Set beside a seasonal river, Elephant Bedroom Camp provides a relaxed stay in northern Kenya’s Samburu National Reserve and a true immersion in the area’s wildlife.
Saruni means ‘sanctuary’ in the Samburu language, and high on a rocky kopje, Saruni Samburu feels like just that. Gentle breezes keep you cool in this otherwise hot, arid area, and whether you’re in your villa or the open main area, you can take in far-reaching views over the landscape of the Kalama Conservancy and wider Samburu National Reserve, with the mountains and hills of the Mathews Range rising in the distance.
The large stone-and-canvas villas are set right on the edge of the escarpment and include separate bedrooms, en suite bathrooms and living areas, as well as large verandas. Furnished with patterned rugs, metal and wooden furniture and carved wooden doors, they have a tasteful ethnic feel, wonderful views and a welcome breeze.
The main area includes a bar, dining area and lounge, as well as a campfire set on the edge of the escarpment. Meals are served here, shared among fellow guests, or you can arrange for a private dinner. Along the pathway is a secluded spa and an infinity pool, while uphill is another pool with views that make it a popular sundowner spot.
Activities include day and night game drives, bush walks, Samburu village visits and day trips further afield to Reteti Elephant Sanctuary and Mount Ololokwe.
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The exceptionally spacious villas have been designed to blend into their surroundings, built into and around the volcanic rockface, with canvas sides that you can open to feel the breeze. There are six in total, though villas 2 and 6 can work as large two-bedroom family villas or be split into two separate single villas. Every villa has a separate living area with sofas and a spacious veranda furnished with chairs, loungers, beanbags and potted plants. The en suite bathrooms include a bath or shower, as well as a private outdoor shower. It’s worth noting that the rooms are set over different levels so contain steps.
The property is situated in the private Kalama Community Wildlife Conservancy, a short drive north of Samburu National Reserve and a 30-minute game drive from the nearest air strip. Enjoying an elevated position, you can sit back and enjoy far-reaching views over the conservancy while looking out for passing wildlife or listening for lion roaring in the valley below.
Food and drink
Meals are served communally around a big table in the main area, though private dinners can be arranged by the pool or in your villa. The food is of a high quality and usually comprises Italian-inspired dishes, though every Friday the property serves traditional Kenyan fare. Cooked breakfasts are served each morning, or you can choose to take a bush breakfast out on your game drive. Special dietary requirements can be catered for if informed in advance.
Two of the villas are designed for families, containing two bedrooms, two bathrooms and two spacious living areas. Please note that the verandas aren’t fully fenced off so may not be suitable for young children. Meal times can be flexible and the chef will try to cater to children’s tastes. A babysitting service is offered along with child-friendly activities designed to immerse youngsters in the local culture.
Facilities and activities
The property has two pools offering panoramic views over the conservancy, complete with loungers, showers and changing facilities. The spa has a full menu of massages and treatments and you’re welcome to a complimentary neck and shoulder massage during your stay. Next to the waterhole below Saruni is a sunken hide where you can sit and watch elephant and other wildlife come and go. Wi-Fi is available in the communal lounge area, where you’ll also find a telescope to use on clear nights.
Activities here include morning and afternoon game drives in the conservancy and Samburu National Reserve, as well as night game drives through the conservancy. You can also join a Samburu guide on a bush walk. Additional options include hiking Mount Ololokwe, a mountain sacred to the Samburu, visiting Reteti Elephant Sanctuary and taking a helicopter trip over Mount Kenya.
One of the villas is located closer to the main area and has direct vehicle access. However, the rest of the villas are spread out and require walking along sometimes steep pathways, so may not be suitable for those with limited mobility.
Environmental and social responsibility
All of the staff are from the local Samburu community, providing the area with jobs, income and an incentive to help protect the conservancy’s wildlife. You’ll receive a metal water bottle to refill with filtered water during your stay, with the aim of reducing the use of plastic bottles. Saruni also supports the Grevy’s Zebra Trust in helping to conserve the endangered subspecies.
We find that Saruni Samburu delivers a warm and efficient service. Food is excellent, the villas are exceptionally spacious and the views here are some of the best in Kenya. We love the variety of activities available and the fact that the lodge is owned by the local community, who directly see the benefit of you staying here. Saruni is not a good option for anyone with mobility issues due to the number of steps around the property.
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Where possible, we like to offer a range of accommodation for each stop of your trip, chosen by our specialists as some of their favorite places to stay. To help you make the right choice, we give each property a rating based on its facilities and service, but we also look for hotels with distinct character or a location that can’t be bettered.
Samburu Intrepids has a lovely situation on the banks of the Ewaso Ng'iro River, and the overall feeling is of a place that is shady and cool, peaceful and relaxing.