"Discover the Unexpected". If you like to walk, if you have the time and would like a one-off experience of a lifetime, join our camel safari walking parallel to the Tanzanian border from Soysambu, in the centre of the Great Rift Valley, to the beautiful Kenyan South Coast.
This route should take us out of the Rift Valley, through parts of Kenya that are still as nature made them; highland forests to savanna grasslands, through thick thorn bushland, along dry river beds, to tropical coastal forests. Up hot hilltops and down bird-lined shores of lakes and beaches. As well as a few places where camels will be a first-time novelty to the people and the wildlife of Africa.
The camels will be doing the hard work carrying all the food, equipment and personal baggage needed, with their handler guides who'll find the way, cook and look after everyone and the camels. Once a week at convenient places, a day, or more, will be a rest day to allow the camels to catch up on eating and walkers to do their own thing. Lodges en route could be optional luxuries for those that wish.
This trip is scheduled to take three months, starting on 15th September 2023. There will be opportunities to join or leave at two different points on the way if time only allows for a shorter walk. Along the way, there will be points of special interest to visit, like First World War sites, hills and craters to climb, forests and lakes to see.
On this leisurely journey southeast, there will be time to enjoy the companionship of the camels and the people of Kenya along the way, the tranquillity of walking quietly amongst nature in its natural rhythm and pace of life following ancient wildlife and livestock migration trails. See as far as the distant horizons where the colours of sky and earth meet. Clear one's mind and re-coup one's energy in the still beauty of the bush.
Why this route?
One hot, sunny afternoon, we were standing on the top of a hill at the southern end of the Loita Hills with our Loita Maasai guide, Karashe, looking down at the folds of beautiful hills dotted with scarlet Erythrinas, rolling down to a forested river valley at the bottom. We had been sitting with Karashe on a rock on the edge of a 3,000-foot drop-off to Lake Natron and beyond the previous day. As we drank in the enormity of this vast, typically African scene before us, he explained how the elephants migrated from the Maasai Mara, through the Loitas, into Tanzania below Lake Natron, and back into Kenya at Amboseli, away in the distant haze. Karashe had been showing us potential routes for our camels to cross from the camp where our daughter, Roisin, and son-in-law, Adrian, work on the Mara River, to Shompole. My imagination immediately lit up, and I turned to the family, saying, "Wouldn't it be so cool to be able to follow the elephant trails all the way to Amboseli?"
Nick Hughes had done a couple of long safaris with our camels into northern Kenya in the past few years. This year he had booked to cross the Rift Valley to the Cheranganis and on down to Lake Victoria. As it was, this had to be cancelled at the last minute due to the security issues in those parts. Still, Nick requested, as an alternative, a safari from Soysambu, Elementeita, where some of our camels are based in the Rift Valley, all the way to the coast along the Kenya/Tanzania border. We said it would take about three months. The challenge was on.
The maps came out. Contacts were made, and good friends volunteered to come with us to explore potential routes on the ground and talk to people on these routes. Charlie knew much of these areas and led the way. Our two newly rescued orphan kittens and "psychological support" dog, Mutura, had to be smuggled through the Parks. The weather was kind to us; most of the way had received good rain recently, so it was beautiful with fresh, green growth and a blossoming of wildflowers (and devilkies), but it was dry enough not to get stuck anywhere.
We began our journey with a very long day, starting out at 7 am from our camp store at Soysambu Estate, where we loaded in as much camping equipment as the poor car could take, and make for a basic, but comfortable trip for everyone. Perhaps not so comfortable this day for our three men squished in with the luggage and two kittens in the back, and three of us crammed into the front of the pickup with Mutura, the spoilt dachshund.
We were picking up Fionna Morrall, a childhood friend visiting from New Zealand, at Green Park, Naivasha, so we lurched and bumped our way through pot-holes and wash-outs navigating our way along the old railway embankment behind Soysambu and passed steam jets and over the shoulder of Eburru Mau. At Green Park, Tom Fraser gave us further directions, maps and contacts to get to Suswa. The route we took proved unsuitable, so further investigation is required. But we picked up Karashe in Suswa, who was told by the Maasai pastoralists that better routes that their cattle use were possible. A slow drive took us across fairly empty of life but scenic country, on barely used rough tracks which meandered over the normally dusty black cotton floor of the Rift Valley, emerging unexpectedly at a smart-looking Lodge over-looking Lake Kwinea, neither of which we'd ever heard of. Here, even more randomly, we were greeted by a young schoolboy who said he knew John from a school trip to Bobong. The rest of the way was only visible by the car headlights, arriving in Bisil at 10 pm to a very welcome hot meal with our hosts, Charlie and Claire Hewitt-Stubbs.
Travel was more comfortable for all after that, with Charlie taking our back seat passengers, while Fionna hopped in with Naomi Poulton and Patrick Henfrey, and the kittens moved back onto the front seat, with Mutura getting a good perch on top of their basket where she could look out in comfort. And the days were more leisurely by the time we'd packed up camp in the mornings and stopped in daylight to set up camp in the evenings.
Between Charlie's knowledge, asking for directions from local residents, and heading steadily Southeast by compass and maps, we worked our way to the beach at Diani over the next six days of hard driving. As we can't take the camels into Tanzania, we asked for the traditional and ancient livestock trails to market and pasture instead. Some of these trails had been turned into tarmac roads. Some have power lines over them. New fences and ploughed fields block some, some by ever-increasing towns. But we found that the whole way, where people and their stock and motorbikes move from village to village and to pasture, there are quiet routes where a camel caravan can pass and camp. Everyone we encountered was friendly and helpful. It was an exciting and interesting trip, and we look forward to walking it more leisurely and peacefully with the companionship of our humped friends, the camels, patiently and gracefully carrying all our needs for us on this long walk south. And not to forget our ever cheerful and helpful, untiring team of men, the camel drovers, who load, and unload, and look after us and the camels every day along the way, through rain and sunshine, mud and dust, trial and pleasure.