“We have been on various safaris over the years but I am struggling to remember one as delightful as this! The ranch is beautiful and as soon as we turned into the gate we began to see wildlife. We enjoyed morning game walks, a night drive and sundowners overlooking the Lolldaiga Hills. We saw lots of elephant, lion and the resident hippo. The staff were all great company – so knowledgeable and approachable. We will definitely return.”
Vicky, UK, January 2017
With a name meaning ‘treasured possession’ or ‘answered prayer’ in Arabic, El Karama is a 14,000-acre working cattle ranch and wildlife sanctuary on the banks of Laikipia’s Ewaso Nyiro River.
El Karama Lodge – the only accommodation on the ranch – comprises just six comfortable and private cottages – together with a spacious central living and dining ‘mess’, a beautiful ‘eco’ swimming pool, two poolside pavilions and an active salt lick with visiting wildlife. It is the perfect option for families and small groups looking for an affordable and authentic lodge with a genuine ‘bush home’ feel.
There is outstanding game viewing and bird watching on foot, by vehicle – or even from your veranda. Guests can see over 80 mammal species including four of the ‘Big Five’ and over 424 identified bird species. This stunning and picturesque habitat boasts unusual mammals such as the Grevy Zebra, Gerenuk, Laikipia Hartebeeste and African Hunting Dogs – as well as Leopard, Lion, Cheetah, Elephant, Buffalo, Hippo and the Reticulated Giraffe. Experienced and knowledgeable guides are always on hand to ensure that guests make the most of their stay.
‘Plains Game’ abounds and guided bush walks take guests close to herds of Burchill’s Zebra and Grant’s Gazelle and through gorgeous landscapes with views of Mount Kenya and the Aberdares. With six dams and waterholes on the property, guests can sit quietly bird-watching, wait patiently for predators or photograph elephant families at play. Night drives, bush meals, sundowners and other safari activities are also available.
“If you have ever wondered what it would be like to live in the Kenyan wilderness then El Karama is for you. This delightful and relaxing home in the bush lets you sample all the simple pleasures of an actual home rather than a hotel. Sophie, Murray and team are friendly, helpful and unobtrusive. The food is excellent; the rooms are rustic, charming and spotlessly clean. The bush walks with Joseph are wonderful as are the game drives and there is plenty to see – lion, leopard and cheetah were spotted over the 5 days we were there – plus elephant, buffalo and all the usual plains antelopes. The bird life also is spectacular.”
Mel, Australia, February 2017
El Karama is owned and run by the Grant family who have lived and farmed on the ranch for several generations. Sophie and Murray Grant and their warm and friendly team of staff – some of whom have been at the lodge for over twenty years – encourage guests to engage as much as possible in all areas of life at the lodge and ranch. Guests can fish in the river and dams or visit the cattle and herdsmen and experience milking, calving and other farm activities.
The lodge also aims to be as family-friendly as possible, with all kinds of fun activities available for children – from game tracking to fishing to sculpting with termite clay – and there is even a special arts and crafts gallery just for kids.
The lodge has a strong commitment to eco-friendly practises, conservation and sustainable tourism, with the aim of preserving its unique habitat for the wildlife and people of Laikipia. You can stay at El Karama safe in the knowledge that the lodge has been designed holistically to balance the comfort of guests with a minimal footprint on the natural environment.
“We had a fantastic stay and the whole El Karama team, led by Sophie, were so friendly, welcoming and knowledgeable! As well as game drives and walking safaris, we enjoyed breakfast in the bush and finished the day with G&Ts as we watched the sun go down. 14,000 acres of private land meant we saw no other safari vehicles at all. The head guide, Joseph, was simply excellent – his knowledge of animals and birds seemed endless. We also enjoyed a tour of the farm where he pointed out the exciting projects coming to fruition – El Karama is certainly a model of how sustainable land management, conservation and tourism can be combined to great effect!”
Jessie, Nairobi, August 2016
Accommodation at El Karama is in six airy and rustic cottages made of stone, wood, thatch and canvas – all lovingly built by hand using locally-sourced materials. Furniture was made by the ranch carpenter and soft furnishings from handcrafted and recycled materials. There is solar-powered electricity for lighting and hot water, flushing lavatories and baths/showers.
Each of the four Banda Cottages has a spacious central double or twin-bedded room, a seating area with a small writing table and an ensuite bathroom with a large stone bath and overhead shower. Each has its own river-view veranda for reading, relaxing and stargazing.
The Rondavel Cottage has a large double bed, two single beds and sofa and is ideal for families or small groups. The bathroom, a few steps away, has a large stone bath and shower with an open window looking directly onto the river – if you are quiet you may see African Finfoot or Hippo moving down river.
The Hobbit House is the largest cottage with 2 bedrooms and an internal bathroom. The master bedroom has a huge double bed, two upper floors have single beds for older children, and there is a living area with sofa and armchairs. The second bedroom has two twin beds and a round glass window for game viewing. There is plenty of outside space here for children to run around and explore. Look out for genet cats – they love this area of the lodge grounds!
All the food at El Karama is homemade – 90% is home-grown in the organic garden and most of the meat is locally sourced. All meals are hearty and clean, full of herbs, fresh vegetables and salads and lots of flavour. Guests can expect a full cooked breakfast, buffet lunches, afternoon tea and a three course meal in the evening – nobody ever goes hungry at El Karama!
Using charcoal ovens, the chef produces freshly-baked rosemary breads, shortbread cookies and cakes for tea. Guests are welcome to visit the kitchen and to learn about bush cooking styles. There is a fully-stocked bar with beer, wine, spirits and soft drinks. Ask for a ‘dawa’ or two to keep you warm on the cooler evenings. There is also a choice of fresh juices and tisanes straight from the organic herb garden.