Sarara is found within the lands of the Namunyak Wildlife Conversation Trust. An area of approximately 850,000 acres which lies folded around the southern corner of the fabled Mathews Mountain Range of northern Kenya. This is home of the proud Samburu tribes people, a group of semi-nomadic pastoralists who have long shown tolerance for the wildlife that co-exists alongside their cattle.
The conservation work carried out by the Namunyak Trust to date has been hugely successful. As a result of the severe ivory poaching crisis of the 70’s and early 80’s there were no recorded elephants remaining in the Mathews Ranges by 1985. Today, several thousand elephants are living and breeding peacefully in the southern Mathews Range area. Together with a variety of other wildlife species such as buffalo, lion, leopard, cheetah, African wild dog, greater and lesser kudu, gerenuk, reticulated giraffe, impala and dik dik.
One of the highlights of the Namunyak area must be a visit to the famous “Sarara” Singing Wells. Samburu warriors bring their cattle to these watering holes on a daily basis during the dry season. The warriors descend into the wells which can be up to 10 meters deep, form a human chain and chant traditional Samburu songs as they pass water up by hand for the cattle. This fascinating ritual goes on for several hours a day.
Piers and Hilary Bastard with Jeremy Bastard and Katie Rowe are delightful hosts who are happy to introduce you to the beauty of Sarara and the stylish accommodations at camp. Game drives, bush walks, hikes into the Mathews Mountains or camel treks are all ways to experience the amazing landscape and see the wildlife. Or spend the afternoon relaxing around the stunning rock swimming pool and let the wildlife come to you – their water hole is within easy viewing distance.
A visit to Sarara is a chance to experience a wilderness like no other in Africa.
Game Drives & Walks
Sarara has established itself as one of the ‘hot spots’ for quality leopard viewing in Africa and equally, for close-up sightings of the normally extremely shy lesser kudu antelope. The African wild dogs are frequently encountered in the Sarara valley too. Elephant, buffalo, giraffe, gerenuk, impala and warthogs are now regularly seen on our game drives and bush walks and are very much on the increase in numbers.Unusual sightings include striped hyena, aardwolf, civet cat, African wild cat, greater kudu, grevy zebra and cheetah.
The Samburu people have a wonderful tradition which our guests are welcome to come and watch. Every morning the Samburu warriors bring their cattle to the dry river bed near our camp. The warriors begin to dig deep wells which will provide drinking water for their cattle.
Naked, the warriors sing as they dig. The singing creates a rythym which synchronises the team work as buckets are lifted from one warrior to the next as the well is dug. But the songs also have the additional function of calling each warrior’s cattle to his particular well.
In keeping with our promise not to photograph this very personal and important ritual, we can’t show you a photo but one of our guest did a lovely drawing of the singing wells. Guests have commented that their morning with Mark at the Singing Wells was the highlight, not just of their time at Sarara, but of their trip overall.
Sarara is the only place in the world where one can view this magical and timeless tribal tradition.
With so much to see at the watering hole, sometimes you want to get really really close to the animals without scaring them away. So we created a little hide which you can sneak down to any time there is an animal you want to see up close. You can stand in safety only a few feet away from a group of elephants, near enough to see their eyelashes.
Extended Walking Safaris with Camels
If you are staying with us for several nights, you might want to spend one of those evenings under the stars, sleeping in your own mosquito-netting tent in the middle of a dry river bed, watching the stars in the clear sky above you and listening to the sounds of the leopards ‘sawing’ around you. Enjoy drinks around the campfire while dinner is prepared for you.
Bush breakfasts & lunches
Horizon swimming pool
Between 1977 and 1995 over 30,000 elephant and rhino where killed by poachers and with all the elephants gone, the Grevy zebras and reticulated giraffe went too. In 1993, Ian Craig of the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy persuaded the neighbouring Il Ngwesi community to become the first community conservation initiative in the north of Kenya. Set up in 1995, the Namunyak Wildlife Conservation Trust was established to bring peace to this troubled region.
The conservancy has grown from 185,000 acres of pristine wilderness to 850,000 acres and today there are seventeen similar community projects up and running under the umbrella of The Northern Rangelands Trust
Working with the indigenous Samburu people, the trust has changed attitudes of the local communities towards wildlife and, most importantly, made the area safe from poachers. With the income from the camp, and from people like you, the trust hopes to keep attracting more and more animals back to the area.
Today 4,000 elephants have returned to the Mathews range. And where there are elephants, the other animals know it is safe to go and they too are coming home.
The camp is powered by solar energy generated by several sets of solar panels. Fresh food is kept, not in a refrigerator, but in a specially designed charcoal store. Twice a day the charcoal is soaked withwater and evaporation keeps food at cellar temperatures.
All water is gravity feed a fresh, pure mountain springs – no pumps required – and then pass through a UV filter. Bottles/glass/plastic/tins are all removed from Sarara and recycled. Solar panels run all freezers etc. Minimal chlorine is used in the pool. Sewage is sent into soak away tanks. And the buildings all use local naturally felled trees and local stone.
Katie was born in Sri lanka, before moving to Kenya at a very early age. Her enthusiasm and warmth, coupled with her eye for detail, ensures that every guest feels completely at home at Sarara. She trained as a chef at the Pru Leaths culinary school in London, and this is evident in the wonderful camp food. She has founded several community projects, including the Melako feather project and the Sarara beading project, working very closely with the Samburu and Rendille people of the north. Alongside her passion for the outdoors Katie has guided professional photographic, horse riding and walking safaris all over east Africa. Her hobbies include Horse riding, kitesurfing, photography and fly fishing. She has been managing Sarara for three years now.
As a fourth generation in Kenya Jeremy holds a deep enthusiasm and passion for Africa and the natural world. He has been guiding professionally for over four years and has guided walking, mobile luxury camping, photographic and fishing Safaris all over East Africa. Sarara Camp has been his home for fifteen years, of which he has been the manager for three years. He is currently involved in several wildlife and community conservation initiatives in the surrounding northern frontier area. He has a BSc. in Environmental and geographical Science and Social Anthropology from the University of Cape Town and holds a Kenya Professional Guides Association membership and guiding qualification.
Having grown up in the Kenyan bush and in the Safari Business he has an insightful and in depth knowledge of its diverse environments. In his spare time Jeremy is a keen fly fisherman, photographer, watercolour artist and outdoorsman. He is also a certified kitesurfing and windsurfing instructor.