Offbeat Meru is a simple and atmospheric bush camp at the edge of Meru National Park.
Offbeat Meru: Our full report
Located in Bisanadi National Reserve, right next to the main Meru National Park, Offbeat Meru is a traditional tented camp, looking across a small river. The camp has all the basic comforts, but very little in the way of permanent structures, so is likely to appeal to safari purists looking for an ‘outdoorsy’ set up.
Offbeat Meru is the sister camp to Offbeat Mara in the Mara North Conservancy, just north of the Maasai Mara National Reserve. The two contrasting camps are often combined in a single safari.
Hosted by enthusiastic and personable managers who create a convivial atmosphere, Offbeat Meru has a single shared mess tent. With a canvas roof and walls usually left completely open, the set-up is simple but nicely done. To one side of the main area is a small lounge tent with wrought-iron sofas and chairs covered in comfortable and colourful cushions. Guests may help themselves from the drinks cabinet and there’s a small book swap library, too. At the opposite side of the tent is a large dining table for communal group meals. A small shop with some curios, books, postcards and essentials like suncream is a handy addition.
The theme at Offbeat Meru is simple and rustic in many ways, although the use of blue in the camp’s décor adds an almost beachy feel that we really liked. It’s certainly a little different to the safari norm of muted earthy tones, and a refreshing touch in the arid heat of Meru.
Offbeat Meru features the singular attraction of a small but sparkling swimming pool, the only obvious permanent structure in the whole camp, and a very welcome way to cool off on a hot afternoon.
Offbeat Meru’s six standard tents are nestled into the bush with plenty of space between, making each very private. With blue-and-white rugs scattered across the canvas floor, the blue theme continues here, too, balanced by cool creams. Comfortable twin or double beds (tents can be configured either way) have mosquito nets hanging above them, flanked by white side tables. There is also a chair and some hanging space for clothes. At the back of the tent is a simple bathroom, with a sink, flush toilet and bucket shower. Cold water is provided in an enamel jug, drinking water is supplied, and hot water for your ‘safari shower’ is brought at a time agreed with your tent attendant, who fills the reservoir above the bathroom.
A new family tent is larger and brighter, with an additional room to one side, separated by a curtain, with two single beds in. There are plans to upgrade all the standard tents to a similar style for next season.
The tents are fitted with solar lighting, and a solar torch is provided, but there are no electric sockets. A generator supplies power for the office and kitchen, however, and everyone charges camera batteries in the office tent in the morning and evening.
Activities at Offbeat Meru include game drives in a 4WD open-sided vehicle, fishing in the small Bisanadi river in front of the camp and short walks out of camp. Full-day excursions can take you further afield to the Tana River for fishing, or to see the grave of Elsa, the lioness made famous by the Adamsons’ book, Born Free. We found the guides here to be enthusiastic and fun, with considerable knowledge of the area which they were really keen to show us.
For something a little different, a visit to the local Guba Dida primary school is really interesting. US$5 per guest per night is donated by Offbeat Meru to this school, and visitors receive a very warm and uncontrived welcome.
When we stayed at Offbeat Meru, the camp was receiving daily lunchtime visits from a very relaxed giraffe. She walked right past our tent as we were reading on the veranda, and stopped to look at us for a short while, before carrying on to browse the trees by the river. Then in the evenings, a buffalo named ‘Disco’ frequented the lawns in front. To us the fact that animals wander straight through the camp as if it were not there, exemplifies Offbeat Meru’s small environmental footprint.
Our viewOffbeat Meru is a fantastic, unfussy camp with few frills and the bonus of a small swimming pool. The result is an authentic camp which doesn’t divorce you from your surroundings in any way. This, combined with the flexible and relaxed approach of the managers, makes for a very unpretentious and relatively adventurous safari experience.
Ideal length of stay: Three to four nights
Directions: Offbeat Meru is about 15km from the nearest airstrip, a transfer of between 45 minutes and an hour by 4WD.
Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: The food at Offbeat Meru is tasty and well-prepared without being overly fancy.
Breakfast at Offbeat Meru includes a full English of bacon and sausage, eggs and other cooked offerings, as well as fruit, cereals and toast.
A cold buffet lunch incorporate dishes such as pizza slices, potato salad, tomato and avocado salad, fresh bread, and a green salad. Our dessert was a fridge cake (a Kenyan speciality of biscuit mixed with chocolate and set in the fridge) and cream, followed by tea and coffee.
Dinner started with 'bitings' (canapés) such as cheese samosas around the campfire. We were served a starter of bruschetta, followed by pork in a cream and mustard sauce with rice and fresh vegetables, with banoffee pie for pudding.
Dining style: Group Meals
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included
Drinks included: All drinks are included apart from champagne.
Further dining info: Coffee or tea is brought to guests’ tents each morning. Although there is a phone in each tent, it is for emergencies only, but with advance notice, Offbeat Meru will do private dining for honeymooners.
Solo Travel: Offbeat Meru in the Meru National Park is highly suitable for solo travellers on holiday due to its no-single-supplement policy. Safaris within the park have a very private feel, because there are few other visitors around and game viewing here is very good!See more ideas for Solo Travel in Kenya
Attitude towards children: Offbeat Meru prefers children to be at least eight years old, unless the camp is booked exclusively for one group.
Property’s age restrictions: No
Special activities & services: Special meals can be prepared for children, and childminding can be arranged – but note that this will be by a male member of the housekeeping staff, not a trained childminder. Children can do activities with the guides, including fishing, and can take part in cooking in the kitchen.
Generally recommended for children: Offbeat Meru is a small bush camp and most clients are adults, so children would need to be mature enough to appreciate the environment and wildlife and considerate of other guests.
Notes: This is a wild area and game comes into camp – so parents must be constantly vigilant.
Power supply: Solar Power
Power supply notes: There is light in the tents 24 hours a day. Charging can be done in the main areas.
Communications: Offbeat Meru has good cellphone reception. There is internet in the office which guests may use in an emergency, but no Wifi.
TV & radio: No
Water supply: Borehole
Water supply notes: There are bucket showers.
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: Managers are trained first aiders, and there are first-aid boxes in the camp and each of the vehicles. There is a doctor in the local town which is about 20 minutes’ drive away. All guests are covered by flying doctors (Amref).
Dangerous animals: High Risk
Security measures: There are phones in each of the tents for us in an emergency. An armed KWS guard patrols the area, and there are askaris on the property. There is also a park gate a few kilometres away with a rapid-response unit.
Fire safety: There are fire extinguishers by each tent and in the main area, and the sandy parking area acts as a fire break. Fire training is planned.
Disabled access: On Request
Laundry facilities: Full Laundry Service - Included
Money: Small amounts of currency can sometimes be changed in camp, but never more than US$50-100.
Accepted payment on location: Payments may be made in cash only – US dollars, GB pounds or Kenyan shillings.