The sweltering heat of the Samburu dryland fades into a cool breeze as you enter the Sarova Shaba Lodge gate.
“This is Kenya’s best kept secret,” our guide Wilson Kipchumba quipped to my awe-struck family. This was a welcome relief after the gruelling about six-hour journey from Nairobi.
The Shaba National Reserve within which Sarova Shaba Lodge is located is a dry part of Isiolo Country and it exhibits desert-like conditions, except along the banks of the Ewaso Nyiro River where there is a narrow band of doum palms.
Sarova Shaba Lodge is built around a natural spring whose waters meander, creating beautiful streams and pools, which teem with fish and frogs. The lodge is set along the banks of the Ewaso Nyiro River and is literally laid out around the natural springs bubble into the river.
Kipchumba told us that the spring is what gives the lodge its cool breeze and the lush environment.
The lodge has a thatched roof, stone and timber, tastefully combining local materials and architectural styles. The eighty chalet-style rooms are in two storeys, four rooms to a block, and incorporate intricate detail, offering amazing views of the Ewaso Nyiro River and the numerous live springs that run across the lodge.
“All Sarova properties are designed with the environment in mind. Sarova Shaba Lodge has made use of the local materials in its construction as much as possible. Shaba is indeed a rich “oasis” and our surroundings work magic even for those of us working here,” said Moses Mathenge, lodge housekeeper at Sarova Shaba Lodge.
The Born-Free legacy
The Shaba Game Lodge basks in a legacy bequeathed by Joy Adamson and George Adamson of the Born Free fame.
“Shaba has a unique place in the history of Kenya’s game conservation for it was in this reserve that the author, Joy Adamson, died. She was known for her efforts in the rehabilitation of the compliant leopard to a wild environment,” said Mathenge.
In 1956, George, in his capacity as the game warden, was compelled to kill a man-eating lioness, which had three newly born cubs. The cubs were taken in by Joy Adamson who became their foster mother. She named them ‘Lustica’, ‘Big One’, and ‘Elsa’.
“Shaba was one of Adamson’s greatest African loves; it was in this tranquil wilderness where Joy released the first hand-raised lions,” Mathenge added.
Adjacent to the Shaba Game Reserve is the Buffalo Springs and Samburu National Reserves.
A unique aspect of the three parks here is that one can have a game drive in any of them using the same park fee ticket, making it possible to stay in any of the facilities in the region and do a game drive in any of the parks.
Shaba and Samburu are known for the presence of the far rarer Grevy’s Zebra.
Both are also homes to Gerenuk, BeisaOryx, Reticulated Giraffe and crocodiles.
The lions are rare but with patience, one can spot them.
Ewaso Nyiro river runs through all the three reserves. There is usually plenty of bird life in the acacias and doum palms along the river banks.
The shade provided by the trees also makes them a favourite place for elephants in the middle of the day.
Sarova Shaba Lodge offers a unique experience that goes beyond game drives in the reserves.
The lodge has many activities to indulge in, including camel safaris, bird-watching, lodge trekking, and crocodile feeding.
The lodge is a classic tourist destination, which lends itself naturally to the ideal exotic wedding and bush dinner experiences, flavoured with Samburu culture and traditions.