Camping on Lake Amboseli – Dreamers & Deserts

Three years ago I met a group of young Kenyan adventurers with fire in their eyes and and the determination to create a travel show for Kenyans, by Kenyans. It was during this first meeting that it was suggested “We should do a trip together”. However just like the very familiar “We should do coffee sometime”, it would take some time for us all to pull our respective knickers up and get planning. So finally here we are 3 years later, myself and the  Routes Adventure crew, bonded by a common dream to shout as loudly as we can about our amazing country. This time with an idea to drive 900km over 5 days along the southern border of Kenya and Tanzania.

This is Part 1 of this epic adventure…

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Photo: Routes, Edit: TKC

Introductions all round…

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Routes Adventure (R-L) Sham, Acacia, Tony and honorary member Gaia.

Background

Lake Amboseli is located in the Nyiri Desert (also called Taru or Nyika Desert ) that stretches along southern border of Kenya and Tanzania. Nyiri covers the Amboseli National Park, including the northern half of Lake Amboseli, Tsavo West National Park on it’s southern border and Nairobi National Park lies at its northern edge. A vast section of Kajiado County’s land area is part of Nyiri Desert. The rain shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro causes its aridity.

The name ‘lake’ is a bit of a misnomer as for most of the year all it is is a massive flat desert pan with no water in it.

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View from the campsite

The lake itself is right at the border of Amboseli National Park and the Olgulului/Ololorashi Group Ranch which surrounds most of the park with Kilimanjaro National Park right across the border in Tanzania. In my research I found it interesting that the group ranch was quite popular for bird shooting back when it was legal.

Getting There

We leave Nairobi at 7am (1hr later than planned) down Mombasa Road and on through Bisil to Namanga, road is all tarmac and takes around 3hrs.

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Bit exciting for me as I haven’t been past Bisil in donkey years. My most recent trip down this road ended at Olomaiyana Bush Camp.

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Approach to Bisil

From Bisil to the campsite is a bone jarring 50km over crazy corrugation. The secret to this is to find the right constant speed to ‘float’ over the ridges; slow down or speed up and you feel like you’ll get shaken to pieces.

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Photo: Routes, Edit:TKC

The trip for the day.

The Campsite

On arrival to the area we get turned around a bit before finding our way to the camping spot. Luckily Jackson our contact comes bounding out of the desert on his bike like an angel on 150cc Chinese wings to get us headed the right way.

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‘You’re headed the wrong way!’

The campsite location is pretty sweet, in a grove of some Acacia trees with lots of shade.

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I am stunned by the views from this campsite. The dry lakebed as far as the eye can see and Mount Kilimajaro juts up from this vast pain like it’s been photoshopped in. What a location.

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Driving here is some of the most fun I’ve had in a while.

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The diagram below shows the location of the campsite right outside the Amboseli National Park. The green line demarcates the border of the group ranch and the park with the Tanzanian border to the south.Olgulului campsite

Out & About

in the late afternoon when it becomes cool enough, we head out with our 2 local guides in search of an escarpment they tell us is pretty beautiful.

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Driving along the lake bed.

Turns out we’ve left it too late and the suns going down fast so the decision is made to stop and get some shots at this spot. The drone perspective becomes the subject of awe (I think i embarrass myself by my excitement as well, I’ve never been anywhere near a drone).

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Tony does his thing.

Sham drives off to be the subject. You can see the drone follow him in the left of the photo.

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We have a great time here, taking pictures and in awe of the beautiful sunset.

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Going for the ‘every-safari-brochure-ever look.

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Wont forget this one in a hurry.

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After the sunset a photo session with out guides while driving back to camp.

That evening we sit around the campfire, tuck into Mama Acacia’s bomb mince pie and survive a visit by a spider the size of a plate. I try take some astro shots but my hearts not in it, we’re all beat and it’s an early night for all.

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The Next Morning

Morning comes too soon for me, for some reason I’ve slept fitfully and I’m not ready to face the day but by 530am we’re all stirring looking forward to shooting the start of a new day.

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It’s interesting to watch Routes work and i can’t help but be thankful I don’t shoot video. It’s amazing how much work goes into just a few minutes for your viewing pleasure (each episode of their videos is around 6 minutes long).

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We’re joined by some young Routes fans…

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…and the most photogenic of dogs; ‘Police’.

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In this part of the world barely 10min after the sun had peeked over the horizon it’s already getting too hot to hang around in the open. Time to pack up and head out.

Snapshot

  • Great wilderness camping option to explore the park if crowds are not your thing, Meshanani Gate is only a 5min drive away. There is another more formal campsite in a busy area at the Kimana Gate run by KWS. There is NO campsite within the park itself.
  • This area gets VERY hot during the day carry lots of drinking water. Chance of light dust storms in the afternoon.
  • There is nowhere to buy supplies along this entire road or at the site itself, last proper shopping is at Namanga town.
  • Camping here is informal so expect to pay around Ksh 1000 per person incl. security for the campsite while you’re away. Contacts are Jackson (Big Life Foundation Ranger) 0727-367316 or Chief Lupembe 0724-587624.
  • Cell reception VERY intermittent so makes sense to call a few days or so before your trip to confirm arrival.
  • As always I’ve uploaded the GPS coordinates of the campsite to the app Maps.me.

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Final thoughts.

Full disclosure here; I never intended to write about this trip.  I took no notes and didn’t pressure myself to get the ‘money shots’. I just wanted to tag along, have fun and enjoy the awesome company. But as sometimes happens you find such a sweet destination with ZERO information about it and it almost becomes criminal for you not to share it with as many people as possible.

I knew of Lake Amboseli, I’d heard whispers about it here and there ,I had seen it on a map but nothing prepared me for what a strong reaction I’d have to just how beautiful it it is. As with all my articles I hope in years to come someone stumbles across this story and comes to find out just what the hell I’m gushing about.

That’s all for now, this merry band of dreamers leave the desert, drive into the park and way, way, beyond…we have many miles to go before we sleep. That’s coming soon (maybe).

UPDATE: It came. Click here to read Part 2.

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26 thoughts on “Camping on Lake Amboseli – Dreamers & Deserts

  1. Paul Taylor

    We DEMAND you continue! Me and my cat both. It’s true – it is beautiful. Now I want to go too (my cat, not so much).

    Reply
    1. thekenyancamper Post author

      Hi Wandia, been wondering where you got to. Hope you’re still slaying those mountains and getting into that research like we talked about. Thanks for the kind words, and believe that photos did not do it justice.

      Reply
  2. kemmyval

    When I grow up I wanna go on adventures just like you the Kenyan camper! Haha.. Interesting read, now I need to make plans and visit the southern border… Also, waiting on part 2 of this adventure

    Reply
  3. Mukuhiwanjohi

    I shall wait patiently for part two… I loved your last series on Northern Kenya. It inspired me to take a trip up north (am not saying you are an inspiration – too much pressure I remember) but do keep up the great work…

    Reply
    1. thekenyancamper Post author

      Hi, always good to hear from you and hope you had a good time up North. I’m in Nanyuki weekend of 1st June, let me know on IG if you’re up for a coffee!

      Reply
  4. Anonymous

    Amazing shots! Must been have been a great trip. I know where you went next, cant wait for part II…

    Reply
  5. Anonymous

    Please *do* continue. Always wanted to know more visiting about this part of Lake Amboseli outside the park. Did you see much wildlife around the campsite/on the lake bed outside the park?

    Reply
    1. thekenyancamper Post author

      Yeah there was plains game on the lake bed. You can actually pay the park fees and head back out to the southern tip of the lake where there’s a chance to see elephant and lion.

      Reply
  6. My Travel Stories

    Great write up and much information. I am now boiling with eager to follow this tracks you used to Amboseli, I have always wished to use the Namanga route and I think its now time I packed my bag and tent to experience it.

    Keep showing the world of such beautiful destination and telling their stories as you always do

    Reply
  7. Pingback: Lake Chala via Amboseli – A Hard Day’s Night | The Kenyan Camper

  8. Pingback: Lake Jipe/Tsavo West – An Odyssey’s End | The Kenyan Camper

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