Kulalu Camp: Our full report
Originally established as a hunting camp, Kulalu is one of the oldest properties in the Tsavo region.Following the hunting ban in 1977 the camp caters for photographic safaris, giving access to both Tsavo East National Park and also the quieter Galana Conservancy. With only six tents, it is a small, comfortable camp in a scenic location by the Galana River.
The lounge and dining area is an open sided structure covered by makuti thatch overlooking the Galana River. As with the rest of the camp it is simple in design, but with cosy seating areas and friendly staff behind the bar it feels very welcoming and unpretentious. The use of natural materials and wooden animal carvings help to create the feeling of being on safari, enhanced by the occasional grunts of hippos in the river. To the front, a flagstone patio with stone tables serves as a dining area for lunch and dinner. Individual dining can easily be arranged, however Kulalu is a sociable little camp and guests often choose to dine communally. In one corner is a tea and coffee station with hot water always available, and guests are encouraged to help themselves. Many of the staff at Kulalu have been at the camp for decades, and their passion for Kulalu really shines through, creating a wonderfully relaxed and homely atmosphere.
There are just six guest tents at Kulalu, strung along the banks of the Galana River. Two of these are slightly set back although all have river views from their small verandahs at the front. The tents are relatively small and simply furnished with either double or twin beds, wooden shelving for clothes and personal items, along with a floor lamp and standing fan. A torch is provided. Animal print blankets and patterned rugs add a pop of colour. At the back of each tent is a large en-suite bathroom, constructed from natural wood, giving them an organic, free-flowing form. The bathrooms are fairly simple yet well thought out, with a toilet, washbasin, bench seat and a large shower area with a safari shower, using an overhead tank filled on request with warm water – in this low-altitude, equatorial climate you probably won't want it to be hot. This 'bucket shower' can hold 20 litres of water – usually more than enough for a good wash and to shampoo your hair. More warm water can be provided on request if you need it: it's a simple, but effective system.
Kulalu also has one L-shaped family tent which consists of one double and one twin bedroom, sharing and adjoining bathroom. Given its size, Kulalu also lends itself to be booked exclusively by small groups.
There is a small plunge pool, or ‘cuddle puddle’ as they affectionally refer to it, adjacent to the main area and facing the river. This is large enough for up to eight people to sit on the submerged benches, swap stories and relax with a drink. It is a great little addition and a popular spot.
Kulalu doesn't have its own resident guides and most guests staying here come with their own guide and vehicle. Expert Africa arranges private guiding for our travellers staying at the camp. Kulalu’s location means that guests can choose to either go on safari in Tsavo East National Park, the gate of which is around a 20-minute drive from the camp, or alternatively visit the Galana Conservancy, which neighbours the camp, just to the north of the Galana River. The conservancy is accessed for the majority of the year by a concrete causeway or drift across the river, however following periods of heavy rain this can be impassable.
The Galana Conservancy covers around 60,000 acres (240km²), encompassing the Lali Hills, which with an elevation of 360m mark the high point of the conservancy. Geographically it is a similar landscape to Tsavo East, with red sandy soil and open areas dotted with acacias and smaller shrubs. The Galana Conservancy is unfenced, with this region acting as an important wildlife corridor, and wildlife moves freely between the national park and the conservancy. The conservancy however is much quieter than Tsavo East and you are likely to see far fewer vehicles here. In 2021 the management of the Galana Conservancy was taken over by the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust which has been working on conservation initiatives in the area, including the establishment of several anti-poaching teams to tackle the illegal bushmeat trade. While conservation efforts are still a work in progress, there has already been a noticeable increase in wildlife numbers in the area, with many more animals taking up permanent residence in the conservancy.
Kulalu is a simple camp at heart, however what it lacks in luxury it makes up for in its remote location, relaxed atmosphere and friendly service. The long established team of staff acts like one extended family, and arriving at the camp feels like home from home. We love this quieter region of the wider Tsavo ecosystem and Kulalu is a great base if you're looking to avoid the crowds.
- Tsavo East National Park, Kenya
- Ideal length of stay
- Stay two or three nights to explore the Tsavo East region.
- Kulalu Camp is around a 90-minute drive from Malindi Airport, and around a 20-minute drive from the Sala Gate of Tsavo East National Park.
- Accessible by
Food & drink
- Usual board basis
- Full Board
- Food quality
- The food at Kulalu Camp is hearty and wholesome, and surprisingly tasty for a simple tented camp. Much of the produce comes from the camp's own kitchen garden and the chefs (Johnny and Baraka) will come to chat to guests about the menu for the day. You're welcome to make requests and they will tailor the meals to your preferences. Breakfast can either be eaten in camp (with fresh fruit, toast, and hot items cooked to order), or packed up to be taken on a morning game drive. During our stay we opted for a packed lunch of cold pizza, a boiled egg, fruit, and banana cake which we ate at one of the designated picnic sites in Tsavo East. Alternatively you can have a simple, cooked lunch back at the camp. Dinner normally consists of three courses, typically starting with a vegetable soup (we thought that the homemade tomato soup was excellent!). One evening we then had steak with chips and vegetables, while on another occasion we tucked into a nyama choma ('grilled meat') barbecue with a selection of grilled meat served with green beans and roast potatoes, followed by vanilla ice cream.
- Dining style
- Mixture of group dining and individual tables
- Dining locations
- Indoor and Outdoor Dining
- Further dining info, including room service
- Limited room service can be arranged on request
- Drinks included
- Flasks of drinking water are provided in the rooms, however all other drinks are at extra cost. These are around $3 for a soft drink or $5 for a beer or a glass of wine.
- Attitude towards children
- Kulalu welcomes children of all ages.
- Property’s age restrictions
- Special activities & services
- There is a small pool and selection of board games, however there are no child-specific activties.
- Generally recommended for children
- Kulalu is surrounded by a discreet electric fence, however we advise that younger children are supervised at all times, particularly around the pool. The camp has a relaxed atmosphere and families are made to feel welcome.
Our travellers’ wildlife sightings from Kulalu Camp
Since mid-2018, many of our travellers who stayed at Kulalu Camp have kindly recorded their wildlife sightings and shared them with us. The results are below. Click an animal to see more, and here to see more on our methodology.
- Power supply notes
- There is a backup generator.
- There is limited Wi-Fi in the communal area, which is sufficient for sending photos and emails but not adequate to stream videos or upload / download large files. There is good phone signal with Safaricom.
- TV & radio
- There is no TV at Kulalu
- Water supply
- Water supply notes
- Water for washing and showers comes from the river, it is filtered before use. Drinking water is bottled and transported in.
Health & safety
- Malarial protection recommended
- Medical care
- Staff are first-aid-trained and there is a first aid kit on site. Watamu hospital is a couple of hours away by road.
- Dangerous animals
- High Risk
- Security measures
- The camp is fenced, however you are still escorted to your tent after dark. There is 24-hour security in place.
- Fire safety
- Staff are trained and there are fire extinguishers dotted around the camp. They have a fire hose which can be used to pump water from the river.
- Disabled access
- On Request
- Laundry facilities
- A laundry service is included in the cost of your stay, with items being hand washed and line dried. For cultural reasons they do not wash underwear, however washing powder is provided in your tents.
- There is a safe in the manager's office for your valuables.
- Accepted payment on location
- All major currencies are accepted, including GB pounds and US dollars. Most cards, including Visa and Mastercard, are accepted without surcharge, however they don't accept Amex.
Other lodges in Tsavo East National Park
Alternative places to stay in this same area.