Have you been to Isiolo County? Read Part 2! :-)

Ashnil Samburu LodgeBeisa OryxBuffalo Springs National Park IsioloEwaso Nyiro RiverGenerukIsioloMount OlolokweReticulated giraffesamburuSimba Samburu LodgeSomali OstrichSpecial 5Unique 5

The Isiolo adventure continues…

There we were, wondering what we had gotten ourselves into! However the wardens were quick to reassure us that we were just fine. We started setting up camp and quickly realized we had left the pins for the tent. The horror! We improvised with stones that held down the tent for the night ? The best way to know about any place is by talking to the locals. The wardens were very friendly as they shared stories on how they’ve tackled poaching over the years. One of the sad stories we heard from the rangers was that 2 weeks before, some poachers had killed 2 reticulated giraffes. Good part of this story, they recovered the guns.

Day 2, Buffalo Springs National Reserve, Isiolo

Having arrived at the public campsite late the day before, we didn’t manage to explore the grounds we were camped at. The public campsite doesn’t have bathroom facilities, water etc. Be sure to carry lots of water and a shovel too.

Morning came. It was quiet, not a single animal in sight. Just calm, dancing grass. By 6am the sun had not risen, all around us were hills, palm trees, long grass. Nothing like what I imagined Isiolo to be. I quickly setup and soon the big fireball I had been waiting for came alive. You simply have to see this sunrise.

By then, our little camp was stirring. The rangers left us for the main gate and we were left to explore. I was sure we were going to bump into a canine at any time. The horror! Right behind our camp, a few metres away was the big reveal. The great Ewaso Nyiro River. Silent. Majestic. Golden. Peaceful. Huge. She was a beauty to behold. The water levels were low at the time with no crocs on sight. But who knows! We didn’t get too close to lest we leave the park without our femurs. The river was the definition of serenity. You could have sat there for hours watching the day go by.

After experiencing that little piece of flowing paradise, we set up our cooker and prepared the breakfast. I can’t begin to describe how breezy the place was. We had to improvise with some tile samples just to keep the fire in check. Monkeys were all over, curious to see what we were up to. Hehe.

Nevertheless we had breakfast in the car. Black tea, bread and sausages. With a cool box you can carry items to last you a while. The cool bags they sell at the supermarkets I can’t promise work for very long. They didn’t work for us!

Day 2 was mostly an exploration day.

The area was largely scanty and desolate, rocky and harsh. Trees were really dry with some being felled by passing elephants. At some point we didn’t think we’d encounter any wildlife. The amazing thing about this place is the bird life and grazers. We spotted several kinds and they were easy to miss since they blended in with their environment. As we drove towards the gate, we found buffalo springs. It is completely blue with an algae like look in it. The natural springs are very popular with tourists and locals. A permanent spring runs below it and supposedly cures skin ailments, leaving one with a refreshed after spa feeling.

With the harsh dry environment, we figured we’d leave the reserve and drive on towards Archer’s post. We were encouraged by the gate warden to go back and look around, since the previous evening we had missed a lion crossing near the gate by minutes. How’s that for incentive!

We encountered impala, warthogs, water bucks, lots of bird life, and rough terrain while driving around for 4 hours. This reserve is not fenced, and is a passageway for animals. It is also interesting to note that palm trees grow predominantly along the Ewaso Nyiro River.

Thankfully the signposts in the park are of much better help compared to the highway located ones.

The drive in the park can get you parched and hot, so we followed the road leading to Ashnil Samburu Camp. Behold, a herd of the endangered Grevy zebra. Unlike their counterparts, Grevy zebras are taller, have narrow stripes, a white belly, a black dorsal stripe, large rounded ears and a brown muzzle. You can have a look here.

The staff at Ashnil Samburu Camp are polite (I must admit I love the Ashnil Aruba Lodge Voi way more than this one), and we sat near the fence overlooking the Ewaso Nyiro river. You could tell the animals from the park were thirsty but extremely cautious to approach the water because it normally infested with crocodiles. It took a cool 20minutes for the Impala to settle in and have a few sips before running off.

Isiolo being close to the north hosts the unique/special 5. They are the:

We decided to leave the park when we got to explore Samburu Simba lodge. Thankfully it was not too far away from Ashnil Samburu Camp. Here we got other views of the river and glances of the Somali Ostrich. The hospitality at this lodge was amazing from the word go. From the guard at the gatehouse to the General Manager, it felt like home. We were ushered in to sample the buffet. What was more enjoyable was the open views to the river below, and the arched open spaces. One interacted with the birds in the trees close to the dining area.

Should you visit this lodge, which I highly recommend, make a point to meet with the General Manager, Mr. Halake. He shared the history of Isiolo with us, places we hadn’t thought of exploring that he knew about. He is an encyclopedia, a great host and conversationalist. He explained about the warring communities, how it had affected tourism over the years and how most of the hotels have had to adopt the name Samburu as opposed to Isiolo in order to reach markets abroad. We (domestic tourists) need to see Isiolo for the gem that it really is. Here are some views to the rooms and you can see more on their website here.

You will meet a smile everywhere you go. Again, highly recommended.

We left the park and I have to say the sunset is definitely an experience. The sun glows down on everything in sight and what you had seen as beaten down will reveal the softest serene scenes you have ever seen. See some of the views here.

Our plan was to camp somewhere within the town, and the advice was to explore Rangelands Hotel, one of the places we had tried to call in advance but calls went unanswered. We arrived to find a graduation wrapping up and getting an attendant at the reception to process our stay took a long time. It turned out the graduation grounds served as the camping grounds as well. The cost to camp here is Ksh.1,000 per person per night. We eventually set camp, ate and rested. The irony was that this place was way windier than the park. The wind settled down around 1am in the morning.

Day 3, Rangelands Hotel Campsite, Isiolo

The campsite facilities at Rangelands are existent, with running water, only a tad bit run down with broken window louvers and lack of bulbs in the bathrooms. At least we had a place to freshen up and have breakfast (the graduation party tents and tables were still in place).

Isiolo is a sleepy town which gave us a chance to capture the outskirts of the town.

To see more, have a look at our gallery and share! ?

Overall

In summary here was our general trip coverage:

We learned a lot on this trip:

  1. Carry lots of water
  2. Make sure your car is in good condition for this terrain
  3. Carry snacks, lots of fruits and non-perishable foods
  4. Check all your camping gear beforehand (Note to self!)
  5. Charge your devices and carry solar lamps and torches since you won’t have access to facilities while in the park
  6. The public campsite doesn’t have bathroom/toilet facilities
  7. Sunscreen and hats are advisable to carry. Sunglasses if you wish.

Till the next adventure, keep checking Picha Journal for more on our beautiful country!