Kenya’s top 5 camps for active travellers

Kenya is the original birthplace of the safari holiday and home to the likes of the Maasai Mara, Amboseli and Samburu, which offer some of the best Big Five game viewing in the whole of Africa. However, Kenya is not solely about game viewing! It has some of the continent’s best and most striking scenery, with a number of alternative ways to explore it other than through your standard game drives. Here are the top 5 camps in Kenya that focus on these alternative activities:

1. Borana Lodge

Borana Lodge is located in the Borana Conservancy, which borders the Lewa Plains and Ngare Ndare Forest. It was originally a working farm owned by the Dyer family, but having passed through three generations it now offers some of the best Big Five game viewing in Kenya, as well as some superb horse riding. The lodge owns 26 horses and is able to cater for all abilities. Riding is a great way to explore this stunning area, allowing you to get up close and personal to the likes of giraffe, hartebeest, impala and zebra! Other activities at Borana include mountain biking, visits to the community schools and swimming in the Ngare Ndare Forest.

2. Loisaba Star Beds

As its name suggests, Loisaba Star Beds offers a unique experience, sleeping under the stars in the Loisaba Conservancy in Northern Kenya. Any guest here sleeps in a four-poster bed cantilevered over a river with stunning views towards popular waterholes and the wide plains of Laikipia. If you can tear yourself away from this world-renowned resting place, you will be rewarded with a fine assortment of activities, including bush treks on camel, mountain biking down the conservancy’s escarpment, fishing in the rivers and dams, and exploring the region on foot with knowledgeable guides.

3. ol Donyo Lodge

Boasting vistas across the sprawling landscape all the way to Mount Kilimanjaro, ol Donyo is made for adventure and exploration. Wedged between Amboseli and Tsavo East National Park, the lodge offers early morning, afternoon and evening game drives, guided bushwalks, opportunities to learn about conservation in community out-reach programmes, the thrill of careering along trails on mountain bike, and watching the wildlife at close quarters from an open-air hide. ol Donyo is famous for its horse riding and has a stable 20 strong. Guests of all riding abilities are welcome, though beginners and rusty riders may well appreciate the lodge’s massage menu while keen and experienced riders try the overnight fly camp ride.

4. Mara Expedition Camp

Explorer style in nature and design, Mara Expedition Camp is ideal for escaping the crowds within Kenya’s infamous Maasai Mara. An intimate camp of just five tents, Mara Expedition is in a prime location for witnessing the wildebeest and zebra migration as well as for spotting the elusive leopard. In the company of first-rate guides, guests can head out in a 4×4 to explore the Mara. The camp’s vehicles are open-sided Land Cruises, perfect for budding photographers – guests can even borrow 50D Canons and wide angle lenses to ensure spectacular shots! To get a different perspective of the varied wildlife, you can also go on a hot air balloon ride – an absolute must.

5. Karisia Walking Safaris

This experience can be as luxurious or as basic as you wish. Travellers after a little extravagance may opt for the comfort of a luxury tent with plush mattress warmed by hot water bottles, while those favouring an authentic camping trip can try the AirBnC – air bed and camel. Whatever your preference, you will enjoy an exceptional walking adventure supported by Laikipia Maasai trackers and camels, with not a vehicle in sight. Traversing the sacred ground used for millennia by hunters, these walking safaris are based around the tall rocky outcrop of Nyasura, where guests can appreciate a deeper insight into Kenya’s animals and its people. Although the camels will do the heavy lifting (carrying the tents and equipment), this is still a moderately difficult adventure. Nevertheless, the Karisia walking safari is well worth the effort, as lion, leopard, hyena and elephant can be encountered on foot.

Julian Carter-Manning is a Co-founder and MD at Yellow Zebra Safaris.

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