Kalepo is in Kenya's northern most conservancy of the greater Namunyak, which straddles the Matthews Mountain range. Below their craggy, cedar-studded slopes, dry bush country unfolds. Bubbling springs rise in the hills, providing precious water to the Samburu people and the wildlife species that inhabit this ancient land.
Several thousand elephant live in this region, in addition to a variety of other species including lion and wild dog, giraffe, lesser kudu and desert warthog. During Kenya’s dry season the watering hole draws a host of daily visitors including the elephant and warthog.
After our drive to Kalepo Camp I was delighted to arrive at this garden of Eden located on a lugga, (a sandy dry riverbed) which flows perennially. We entered to the main sitting area and received the warmest of welcomes from the owners, Storm and Rob, as well as the Samburu staff.
I really enjoyed the opportunity to relax and unwind here after a busy journey previously, and spent some blissful time practicing yoga and watching the watering hole.
The food was excellent! One afternoon we sat beneath a shady fig tree to have a selection of interesting, fresh salads served in the dry river bed. In the evening we enjoyed a delicious Moroccan dinner – a light tapas-style meal, complete with Moroccan lanterns everywhere!
Another day lunch was a delicious pizza fresh from their oven. The comprehensive Gin Bar was an attraction all by itself with guests bringing the best and most interesting artisanal gins from their own countries! The attention to detail is one of the most incredible aspects to this camp. Everything has been thought of!
During the day I visited their local Samburu village and experienced one of the purest cultural interactions, entirely authentic and unadulterated. We visited the home of the chief herdsman and his family of five wives and had the opportunity to speak with them and understand how they live in their culture in the 21st century. They were equally as interested in us and our own lives as we were in theirs!
Then we walked with them, their Boran cattle and their goats to the wells, where they sang to the cattle as they dug the water out of the wells and filled their beautiful wooden troughs. This is known as the singing wells and is a fabulous experience to witness!
This camp is truly very special indeed and should be part of everyone’s itinerary! Perhaps start off with the Masai Mara, then fly onto Kalepo, possibly spending a day walking and hiking, and seeing the Samburu, before proceeding onto Lake Turkana by helicopter, having a night at Desert Rose, and ending off at a beautiful, luxurious lodge in Laikipia, such as Segera.
Kalepo is a three-and-a-half hours’ drive from Laikipia. One can either fly into this camp by helicopter, by aircraft to their airstrip, or be driven two hours on an excellent tarmac road followed by 1.5 hours on a dirt track that winds through the mountainside. This would be an amazing itinerary for an adventure lover with a decent budget who wants to get under the skin of the country, learning about the culture and its pioneering people!
Kalepo Camp offers the perfect end to a safari. Once one has got the Big Five out of one’s system in the Mara or Laikipia, one can settle down in the most incredible and beautiful forest-like environments overlooking the mountains. The camp is for private use by you and your party alone and you have the entire 390 000 acre conservancy exclusively too.
This is one of only a handful of safari camps remaining in Kenya that is owner managed – by Storm and Rob Mason. This is a real privilege, spending time with people who are good company, knowledgeable and passionate about the area. It is more like coming to stay with very good friends and having a lot of fun whilst here!
This camp exudes the finest of experiences despite its inaccessible location, due to the Masons’ wealth of experience. Storm and Rob have managed several extremely high-end properties during their careers and the result is that they have managed to incorporate the best bits of everything, which is incredibly impressive given that ultimately, one is living in a tented camp in one of the most pristine, inaccessible parts of the country!
Storm and Rob’s 6 year-old son, Angus, is a joyful addition to the camp, as is their Verreaux eagle owl which joins them and their lovely wire haired Daschund, Badger.
Since its establishment in 2008, Kalepo conservancy has worked hard to protect one of the last great stretches of Kenya wilderness. Frustratingly they have suffered false starts, both with a fire that set the completion back and then the pandemic. But finally this camp has been allowed to blossom, and is welcoming visitors again.
About 8500 Samburu people live within the Kalepo conservancy. Though their ancestral land once stretched from here to Ethiopia, subsequent tribal clashes forced the Samburu to move south to the sparsely populated area they live in today.
Here in northern Kenya, where the foothills of Mount Kenya give way to the semi-desert plains, the Samburu maintain a traditional lifestyle as nomadic pastoralists. The camp staff are all Samburu whom Storm and Rob have personally employed and trained, providing stability and upliftment for the local area.
There are mountain bike trails to explore the region, great birding, lovely walks and serious treks for the fit and energetic, ranging from a couple of hours to a full two - or three-day trek to the top of the mountain and back. These are not the usual tourist experiences on offer in Africa.
The wonderful thing is that when going fly camping up the mountain (which is not for the faint-hearted!), this is something that Storm and Rob would do themselves for their own pleasure. Every activity is accompanied by a sense of adventure, not a manicured, contrived, sanitized, tourist experience.
Another absolute highlight of a stay at Kalepo Camp is the opportunity to witness a ‘Maasai Games’. Here it is a serious business. The Warrior Games were in fact first introduced as a means of diverting the Maasai and other tribes from killing lions to prove their manhood once they became warriors.
It also allows them to obtain cash from winning at these sports games, which are now intrinsic to their culture. They can command victory in the same way, with the same money paid out, but crucially without killing a lion.
This is an intimate, luxury tented camp with four, gorgeous villa-style tents and one two-bedroomed family tent, separated by a tree. Each has its own separate outdoor bathroom which consists of a shower, loo and a twin basin vanity counter with mirrors. The tents have a polished concrete floor with Nguni cow rugs and a large king size bed with the finest of linen and bedding.
The main sitting area shares a dining room and there is a separate outside sitting-cum-dining area beneath a wooden pergola and has a small swimming pool to cool off in during the summer months.
This place is soulful and is so peaceful. There are two large-cushioned chairs which look out across the sandy riverbed, as well as a separate private sitting area for simply reading a book or looking out across into the mountains. There is also a yoga mat where one can practice sun salutations!
There is Wi-Fi in their office which means one can check on things if necessary, but otherwise this is the perfect place to simply switch off, unwind and enjoy Africa for what it is with no interruptions!
Please do feel free to get in touch with me for more information about Kalepo Camp or indeed to discover other options for private safari in Africa, such as private villas or chartering a private yacht. Or, if you would just like to dream for now, you can do so at our Video Library.
Images by kind courtesy of Kalepo Camp.