Not so long ago, I travelled approximately 348 kilometers from the capital to experience the Meru National Park. A park that has been touted as one of the most promising tourist destinations in Eastern Africa.
The initial 275 kilometers to Maua were rather uneventful save for the ever changing splendid scenery. From Maua, we had 35 more kilometers to get to the park’s access gate.
The park is mostly Savannah grassland whose highest point is Nyambene mountain range at 3,500 feet above sea level.
It is therefore characterised by rather high temperatures all year round. This is in stark contrast to the adjacent Meru town which has a cooler highland climate.
Arriving at the park, we decided to take a quick drive through the park. A truly delightful drive I must admit as sightings in the park were rather easy with bird flocks, zebras, buffalos and various antelopes including the beautiful gerenuk crossing our path often.
We were delighted that we didn’t need to leave the park as accommodation options were plenty.
From the KWS serviced self-catering bandas, special campsites to the much cosier privately owned accommodation like the Murera Springs Eco Lodge, Ikweta Safari Camp, Rhino River Camp, Off Beat Camp on the banks of the Bisanadi River and finally Elsa’s Kopje positioned on the iconic Mughwango Hill.
I opted for the Leopard Rock Lodge due to its promise for an authentic Meru experience. A quick tour of the grounds revealed a makuti thatched restaurant and red earth cottages dotted across the terrain.
My cottage, which was located right at the heart of the lodge featured a solid wooden king-sized bed and an array of intricate carvings, tribal masks and canvas paintings on the wall.
I felt like I was on the set of Black Panther, in my Wakanda kingdom abode. As dusk fell, fire lanterns around the lodge lit up, lending a spectacular scene that accentuated the ongoing Africa Wild theme.
The décor and the wait staff’s garb also had some coastal influences that I thought odd this far inland.
The women were in light overwraps and scarfs on their head while the men donned turbans. One would be forgiven to think that they were somewhere in Lamu.
Standing on the deck of my cottage, I watched a few people dive into the pool for a swim under the moonlight, an activity that seemed like something I would want to indulge in later in the night.
The next day began with a game drive. I was lucky to spot all the big five and my very knowledgeable tour guide, Nimrod Maina, kept me well informed on which paw prints marked the red earth.
Straddling the equator, Meru National Park is a complex incorporation of protected areas along the Tana River that include the adjacent Bisanadi and Mwingi National Reserves, Kora National Park, and Rahole National Reserve.
Nimrod explained that on the border with Bisanadi is an area called ‘Kinna’ marking the division between the lands of the Meru and Borana tribes.
This information necessitated a visit to the lodge’s nature room that was laden with Borana culture souvenirs. This was followed up by a visit to an authentic Borana village for a quick immersion into their culture.