Sep 27 12

Northern Kenya – Meru & Marsabit


Meru – the Kalahari of Kenya

Nicolai's favourite - African Fish Eagle

 By: Celeste

As we entered this dry land I remember voicing: “I was hoping for more than this,” but how wrong I was! There is a Kalahari feeling, early morning light tipping the Stipagrostis grass, plains ringed by hazy, blue mountains shielding the horizon. I know I am showing my age when I not only remember the John Denver ‘Blue Ridge Mountain’ song, but even remember it fondly. 

back to basics







We stay at Bwatherongi Bandas alongside a stream. The accommodation feels like home, simple as it is. We are all alone here in the thorns and heat. There are two bedrooms with refreshingly cold water showers, a central lounge, large stoep (veranda) and braai (fire area) place outdoors. Our kind of place. We wallow in the pool with the midday heat tipping in the late thirties before heading out into the bush.

this terrapin was going upstream

We pass Kinna airstrip and its listless black-and-white windsock before encircling Elsa’s Kopjie (Hill). The Large, spread-out herds of giraffe are common, but skittish. Bushbuck graze (or ‘grass’ as the Tanzanians say) daintily in the river thickets. The Rojewero River is a gift in this wilderness, palm-lined and hosting the biggest terrapins we have ever seen. Hippos are doing their thing, snorting, grunting and bubbling from behind; the largest male with a massive head displaying his cavernous mouth for good measure. ‘Measure this and measure your distance.’ Crocodiles sunning and swimming at the wooden deck look-out seemingly lazy, their nonchalance misleading. Baboons cavorting, monkeys plucking, and African Fish Eagles perches with his substantial catch.

This baby elie did not make it. Was it the lions?

“What’s that smell? Is it the elephant carcass? No, it’s coming from over there.” As we round the bridge bend the stink intensifies. A pride of lions: a lioness in her prime with some gangly, partially-spotted youngsters. We re-visit this spot twice more in the next two days, inquisitive to see what they’re up to. They are in an excellent position and know it, hardly moving. I wonder if all their lazing around conserving energy does not impact on their muscular condition.

sub-adult male lion

Two famous graves give us food for thought. Elsa, who was released here by Joy and George Adamson, and Duma, the cheetah. Danica, tearful, refuses to alight from the car or to even look. We picnic on the rocks at the Adamson’s Falls, cheese on rolls and even some ‘fishy eggs’ caviar which no-one else would eat, gifted to us by Jessie in Nairobi.  

Marcelo had already met with the main warden of Meru and the warden for this entire region of KWS (Kenya Wildlife Society). Here they have an 80km2 sanctuary with about 50 rhinos, minus one, which had been poached the week before our arrival. Understandably, the two gentlemen were in a somber frame of mind and still emotional over its loss with no arrests or leads as yet.

This lioness had lost an eye, but was coping fine with the pride's assistance

Near the Murera Gate stands a buffalo statue erected in 2010 by the Honorable President Mwai Kibaki to commemorate the eradication of rinderpest in Kenya.

The lasting mood and treasured memories of the evenings in the dusty dusk, preparing supper out by the fire, agamas on the hot rocks, Eastern Plaintain Eaters complaining, impala and waterbuck parading past. As night falls we startle at a loud crashing through the bush of the stream. We shine our light up, and up – a giraffe. Paraffin lamps aglow, thorns underfoot, the dusty day gives way to the bats swooping in front of the stars.

“If only that were a gerenuk,” I ponder, only to realise at Marcelo’s insistence, “It is a gerenuk.” Nicolai sums it up with his own brand of humour and intensity: “Look at their loooong necks!”


Past the outpost hamlets of Isiolo – a real frontier town with turbans and camels and windblown dust and flies and not much else. Ewaso Ngiro River and Archer’s Post are much the same. A male Somali ostrich and then twenty thin camels emerge through the heat shimmer. The simple Samburu manyattas are so simple and eco-friendly, just a bent stick framework and hides – contrasting with their bright red Shukas (robe cloths) and abundant beaded jewelry. This is the setting of the widely-read novel “A White Masaai” by Corinne Hoffman and having borrowed it from our friends, the Sharpes in Nairobi, certainly added a depth and texture to my understanding of this area.

The North is a loose term for Kenyans who do not appear to know much about it. No-one really knew the status of the road (yes, singular) or security. As in Alice in Wonderland: ‘curiouser and curiouser…’



Lake Paradise


Described as a bit of Mars unexplored, this remote montane paradise lies in the burning waste of Northern Kenya. Mount Marsabit rises sheer from the desert floor to a height of 1707m with its mass creating its own ambient micro-climate. Every evening, about midnight, the hot air rising from the desert floor cools and forms clinging fingers of mist creating a richly forested wonderland of crater lakes and swamps. Birds and beasts dart between the tall stands of indigenous juniper and podocarpus, swathed in ‘old man’s beard.’

moving trees - the elephant have fun in these parts

The elephants with mighty tusks are understandably shy due to the previous poaching history and come down to the swamp and salt lick only before sun-up. Although we did not see any with our own eyes, signs were abundant – huge, creased footprints; smaller parcels than their savanna cousins, but big on tree toppling they are! Whilst exploring we maneuvered four out of the road but were defeated by the fifth. Disappointed, we had to turn back. It is said that for an estimated 63 years Ahmed with tusks of over 100kg was patriarch of the forest – he was guarded from hunters by presidential decree.

awfully elegant vulturine Guinea Fowl

Sitting on the veranda of our room at the stone and wood dormitory-style Marsabit Lodge we overlooked Gof (an extinct volcanic crater marshland) Sekorte Diko enjoying the toy-size buffaloes giving scale to the Gof’s immense size. The still evening brings with the creeping mountain shadow a shy bushbuck. Augur buzzards and Ruppel’s Vultures draft over. Busy amongst the grasses flit the Bagaflecht Weavers and Vulturine Guineafowl.

Alex, the lodge manager, is friendly, efficient and a businessman of note with many years of experience worldwide. He went out of his way to make us feel welcome, chatting to us and sharing his interesting history.

Down, down into the crater lake strewn with pathways through the greenery there are minute ducks and teals. We descend into the crater area of Gof Sekorte Gudo otherwise known as Lake Paradise to swooping African Fish Eagles playing with the wind and chasing one another. Peaceful.  Timeless.


Despite the wondrous tranquility however, we are all restless and on edge. An unexplained feeling most likely related to our tough journey ahead through traditional bandit county of Northernmost Kenya where some still travel in convoy to the Moyale border of Ethiopia and beyond….


8 Responses to Northern Kenya – Meru & Marsabit

  1. Roger Ford says:

    Hi Guys. Thanks for the up date. Sounds exciting. Trailer behaving? Go well.

    • Marcelo says:

      Hi Roger, trailer getting re-energised back in Nairobi (see page Nairobi audit). No camping culture up north so tough decision to leave her behind, regards to all.

  2. Ilona says:

    Yay! Ready for the wackiness of Ethipoia!!!!!!

  3. Ilona says:

    Aaah yes, M. Denise is still recovering from the loss of Harry. Acceptance of AVB (as he is known in the UK press) is still open….they are off to a slow start. Plus we think they sold too many good players….we shall see! Love to you all!

  4. colin says:

    Celeste you definatley a better storey teller. Loved the blog.sounds like yourney is picking up pace due to change in terrain. All the best!

  5. colin says:

    Cousin! No reply?

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