Tsavo Safari Camp and the Wilderness

I feel sure that many of you will have shared the same thoughts as I had when driving the section of the Mombasa highway that bisects Tsavo: What lies on and beyond that long highland called the Yatta Plateau? This fascinating geological feature always held an air of mystery. Its inaccessibility led to stories about what could be found there. I once heard that fruiting trees up there attracted many elephants; they would wait for the fruit to fall, ferment and then get themselves drunk. I now know that isn’t true, but the intrigue is still in me.

I finally got to quell some of that with a visit to the charming Tsavo Safari Camp, which lies at the base of the plateau, on the northern bank of the Athi-Galana river. Its location gives its guests a unique chance to explore a truly wild part of Kenya, as there is no public access to that side of the park.

Having easily sorted out entrance formalities at the Mtito Andei KWS office at the Tsavo West Gate, I crossed the highway and entered Tsavo East. It’s a 30km drive to the camp on well maintained murram roads, through thick Acacia-Commiphora woodland. Reaching the river, I left my car in the shaded car park – a rowing boat would take me across. As we approached the other side, some of the camp staff appeared on the sand bank to help me with luggage and offer me a refreshing towel and fresh juice. This amazing entrance is a very good way to begin this wilderness experience.

The incredibly warm hosts greeted me at reception and I was soon shown to my tent. These safari tents are new, comfortable and backed by a large open air bathroom. They are all river-facing, shaded by a makuti roof structure, and they all have comfortable furniture. I am a big fan of canvas and prefer it to a brick-walled lodge. It allows you to hear the bush at night and feel the breeze if you leave the tent flaps open. The camp neatly blends into the shade of the riparian trees.

That afternoon we had sundowners on the Yatta Plateau. At the top, cushions were placed on an exposed rocky outcrop of the lava flow and the drinks served. Looking west we could see all the way to Mt. Kilimanjaro and let our eyes follow the Athi turn into the Galana River. The private route up is an adventure in itself, and the group behind us was lucky to catch a glimpse of a leopard. The incredible view was made even better as we watched the sun disappear behind Kili’s peak; as it turned to twilight, the planets Venus and Mercury appeared.

We returned to camp for dinner, which was set up on the lawn in front of the main bar and deck area. The team there will gladly set up tables across the grounds so that each group can have privacy. The three course meal was delicious, made with fresh ingredients and served with pride.

After dinner we made plans for the next day: an all-day game drive and picnic lunch. I should have gotten my rest, but lost track of time, chatting with the engaging hosts around the fire and the tree-centred bar.

Our guide took us to the confluence of the Galana and Tsavo rivers, where we had a wonderful shaded picnic and some rest. To get there we drove through the morning on a road where no other vehicles would normally be allowed to drive. We saw a few of Tsavo’s famous ‘red’ elephants as well as numerous antelope species. Without really trying, we managed to identify over 60 bird species.

Tsavo East truly feels unexplored, and only Tsavo Safari Camp offers you an easy chance to do so. The camp’s full-board package includes all activities on their side of the river. If you want to explore Tsavo West, to visit attractions such as Mzima Springs, it’s easily accessible and the camp can arrange day trips. After a long day out, or if total relaxation is more your style, the pool and open-air massages are always available.

A longer visit to Tsavo Safari Camp will let you explore a number of these secret locations and it is perfect for families, a romantic getaway, or a corporate retreat. People ‘in the know’ take advantage of the camp’s location to break the journey to and from Nairobi and the Coast. The hosts are infinitely flexible and can cater for a number of itineraries. They also host events and packages such as yoga, cookery, photography and specialist birding trips. Be sure to look out for their Valentine’s specials.

If you are interested in experiencing this slice of magical wilderness and enjoying simple, warm hospitality, be sure to check out http://www.tsavosafaricamp.com, especially for their 2015 events calendar. You can also contact them on 0729-613201 or info@tsavosafaricamp.com

Published in Kenya’s Sunday Nation