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Samburu on a tight budget?

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My family and I are living in Nairobi for four months. We recently went to the Mara with Mara Explorers Camp & Backpacker (not to be confused with Heritage Hotels' luxury Mara Explorer), which was fantastic and precisely my family's style and speed. We're not luxury travelers--and we definitely do not have the budget for luxury safari trips.


We're trying to book a similar journey to Samburu, but are having a lot of difficulty finding budget accommodations. We tried Lion King Bush Camp, but they haven't been answering our emails. We tried contacting Samburu Game Lodge but there is no active phone listed and emails to the main Wilderness Lodges address were unanswered. Any ideas? We're hoping to do two adults and two children (10, 7) for four days and three nights for about $2000. I know that maybe sounds crazy, but that's what we did with Mara Explorers in the Mara. Everything I'm seeing for Samburu is at least 50% higher. Any help? We'd like to get in before the long rains come.


One more Q while I'm at it: Looking for an inexpensive option to rent a 4WD with decent clearance for a day to drive around Nairobi NP. I've been fine driving through in a compact Toyota while it's been dry, but when the dirt roads start getting muddier and ruttier, I'm going to need something a bit more capable. Anyone know a reputable place to go in town?

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Posted (edited)

@@armchair bushman @@Zarek Cockar will be able to help with 4WD hire I am sure but that isn't a problem for sure. Ask around more - not cheap in Kenya (have you seen the price of a new one?) but certainly available. I have heard of Kenya 4x4 but.have no idea if they are any good. Never had much difficulty getting some hits when I googled it in the past. If you are only doing Samburu it is still dry and you cannot off-road anyway, so a RAV-4 or Toyota Hi-lux should be more than enough


My first thoughs for Samburu were that for 4 days in Samburu you will need to pay $800 or so for your fees and the car and another $360 in camping fees if you stay at Lion King Bush Camp or another camp that is on a designated camp site. Then you car hire will be I guess $600 or something, so you're not going to make the budget unless you stay somewhere without camping fees (or camp!). Samburu is actually easy for pricing as they have a lot of drive in custom and everything is price listed. Really you should be fine if you don't mind a lodge. There are a couple within budget and there is also two Samburu campsites that have tents set up so you don't have to bring your own, one in the reserve and one just outside at Archer's post. You'll find them if you search for Samburu camp sites I am sure. And I beleive (but check this) that you can enter all three reserves at the moment (Buffalo Springs and Shaba) on a single entry ticket so you are not restricted to Samburu. Shaba Sarova is very inexpensive.


So maybe it is just a case of getting in touch, which never seems easy in Kenya!- you really need the numbers. One option is to use a local travel agent Many years ago I used Let's Go (Uniglobe) and they were efficient and easy to deal with. I think they do more overseas than domestic travel nowadays but they do still do local bookings and there must be a number more. No big mark ups and no service beyond booking what you ask for - but that's all you need. Were me I'd just pop in the travel agent next time I was in one of the big shopping centers or email Let's Go and see..


There is also accommodation in Namunyak Conservancy nearby at Sabache Camp. Both camping and using their tents (nicer than the ones at the Samburu camp sites).


And if you like camping and getting about make sure you read the Kenyan Camper blogs. Tons of ideas and although he usually camps there is often accommodation nearby where he stays if you look hard enough or ask him - he is very responsive to his fans! Haha

Edited by pault
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Posted (edited)

@@anniesbeard, finding budget accommodations in Samburu is not so easy. The first time we were at the public campsite but the baboons were a BIG problem , our cook had big problem with them. You need a camp attendant who provide firewood and guard against the baboons and vervet monkeys.


We have stayed two times in Lion king camp ( self catering ) but it's no longer possible (2011 , 2013) .


Two weeks ago we were at the Samburu riverside eco campsite for the second time. In 2015, the camp was quite a mess, BUT the new owner has totally refitted the camp. The tents are new ( a few weeks) under a thatched roof, new pathways, new kitchen and "dining/lounge " room. The camp is located near the Park headquarters, you can even see the place (old accomodations ) on google streetview. You can see the differences with our actual photos!

You can book with booking but the best is to contact Kelvin Lemantaan with Facebook from Ben and Sylvie.














Hope you'll find a place to stay, Samburu is such a great place.



Edited by Ben mosquito
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For a 4WD hire, if you want to self-drive, get in touch with Central Car Hire

The best option for you would be to hire a local Pajero (the old body style, but still newly built). It'll be the cheapest and most rugged option. Central is one of the oldest and most respected car hire companies in East Africa, and it's family run, so very personal service. You get roadside assistance, fully comprehensive PSV insurance, and LOCAL vehicles (bought from manufacturers here, not "grey imports" from Singapore/Japan, which are not designed for this terrain).

Contact details on the website above.


As far as budget accommodation is concerned: I've never been to Lion King or Riverside Eco Camp, but keep in mind there's also Sentrim, which is cheap. There's also a very nice public campsite in Shaba National Reserve (next door to Samburu). Once you pay fees for Shaba, you have free access to Samburu and Buffalo Springs National Reserves. Buffalo Springs also has some public campsites, but they're not great - very little shade and not on the river. There's one public campsite in Samburu (though the map shows several). It's a great campsite with running water, toilets, showers, etc. The only problem (and this is a big one), the Vervet Monkeys and Baboons there are some of the worst in Kenya. Having said that I know friends who have camped there for 2 nights and not had an issue, but my last two experiences there have not been enjoyable.

There's also another community-run public campsite between Archer's Post and the main gate (Umoja). It can be very peaceful and nice, but if on a weekend, you may have fellow "campers" who are just there to party and drink - not so enjoyable.


Good luck!

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