephants remaining in the Mathews range by 1985. Today, several thousand elephant are living and breeding peacefully in the Namunyak area.

This is the work of The Namunyak Conservation Trust, set up in 1995 specifically to promote wildlife conservation and to assist the local community to benefit from tourism, in return for protecting the wildlife species living on their land.

Wildlife plays an important role in the traditional culture of the local Samburu people, and the financial benefits raised by Sarara support this community.

As outside influences, land issues and reduced grazing areas threaten the everyday lives of nomadic communities throughout Africa, projects such as these offer a chance for communities to protect not just the land and wildlife that they have lived amongst for generations, but also their own culture, identity, and ultimately their future.

In a simple equation, the elephants that visit Sarara camp draw visitors from all over the world, and that revenue makes these elephants a vital part of the life of the Namunyak communities- thereby reducing competition and conflict between humans and wildlife. It is for good reason that Namunyak means 'a place of peace'.

But it’s not just elephants that visitors will encounter- the conservancy is home to other wildlife species such as buffalo, lion, leopard, cheetah, the rare African wild dog, greater and lesser kudu, gerenuk, reticulated giraffe, impala and dik dik. There are black and white colobus monkeys in the high lush forests of the ranges behind the camp.

In the middle of so much wilderness the camp, run by manager/hosts employed by the community, is an oasis of luxury.

There are five spacious tents with ensuite bathrooms and open-air bush showers, each with its own stunning view.

The main lounge / dining hut is constructed from all natural materials and surrounds the base of a gnarled tree, overlooking the fantastic natural swimming pool and waterhole, and always surrounded by an incredible variety of birds gathering at natural feeding tables.

There are few roads here, and the emphasis here is mainly on walking excursions, with local Namunyak community game scouts as guides.

Guests are free to plan their day exploring or relaxing as they see fit.

For the adventurous, there are camels available to ride through the bush, and long hikes can be arranged into the forested ranges or further to the sacred Samburu mountain Ol Olokwe, using pack-donkeys.

A series of natural rock white-water slides can be found right by the camp, perfect for a high speed cooling off in the middle of the day- a source of entertainment for young Samburu boys for generations.

Sarara is known as a dry season refuge and the local wildlife population swells considerably during dry periods.

The name Sarara comes from a local name for a series of wells that are used by Samburu herdsmen throughout the dry season.

Commonly called ‘Singing Wells', these 10 metre deep caverns are lined with Samburu warriors who form a human chain and chant traditional Samburu songs praising their herds as they pass water up by hand for the cattle.

It is this chance to interact with the local Samburu community, visit the manyattas (villages) and join them on long walks through the bush that makes a stay at Sarara so special.

Here, the visitor can experience Africa as it always has been, and with success stories such as Sarara, always will be.

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