Saruni Samburu has one of the most spectacular locations in Kenya.
Saruni Samburu: Our full report
Saruni Samburu is a luxury lodge that sits atop a vast red rock in the private Kalama Conservancy, north of the Samburu National Reserve. In easy reach for game drives and with spectacular views overlooking this famous wildlife area, Saruni promises real exclusivity to its guests.
Saruni Samburu opened in 2008 and has been put together with designer flair. The entire property is dotted across a vast ochre-red rock with every part facing out across the plains below. The arresting view is hidden until the last minute: you arrive by vehicle at the rear of the lodge and only when you walk from the car into the main lounge and dining area does the full vista open up in front of you to dramatic effect. We found this really spectacular!
Saruni’s open-fronted lounge and dining area has a partial roof and a few shallow steps create a subtle subdivision between the two. They share a similar style with clean, whitewashed walls, polished red-stone floors and north African and Arab fittings. The homely lounge is decorated with comfortable cream sofas positioned around tables strewn with coffee-table books and the floor is studded with Persian rugs and tall terracotta pots. There is also a further sofa and chairs set closer to the rock edge for those who cannot tear themselves away from the view.
Most meals are served at the communal dining table and we enjoyed fantastic meals served by the well-trained staff.
Below Saruni Samburu’s main area, and accessed via a well-maintained stone pathway, is the glistening infinity swimming pool. The unusual shape seems to mimic the curves of the surrounding rocks, while the edge gives way to a steep drop onto the plains below. Bedouin-style sails cast shade over the cream sun loungers making this an idyllic place to spend a few hours.
Those in need of further relaxation should head to the spa – a simple room set up for massage treatments, pedicures and manicures. Like the rest of the lodge, the front is open to the view. When we were last at Saruni Samburu each room was entitled to one free spa treatment; any additional treatments incurred an extra cost.
Saruni’s well-stocked shop sells locally crafted objects – the money from which is put back into the local community – alongside glamorous articles made in Nairobi.
The six Villas at Saruni Samburu all vary slightly in size and shape, and are dotted along the front of the rock face.
- Two are large family villas, which each have two adjoining en-suite bedrooms and share a large central lounge and dining area.
- There are two more family villas of a similar build, but these can also be sub divided into four separate and private Standard Villas.
- Then finally there are two large individual Villas – one set up as a double (the Honeymoon Villa) and the other as a twin that can convert to a double. Both have en-suite bathrooms and dressing rooms, as well as private dining areas and verandas.
All of Saruni Samburu’s rooms are carved into the rock on three sides, with whitewashed walls and ceilings. At the front, are heavy gauze curtains that can be pulled across at night to keep out insects and wildlife, and pulled open in the day to allow guests to make the most the open-plan nature of the bedroom and views from the veranda. Everything is engineered to encourage guests to constantly marvel at the outstanding surrounding scenery.
Saruni’s bedrooms themselves are furnished with a wrought-iron, four-poster beds – either king-size or twin – with a nearby standing fan; a handy luggage rack; bedside tables and lamps; and a finishing touch of African art and a designer piece such as a leather bean-bag or a grand Zanzibar chest to complete the look. Each room also has an area where you can unpack your clothes, and store your valuables in a digital safe.
The bathrooms at Saruni are bright and spacious, with the same whitewashed walls and polished floors as the bedrooms. Twin sinks sit in front of a large mirror, and there is an indoor, as well as an outdoor, shower. Luxurious toiletries are also provided and some rooms even have a bath with a view.
If you can tear yourself from the poolside, the activities at Saruni Samburu are one of the lodges most appealing traits. Most people will tend to focus on game drives – and you can either head into Samburu National Reserve itself, where the best game viewing is to be found, or stay on the conservancy. The conservancy has the advantage of exclusivity and the ability to drive off road, but the game isn’t so prolific here. It is of course possible for guests to sample both, and decide for themselves which is best.
Though you can only do day game drives in Samburu National Reserve, on Saruni’s private conservancy it’s possible to do night drives, nature walks and bush meals. One of the most captivating activities has to be the uncontrived village visits with the local Samburu communities who share a great relationship with Saruni. Immerse yourself for a short while in village life, milking cattle, chatting to the people in their traditionally built homes, or the more athletic may be roped into activities such as spear-throwing competitions with the warriors who love nothing more than a bit of good-hearted competition!
Our viewSaruni has to have one of the most incredible locations in Kenya thanks to its phenomenal uninterrupted views over the reserve. The lodge makes all it can of this, and has an openness that allows for a fantastic mix of outdoors living with a high degree of style. It’s a luxurious option, but is very unpretentious and has a relaxing and calming atmosphere. This, twinned with the exclusivity of the conservancy, makes Saruni Samburu a great choice for this area.
Ideal length of stay: 3–4 nights would be ideal.
Directions: Saruni Samburu is located 12km, or a 45-minute drive, from Kalama Airstrip.
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: Thanks to the Italian owner, the food at Saruni Samburu is very good with an – expected – Italian slant and lots of fresh ingredients. The communal dining was always a convivial event during our stay, which made the meals really enjoyable.
When we stayed most recently we enjoyed a tasty breakfast out in the bush. We were served fruit, pancakes, boiled eggs, cold sausages and bacon, with fresh bread rolls. Back in camp, there would have been a variety of cereals, and a proper hot breakfast too.
At the lodge, lunch is three courses with a pasta starter, followed by a light main course – we had a variety of salads and smoked salmon –finished off with a dessert such as homemade lemon sorbet. Teas and coffees were offered at the end of the meal. However, you will often head into the main Samburu Reserve for a full-day safari, in which case you will take a packed lunch with you. This will consist of salads, cold meats, homemade bread and other tasty bites.
Dinner might be set at the main lodge or under the stars. Like lunch, you can expect a pasta starter, such as a light vegetable lasagna. For the main course we had chicken cooked in an almond sauce served with vegetables, topped off with a rhubarb tart for pudding.
Dining style: Group Meals
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included
Drinks included: Drinks are included except for champagne and specially imported wines and spirits.
Attitude towards children: Saruni Samburu believe that they are best suited to children over the age of seven years.
Property’s age restrictions: The minimum age at Saruni Samburu is five years.
Special activities & services: Saruni Samburu can arrange for special children’s meals, and the guides can do special activities such as bush craft and learning how to be a Maasai warrior.
Equipment: No baby cots or high chairs available.
Generally recommended for children: We would not recommend Saruni Samburu for families with young children. The lodge is smart with a fairly adult atmosphere, and there are steep drops from the front of the rooms and some of the pathways. However, the family villas are great for groups with older children.
Notes: Children would need to be supervised at all times at Saruni Samburu. With many drop offs from the rooms, main areas and pathways parents would need to keep a very close watchful eye.
Communications: There is cell phone coverage at Saruni Samburu and free WiFi is available in the office and the shop, although ideally guests need their own laptops or tablet.
TV & radio: There is none.
Water supply: Borehole
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: There is a dispensary and doctor at Archers Post, which is about an hourcs drive away from Saruni Samburu. For minor injuries there is first-aid equipment at the lodge and in the vehicles, and certain team members are trained in basic first aid. For more serious incidents Saruni Samburu have links to a flying doctors service.
Dangerous animals: High Risk
Security measures: There are safes in each of the rooms. Saruni Samburu also has security guards and park rangers on site.
Fire safety: Saruni Samburu has fire extinguishers dotted around the lodge and staff have been trained how to use them.
Disabled access: Not Possible
Laundry facilities: Laundry is included at Saruni Samburu; it is hand washed and line dried. No underwear is allowed at all (male or female), but there is soap in the rooms for hand-washing items.
Money: Saruni Samburu cannot offer any currency exchange.
Accepted payment on location: Saruni Samburu is a top-quality boutique lodge, with one of the most breathtaking locations in Kenya overlooking its own private conservancy.