For anyone looking to get right off the beaten track and spend time in a very special, wild and authentic part of East Africa, Shompole Conservancy, situated in the beautiful and unspoilt heart of Maasai land, is the ideal destination. And a stay at Shompole Wilderness camp means that guests can experience life in this fascinating part of the region in luxury and comfort.
The camp has just four well-appointed safari tents all set out amidst bush and spreading fig trees on the banks of the Ewaso Ngiro (‘brown river’), the main source of water for the region, which flows from Kenya’s Mau escarpment into Tanzania’s Lake Natron around 25 kilometres south of the camp.
The tents are all private and well-spaced – each has an ensuite bathroom with bucket shower and flushing lavatory, as well as solar-powered lights and fan. The camp hosts describe the experience of staying here as ‘glamping’ – short for glamorous camping – and their guests always agree with them. Guests always comment too on the delicious meals conjured up from the bush kitchen and served in the camp’s spacious shady mess tent.
“It was just perfect! A beautiful location, superb food, quaint tents, amazing landscape, game drives and sundowners, chilled kayaking and walking, professional hosts and great and friendly staff. It’s a perfect place to stay for a weekend (or longer) getaway from Nairobi. I will definitely recommend it and definitely come back again for sure. Thank you all so much.”
Wildlife is abundant in this relatively unknown corner of Kenya, with only Rhino missing from the diverse ecosystem. Animal numbers are increasing all the time – there are around forty lions, a resident cheetah mother with her four cubs, and leopard too. Elephants are back in the area after many years of absence, and can often be seen early in the morning making their way down to the river to drink.
Large herds of buffalo have been seen and there is a greater density of giraffe than almost anywhere in the region, along with abundant plains game such as zebra, wildebeest, impala and eland, and desert antelope such as gerenuk and oryx. The nocturnal wildlife viewing is good – with many small carnivores to be seen including bat-eared foxes, African wild cats, genet cats and even the shy caracal making an occasional appearance.
Research has shown over four hundred species of birds in the ecosystem, making this a must-visit location for bird lovers. Nearby soda lakes Natron and Magadi are rich in trona, attracting both the beautiful lesser and greater flamingos.
“A photographer’s paradise, an escapist’s utopia, beautiful and wild. We were lucky enough to stay in this lovely camp, hidden away from the rest of the world by a beautiful river, where the service was attentive and genuinely kind, and the food cooked in a camp kitchen was divine.”
What makes this area particularly special and unique, however, is the fact that the wildlife lives alongside the Maasai and their livestock. The local Loodokilani Maasai, like their kinsmen throughout the region, tolerate wild game including large carnivores such as lions and leopards. As a result their homeland still resembles the pristine Africa of old, with a co-existence between man and beast which is increasingly rare in the region.
Your welcoming and knowledgeable hosts at the camp are the local Maasai together with Johann du Toit and his family, who have lived and worked in the area for over ten years. Johann is a Swiss-trained hotelier and safari guide and his wife Samantha heads up all the scientific research in the ecosystem. They have two small children Seyia and Taru living in the bush with them.
As well as game drives around the conservancy, all set against the backdrop of the magnificent Mount Shompole and the spectacular Great Rift Valley wall, other interesting things to do by vehicle are to visit the Shompole swamps, Lakes Magadi and Natron, nearby waterfalls and to do some tracking (both on foot and by vehicle).
Other recommended activities include :-
Tubing & Kayaking – the Ewaso Ngiro River is free of dangerous predators such as hippos and crocodiles – making it safe for swimming and kayaking – and floating down the river in an inner tube is a unique way to travel when the river is medium to low in level. You pass by huge fig tree roots going into the water, watched by while baboons and monkeys and the occasional monitor lizard.
Walking with Baboons – the nearby Lale’enok Resource Centre, a short drive up-river from the camp, is the base for the Walking with Baboons programme. Arriving first thing in the morning before the baboons leave their sleeping site, guests are accompanied by Sisco or Joel, the local Maasai baboon experts, and walk with the baboons and learn how they live and interact with each other
Walking with Cattle – travel across the plains with the local Maasai herders as they make their way back home with their cows after a long day’s grazing. Guests come closer to wildlife than usual amidst the cattle and can try to learn the whistles and chants the Maasai use to communicate with their precious cows.
Cultural Visits – with few outside influences the life of the Maasai here remains relatively traditional and unchanging. Guests can visit a Maasai Engang (settlement) and discover more about their customs and way of life.