Snap! Crash! Wake with a start to the crack of branches being split and torn away, then the munch-crunch of huge molars grinding together. In the blush of an orange tinted sky the vast ghostly shape of an elephant glides past with a soft rumble as it makes its way down to the waterhole.
The sun comes up throwing light onto the hills beyond - birds chatter and the occasional sound of a camel bell in the distance breaks the peaceful reverie.
Arriving at Sarara Camp in Kenya gives one the most amazing feeling of being dropped into another world with views stretching for miles over the vast plains to the beautiful mountains and hills beyond.
The welcome sight of reed thatch roofs appear out of the green hillside and you are transported into a miracle of cool spacious comfort - high roofs of twisted reed and poles, cool white walls edged with ancient varnished wood and comfy sofas around a vast olive wood table.
The whole space leads seamlessly from dining area to sitting room and bar, and finally out down to the infinity pool which is set in the natural sloping rocks looking down over the waterhole below. All water comes from the fresh mountain springs and is then filtered, and the buildings are made from naturally fallen trees and local stone.
Sarara is utterly blissful and a great place for couples and family safaris, but what makes it so fantastic is that it is 100% owned by the community that it serves. The local Samburu people are totally involved in the day to day running of the lodge, and the trust has changed attitudes of the local communities towards wildlife and, most importantly, made the area safe from poachers. Built on the site of a horrendous 1989 elephant massacre, the lodge and trust has seen more and more animals being attracted back to the area.
The conservation work carried out has been hugely successful. As a result of severe poaching, there were no recorded elephants remaining in the Mathews Ranges by 1985. Today, several thousand are living and breeding peacefully in the southern part, together with a variety of other wildlife species such as buffalo, lion, leopard, cheetah, African wild dog, greater and lesser kudu, gerenuk, reticulated giraffe, impala and dik dik.
Here you can witness the ‘singing wells’ – a truly awe inspiring sight where warriors come from miles around to water their precious cows, camels, donkeys and goats from deep beneath the sandy riverbed. Chanting age old songs they pass the water up the four to eight deep human chain as the herds take turn at drinking from the replenished troughs.... and women fill the large containers ready to strap to donkeys and camels.
Other activities include bush pony rides in the foothills of the mountains, hikes with expert Samburu guides and trackers, cultural interactions, game drives, kids’ camps, rock pools, bush meals, school visits and scenic flights in Jeremy’s small plane- with the airstrip just five minutes from camp.
Katie Bastard – the owners’ daughter in law has created the Retiti elephant and rhino sanctuary – for orphaned babies, which is a half hour drive from the camp and can be visited by arrangement.
As the cool afternoon approaches animals start to appear – a host of blue flashed vulterine guinea fowl, wart hog families, antelope and later - the gentle procession of different elephant families, taking turn to blow and suck gallons of water, while the ungainly shadows of hyena lurk in the background.
In the evening, dinner is served by the pool surrounded by fluttering candles overlooking the waterhole. Indulge in feta, watermelon and pine nut starter with stories from Rob and Meg - your hosts, followed by Swahili fish curry, coconut rice and warm homemade chapattis and end with wicked thick velvety chocolate mousse!
Thrillingly, the best is to come as Sarara unveils Sarara Treehouses, situated one hour’s walk from the main camp. Here up on the cool forest mountainside are eight incredible en-suite tree houses with heart stopping views over Mount Uarges, one of the Samburu people’s seven sacred mountains.