This is a small, intimate camp right on the banks of the Ewaso Nyiro River in the heart of Samburu. The camp is home to conservationist Saba Douglas-Hamilton and her family.
The main emphasis here is on being environmentally friendly while still offering luxurious accommodation fitting to the local environment. They have achieved this with some style!
Samburu lies between the Central Highlands and its arid north. It is much quieter than Kenya’s other more famous game parks but its combination of stunning scenery, Samburu culture and the incredible wildlife is not to be missed. There are rare species such as Grevy’s zebra and the reticulated giraffe and Samburu is also home to all three big cats; lion, leopard and cheetah. You might also get a chance to spot the rare African wild dog who also live here.
Above all, Samburu is famous for its elephants who are one of the best studied populations in the world thanks to pioneering conservation charity Save The Elephants who operate a research centre close to camp. Both Saba and Frank are actively involved in the work of the charity, founded by Dr Iain Douglas Hamilton, and the Samburu guides are all trained to recognise individual elephants as well as knowing their family history - this adds a great deal to your experience.
Sara visited Saba at Elephant Watch in May 2016 and was wowed by the camp's beautiful position on the banks of the river (and the delicious food...). She was lucky enough to enjoy several close encounters with Samburu's elephants as well as seeing leopard and cheetah.
The game viewing experience is done a little differently at Elephant Watch. Sara says, "One day you might go for a picnic by the river - rather than you going to the elephants, they come to you. During game drives, I noticed Bernard positioned his vehicle quite a long way from the herd but after 15 minutes or so we were completely surrounded and enjoyed an incredibly special close encounter."
There are only six spacious and private tents at Elephant Watch Camp, all are individually designed and very colourful, giving an intimate feel. Each tent hangs under a wide thatched roof with its own verandah and stunning views across the beautiful landscape. The style is hippy-luxe with local wood in its natural form combined with soft plastered walls and billowing African fabrics. The walls are a mix of canvas and netting which keeps bugs out but allows in the sounds and scents of the wild. Some of the floors and surfaces are a little uneven with no hard landscaping in place so the camp may pose a challenge for those with mobility issues. Please do speak to us for advice.
The verandah outside is large and perfect for relaxing with a good book on the lovely daybed, or simply to take in the view and to watch the comings and goings on the riverbank. The bedrooms have a lovely large king-size bed and the bathrooms are all en-suite - each is built around its own tree for maximum shade and privacy.
The ensuite safari bathrooms are environmentally friendly with flush loo. Steaming hot water heated naturally by the sun is poured into your bucket-shower that hangs from a branch. Organic shampoo,mosquito repellent and skin creams are all-natural products in keeping with the minimal impact aim of the camp.
Sara noticed how cool the camp stayed even in the heat of the day - the riverbank is sprayed down in the early morning keeping everything cool and dust free. She also thought the food was absolutely delicious and beautifully presented. There is a clear Italian influence in the cuisine with lots of garden vegetables and fresh flavours. Sometimes meals are served in the bush - for instance as a wonderful picnic surrounded by elephants. Dining at camp changes from night to night - there are chances to eat as a group on occasion but also to dine separately at your own tables.
The main focus of activities are game drives in open 4x4 vehicles with the expert Samburu guides. They will follow the resident elephants so you can get up close and the spotters will let you know when and where you will see them. You can also head off to see the resident big cats who are also thriving in this environment.
Other activities available included walking safaris, sundowners and picnics, visiting the local Samburu tribe and visiting the local Save the Elephant Conservation Centre. You can also go camel walking and fly in a helicopter. A unique experience is to climb Ol Donyo Sapache (Ololokwe), a flat-topped mountain with dizzying rock walls that is sacred to the local people and for which you must have special permission from the tribal elders.
Activities are varied - one day you may have the chance to lunch by the river surrounded by elephants, another day you may have a bush breakfast. A visit to the Save the Elephant research centre gives an inside track on the work of the charity and the history of the elephants in the reserve and is absolutely fascinating.
This luxury fly-in safari has it all - stay at Ol Donyo in the Chyulu Hills, Elephant Watch Camp in Samburu and Rekero in the Mara.
A very special 5 night safari to Samburu's wonderful Elephant Watch Camp, location of BBC2 series This Wild Life with Saba Douglas-Hamilton