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Samburu Best Economy Safari Camp

Boasting itself as a luxurious safari accommodation, Ashnil might be the best economy safari camp in the heart of Kenya’s Samburu National Reserve. This is especially true if you score tent #18, which has a deck overlooking the Ewaso Nyiro River with elephants, baboons, crocodiles, and the most stunning backdrop of the sacred Ololokwe mountain. Ashnil provides game drives and walking safaris with college-educated guides from local tribes who seem to know the animals by name. But as hard as they try they are no match for the black-faced monkeys who study each tourist to know when they can steal the sugar off your table or burst into your tent to find the food you were warned to keep out.

A family of 4 black-faced monkeys.
Monkeying around. The black-faced monkey studies the faces of tourists to know who is nice.

Neighboring camps are way higher priced because they are smaller and a bit more modern, but the views and wildlife are the same, including the fun-loving monkeys, regardless of the daily rate. And there is nothing disappointing about Ashnil, with high marks for food, cleanliness, comfort, and staff. The best price came not directly from the camp or the scores of internet resellers but from a travel agency in Nairobi called Phoenix Safaris, where local friends hooked us up. At a fraction of the price you would expect to pay for a safari, our price during high season was only $155 per person per night, including full board (all your meals). Keep in mind that while pricier lodging includes your alcohol, drinks are not expensive in Kenya, and our bar tab for three nights was a mere thirty dollars. Our total cost for two people staying three nights, including meals, drinks, game drives, a nature walk, and an airstrip transfer, was $1,500.00. That was a great deal!

A view of a river and a sacred mountain in the background.
View from the deck! Elephants, baboons, crocodiles, and the most stunning backdrop of the sacred Ololokwe mountain.

Ashnil is located in northern Kenya in the Buffalo Springs reserve. Unlike the most popular park in Kenya, the Maasai Mara, Samburu has woodlands full of Acacia trees. These trees add to the thrill, not only because they are home to leopards, baboons, and the Marshal eagle but also because they keep you alert as your guide points out their three-inch spines that you dodge as your safari jeep bounces along the rugged terrain. 

A marshal eagle atop a tree.
Nice view. The giant Marshal eagle sits atop an Acacia tree.

If you are lucky enough to have Lang or Shukri as your guide, you will see the Big Five, which is different in each park, as well as the Small Five and the Ugly Five. You’ll laugh at the guineafowl  running in front of your safari jeep because they don’t seem to know how to get out of the way. There are colorful weaver birds that build their two-door nests in the tips of branches where the snakes can’t reach them. There is also a spring with crystal clear cooling water where you can take a refreshing dip before a bush breakfast.

A natural swimming hole.
Refreshing. The Buffalo Springs natural swimming pool is believed to have healing properties.

Daniel was our guide for a walking safari, which can only be described as thrilling fear. It blends the fear of the unknown with the thrill of being immersed in the wilderness on foot. Concern and safety become equally mixed when Muhammad, our guard, joins with an automatic rifle slung over his shoulder. The intimacy of being on foot allows you to experience the sights, sounds and smells of the bush while your heart pounds with the proximity of elephants, hippos, and crocodiles.

Three people on a walking safari.

As the aroma of fresh elephant dung overwhelms your senses back at Ashnil’s riverside camp, you know these formidable animals are nearby, tending to their adorable young. On your safari, you listened to the primal cries of a warthog during a lion kill, saw a cheetah feasting on an impala amongst the sobering cries of those who were spared, and watched a troop of baboons marching along the roadside. As you relax on your view deck with a refreshing beverage, you know you are having the same experience as the camp down the road, but for a significantly better price.

A mother lion with two cubs.
Feeding time. A mother lion just killed a warthog to feed her cubs.
A heard of impalas.
Spared. Below the weaver bird nests, Impalas cry for their friend killed by a cheetah.
A cheetah with an impala in its jaws.
Fresh kill. A cheetah has an impala in its jaws.
Baboons walking along a dirt road.
Baboon highway. A troop of baboons march along the road.

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Hi. We are Paul and Cindy, two biologists, fit and over 50, who enjoy exploring, photographing, and blogging about our outdoor travel. Our journey is to find outdoor activities that are away from crowds, kind to nature, and authentic. We carry backpacks, stay in clean accommodations, and feel that good food is as important as good friends.

The African savanna with three acacia trees.
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