Rhino River Camp: Our full report
Opened in 2009, the very small, owner-managed Rhino River Camp is tucked in a forested grove on the banks of the Kindani stream. It lies on a 32-hectare private concession, just outside the boundary of Meru National Park, north-east of Mount Kenya, near one of the gates of the park’s secure rhino sanctuary, a must-see during a visit to Meru.
Rhino River Camp has quite a contemporary design, with a distinctly African flavour. The central areas consist of an open-plan lounge, with a few steps up to the open-plan dining area. The roofs are made not of the usual woven makuti leaf tiles, but of stretched canvas. The atmosphere is all very cool under the shade. In the lounge, the bar is of beaten, distressed steel, and the cow-skin barstools done in African-drum style. Soft sofas around low tables, scattered with coffee-table books, look out into the forest, with a swimming pool below.
There are five, stylishly minimalist tented rooms , including the family room, which is made up of two tents and two bathrooms under one roof. All are set on wooden platforms, and accessed by forest paths and stretches of wooden decking walkway. The rooms have wooden frames and cream-and-caramel-coloured canvas sidewalls and roofs, with exceptionally large mosquito-screen ‘windows’ giving you very close engagement with the surrounding tropical forest. Inside, they are furnished with nicely made beds, small writing tables and chairs, while out on the deck/verandas, folding wooden chairs and small, folding tables.
The bathrooms are well thought out, with flush loos, bidets, unscreened showers, washbasins of beaten steel and designer toiletries.
Near each room, accessed by a short walkway, is a small tented sala or gazebo, with chairs and table (and fully screened, so you can avoid insects if they’re about), where you can sit, day or night, and contemplate the forest all around you.
A pool is a real bonus in any safari camp, and this one is exceptionally nice, surrounded by timber decking and built right next to the Kindani stream. We haven’t stayed at Rhino River, and we didn’t use the pool when we visited, but we do think it’s a stand-out feature of the camp, and the perfect place to rest away the hottest hours of the day. It’s worth noting that there is now a simple fence along the edge of the pool closest to the river – just to ensure that you don’t take the mingling with nature too seriously and fall in.
The camp tries to be eco-friendly, sourcing most of its electricity through solar panels, collecting water from the river and sorting waste before disposal. All the timber used (Grevillea or silky oak, and cypress) comes from sustainable local sources.
Early-morning and late-afternoon game drives in the camp’s 4WD vehicle are the main activities at Rhino River Camp. Meru’s wildlife-viewing is improving all the time, with sightings of all the ‘Big Five’, plus cheetahs and numerous savannah species, not uncommon during a stay at the camp. Number one on most people’s lists lists, is a visit to the rhino sanctuary, where close-up sightings of both black and white rhinos are virtually guaranteed.
The camp has three Land Cruisers with fold-back canvas tops. Game drives usually go out with a maximum of four guests in the back and one in the front, so each guest has a good view.
You can also do guided bush walks in the immediate environs of the camp – good for birdlife, and smaller wildlife. Longer escorted hikes lead to an extinct volcanic crater, Kilima Jero, just 2km south-west of camp, or Kiolu River falls, in a rocky amphitheatre, 5km from camp. The crater rim of Kilima Jero is a popular spot for sundowners.
Massage (US$65/hour), course fishing (free equipment loan), and village visits (free) are also available. And the camp has some mountain bikes for use by guests, who often use them to visit the local village and school. Visits to the new school, built with donations from the camp, are usually arranged during school hours, with a welcome dance performed by students. The old school, constructed in the traditional manner from mud and cow dung, stands nearby.
Our viewThe location and forest environment of Rhino River Camp and the widespread use of decking lend the camp a strong, jungle atmosphere, enhanced by the constant background sound of the river’s small waterfall. The friendly staff made us feel very welcome and we loved the pool and the private gazebos outside each tent: we’re really looking forward to paying a longer visit in the near future.
Ideal length of stay: 3 nights
Directions: There are scheduled flights from Nairobi to Meru NP’s main Kinna airstrip. From there, it’s a further 12km, or 45 minutes, to Rhino River Camp.
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: Food at Rhino River Camp is mainly Italian, with African influences. The camp’s vegetable garden provides salads and herbs¬¬.
At breakfast, there’s a choice of continental and cooked dishes.
Lunch ¬is a buffet of pasta, salads and cold dishes.
Dinner is a three-course menu.
Dining style: Individual Tables
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included
Drinks included: All drinks are included with the exceptions of champagne and other specially imported wines and spirits.
Attitude towards children: The camp welcomes children.
Property’s age restrictions: None
Special activities & services: Babysitting can be arranged through housekeeping staff, though no professional childcare staff are available. Children’s meals can be arranged.
Equipment: Cots are available, but not highchairs.
Generally recommended for children: Cots available. No highchairs. Rhino River Camp is not ideal for small children. The camp is very forested, with various drop-offs, and little ones would need constant supervision.
Communications: Cellphone reception available. There's WiFi in the main areas and guests can use the camp computer if necessary.
TV & radio: No
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: First-aid kit on site and links to flying doctors. The closest doctor is in Kitanga village, 3km away.
Dangerous animals: High Risk
Security measures: There are gate security men and camp askaris, plua a Kenya Wildlife Services (KWS) ranger station just down the road.
Fire safety: Fire extinguishers are positioned in main areas.
Disabled access: Not Possible
Laundry facilities: Full laundry service included, including ladies’ underwear. Garments are machine washed and line-dried.
Money: Main safe in the office. No currency exchange service.
Accepted payment on location: Payments may be made in cash only: US dollars, euros, pounds sterling or Kenyan shillings. No credit cards.