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The Fab Fam on Safari, Days 2-3: Samburu National Reserve, Kenya

Last week I shared an overview of our week-long safari in Kenya, including my review of Explorateur Journeys.  As I said in that post, we have so many amazing photos and memories from our African safari, that there is no way to do them all justice in a single blog post.  Therefore, I am breaking it up with additional posts with more photos and details about each of the destinations during the safari week (Nairobi, which you can read about here, Samburu National Reserve, Lake Nakuru, and Maasai Mara National Reserve).  After covering safari day 1 in Nairobi earlier this week, I am continuing to bring you along for the journey with us in today's post on safari days 2 and 3 in Samburu National Reserve.
After breakfast at our hotel (InterContinental Nairobi), The Fab Fam departed early on Tuesday morning to head towards Samburu National Reserve, the site of our camp for the next few nights, as well as our first game viewing drives!
The drive was not long, and we had a chance to make a few stops along the way.  Having small people in tow (and I won't say anything bout the hubs' bladder capacity), we had bathroom stops along the way.  Our driver and guide, Sammy with Classic Safaris, was both flexible and thoughtful with our stops.  We always had clean bathrooms and friendly service where Sammy brought us - though I should note that you always have to walk through the shop to get to the shop's clean bathrooms!  We took this as an opportunity to pick up souvenirs for our loved ones at home each time, and came to expect this as part of the deal when you do a bathroom break.
The shops with clean restrooms all had beautiful paint, or cool details that made for great photo backdrops.  Here are some examples from stops on our way between Nairobi and Samburu.

Sammy made sure to check in with us on potential stops on the drive that may be of interest.  When it was offered, we were certainly interested in seeing a Kenyan coffee farm! 

Coffee beans "on the vine"

My goofballs posing with us and what will one day be a lot of delicious cups of coffee

Even prior to arriving at the national park, we were regularly surprised with the beautiful and unique terrain of this part of Kenya, including some unique wildlife!

A herd of camels walking down the road on our drive between Nairobi and Samburu

For lunch, we stopped at Trout Tree restaurant near Mt. Kenya.  Why is it called Trout Tree?  Well, it's literally a treehouse restaurant built onto a giant fig tree, and it's surrounded by pools of the restaurant's farmed fish. 

My boys on the bridge into the restaurant

The treehouse restaurant was a spectacle in itself!

Pools of fish sat below the restaurant tree

The boys enjoyed watching the fish at Trout Tree while they waited for their meal

Trout wasn't in season, so we had tilapia for our lunch while the boys ate pasta.  The fish was seasoned to perfection, and the pomodoro pasta for the boys was simple and tasty. 

Our lunch of fried tilapia and potatoes at Trout Tree restaurant near Mt. Kenya

While eating delicious food in a tree restaurant was awesome in itself, the stop at Trout Tree ended up reaching epic status before we left.  In the surrounding trees live families of very social colobus monkeys.  As an incentive to the boys finishing their meals, our server at Trout Tree offered us the ability to see the monkeys up close after lunch.  After the amazing experience interacting with elephants and giraffes in Nairobi the day before (where G said it was the best day of his life), of course we were up for this!

A guide at the restaurant took us for a short walk, and led us to another big tree, where we could see adorable black and white monkeys swinging at the top.  He gathered some leaves and branches along the way, which he shook for the monkeys to prompt them to come closer.  Without hesitation, the monkeys grabbed the leaves from our hands!

Grayson was the first to feed the monkeys. Click here to watch a video of the boys feeding the colobus monkeys at Trout Tree.

These black and white monkeys were both beautiful and adorable!

We got to spend some time observing, and saw a few families of colobus monkeys in the different trees, and enjoyed watching the way the different groups seemed territorial of different trees and areas near the restaurant

After the awesome monkey interaction, G declared that now this was the best day of his life!

After lunch, we resumed our route to Samburu.  We were not far at this point, so we had plenty of time for a game drive before the sun would set, and we would need to check into our camp, the Ashnil Samburu

Samburu National Reserve is a vast park, so we had a lot to see after entering the park and before even arriving to our camp!  I will cover our game drive experiences shortly, but first, here's more about our accommodations at Ashnil Samburu.

After our first game drive, and just after sunset, we entered the camp.  As I said in my overview post of our entire safari experience, anyone who may have hesitation over the idea of "tents" or "camps" needn't worry when considering a safari.  As you can see in the photos below with our "tent" at Ashnil Samburu, these are closer to cabins or yurts... more glamping than camping.  We had electricity, fans, toilets, and showers.  All the creature comforts you would want.

"Wild animals are dangerous! Guests are advised to keep to the floodlit path after dark. The lodge accepts no liabilities for personal injuries caused by wild animals."

The service at Ashnil Samburu was attentive, friendly, and welcoming.  Everyone seeked to engage our kids specifically, having conversations with them, and being very sweet and loving with them.  Our sweet server for our meals even helped S prepare and cut his pancakes in the mornings (crepes with honey were all he would eat for breakfast for some reason).  And S loves being babied, so naturally she quickly became his favorite person!

Likely not one of the dangerous animals that could cause injury, the camp was full of these adorable vervet monkeys

The view around the camp was incredible, as was the careful landscaping and upkeep of the camp itself

A non-chlorinated pool made for a great place to rest and cool off between morning and afternoon game drives. Monkeys were all around us as we were at the pool.

A surreal view that I won't soon forget

Who would have imaged that we'd be lounging at a pool in the middle of the African bush?

The hubs relaxing on the porch of our "tent" at Ashnil Samburu.  The tent was comfortable and clean.  There was no Wi-Fi, which is hard for a blogger and social media addict, but turned out to be a blessing in disguise.  We really got to disconnect, which is not something we often have the chance to do.

The porch was a great place to observe the resident vervet monkeys

The monkeys really were everywhere, and were not shy about being so close to us on the porch of our tent

We could hear the monkeys crunching on these fruits day and night during our time at Ashnil Samburu.  See the cute baby monkey in the photo on the right?

The monkeys weren't the only wild animals we got to see at the camp... but more on that later in the post!

Now the game drives... oh the game drives!

As I said earlier, we actually had our first game drive in the national reserve before even checking into the camp.  The schedule roughly during our time at Samburu:
  • Afternoon game drive upon first entering the national reserve, and continuing through sunset
  • Check-in at the camp, dinner, and sleep
  • Early morning breakfast, followed by a game drive just around sunrise
  • Back to camp for mid-day break of lunch and lounging
  • Afternoon game drive continuing through sunset
  • Back to camp for dinner and sleep
  • Early morning breakfast, check-out, then one last game drive for a few hours as you leave the national reserve

When we first entered the park, we had to stop to check-in at the gate.  At that time, our guide, Sammy, raised the roof (what what!) on our safari van so that you could stand up to observe and photograph the wildlife.  Then it was as if we were transported into a National Geographic documentary!  We were in the middle of 64 square miles of park, flanked by two mountains, following the winding Ewaso Ng'iro river that provides the ability for the park's wildlife to live.  We saw the park's famous Grevy's zebra and reticulated giraffe almost immediately... and that was just the beginning!

Acacia trees were plentiful, and provided that feeling that we were definitely "not in Kansas anymore"

We were fascinated by these giant ant hills - this one was rubbed smooth by elephants scratching themselves against it

...and speaking of elephants, we saw herds and herds of them!

The elephants in Samburu were more brownish looking compared to the elephants we would see later in Maasai Mara.  Sammy told us it is because of the color of the dirt the elephants bathe in.  It makes sense, since Ewaso Ng'iro means "brown water."

As friendly as the baby elephants were in Nairobi, apparently the same can't be expected by a big, wild bull.  We would stop to observe them, but as soon as one of the bulls would turn our way and even start inching towards us, Sammy would hit the gas and tell us it was time to go!

Reticulated giraffe in Samburu National Reserve.  They are considered one of the Samburu special five.

Gerenuk are another one of the Samburu special five

Oryx in Samburu - yet another one of the Samburu special five.

We saw quite a bit of impalas

Majestic elephants in Samburu, with one of the beautiful nearby mountains in the background

The boys thought it was "so cool" to be in a safari van in the middle of all the amazing wildlife at Samburu

Buffalo Springs is a pool in Samburu created by an Italian bomber during World War II

Reticulated giraffe grazing in Samburu National Reserve, Kenya

Grevy's zebra in Samburu National Reserve. They are the fourth of the Samburu special five.

Near the river's edge seemed like an oasis, with palm trees, and often, elephants

It was common to see an elephant, or a herd of elephants, in or around the Ewaso Ng'iro river in Samburu National Reserve

Crossing the river, we saw a crocodile

The view of the nearby mountains in Samburu were so picturesque

Even more incredible than the mountain views were the sunsets in Samburu!  Especially when providing backlight to the silhouettes of the acacia trees.

Impala and East African oryx

A female Somali ostrich (the fifth animal in the Samburu special five) ran across our path...

...and the male ostrich was not far behind her...

...on the way to meet the rest of their flock.

My little explorers were very patient during the long drives, and kept themselves occupied quite well

There are over 350 species of birds in Samburu National Reserve.  My favorite was this lilac-breasted roller.  Watch as he takes flight!

Seriously though... the beauty of this place...

I was enchanted by Samburu, and feel that a part of it will always be with me

Did I mention the sunsets?

Absolutely unreal...

At night back at the camp, the park was serene and quiet, with the exception of the wildlife sounds.  The stars were absolutely breathtaking.  If it weren't for the recommendation to stay to the floodlit path after dark, I would have gone farther away from the camp's lights to see the stars even better, but alas, "wild animals are dangerous" and all. 

On our second night at Ashnil Samburu camp, laying around the room, I heard a loud rustling in the palm trees next to our tent.  My first thought was that it was the monkeys.  But it was too loud and forceful... not like the softer sounds of the monkeys chomping on fruit like we were familiar with from the night before.  It was more like a loud gust of wind shaking the tree.  But it wasn't windy.

I sometimes feel spontaneous while traveling, so my instinct told me that I needed to see what was going on, myself.  Our tent came equipped with a flashlight, so I pointed it out the screened window towards our back porch.  I was shocked to see a giant bull elephant a mere ten yards from our tent!  As I knew we were protected by an electric fence between us, I decided I needed a closer look.  Quietly, I asked the boys and the hubs if they wanted to go on a "secret safari."  They agreed, and we all put on our shoes, grabbed our flashlight and a camera, and snuck quietly out the door of our tent towards the back patio and the electric fence. 

With the boys close to us, and still at a safe distance, we slowly inched closer to the elephant. We saw him shaking the tree, and even got a few photos of him before he decided he was done posing for us, and walked away.  We were all thrilled, and had such a cool memory to take with us to dreamland that night. 

The elephant we saw during our "secret safari" just ten yards from our tent at Samburu National Reserve

We departed on Thursday morning to head onto our next destination, with a few new adventures on the way.  Stay tuned for our next safari post, covering days four and five en route to and at Lake Nakuru.