Kenya’s Mathews Range & Kalama Conservancy

Kenya is home to some of the most incredible wildlife experiences in Africa, with the Masai Mara, Lewa and Ol Pejeta conservancies leading on superb and diverse game viewing. However, for true wilderness enthusiasts, Kenya also boasts some lesser known and breathtaking scenic wilderness areas, which offer an array of activities and complement a more traditional vehicle based safari experience.

In central Kenya, the stunning Mathews Range spanning some 150 km has a wonderful ecosystem with lush riverine valleys and dense forested slopes. The rugged mountains change colour throughout the day in hues of green, blue and purple. The scenery is truly magical and the serene setting has an irresistible, calming effect. If remote wilderness is your thing, this is as captivating as Africa gets.

Game-wise you will see plenty of elephant, reticulated giraffe, Grevy’s zebra and over 200 bird species, leopard sightings are good too, along with some rarer species like the elegant, long necked gerenuk and lesser kudu. But the key reasons for making the journey to this dramatic, remote area, are to enjoy the wilderness, marvel at the stunning landscapes and to interact with its fascinating people.

The lands here are community owned by the Samburu and the Namanyuk Conservancy is one of the best places to witness old traditions and genuine tribal life. Samburu herdsman and children move their cattle, goats and sheep through the conservancy following in the footsteps of forefathers. Young warriors adorn themselves in brightly coloured cloths, with bracelets and headdress made of beads and feathers, so striking against the natural colours of the landscape. A visit to a Samburu village here is very much an authentic experience. Photos are not allowed, there is nothing for sale, it is just a small community living by very basic means and everyone (young and old) are tending to their precious livestock. During the dry season, the Samburu need to find water for their cattle, so the men strip down and dig wells in the dry riverbed. These wells can be four or five men deep and they chant traditional songs as water is collected and passed up a human chain to the top for their cattle to drink. The local community have agreed to allow guests to witness this amazing ritual, but photography is not allowed. The best chance to see the ‘Singing Wells’ is usually from July to October.

You will have the opportunity to walk in the Mathews, with guided bush walks of varying lengths available. For the more adventurous, longer walks can be combined with an overnight fly camping experience (sleeping out under the stars with mosquito nets), which really gets you ‘back to nature’ and away from all the distractions of modern life. Horse riding for experienced riders and scenic flights can also be arranged.

A visit to the nearby community owned Reteti Elephant Sanctuary is another great activity. Having opened in 2016, the project rescues and releases orphaned and abandoned calves, as well as educating and creating positive benefits for the local communities. Seeing these young elephants run excitedly towards the handlers for a milk bottle is a heart-warming sight, and the speed with which they slurp down a milk bottle is something to behold! The project is having great success at ‘re-wilding’ the orphans, and is having a very positive impact on the community engagement too.

In terms of accommodation, Sarara Camp is a beautiful tented lodge built into the lower slopes of the Mathews Range. The location is awe-inspiring and the views will quite simply take your breath away, even from the infinity rock pool! The pool overlooks a watering hole, where elephant come to drink and cool down too – another magic moment on safari! The lodge is managed by Jeremy (who grew up here), alongside his wife Katie and young family. The atmosphere is wonderfully relaxed with warm and caring staff, many who have been working at the lodge for years. For more information on the lodge click here. Sarara have recently opened their sister camp Sarara Treehouses, nestled in another beautiful section of the Mathews Range, roughly a half hour drive from Sarara Camp. The Treehouses are built high in the treetops, connected by an elevated walkway, allowing elephant to pass under the walkways and follow their migratory pathways undisturbed.

Nightly rates at Sarara Camp and Sarara Treehouses start from US$930.00 per person (accommodation only). For guests who can stay a little longer, Destination Sarara is a fantastic, stay 6 pay 4 offer, and combines 2 nights at Sarara Camp, 1 night fly camping and 3 nights at Sarara Treehouses with prices starting from US$3,720.00 per person (in regular season only).

Another wonderful wilderness experience in central Kenya is the exclusive Kalama Conservancy which borders the game-rich Samburu Game Reserve. Whilst the Samburu Game Reserve is relatively busy and well known, the Kalama Conservancy offers a more relaxed and softer safari experience. Your time here is more focused on trips to nearby communities, visiting an underground photographic hide overlooking a waterhole or taking in the sheer beauty of this incredible landscape from various fantastic sunset spots. Game drives (day and night) are available on the conservancy where animal numbers are steadily growing, as well as in the Samburu Game Reserve itself, with the core game viewing areas about a 50 minute drive from the lodge.

Saruni Samburu is the only lodge on the community-owned Kalama Conservancy and has exclusive access to the surrounding 200,000 acres of pristine, protected wilderness. The lodge has an incredible location, perched on top of the Kalama Mountains with far reaching views over the vast plains and Mount Kenya beyond – it really does have the wow factor! It is a lodge where you can combine some big game with a heavy dose of relaxation, spectacular scenery and interesting cultural experiences. You can read more about Saruni Samburu on Our Travels page of our website or view the dedicated lodge page in more detail here. Nightly rates at Saruni Samburu start at US$616.00 per person.

Whether you are a first time or experienced safari goer, you will be blown away by the astonishing beauty of these remote destinations and the warmth of the people will stay with you for a long time to come. For more information, please do get in touch with our team via our contact page.

Photo credits: Sarara Camp and Saruni Samburu.