HELLO + WELCOME as we drive from Sydney to London overland via Africa.
It’s Kirsty here today writing about finding luxury at Joy’s Camp in remote Northern Kenya.
Driving through remote Northern Kenya has been one of the absolute highlights of our journey through Africa. This region of the continent is ‘The Africa’ I hold in my minds eye. It is rugged and stark. Samburu tribespeople people live in the harshest conditions and you spot their bright flashes of red and yellow robes before you see their skin. It is spectacular.
Along the way we were invited by Cheli & Peacock Safaris to spend some time at their camps in the area. We chose Joy’s Camp, of Joy Adamson and Born Free fame. The safari camp is based at the exact location where Joy lived. Most people fly into this remote location – we drove.
Turning off the tar it felt like Africa changed in an instant. It felt so isolated. Men in long robes looked as if they were walking their camels towards Somalia. And the women stared at us as if we were the first whities they had seen in years.
After a gruelling drive in, we arrived at Shaba National Reserve. We entered via a remote track – we thought it would be more interesting – and obviously caught the National Reserve’s head ranger off guard as we found him in the shower! He pointed us on our way and soon enough we were welcomed to heaven… oh, I mean Joy’s Camp.
:: We are now officially far from home! We have driven to somewhere where camels roam.
:: A letter of welcome awaited us in our room on our arrival
:: Joy’s Camp namesake of Joy Adamson’s and Born Free Fame
LUXURY IN THE DESERT
Dusty and a little bedraggled, we were soon under a shower and taking in our digs for the next few nights. The luxury lodge consisted of huge permanent tents with views over the surrounding green desert oasis. The view from our room overlooked the entrance to the waterhole. From our room we watched animals come and drink – warthogs, buffalos, dik-diks (the smallest antelopes in the world) and jackals – while we sipped wine.
When we have moments like this our two worlds collide; but it’s this roughing it on the road, mixed with luxurious stays like this, that we love. It’s an entirely different experience. And , I’ve gotta say, one of my most favourite things in the world.
:: Our tent for a few nights
:: A little tradition we have
:: The view from our tent where we saw wildlife come and go feeding from the waterhole
:: Northern Kenya is really tough…
:: Bathroom by night
THE RARE SPECIES OF SHABA
With a stomach full of delicious fresh food, including crunching lettuce plucked from their onsite garden, and a little nap under our belts we headed out on safari. Shaba National Reserve is a unique park in that it houses rare species of animals. And that’s why we had come.
After visiting tens of parks, you begin to get picky with the ones you visit. For us, the greatest draw card of this park, besides it’s interesting history, was that it is home to some very special wildlife we have never seen before. The desert landscape has Grevy’s Zebra (the most endangered), the Somali Ostrich, Aardwolf, Striped Hyena and Gerenuk.
We piled into the back of Joy’s Camp Land Cruiser and both of us relaxed knowing all we had to do was sit back and enjoy. We quickly saw a whole host of these rare animals and then a cackling came over the radio. “Do you guys feel like going for a fast drive?” came the question, “We think we have something”. “Hell yeah!”, came the answer as our driver Mohammed had already hit the accelerator.
We zoomed through the desert. It was so exciting – to be headed towards a mystery and to not have our own tyres taking all the blows! Onwards we rolled, for over 20-minutes, ‘This must be seriously good, if they are taking all this trouble’, I thought. And there climbing up the rocks from the savannah was a pride of five lions. On the exact rock that makes an appearance in the film Born Free. What a sight.
After the paparazzi ceased, we rolled back a little and with an icy cold gin and tonic in hand we toasted the sunset and the pride. That’s when it struck me that Shaba would most likely be our last wildlife safari of Africa and a wash of emotion came over me. “I feel so alive here. I love this so much”
:: Grevy’s Zebra
:: Somali Ostrich
:: Gerenuk, or as we nick named him ‘Giraffe Antelope’
:: Vulturine Guineafowl
:: Desert lions are leaner than their counterparts in lush parks. They have to work harder for their food.
:: Rock climbing lions of Shaba. This site is featured in the film Born Free with Joy Adamson’s lions.
ON SAFARI, WITH A GIN + TONIC IN HAND
After sleeping like logs we woke up for another game drive and walking safari. But first, breakfast by the river in the middle of the bush, cooked by chefs who had arrived early to cook just for you. Spectacular.
To be honest the day is a blur of luxury, wildlife, smiling staff, wind in our hair, lazying on sofas overlooking waterholes, eating delicious food including the best cheese we have tasted all year and enjoying sundowners (drinks as the sun goes down) from a viewpoint overlooking the park. Another gin and tonic, of course.
:: Early morning safari drive. Our truck even had a plug to charge our camera batteries.
:: Picture this, you go from looking for lions to hopping out of the car in the middle of the bush for breakfast.
:: A small walking safari took us to these rock formations over the river
:: Shaba stretches for as far as the eye can see
:: Sundowners served
:: Happiness is…
IT’S THE SMALL THINGS
We were hosted by Joy’s Camp and had a wonderful time. As such we would like to take this little nugget in time to wholeheartedly recommend it to you. Personally, I would recommend it to anyone looking for a unique experience in Africa. Joy’s Camp has the opportunity to share the wild nature of this remote corner of the World. And you, unlike us, can simply fly in!
To get specific I would recommend Joy’s for two traveller types.
1. Those who have never been to Africa before. Bundle it together with a more trammelled park, like the Masai Mara or Serengeti. It will give you light and shade. A rounded experience of what Africa has to share.
2. Those who have ‘seen it all’ in Africa. I have spent years of my life in Africa and Shaba had species I had never seen before. When you get snooty with your wildlife, ‘ohh, another giraffe’, it’s really exciting to see new species!
The icing on the cake at Joy’s Camp was the small things. The vibe was luxurious but unpretentious; helped by the earthly decor, honest food and down to earth managers. For us, the ‘feel’ of the place was right up our alley. We have been to many luxury camps in Africa now and occasionally we get the feeling a place is trying too hard to prove their price tag. Here, Cheli & Peacock do it effortlessly and that breeds authenticity.
:: The lunches were our favourite meals. So fresh and served by the most lovely staff.
:: Let’s all pause for a moment to appreciate that this delicious fresh plate is being served up in one of the most remote deserts in the world!
:: Earthy decor
:: Freshly washed and pressed shirts. Has an Aussie Overlanders shirt ever been so clean?
:: A million little small ‘things’ can be quite spectacular
With our hearts, and stomachs, full we drove off into Northern Kenya to tackle the challenging route north to Ethiopia. This region is often stereotyped as inhospitable, and for obvious reason many travellers rush through. We felt very fortunate that we were able to spend a while and experience it from a different perspective.
As always thanks for dropping by our corner of the web. We love having you along for the ride.