As a traveller and sometimes writer I am obsessed with the stories that are not being told about Kenya and if you have been reading this blog that theme is pretty obvious right across the board. I do not desire the obvious. I am constantly plagued by the thought “Surely there must be more than marketing leads me to believe there is?” You’re about to find out just how true that is.
Naibunga Conservancy is located in the Mukogodo Division of Laikipia County and is composed of 9 group ranches (let me breathe deep as I rattle of them off) Koija, Il Motiok, Tiemamut, Kijabe, Nkiloriti, Musul, Il Polei, Munishoi and Morupusi. These different Maasai group ranches came together in 2004, a commendable feat, in order to jointly manage and conserve over 50’000 hectares of rangelands with tourism being one of the income generating activities. It’s yet another of the conservancies in Northern Kenya under The Northern Rangelands Trust umbrella.
Approximately 40 kms (took me about 1hr) from Nanyuki town, 4-wheel drive vehicle required. Out of Nanyuki town turn left at Total petrol station, turn right after 8kms on road marked for Dol Dol, and after 13km turn right where the tarmac ends, Il Polei town is 20 km from here. This would be where you meet your guide.
Twala Cultural Manyatta
On this trip I’m accompanied by Tarn (whose half – clothed frame we were introduced to in Nakuprat-Gotu Conservancy) and his better half ‘K’. In Il Polei town we meet Mamai the conservancy chairman and Julius the conservancy manager and we first decide to check out the Twala Cultural Manyatta which is was started by 6 sub-groups of women who formed into one into one super group (people coming together for a common cause seems to be a recurring theme in the conservancies I visit) back in 2009. We are ambushed at the entrance by some of the members singing a welcome song.
Rosemary the current group chair-lady gives us the grand tour of the compound and the different economic activities the group engages in, among them aloe vera cultivation, bead making, bee-keeping, walking with baboons (not a typo) and a pretty cool resource/conference centre. These ladies are mad busy.
They also have accommodation in 2 eco-manyattas (with 2 more currently under construction together with a common kitchen area) both with 2 bedrooms with 3 double beds in each manyatta. The manyattas are self-catering so if camping’s not your thing and you’re a big group this is a great base to explore the conservancy. There is also a campsite.
Up And About
A further 10min from Il Polei are the Osoit Oitashe rocks. According to Julius their claims to fame is that Rose Muhando (a famous gospel singer) once shot a video here, clearly a star of some taste.
Its a short scramble to the top for great views.
If you’re staying at Twala this is a perfect sundowner spot.
This campsite in the Wakumbe Hills is our destination for the first night but this is one campsite that makes you work for it.
We have to cross a lugga so Julius and the scouts check if the opposite bank is crossable. I love adventure time.
I’m having a loads of fun feeling feeling totally intrepid but at the same time I’m hoping this campsite is worth it. Julius has really hyped it up but I’ve been played in the past.
Nope we’re good!
From here you have an almost 180-degree peep towards Mukogodo Forest, and into Samburu County with the Lekurruki Plains in the foreground and beyond that Mount Ololokwe and the Matthews Range.Even Julius can’t help but take some photos, and he lives here!
In true Kenyan hospitality style we have somehow ended out with a goat for dinner that Lemarti (on the right) and Jeremiah take from breathing to roasting on the fire in record time. Fun fact: Lemarti and artist Anna Trzebinski had one of most luxurious camps in the area (Lemarti’s Camp), old tourism hands might remember it but it’s since gone the way of the dodo.
With no hesitation I can say that the meat (cooked every which way) and subsequent soup was one the major highlights of this trip. I don’t know if a non- Kenyan can ever really understand just what the social significance of slaughtering and eating a goat with others is. Wherever you are it makes you instantly feel at home.
Have I gone on enough about that goat? Probably. So anyway with dinner done we all sit back and watch the evening’s light show, I head to my tent early but the murmurings of conversation around the camp fire go on late into the night.
Goodmorning! Had a great nights sleep, and on the cards I have a few locations I want to check so after a hearty breakfast we’re off again. This is the morning the beauty of Naibunga really hits home for me.
The layers upon layers of rolling hills, the numerous kopje’s is a landscape I’ve never seen before and I am entranced by it all. Seeing Mount Kenya throughout the morning doesn’t hurt either.
The first stop is the Ol Gaboli Bandas, a a place I’ve wanted to come stay for years but never had the chance to. This turns out to be my only disappointment of the entire weekend, it has clearly seen better days, such a shame as the location right by the river is great is great.
Ol Gaboli still has good bones but for them to see a better return on the place I think the standard needs to be improved by an external partner. Places like this always make me dream of leaving the behind my life in the city, I could market the hell out of a place like this. Rupi Mangat wrote a little about it here.
The next stop is Osinyai campsite right on the banks of Sinyai river. If I ever come back to Naibunga this is straight where I’m headed. Perfect siting on a ‘beach’, well shaded, surrounded by canyon walls for climbers and bouldering on the river. If you’re camping with kids this is a great spot for activities but avoid in the rainy season.
A quick stop for a late lunch. One of the campsites in Tiemamut is just across at those trees there.
This post is turning out to be longer than usual but sometimes the story dictates how it’s going to be told. Tell you what, I’ll share some more stories and photos on my Instagram over the next week or so.
Need To Know
- From Nanyuki to Il Polei the road is quite rough and dusty, surprisingly inside the conservancy area they are much better. 4WD or bike recommended. There is a petrol station at Il Polei (super only).
- All campsites have no facilities so you have to be totally self – sufficient. However water can be obtained at Osinyai campsite. If staying at Twala meals can be organized with advance notice. There is a bit more info on the campsites here.
- Cell service is intermittent throughout the conservancy, comes and goes depending on your location.
- When lugga crossing or driving be aware of flash floods. LISTEN to your guide.
- Conservancy costs are Ksh 2000 per day and this includes camping fees. For bookings call the NRT Tourism Hotline on 0701 295 357 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are two things that really stand out for me on this visit. First, this conservancy was almost built for guys on motorbikes and 4WD lovers. Most of the tracks in the conservancy are smooth and the sandy luggas give just enough of an adventure even for amateurs. Guys, break out those KTM’s, XR’s, Shinerays, whatever you’re rolling with, this is a slice of biker heaven.
Secondly I was happy to see by how young the people I met associated with the conservancy were. Educated, energetic guys just raring to go and put Naibunga on the map, you cant help but be infected by the positive vibrations these guys have for their part of Kenya. Naibunga is like an athlete at the starting blocks, muscles tensed, tendons stretched, eyes focused on the finish line, just waiting for the starters pistol.
Over to you adventurers to pull the trigger.
***A big thank you to all the fantastic people I met on this trip, Tarn and K, it’s great to get out with peeps who are as passionate about camping as I am and to the Northern Rangelands Trust asante for facilitating this trip and the opportunity to tell this story.***