My brother-in-law was adamant. “Happy with pretty much everything,” he told my husband, who was presenting various holiday options over the Easter break, “except camel trekking.”
I mentally crossed the camels off the list, but then heard my husband say, “Oh, but it’s not camel trekking as you know it. With this one, you walk alongside the camels – they just carry your bags. And perhaps the children.”
A few weeks later, the camels were bearing us all, and after an hour of the jerky ride my coccyx was a throbbing hub of pain. But looking around at the Laikipia landscape as two young elephants, apparently abandoned, plodded alongside us, I thought this is really not that bad.
My stints on the camel were mercifully brief – while one parent always had to ride with our youngest, my husband mostly stepped up to the plate. And my sister’s family, including my reluctant brother-in-law, seemed reasonably content astride his sulky beast, while the kids were happiest of all. The only slightly tricky moments were during the descent, when the animal drops in several stages to the ground, pushing its passenger precipitately close to the edge.
Contrary to our first rather luxurious experience with camels, this trip with Bobong, a camel safari outfit run by hardy Laikipians John and Amanda Perrett out of Rumuruti, had fewer of the glamping aspects about it. But as I sank into my camp chair at our first bush camp with a can of beer, I found I didn’t mind that at all. An experienced team cooked up a hearty supper for us, and our kids meanwhile acquainted themselves with the tents and intricacies of the bush shower. When night fell, we climbed tiredly into our camp beds, which were surprisingly very comfortable.
Our second day took us on another long walk – most of which I spent on my own two feet – and we took the children to a dam for a swim, although lack of rain meant it was probably closer to a mud bath. If our guide was picking up rocks to throw at elephant on our way back to camp, we tried not to notice.
Our final night was the most exciting of all. Lion, having picked up the scent of the camels, stalked the camp all night, and bushfires were lit to keep them away. As we inspected their paw prints the next morning, I was glad I hadn’t known any of this at the time. After a fruitless struggle the night before, I had quite given up trying to pull the zipper down on our tent. We might have been easy prey indeed.
Cost-wise, the trip ended up costing each family around Ksh 35,000 a night inclusive of food and wine. While two nights was probably our limit with children, the Perretts offer a range of camel safari options from both Rumuruti and Soysambu, including treks lasting several weeks. Many guests choose to walk rather than ride the camels.
I think I’ve found perhaps the most expensive house in Kenya. Correction – the most expensive house when you are bringing your own food. By my goodness, is it worth it.
Over the Easter holidays, we joined two other families at Olerai on Lake Oloiden, barely separated these days from the larger Lake Naivasha. While the house is sometimes available per room, by far the nicest way to enjoy this beautiful property is to take it on an exclusive basis with none but your friends and a collection of zebra, giraffe and antelope to share your oasis.
At Ksh 100,000 a night, the price nearly made me weep. Split three ways, it wasn’t nearly so painful, but there was still the food (and the temptations of the nearby farm shop) to contend with in our budget.
Set in acres of exceptionally green and well-watered grounds, where ponies and plains game roam free, Olerai is a beauty. The Douglas-Hamilton family, who live on the same conservancy, have created a gorgeous and colourful house with decadent rolls of Indian fabric, arresting paintings and a very liberal use of paint.
The six rooms – four doubles, another room with four singles, and a sixth with three singles – are each so individual and lovely in style that you can safely ditch that urge to arrive ahead of your fellow guests to bag the best room. But the highlight is the grounds – an expanse of lawn merging into grazing where the beasts get close enough to nibble on the creepers tangling around the house.
At night, the hippos roam up close to the house but are fortunately fended off by a wispy roll of electric fencing. With a good torch, the night-time viewing is almost as good as that during the day.
The house is as bit further from the main attractions than most other lodgings on the lake, with the Hell’s Gate entrance a 40-minute drive away, and the well-stocked La Pieve farmshop a 25-minute drive along a rutted, dirt road. But that’s no matter if what you really want is some true solitude in extraordinarily peaceful and beautiful surroundings – that you’ll get at Olerai.
On the same conservancy are two other lovely properties – the Studio, and the three-bedroomed Dairy, both of them an explosion of colour too. All guests can use the main pool, situated next to the owner’s home, Sirocco. Eggs and sometimes milk are available from the management, as well as ready-cooked meals. All houses come with a cook on request. Guests are charged a daily conservancy fee (Ksh 1,500 per adult) on top of the house rental.
For bookings, contact Catherine on email@example.com
About the Author
I'm a former travel magazine editor, focused on Kenya, before which I covered news in Africa and beyond. These days, I travel with my kids.