Apparently, once your parents become octogenarians, all Christmas presents must adhere to guidelines, especially when you decide to gift your parents with a safari. Understandably, my parents didn’t want to travel too far from home, and they also didn’t want to travel on rough roads. With the above guidelines firmly in place, I decided that our family trip would be to a little unknown area in Kenya called Shompole. Now Shompole holds a special place in my heart as it is where I started my life in tourism 100 million years ago and my first job in tourism was the marketing dollybird for Shompole. So, destination selected, bookings made, car loaded to the brim. We set off to celebrate my Mum and Dad’s Christmas present. In hindsight, the drive was all that I’d promised it not to be … bumpy and long … yes it did take longer than I remembered, especially lengthened when due to having a visiting child that gets car-sick, elderly parents and a husband who only drives (professional rally drivers do not make good passengers!) Hence I am relegated to the not-so-roomy boot of an overstuffed car…. A challenge indeed, but spirits were high nevertheless.
Now Kenya is in the midst of a drought, so everywhere is hot and dusty and dry, even with the extreme heat it was a beautiful drive down into the Great Rift Valley from Nairobi and we managed to not get too frazzled en route. Once we got to the floor of the Great Rift Valley, the landscape becomes beautifully desolate and intriguingly barren, and my father says “Oh, you know this will be nice, no animals here, but that’s ok” and then we dropped down over the final ridge and onto the plains where we were inundated with a vast array of spectacular bird and wildlife! We had all forgotten how diverse and varied the wildlife is in this little unknown area of Kenya, it was indeed an incredibly positive surprise.
We continue our drive through the plains to this gorgeous little tented camp, nestled on the banks of the Ewaso Ngiro river (which due to the drought was sadly almost completely dry) each luxury canvas tent is set up under the evergreen, shady trees and has its own wide private deck, the tents were incredibly comfortable and the main areas are all rather gorgeous, with magnificent views (either of the ever entertaining river or the plains) and ever full of character.
As soon as we arrived, we were met, greeted and escorted to the mess area by a lovely team of beautiful white-bead-clad Maasai men and by the lovely Johan and Sam, who own and manage the lodge with the local community. They live in the lodge along with their young children, so for a family to visit, with medium to young children it couldn’t be a better place as they know exactly how to keep everyone entertained… making slides and dens in the riverbank, charging in and out of the swimming pool for hours on end, herding cattle, learning, playing .. having the time of their lives.
With just 6 tents, a completely private corner of Africa to yourselves, the chill-out spots all with beautiful views, the dining room the same and serving delicious food all prepared freshly by highly qualified chefs using the very best ingredients and but what really blows your mind about this place is all the incredible activities available; walking/running with wildlife, game drives, tubing down and mucking about in the river, walking with habituated baboons, spending the day or the evening with the beautiful and inspirational Loodoklani Masai and their incredible special evening / nighttime activity of game viewing from the hide. This most incredible hide is sunken into the ground to give you an eye-level view of a natural waterhole and the surrounding plains, perfect for sundowners or to spend the night, we received delicious ‘bitings’ and drinks, the kids were also entertained throughout and astonishingly hardly ever said ‘I’m bored’, there’s a loo with running water to wash your hands, and there are beds for you to nap or lounge on or sleep the night in, as well as a fan to keep you cool as you sit eyeball to eyeball with a vast variety of wildlife that visit this completely natural water hole.
Now for me, this is an experience that’s going to stay with me for the rest of my life, looking out at the most incredible amount of wildlife, whilst we were at the hide we spent about two hours just watching a lioness lazing by the waterhole, at one point we started to joke around and ask if they could move along to make room for the next lot of animals. Once the lioness had had enough of the waterhole, a herd of fumbling, gormless wildebeest came charging towards the hide, when they were about 10 feet from our eyeballs they suddenly noticed that they were being observed by us, what a shock that gave them and how hilarious that was to witness from such close proximity, that hilarious experience is going to stick with the kids for a while. Anyway, it was completely beautiful and we left the hide feeling like fully-fledged Nat Geo photographers because you just can’t help but feel like professional wildlife photographers in that environment. We then went on a steady night game drive back to the camp whilst seeing such fabulous nocturnal wildlife like a honeybadger and wild cat…. and had a lovely dinner in candlelight.
The next morning we went for a fun-filled game walk along the dry river bed, normally the Ewaso River is flowing. One of the highlights of Shompole is to tube down the sluggish, waist-deep crocodile-free river to the camp. Still, this morning we were delighted to walk along it with their incredible family-friendly guide who fully encouraged the kids to live their best lives … splashing in puddles, making slides out of the riverbed, making shacks, watching Colobus and Sykes’s monkeys getting on with their days, what a beautiful morning that was. After our morning game walk we chillaxed by the swimming pool watching wildlife in the background. Now that’s another thing, it is not often that you find swimming pools in Kenya with a view, you do sometimes but not always, so to find a gorgeous swimming pool with a view of the Shompole plains behind it, where you can soak and relax whilst watching the animals going about their daily lives and birds flutter around you is something truly magical. The kids, of course, loved the pool and spent hours playing with their Dad and Grandfather, special. This is what all family trips should be about, time spent relaxing and enjoying your family and making lovely memories.
That evening, a BBQ was set up by the pool, and Johan, Sam and their children came and joined us. So our kids (and their kids) couldn’t be happier having new friends to play with, we were delighted to learn all about the incredible conservation work, the lodge, their family life … and just a lot of lovely chilled wine whilst the kids were happy!
It was sad, the next day, to bid our new favourite place farewell … especially when I knew I was sitting in a car boot for the next 5 hours as we whizzed home 😀😀😀 but we had a ball and all left happy with our time here.
My Final Thoughts:
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