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Saruni Samburu

Review: Saruni Lodge

Soon after we arrived in Kenya, we started to hear about the Saruni Samburu and how great it is. It took three years and second trip up to Samburu (we stayed at the Ashnil last time), but we finally got up there. In fact, the second trip to Samburu was all about experiencing the Saruni. Samburu is awesome, but the Saruni can easily be a destination in itself.

In my prior post I mentioned the drive up. You can fly, but five hours of mostly easy driving from Nairobi makes this more of a driving type of trip. Given that the Saruni is pricey, you might want to drive to save the money and put it toward your stay. That said, although it’s pricey, it’s worth it. You more than get your money’s worth.

The service is excellent. You are really pampered, yet never hovered over. When we arrived, we were greeted warmly, and then when they showed us our villa we got an apology. They didn’t know our favorite drinks and so they could “only” stock the mini-fridge with soft drinks and water. We told them what we’d like (beer and rosé in our case) and it quickly arrived. We then had that at hand for our whole stay.

The villa (all the rooms are villas) had a spacious bedroom, a spacious living area, and balconies off of each. The rooms were amazing. The living room had comfortable furniture and enough space for a dining area and a sitting area. The bedroom had a really nice bed and plenty of room for our luggage.

The rooms get hot in the afternoon—this is true of all the rooms as the lodge is built into a cliff and the rocks heat up. No worries. We spent the afternoons by one of the two infinity pools. But before I get to the pool, let’s go back to the room…specifically, the bathroom.

The bathroom was great. It was big. Water pressure and hot water were fantastic. And…there is also an outdoor shower. It was my first outdoor shower. Let me tell you, it was an amazing experience.

It was totally private, yet open. I had an amazing view of the Samburu plains and the mountains in the back. And this is all while I’m washing my hair.

Speaking of that, the Saruni definitely got one thing right with the bathroom. They provide a really good hairdryer AND there is an outlet next to the bathroom mirror. This is the the first time it all came together for me in any lodge/camp/resort in Kenya. Hairdryer + one that is a good one + ability to use it near a mirror!

Going back to the pools…there are two infinity pools. Both are great. It’s the perfect place to lounge out the afternoon after a morning game drive. It’s a bit of a hike between the pools, the rooms, and reception, but no worries. Once you’re there, there will be people coming by from time to time to get you whatever you may need. Again, the service is attentive without any hovering. Seriously, it’s like magic.

There is also a salon where they provide a few services and massages. I got the massage. It was good but the price was a bit steep for Kenya. That’s the only area where I think the price was a bit high for the value. Even then, it wasn’t that bad. After all, I still chose to get the hour long massage. (A free half hour massage comes with each booking. And I’m happy to say they don’t push you to pay for a longer one.)

The grounds overall are really nice. It’s breathtaking. You have a wonderful cliff-side view of everything. Everything is well maintained.

Meals are done as group dining. It’s a small lodge so you won’t be in a huge banquet hall. It’s like a couple large tables where everyone gathers and it’s quite fun. You can also request a private meal, which we did one night. They sat us by one of the infinity pools. It was a really nice setting and the service was still really great.

The food was amazing. Everything was so delicious. Also, they are good at catering to special diets. I let them know about my issue with grains. Even though the food is mostly Italian, the no grains aspect was not a problem.

We loved the experience. It was fun, relaxing, and we felt so pampered. We will definitely go again.

By the way, we did do more than just lounge about. We did a game drive. It was an exciting one. But, I’ll save that for my next post.

If you go, look into their Pack for a Purpose program. Basically, you can take supplies for the local community. We took up a big box of kids clothes from some friends of ours. We also took up a few school supplies and maxi pads (girls will often miss school when they have their periods because of the lack of supplies).

Driving up to the Saruni Samburu

A few weeks ago, we decided to go up to Samburu again. This time around, we were going mostly to experience the Saruni Samburu—will have a review of that later. Also, this time, we drove. Altogether, it took about five hours.

Timing included a lovely stop at Barney’s, a cafe next to the Nanyuki airfield. I don’t have too many pictures from that, but here are some:

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At the airfield

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Sculptures outside of Barney’s

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The Landy at the parking lot

That was about three hours into the drive. The road was excellent the whole way up to Nanyuki. Actually, the road was excellent all the way up to the Kalama Gate at Samburu. That’s where you turn off to head up the rough road to the Saruni. That’s when our Land Rover Defender really got to be used.

Word to the wise, and they will advise you at the gate, you cannot make it up to the Saruni without a proper SUV. It’s can’t be any car that is a 4×4. You need high clearance off the ground. A proper SUV or truck will work fine. Leave the sedan and station wagon at the gate.

From the gate, it took about an hour, driving slowly and carefully. We used the GoPro to record the ride up. I sped things up so you can see the ride in about six minutes.

It was a fun trip over all and the ride was pleasant. The Landy did well, but I think next time we’ll take the Fortuner.

Review: Flying Foxes

In earlier posts I wrote about our trip to The Forest and our bad experience mountain biking there with Limitless Outdoors. This post is about the FANTASTIC experience we had with doing the zip lines with Flying Foxes at The Forest. It was so great!

Safety first! Flying Foxes has an ambulance at the ready just in case. But, most likely you won’t ever need it.

The equipment and lines are top notch. The staff is well trained and really knows their stuff. These are experts. Also, you go through a short training before you get to the line. They make sure you know exactly what you’re doing before you’re allowed to go. They take safety seriously. The main photo shows the training area of the zip line.

Now, the fun! The lines take you across beautiful canopies of Kenyan forest. It’s breathtaking.

This was my second zip line and it was the biggest one I’ve done. At first I was a bit scared, but after about three seconds, I got over it and enjoyed the rush and the view. It was so amazing.

No photos, as you need both hands and you don’t want to drop anything. No video as the GoPro wasn’t set up right. We’ll try it again and hopefully get some footage.

We will definitely go back for the zip line. We did the two line package as we wanted to test things out. We will go for the six line package for sure next time.

 

Review: Limitless Outdoors

In prior post, I mentioned that we to The Forest, an adventure park an hour and a half away. We did the zip line (which was fantastic) and we did the mountain biking, run by Limitless Outdoors, which was terrible. Why was it so bad? The best way to describe it is to sum up the four points of failure.

Failure Point 1: Unqualified Staff

We were very clear with the guy who set us up on the bikes. We told him we are experienced road cyclists but have little to no experience mountain biking. He knew our level of expertise, which was low.

We asked about the trails. If we hadn’t asked, he wouldn’t have told us anything. We were able to get the distance for each trail out of him, that’s it.

He then sent us off, but not before being wishy washy with the advice on trails. He first said to do blue to orange and then purple. Then he said to do orange first. Then he went back to blue first. Then, just as we got on the bikes and headed to the starting point, he yelled out for us to start with purple.

Purple is the hardest trail. It is a technical trail. It’s steep (both up and down), narrow, and there is a lot of fallen branches on the trail. Plus, in the narrow parts, you have the choice of getting scraped by a rock wall or by a thorny bush. Do not do this unless you are experienced…oh wait, there’s another reason not to do it….

Failure Point 2: Lack of Signage

At a certain point, we realized the trail wouldn’t get easier, but doubling back wasn’t an option as there was no way we could make it back up the narrow, steep hill. (FYI, there’s a lot of animal dung so walking the bike up would mean walking through fresh feces.) So, we kept going, getting on and off the bikes as needed.

We kept following the signs…until they stopped. The signs just stop. Maybe there was once more signs, but they are no longer there. (This is the type of terrain in which Limitless Outdoors should check the signs DAILY as a lot can happen to signs between the animals, weather and flora/fauna.)

We figured if there were no more signs, we should follow the main path. This lead us to the main road, which is murram. Let me tell you about murram.

It’s slippery and not good for the average mountain biking tire. J. brought his own bike with super grippy tires. My rental from Limitless Outdoors had standard tires that got zero traction.

I am an experienced road cyclist and could not get the bike under control. After my second wipe out on that road (third overall as I wiped out once on the trail), I put my bike up to the side and called for help. We were far from The Forest site and we needed a car to come get us.

I specifically asked for a car….

Failure Point 3: Ignoring the Request for Help

After calling The Forest reception for a car to come get us, we walked toward the site as we waited. 15 minutes passed and no one came. I had to call again to request a car. We kept walking. Another 15 minutes passed.

Then someone on a bicycle came. I told him I asked for a car. He said to take his bike and follow a certain path. I told him I didn’t trust him to send us the right way and that I didn’t trust the path to be clearly marked. Why should I?

I said to call in to have a car. He told us we were now too close for a car to some. Seriously. So we walked another 20 minutes to the site.

We walked close to an hour to get back. Full sun and no shade. Lots of hills. We were exhausted but had no choice.

When I got back, I demanded to speak to a manager…

Failure Point 4: Not Caring About The Customer

At first they sent me someone else (not the manager) who told me, “Please don’t be angry.”

Really? I told him I had every right to be angry and that I wanted the manager straight away. Finally, Bobby, the manager arrived.

I explained the situation to him. He said he would look into it. Later, while we were eating lunch he came by.

He said there was a communication failure between the reception desk and his group. Yeah no kidding.

Bobby: We do rescues.

Me: You didn’t for us.

Bobby: But usually we do.

Me: BUT YOU DIDN’T FOR US

Bobby: Well, this was our first one.

Me: Well, you failed.

Bobby blinked and moved on to the next point. He said it’s a “he said she said” issue with the guy who set us up as he claimed he told us everything we needed to know. I told Bobby that I realize it’s “he said she said” but that his employee didn’t tell us. They guy flat out lied and the manager chose to not believe the customer.

He then told us he knew exactly where we got lost and that there is a sign. We told him neither of us saw the sign. He kept insisting this was our fault. It’s not. It’s up to Limitless Outdoors to keep signage visible.

In the end, he bought me a bottle of water and J. a juice to “meet you halfway.” As though that does anything. He then said, “I hope you’ll give us another try. And give me feedback. It is better? Is it worse?”

As though quality control is my job? Are you kidding me?

I stopped him short and explained that we will never use them again and will strongly advise people to not use them. So, here I am, strongly advising you to not use them. The experience was that bad and Limitless Outdoors was so terrible that had we done the mountain biking first, we would have skipped the zip line because we wouldn’t have trusted the safety.

Do not use Limitless Outdoors. Be very careful should you do anything in The Forest that is off on the trails. If something happens to you, no one will come to your rescue.

Review: The Forest

The other week, we took a day off and went up to The Forest. The Forest is an outdoor adventure park that’s about an hour and a half outside Nairobi. (The website says it’s an hour, but from Kitisuru it took longer.) There are numerous activities including archery, zip lining, and mountain biking. We did the zip line (excellent) and the mountain biking (terrible and I strongly advise against it). I’ll review both of those activities later.

Entrance to The Forest is free. You only pay for the activities. I recommend reserving ahead of time as things do get booked. Even weekdays are busy as this place is popular for corporate events.

Overall, we like The Forest. It’s pretty. The zip line, the main attraction, is safe and well managed. The views are great. The restaurant is fantastic.

Here are some pictures of the restaurant area:

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I would not give The Forest a 10 out of 10. I’d give it an 8. Why does it lose two points?

I will go into detail in my review of the mountain biking. To sum it up, we needed a rescue and it didn’t happen. I had to call TWICE to get anyone to come out. I was very clear that we needed a car to come get it – so very clear. They eventually sent someone on bicycle and so we had to walk back a rather long way. The mountain biking organization (Limitless Outdoors) is mostly at fault for the issue, but for the call it’s totally on the reception desk at The Forest.

I shouldn’t have had to call twice. They should have sent a car. This was a major failure.

What does this tell me? If you are out on the trails or the main road, you are on your own if anything happens. The Forest staff and management will not do much to help you. If you have an injury (like a sprained ankle) that limits movement or something more serious, you are 100% screwed. 

This is a big problem.

I wouldn’t not to go The Forest. In fact I plan to go back. But, I would only do the zip line (run by Flying Foxes). If you’re into archery, you can also do that as it’s on site. But I wouldn’t do anything that takes you onto the trails.