Rhino River Camp: Our full report
Opened in 2009, the small 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. The owners have long been involved with conservation in Meru National Park.
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 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 seven, minimalist tented rooms, all of which are set on wooden platforms, and accessed by forest paths and stretches of wooden decking walkway, right on the river’s edge. There are three standard double tents, two further double tents on large decks with a separate day gazebo tent located next to the main sleeping tent.
Rhino River then have two good options for families; one very large two bedroom, two bathroom tent separated by a canvas zipped partition wall. This is ideal for those travelling with younger children. There is also a second family unit with two tents immediately next to each other on the same platform, but not accessibly internally, these suit families with older children.
Each is slightly different, but all 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 make a nice spot to sit and watch the river below. There are standing fans for the hotter months, and power sockets in all tents.
The bathrooms are well thought out, with flush toilets, bidets, unscreened showers, washbasins of beaten steel and designer toiletries.
A pool is a nice touch to cool yourself down during the hotter months.
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, is a visit to the rhino sanctuary, where close-up sightings of both black and white rhinos are virtually guaranteed.
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.
The location and forest environment of Rhino River Camp lend the camp a strong, jungle atmosphere, enhanced by the constant background sound of the river's small waterfall. We found the staff friendly, the tents comfortable and loved being surrounded by the lush riverine vegetation. While we haven't booked it a great deal, it was taken over in 2019 by a well known Kenya safari company, who also own Porini Lion Camp and we expect Rhino River's profile to rise considerably as a good option for a mid-range stay in Meru.
- Meru National Park, Kenya
- Ideal length of stay
- 3 nights
- 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.
- Accessible by
Food & drink
- Usual board basis
- Full Board & Activities
- Food quality
- Meals at Rhino River Camp are homely and hearty. While not fine dining, we enjoyed the food here and found that the portions were well sized and nicely presented. The camp’s garden provides many of the vegetables and salads served.
At breakfast, there’s a choice of cereals, yoghurts and fruits, with hot food cooked to order.
Depending on camp occupancy Lunch is served as a buffet of pasta, salads and cold dishes, or as a plated set menu. We enjoyed a well spiced chicken curry and fluffy rice, followed by some homemade coffee ice cream.
Dinner is a usually a set three-course menu. We had a butternut squash soup, steak with a peppercorn sauce and finished with a panna cotta.
- Dining style
- Individual Tables
- Further dining info, including room service
- Room service is possible. Bush breakfasts and bush lunches (but not bush dinners) are regularly organized at no extra cost.
- 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
- Special activities & services
- Babysitting can be arranged through housekeeping staff, though no professional childcare staff are available. Children’s meals can be arranged.
- 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.
- Cellphone reception available. There's WiFi in the main areas and guests can use the camp computer if necessary.
- TV & radio
- Water supply notes
- Flush toilet and plumbed, powerful shower.
Health & safety
- Malarial protection recommended
- 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
- On Request
- Laundry facilities
- Full laundry service included, excluding underwear. Garments are machine washed and line-dried.
- Main safe in the office. No currency exchange service.
- Accepted payment on location
- Payments may be made in cash (US dollars, euros, pounds sterling or Kenyan shillings) or by credit card.
Other lodges in Meru National Park
Alternative places to stay in this same area.
Offbeat Meru is a low-footprint riverside bush camp, with six guest tents and a swimming pool in a quiet area just outside Meru National Park.
Elsa’s Kopje is the most luxurious option in Meru National Park, with unique rooms built around the natural hilltop environment, and stunning vistas in every direction