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Accommodation

Sarara

“A unique and intimate cultural and wilderness experience not to be missed”

Budget level: High-End
Country
Kenya
When to Go
All year, closed in November
Property Type
Lodge
Location
Northern Kenya

Sarara means meeting place in Samburu and at the ‘singing wells’ all the different families from the area come to meet and share stories and pass on messages, as well as to water their livestock. Amidst the light, colour, dust, bells, singing, and naked Samburu, the scene is almost biblical in that it has remained unchanged for centuries.

In the northern frontier of Kenya, lies the Namunyak Wildlife Conservancy, an area of 340 000 hectares of pristine wilderness in the Mathews Range. The savannah plains and lush mountain slopes are home to elephant, leopard, reticulated giraffe, wild dog and kudu in ever increasing numbers. This remote and dramatic landscape is also home to the local Samburu people whose age-old traditions, including the famous ‘singing wells’ are as much a part of the fabric of this land as the wildlife.

Sarara was found by third generation Kenyan’s Piers and Hilary Bastard. They partnered with the local group ranches in 1977 in order to bring locally owned tourism and revenue incentives that would drive forward the concept of sustainability for people and wildlife outside of the National parks and reserves of Kenya.

Jeremy and Katie Bastard took over in 2010, and co-founded the Reteti Elephant Sanctuary in 2016, along with the Sarara initiative. This program has seen the construction of the community owned Sarara Treehouses, Reteti House and Samburu Montessori. Katie and Jeremy’s passion for North Kenya’s wildlife and people shows through in their wonderful storytelling, guiding, bush flying, wildlife care, and effective management style of complex community projects.

Today Sarara is a world-renowned conservation brand that partners with indigenous communities to build sustainability for people and wildlife through truly unique and experiential safari experiences. The camp is completely off the grid, uses state of the art technology to achieve this and strive for a minimal environmental footprint in all that they do.

Sarara comprises of six beautifully appointed en-suite tents overlook the majestic Mathews Mountain Range and provide a fantastic platform by which to experience the vast wildlife conservancy. The busy camp waterhole is frequented by an array of wildlife, including elephant, buffalo, kudu, impala, leopard, wild dog and reticulated giraffe.

The camp also offers Loimugi House, a two-bedroom tented family unit that includes a beautiful plunge pool, private dining, its own sitting room and endless views of the Mathews Range. Loimugi house has become famous for its elephant, which are regular visitors to the house pool and offer guests incredibly up close and personal experiences as they come for their water. This is the perfect African wilderness home for families of all ages.

At Sarara fresh, healthy and locally sourced meals are prepared to meet every dietary need, showcasing regional produce blended with Samburu flair. A fully stocked bar compliments the expansive vistas and that most iconic of African traditions, the sundowner!

Activities whilst at the camp include:

  • Unrestricted game drives exploring the vast habitat accompanied by a local Samburu guide.
  • Visit to the singing wells to honour an age-old tradition.
  • Hikes into the montane cloud forests.
  • Walking and fly camping visits to a manyatta.
  • Plunge down a natural rockslide into crystal clear pools (seasonal).
  • Beading with the Samburu ladies and fashioning your own jewellery with the Ironmongers. Visit to Reteti Elephant Sanctuary and elephant rock art visits.
  • School visits to the mobile Montessori Program.

The Reteti Elephant Sanctuary is situated in the remote Mathews Range, among Kenya’s second largest elephant population. It takes in orphaned and abandoned elephant calves with an aim to release them back into the wild herds adjoining the Sanctuary. This is the result of a widely recognised and expanding grassroots movement of community-driven conservation across northern Kenya; a movement that is growing new economies, transforming lives and conserving wildlife and the environment.

The ‘signing wells’ is equivalent to the migration in its uniqueness. This age-old tradition of the Samburu people bringing their livestock to water in semi desert environment with an evening changing of the guard, which sees wildlife pour in to use same water source.

Every morning Samburu families take their family herd of cattle to the singing wells where they dig for water to fill up troughs to water their cows and goats. Each family owns one well and they sing to their livestock as they bring water up and the cows recognize their family song and come down to their well to be watered.

A very rare and unique thing to see, the singing wells are not commercialized. No photos are allowed but visitors get a unique insight into what life of the Samburu is all about. In the evening, elephant and the famous Sarara leopard come to the wells to avail themselves of this water supply in what is a fascinating example of humans and wildlife using the same water source. This is something you cannot do anywhere else in Kenya. It has never been photographed and has remained unchanged and unspoiled for hundreds of years.

Robert Lemaiyan started at Sarara over twelve years ago. He was awarded a bursary through the Sarara Namunyak education program, and upon completion of his schooling he started work at Sarara as a general worker. He quickly worked his way up the ladder, from a room steward to bartender and waiter. He then trained up as a guide, and soon earned a great reputation across the country as one of the best. Robert is now the Lodge host and manager! His intimate knowledge of the Samburu culture, alongside his passion for teaching and conservation is something that all visitors should experience!

Why we like it

  • Great intimate camp in a spectacular location in the vast wilderness that is Namunyak Conservancy.
  • True community involvement and huge conservation success story driven by intergenerational families.
  • Rare opportunity to experience the age-old tradition of the ‘singing wells’ of the Samburu people.
  • Locally born and bred, your host and camp manager Robert is one of the best in the business with intimate knowledge of the Samburu culture and conservation in the area.

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