To have stayed at this camp and spent a day with the elephant researchers at Save The Elephants is, I can honestly say, one of the most remarkable, humbling and worthwhile experiences that I have had.
Dr Iain Douglas-Hamilton’s charity, Save The Elephants, is based in Samburu Game Reserve in Kenya. Saba Douglas-Hamilton, a wildlife film maker following in her father’s footsteps, allows one a privileged insight into their family life consisting of her children and her conservationist husband Frank Pope, who is COO of Save The Elephants and works with Saba’s father, Iain. You may have already seen the family on BBC2’s This Wild Life in 2015?
Save The Elephants are active on a number of levels. In order to conduct research on elephant behaviour and ecology, they were the first to pioneer GPS radio tracking in Africa, enabling them to glean so much information on these magnificent pachyderms and to assist in defending them against poachers and traffickers.
Working tirelessly with wildlife parks and communities in an effort to reduce elephant poaching, they have also developed an Elephant Crisis Fund, assisting countries across the continent to end the demand for ivory.
At Elephant Watch Camp, one can also see the rigours and logistical challenges of running a camp in Africa, which Saba does with calm aplomb and style, following in her mother’s footsteps. The food too, is simply sensational. It is all fresh, coming from their farm in Lake Naivasha and with her mother being Italian, it focuses on light, Mediterranean style with lots of freshly made pasta. Too delicious for words!
Elephant Watch Camp is our favourite place in Samburu. No safari to Kenya is complete without a stay here! Having stayed at Elephant Watch Camp, it really embodies everything that is wonderful about Africa. I can also say, it is the only camp I have ever visited and left in tears – of sadness!
It is very much a family run camp which makes it all that bit more special. However it is also not for everyone. If you are a city slicker looking for minimalist design and large villas – then this place is not for you.
If you are somebody who is looking for an authentic experience, a gorgeous tented camp, festooned with brightly coloured swatches of fabric and cushions, and a down to earth but first class experience – this is it.
Offering a genuine, old fashioned style safari, the tents come with separate bucket showers (of hot, steaming water filled as often as you wish), flush loos and a veranda which overlooks the Ewaso Nyiro River. The bathrooms are en suite but open to the air which is just how it should be!
There is nothing quite as romantic as showering beneath the stars at night! And the staff? Oh, you just want to take them home with you – they are all truly wonderful!
An abiding memory is going for a sundowner and listening to the guides start their traditional dancing and singing as the sun was setting. We didn’t ask for this – it was completely natural – and left us with complete goose bumps!
But of course, the reason we came was because of the elephants. These extraordinary creatures are disappearing at an alarming rate – 100 000 over a three year period. Africa does not have enough elephant to sustain this butchering.
Here, at Save The Elephants, Iain, Frank and the whole team are doing everything in their power to keep track of their elephant herds and to protect them against ivory poaching as much as possible. Iain is also the world authority on the African elephant and is on the board of CITES – which is against the legalisation of ivory – which so many African countries want to overturn.
Samburu reserve is fabulous for seeing elephants and they have seemingly come to know the vehicles of the Elephant Watch Camp as well as the Save The Elephants researchers, allowing one to come that much closer than any of the other lodge vehicles.
The guides at Elephant Watch Camp are superb and are well in tune with these magnificent beasts so even at the camp, one can often see them wandering close by, sensing that this is a safe haven for them. For a donation, they can take you to the research station of Save The Elephants so one can meet the dedicated researchers.
I never tire of marvelling at elephants –I simply cannot imagine Africa without them – yet if we cannot turn the tide of poaching, there is a harsh reality that the only place we could witness them would be in a zoo. A thought that none of us could bear.
Images provided courtesy of Elephant Watch Camp and copyright to:
Background, header image, and image 6 of herd drinking - Michael Nichols
Image 2 of the family by the river, image 3 of game drive, image 4 of the mess tent, image 5 of Saba and her baby with guide - Tim Beddow
Image 7 of game drive with guide - Hilary Hurt