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.
Our time here seems too short and we have to say goodbye to Twala and continue our journey.
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.
We finally wind our way to Tiemamut. I’m hungry, hot and tired, it’s been a long morning. I perk up when I hear that the way to get to this campsite is driving on a sand lugga. Yes!
A quick stop for a late lunch. One of the campsites in Tiemamut is just across at those trees there.
We think we can do better so we drive further along and just find a shaded spot right on the lugga. Yup this’ll do nicely.
Time to switch into sloth mode for the rest of the afternoon, one of the few things I’m really good at.
And so like sands through an hourglass, these are the days of our lives.
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.***
Too too beautiful… yearning to visit…chasing this 4WD cars now 🙂
It’s even better than the photos show it to be.
A good read! Must have been fun camping on the sandy river bed.
It was a dream come true, it’s something I’ve always wanted to do. Box ticked!
The pictures truly do stir the wanderlust, again thank you for going off the usual ‘magical Kenya’ circuit to show us hidden gems.
Amazing, you bring out an aspect in camping that is rich and divine. Makes you feel like if you not camping your not doing it right. I love your writing style 🙂 Keep camping and taking those great shots of Kenya.
Thanks so much for writing in and I’m glad you’re enjoying the blog. Yeah I really wish more people understood how much fun it can be. And yes, camping is definitely only for the coolest of cats 🙂
beautiful place!would love to visit and camp!testimony that there is more in tourism that northern kenya has to offer!good read!
Hi Richard, a truly spectacular place not many know about. We definitely need to spread the word about Northern Kenya, it’s a very special part of Kenya. Hope you let your friends know.
Reblogged this on my travel stories.
Brilliant, thanks!!! Mike Mike Harrison Chief Executive Officer
M: +254 (0) 724 614 046 S: mikeharrison99 http://www.nrt-kenya.org >
Asante sana Mike, what a beautiful place.
Hi Mark. Thank you so much for your commitment to promoting Naibunga conservancy.I am so much happy that you write from experience.
Hi John, we have to let people know about the beauty of Naibunga by any means necessary. I was very happy to visit there.
Hi Mamai – I’m planning a trip and would like to come to Naibunga and camp the Wakumbe Hills campsite. How can I reach you to plan?
Hi Boris, unfortunately (fortunately?) I am not in the tourism business.
Thank you for the comments given about the Naibunga Conservancy, we are really proud that you enjoyed the resources we offer.
I’m travelling to Marsabit this weekend on an unplanned trip and to say I’m excited would be an understatement. I have been dying to visit Northern Kenya and I thought I would end up going later in the year for my b-day but I guess fate had other plans for me. I’m re-reading your posts now with so much zeal trying to get some pointers in hopes of ensuring I don’t miss some great spots. Just thought I would share this as well as how much I enjoy reading your posts as well as your Instagram. Maybe I’ll tag you on some spots 🙂
Hi Sheri, thanks for writing in it’s so cool to know you enjoy the posts. You’re so lucky to be heading up to Marsabit I wish I was as well! Have a great trip and tag me in a photo or two in Instagram.
It was a great pleasure meeting you there. We hope you you will have another chance visiting us again. Just for your correction, you mentioned me as Mike instead of Mamai. With Julius, we met you at ilpolei shopping center before getting to Twala.
Hi Mamai, pole sana for that spelling mistake, I will correct it. I have to come back one day, I still think about what a beautiful place Naibunga is.
Hi Mamai – I am planning a trip to Nabunga and would like to camp in the Wakumbe Hills site. Please tell me your phone or email to get in touch. Cheers.
Hi Boris I am not Mamai, he is the conservancy manager. Is my writing that bad? Contacts for booking a visit are in the article.
Too gorgeous for words! I want to pack up the bike or 4×4 immediately! Does one have to have a guide? We much prefer solitude 🙂
Naibunga is perfect for bikes.I’m not exactly sure of their policy on ranger escorts, in many places if you look like you know what you’re doing they won’t insist you have them.
Wow, I just found your blog and I love it! When is the best time of the year to camp in this spot?
I’m glad you found it and I love hearing from readers. This is an all year round kind of area although you might want to avoid the long rainy season just because camping in the rain is no fun!
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