Saruni Samburu

Saruni Samburu: Our full report

Rooms
6 cottages
Traveller's rating
Excellent (96%) From 9 reviews
Children
Best for 12+
Open
All year

Saruni Samburu is a luxury lodge that sits atop a vast red rock in the private, remote, Kalama Conservancy, north of the Samburu National Reserve. The lodge is in reach of the national reserve for game drives and has spectacular views overlooking this famous wildlife area.

Saruni Samburu opened in 2008 and has been put together with designer flair. It's the sister lodge of co-owned Saruni Mara, Saruni Wild and the brand new Saruni Rhino that’s found further north.

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. It’s truly 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 and hosted by the charming management.

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. This is the first of two swimming pools found at Saruni Samburu. The other is five minute’s further up the rock and it’s well worth the walk! This second pool is located at the highest point of the property and the views over the Kalama Conservancy from here are jaw-dropping. However, due to the breeze (which can be strong at times), there are no umbrellas to provide shade and so most go here for a quick swim rather than lie on the sun loungers.

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 in 2017 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. They are all very exclusive but they can also be a long walk from the main area.

  • 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. It also makes use of the cool breeze which is very welcome as Samburu is hot and dry for most of the year. 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 basins 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 outstanding. Most people will tend to focus on game drives in the lodge's Kalama Conservancy or, more commonly, guests will head into Samburu National Reserve itself. The conservancy has the advantage of exclusivity and the ability to drive off road, however the game viewing is nowhere near as prolific as it is in the reserve – particularly in the dry season. It is of course possible for guests to sample both areas, though you should be aware that it takes about an hour to drive down to the river in Samburu from the lodge. For that reason game drives tend to begin at three in the afternoon (an hour earlier than usual), when it is still very hot.

While 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!

There is also a hide built in front of the lodge where guests can spend the afternoon. It overlooks a waterhole and a saltlick which is frequented by Kalama’s diverse wildlife.

Our view

Saruni has to have one of the most awe-inspiring 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. However it’s worth noting that this exclusivity also means that it is quite a long drive to the best game viewing areas in Samburu.

Geographics

Location: Samburu National Reserve, Kenya

Ideal length of stay: 3–4 nights would be ideal.

Directions: Saruni Samburu is located 12km, or a 45-minute drive, from Kalama Airstrip.

Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer

Key personnel

Owner: Saruni Samburu is part of the Saruni group of camps owned by Riccardo Orizio.

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 in March 2017 we enjoyed a tasty breakfast out in the bush. We were served fruit, pancakes, scotch eggs 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 traditional Kenyan food which consisted of beef stew, Ugali and green beans. For dessert we had a cake that had been prepared specially for one of the other guests birthday’s.

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.

Further dining info: Meals at Saruni Mara are usually hosted and communal, though on request they can set individual tables. Meals can also be served privately in your cottage.

Special interests

Honeymoons: An exclusive lodge with breathtaking views, Saruni Samburu offers an opulent, romantic and relaxing safari honeymoon to Kenya. The honeymoon villa is luxurious and has it’s own private dining area. There’s also an idyllic spa and a lovely swimming pool – bliss!

See more ideas for Honeymoons in Kenya

Children

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 what it takes to become a Maasai warrior!

Equipment: No baby cots or high chairs available.

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.

Infrastructure

Power supply: Solar Power

Power supply notes: Solar power heats the water and a generator supplies the rest. The power to the villas at Saruni Samburu goes off at midnight and then comes back on at 5.00am.

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: Transported in

Water supply notes: There is running hot and cold water in all of the rooms. Although guests should try to keep water usage to a minimum as Samburu is a very dry area.

Health & safety

Malarial protection recommended: Yes

Medical care: There is a dispensary and doctor at Archers Post, which is about an hour’s 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.

Extras

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 can accept cash in US dollars, Kenyan shillings, euros and British pounds. They will also take Visa and MasterCard, and currently apply a 4.5% surcharge. They cannot accept travellers’ cheques.

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