By Diane Bédat
Kenya, famous for its paradisaic Masai Mara National Reserve with abundant wildlife and scenic landscapes, has many hidden gems. One of them is the lodge Saruni Samburu, located in the Kalama Conservancy in Northern Kenya.
My journey starts in Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, where I spend a few days before travelling to Saruni Samburu. Leaving cold and busy Nairobi behind us, my driver Joseph and I pass village after village, each selling their locally grown fruits. Mangos, pineapples, passion fruits, bananas, and oranges as far as the eye can see. Joseph purchases some for our long route, a nice energy boost to help me stay focused while he teaches me some Swahili words. Asante sana Joseph for your patience!
The longer we drive, the rarer trees and green vegetation become. Having looked at pictures of the lodge and its arid surroundings daily for the past month, I knew Samburu could not be much further. We enter the Kalama Conservancy and within ten minutes I am already lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the tiny dik diks, gerenuks and reticulated giraffes. The latter two are part of the Samburu special 5, five unique species that can only be found in northern Kenya. Only after seeing the gerenuks and their unusually long necks with my own eyes could I believe they were real.
We are still driving as the sun already starts to set and I can finally see the lodge perched on the hill, bathed in the evening sunlight. Upon reaching the lodge, I am greeted by Benson, the assistant manager at Saruni Samburu. His eyes reveal a big smile on his face behind his mask. Several staff members have joined him to welcome me and ask me about my wellbeing and journey to the lodge. I immediately feel comfortable and cannot stop smiling. I know right away that I am in good hands.
The next morning, I walk around the lodge and discover its full beauty for the first time. The view is certainly one of the most unique highlights of a stay at Saruni Samburu. No matter where I am, I can admire the breath-taking panorama. As the only lodge in the Kalama Con-servancy, there is nothing that stands between you and the vastness of the savanna – except for the occasional elephant, warthog, or baboon. The only human infrastructures in this area are the traditional home of the people who work at Saruni Samburu.
Thanks to the lodge’s orientation guests have the most spectacular sundowner views. One of my personal favourite spots to enjoy this moment is the upper infinity pool. It is located on the highest point of the hill and allows you to have a 360° stunning vista of the surroundings. When the sun slowly disappears behind the hill in the horizon and the night sky starts to take over, lanterns along the pathway show the safe way back to the villa or to the main area for a sumptuous Italian-inspired dinner.
Saruni Samburu’s unique location and design surpasses my expectations in every way. But this place feels like home thanks to the heart-warming people I have the pleasure to work with. The warmth and kindness I am experiencing from the local staff members are unmatched. Every day, I am greeted with the most authentic smiles and am learning more and more about each individual and the Samburu culture. They also help me with my Swahili, although I still make them laugh when I order my morning coffee over the lodge’s radio…
Every morning when I wake up, I know I will experience something worth telling. Maybe Ugali, the resident leopard, will quench its thirst at one of the pools or maybe the genet will peek into my bathroom again. Maybe Benson will share with me one of the many legends about the star constellations or maybe Lepayon will recount his favourite sighting in his many years as a guide. Or maybe I will simply enjoy one of the many idyllic sunsets from the main area of Saruni Samburu. After all, this place in itself is already magical enough and nothing more is needed to make a stay here unforgettable.