Larsen's pool is unusual at a tented camp, but in this climate it's a welcome asset.
Larsens Tented Camp: Our full report
Within a gated and fenced compound, Larson’s Tented Camp first opened in 1987 but was taken over in 2003 by Wilderness Lodges, who also own the much larger Samburu Game Lodge. Since then it has been offering comfortable tented accommodation under shady trees, to visitors who like to be under canvas but with the security of a more hotel-like set up.
The reception at Larsen’s is located in its own tent, and manned by a very friendly receptionist who seems to be on hand to help whenever you need it. With a few comfortable chairs and some interesting antique trunks, it’s a good welcome to the camp. Just next door is a well-stocked shop selling a variety of jewellery, T-shirts, flipflops and bags – most of which comes from Nairobi.
The main restaurant, lounge and bar sits about 20m back from the Ewaso Nyiro River, with views across a lush green lawn. It is one large open-plan tent, with wide canvas doors making it very open to the outside environment. Inside is a billowing cream canvas ceiling and cool stone floors. To one side are dark wooden tables and chairs for dining, whilst the more relaxed lounge and bar area is on the other. Simple and slightly worn cream sofas and chairs surround coffee tables dotted with interesting books, and the bar is stocked with a selection of drinks that are included in the rates (as well as some excluded specially imported ones).
Right by the river, Larsen’s has a wooden deck with an outside dining area, with guests sitting at separate tables. Usually used for breakfast and lunch, it’s a lovely spot – though it would be much more relaxing if the ever-present monkeys were not constantly eyeing up your food! In the centre of the deck is a firepit that is lit in the evenings – making it a perfect spot for pre-dinner drinks.
Away from the river is another deck raised about six metres off the ground, With great views across the park, it’s a super spot for sundowners, though it’s a pity that the generator is right next door. Also at the back of camp is a lovely crystal-clear pool and adjoining Jacuzzi. Samburu can get very hot all through the year, so the pool offers a welcome retreat from the heat. Beside the pool is a small yet attractive spa that is open at the front, making the most of the views and natural breeze. Here guests can arrange to have a variety of massages (a 45-minute massage is US$50), manicures, pedicures and the like.
Larsen’s has 20 tented rooms, each named after a different bird, and spread along the river: eight to the right of the main areas and 12 to the left. We recommend staying on the left-hand side of camp – furthest from the fairly constant rumble of the generator – if possible. Each tent is raised slightly off the floor on a stone base, with a veranda at the front.
Canvas flaps open to reveal a large and comfortable room, nicely decorated with dark wooden floors and large comfortable beds adorned with rustic bed-throws and cushions. As well as a dark wood and red leather chair in the corner, there is a writing desk, full-length mirror and a complimentary minibar. For storage, there is a luggage rack that has hanging space for clothes and a low dark-red cupboard that also acts as a headboard. Although there is a fan for warmer days, the generator doesn’t run through the night, so its usage is limited.
The generator at Larsen’s runs 5.30–9.30am, 12.30–3.00pm and 6.00–11.00pm. Only when the generator is running can guests use the lights and electrical sockets in their rooms.
Through the back of the guest tents, behind a curtain, the bathroom has rather dated pale-blue tiles. On one side is a flush toilet, whilst the other side has a running hot-and-cold shower. The toiletries provided were a mix of Molton Brown and lower-cost products.
The activities at Larsen’s Tented Camp focus mainly on twice-daily safari drives which are led by very good and enthusiastic guides. One drive we had was so interesting that it took us about an hour to go more than 200 yards up the road! The morning drive usually lasts from 6.30am to about 9.30am when you will return to camp for breakfast, then the afternoon drive is from 4.00pm until 6.30/7.00pm. Larsen’s can also offer two-and-a-half-hour nature walks for (when we visited) an additional US$20 per person, led by a guide and two armed rangers. Similarly, there were shorter bird walks within the camp compound for US$10 per person, accompanied just by a guide.
When visiting in 2012, sundowners also cost a further US$25 for a minimum of four people. These are set up on the raised deck at the back of camp, or in the park itself, with a table, drinks and canapés.
Our viewWe have really mixed feelings about Larsen’s Camp. The team was one of the most friendly and efficient that we have met in Kenya, the atmosphere very laid-back and unpretentious, and the guiding superb. However, though spotlessly clean, the camp is dated and a little scruffy, and appears to have lacked any real investment for many years. If you are not bothered about aesthetics, and the generator’s rumble, then the warm welcome and fantastic staff will undoubtedly win you over!
Ideal length of stay: 3 nights
Directions: It is a 90-minute flight from Nairobi to Samburu, then usually a further 30-minute road transfer to the camp.
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: Given that Larsen’s is a touch on the scruffy side in appearance, we didn’t have high expectations of the food, but we were proved very wrong. When we sat down for our first meal it was in fact very good – and the beaming and delightful waiter only enhanced the experience for us.
Breakfast is continental and usually served as a buffet with cereals, fruit, juice, yoghurt, and a selection of freshly baked muffins and bread. If Larsen’s Tented Camp is not full they will instead serve breakfast to your table.
Lunch is à la carte, with choices for each of three courses. For a starter we had the choice of salad or a gaspacho soup. The main course offered four choices: grilled chicken with an orange sauce, grilled fish, or lamb kebab with a mint sauce. All were served with vegetables, and rice or potatoes. Then dessert was a fresh fruit salad or black-forest cake, all rounded off by cheese and crackers.
Following a similar form, dinner was also à la carte. We had cucumber soup as a starter, grilled steak with peppercorn sauce and vegetable for the main course, then a crème brûlée – and we just about had room for cheese and crackers too.
Dining style: Individual Tables
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included
Drinks included: Most drinks are included at Larsen’s Tented Camp apart from premium wines, champagne and imported sprits.
Attitude towards children: Larsen’s are happy to accommodate children over the age of three.
Property’s age restrictions: Three and above only
Special activities & services: Larsen’s Tented Camp has games available and can organise activities such as treasure hunts. They will also arrange childminding, but only during dinner when parents are still in camp. Note that childminders are from the housekeeping or security staff, and not specially trained in childcare.
Equipment: Larsen’s Tented Camp has baby cots and highchairs.
Generally recommended for children: Larsen’s Tented Camp has an electric fence which, although not foolproof, largely prevents big game from wandering through the camp. This makes it safer than other camps in the area for children – although close supervision of them will still be needed. Further to that the unpretentious vibe and fun staff would make children feel really welcome.
Power supply: Generator
Communications: Larsen’s Tented Camp has WiFi in the dining and bar area and also in reception, although note that the internet is available only when the power is on. Cellphone coverage is good all over the camp.
TV & radio: There is a TV in the staff area that can be used by guests if specifically requested.
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: An on-call doctor, who will come to Larsen’s, is based at Samburu Game Lodge, just 6km away. Three members of staff are first-aid trained and there is first-aid equipment at camp and in the vehicles. Larsen’s Tented Camp has links to the flying-doctor service for any emergency cases.
Dangerous animals: High Risk
Security measures: Larsen’s Tented Camp has a gate and electric fence, and their own security guards. They also have two armed rangers who are based at the camp.
Fire safety: There is a fire safety card in each room to tell you what to do in case of fire. Extinguishers are dotted around the camp and the team has regular training in their use.
Disabled access: In Place
Laundry facilities: Full Laundry Service - Included
Money: Larsen’s Tented Camp can offer a currency exchange, but only up to a maximum of US$300 at any one time.
Accepted payment on location: It is possible to settle any extras at Larsen’s Tented Camp with Visa, MasterCard and Amex with no surcharges. They will also accept US dollars, euros, British pounds and Kenyan shillings in cash.