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…
Introductions all round…
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.
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.
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.
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.
From Namanga 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.
The trip for the day.
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.
The campsite location is pretty sweet, in a grove of some Acacia trees with lots of shade.
I am stunned by the views from this campsite. The dry lake bed as far as the eye can see and Mount Kilimajaro juts up from this vast pain like it’s been photo-shopped in. What a location.
Driving here is some of the most fun I’ve had in a while.
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.
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.
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).
Sham drives off to be the subject. You can see the drone follow him in the left of the photo.
We have a great time here, taking pictures and in awe of the beautiful sunset.
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.
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.
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).
We’re joined by some young Routes fans…
…and the most photogenic of dogs; ‘Police’.
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.
- 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.
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).