When I think of Sabache, I think of the night that could have been. Friends visiting from the States invited us to join them on a trip to northern Kenya. We had heard many good things about Sabache, a community-run budget camp in the shadow of Mt Ololokwe, and started to enquire. I contacted reservations and arranged for our two-night stay. All done. Nothing more to do. Or so I thought.
Dusk was approaching when we arrived at Sabache – Google maps took us a bit off course – and the staff greeted our two families in a friendly enough matter. The niggling worry began when they showed my husband and I, and our three children, to our room – a large tented dormitory at the back of the camp with basic single wooden beds, some with nets, some without.
This didn’t seem right, but nevertheless, we went to have a quick look at where our friends were staying – it was the most beautifully situated of the ensuite safari tents, overlooking a gorge with its own verandah. But, wait! Hadn’t we booked at the same time? Weren’t we paying the same price? Hadn’t we asked for a safari tent, too? Why did we end up with a DORM?
My efforts to explain all this to management fell on deaf ears. The tents were all taken, they said, and we hadn’t booked. But I HAD, I cried (almost, ok, actually in tears at this point), look at my emails, I said. Problem was, I had liaised with an offsite reservations department based somewhere outside of Kenya, and between them and the lodge, the booking had apparently got lost. As it happened, there was one tent available, the beleaguered manager explained, but the guests, a family of five just like us, still hadn’t arrived. But it’s late, and they’re not here, I began, couldn’t we…? Nope.
Defeated, we sloped off to our camp bunks, our friends to their lovely double bed and a view. My mood was somewhat improved come morning, although it was on the verge of deteriorating when I learned that the guests in the one empty tent never did arrive the previous evening.
At which point the young female manager paused. Could the other guests, she said tentatively, have been you?
Oh God, no. I cast my mind back to my booking. I had used my maiden name to make it as – much to my husband’s dismay – my email, my passport, my bank cards, all of them remain in my maiden name. When we arrived at Sabache, we gave them our married name – and somehow none of us made the connection.
Despite that inauspicious start, Sabache did grow on me. The lodge sits in a thoroughly beautiful location overlooking the Matthews Range, quintessentially northern Kenya, and we were quickly moved into our new family tent. The Samburu guides kept us entertained with learning how to make fire and take part in makeshift games. The food was simple, tasty fare - perhaps a little too simple for my husband, who maintains a long-standing aversion to beans.
And if you are travelling as a large group, then I must confess that the dorm is actually very decent, and the beds perfectly comfortable. Looking at another guest’s photo of the dorm online to remind myself of how it looked, I thought, “Gosh, that’s really quite lovely.” I guess it’s all about one’s expectations.
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.