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Elephant Watch Camp

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Posted by  Saturday, 11 November 2006 00:11

Elephant Watch Camp

The Elephant Watch Camp

One of the Chalets at the Elephant Watch CampThe exotic Camp is perched on the sand banks of the Ewaso Nyiro River, beneath big Kigelia trees and Acacia Elatiors. It is home to some of the largest bulls in Samburu who can often be spotted resting under an acacia tree or picking pods beside the tents. The trees are filled with a multitude of birds and monkeys. At dawn a gentle chorus echoes overhead announcing the new day in the wild.

The camp, which is eco-friendly has been specially constructed for comfort and coolness, accommodating a maximum of ten guests with its wide and breezy desert tents, individually styled, draped with colourful cloth and unusual furniture. Bathrooms are built around trees, giving our guests a novel washing experience with plenty of sun heated water and lights.


The colourful mess hall at the Elephant Watch CampEverything about Elephant Watch Camp is a feast for the senses, with bright swathes of cotton fanning in the breeze, huge cushioned sofas, woven local mats and special beds and furniture made from fallen trees. Menus are a fusion of bush gourmet, fresh from our farm, with tropical fruit and drinks and a selection of good wine. Books, films and information on elephants are provided for guests. At night, flame torches and lanterns light up the camp along the river. Baboons call out as leopards stalk, while lions and elephants are always nearby. It is the only camp of its kind in Samburu.

Elephant Watching begins on arrival. Our Elephant Watch guides meet their guests at either of the two airfields and drive them gently through the Reserve spending time with many of our well known elephant families as well as introducing them to some of the particular Northern inhabitants - the slim necked Gerenuk, Reticulated Giraffe, Grevy Zebras and over 400 species of birds. A special visit to Save the Elephant Research Centre can also be organised.


From the comfortable beds at the Elephant Watch Camp you can enjoy the view of wildlife right in front of you!Each day opens with a new adventure. Early morning or evening bush walks along well-travelled elephant paths or collecting medicinal plants and honey and always accompanied by our Samburu Warriors. At times one can witness the great river crossings of camels and cattle, fire making and Samburu ceremonies.

Oria and her husband Iain have been privileged to work with elephants for more than thirty years. They wrote the books "Among the Elephants," an account of their time spent studying elephants in Lake Manyara and "Battle for the Elephants," which documents their years undertaking an Africa wide elephant census to put an end to the slaughter of elephants for the ivory trade.

The eco-friendly shower of the Elephant Watch CampDr Iain Douglas-Hamilton is the Founder and President of the registered charity, "Save the Elephants" and he was recently involved in the production of the Discovery Channel IMAX film, "Africa's Elephant Kingdom."

Iain and his Save the Elephants research team are currently monitoring long-distance movements using high-tech GPS radio collars on some of the wild elephants roaming throughout the Samburu Reserve in Northern Kenya.

Elephant Watch Safaris was selected as a world "hot spot" by Conde Nast Traveller in 2002 voted Best Tented Safari by The Week magazine in 2003!


Elephant Watching

You will be looked after by our elephant guides and taken right into the midst of the elephant world where you will meet some of the great matriarchs and their families, follow the known bulls and share their secret places. The longer you spend with them the more involved you become with these extraordinary animals. To be accepted by the elephants is something you will never forget.

Game Drives

Saba will take you out on the odd excursion to discover wildlife at the Elephant Watch Camp.Samburu National reserve is home to reticulated giraffe, gerenuk, Beisa oryx, Grevy zebra, and vulturine guinea fowl, which are all unique to the arid North of Kenya. Samburu National Reserve also offers spectacular game viewing. With the Ewaso River and plenty of trees providing shade, the wildlife are attracted to this idyllic refuge and plenty of fabulous photo opportunities will abound!


When the river is full and flowing, a favorite activity at EWS is rafting down the Uaso. Starting at the Cattle Corridor, guests raft past EWS camp (where this photo was taken), and then on to the Save the Elephants Research Center, where you can stop for a break and a talk about the research currently underway. When you reboard the raft, you continue along until you reach the Wire Bridge, the location of elephant crossing.


A tradition at Elephant Watch Camp, our Sundowners are a great way to conclude your day. Our Sundowners are located at our "top of the world" spot, with a breathtaking vista to observe the sunset. Enjoy a refreshing drink while you watch the Samburu warriors dance in the glow of a fire they created using their "firesticks."

Bird Watching & Hiking

Samburu National Reserve is a bird-watcher's paradise. There are over 400 varieties of birds, including the Bristle-crowned Starling, Vereaux's Eagle-owl, Night Heron, Palm-Nut Vulture (sometimes called the South African Fish-Eagle), and Pygmy Falcon. You may even be lucky enough to glimpse the somewhat uncommon Red-headed Weaver.

For those who enjoy hiking, numerous walking trails surround the camp.


Personalized excursions can also be arranged. You may chose to visit a Samburu Village, the Save the Elephants Research Centre, Mount Kenya, or other nearby attractions. A day trip to Shaba national Reserve can be organised. Famed for its large lion prides and huge bull elephants, a day trip to Shaba is an ideal excursion. A climbing trip, day trips, and overnight trips to Ol Lolokwe, the Samburu sacred mountain, may also be arranged.

Conservation Projects

Here at Elephant Watch Camp, our goal is to make a difference, not only by helping the elephants, but also the environment, the people, and other wildlife. There are several projects currently underway:

Women's Workshop

Oria is dedicated to the women of Kenya. At her farm on Lake Naivasha, Olerai House, she is proactive in educating women on birth control and abuse. At EWS, she has organized a Women's Handicraft Workshop. The women belonging to this workshop create magnificient beaded accessories and are helped to market their work. A portion of all guest fees is earmarked to benefit the Women's Workshop.

Elephant Conservation - Suckling

For information on the Save the Elephants organisation and research carried out in Samburu, please visit their web site at

Big Cat Conservation

The main goal of the Big Cat Conservation project is to identify the big cats (lions, cheetah, leopards) and track where they go in Samburu, Buffalo Springs, Shaba, and the surrounding areas. Cats in this region are very vulnerable as they live in areas inhabited by nomadic people and are constantly coming into conflict with them. To date, 41 individual lions have been identified. At left is "Mama 1," a female in the Koitogor Pride, who had 2 cubs in July 2003, and also adopted the cubs of another lioness, Sempei, and now goes around with 4 cubs. Mama 1 is the main female in the Koitogor Pride. The photo clearly shows the right side whisker spot pattern, which is how lions are identified. For more information on the Big Cat Conservation Project, please contact Shivani Bhalla at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Acacia Tree Conservation

An elephant destroying the Acacia Tree by eating it's bark.Not only is the Acacia tree essential to the elephant habitat, but the elephant is also essential to the future of the Acacia tree. The trees provide much needed shade, and during "podding" season, elephants feed on thousands of Acacia tortilis seed pods and distribute them far and wide in their dung droppings. This gives the seeds a chance to germinate away from the old trees.

However, elephants also harm the trees. They strip the bark from Acacia trees, resulting in the death of the tree when a full circle of bark is removed. Elephant Watch Safaris and Save the Elephants are cooperating on two projects aimed to protect the Acacia trees of the Samburu National Reserve, as well as surrounding areas.

The first project, Wire Trees, involves wrapping the trunk of a tree with wire (see photo on left). This simple process is highly effective in protecting the trees, as the elephants seem to avoid trees wrapped in wire.

The second project, Bees and Trees, will both protect the trees and help the economy of local people. It has been shown that when elephants begin stripping bark from trees hung with beehives, the bees swarm and chase the elephant away. A total of 80 log hives will be placed in large trees along the Ewaso River and outside of the park boundary. Through the sale of by-products, such as honey and beeswax, the local economy will benefit.

EWS also plans to support the local school with technical advice in harvesting, packaging, marketing and sale of honey. The local Samburu schools have had major financial problems providing their students with basic necessities, such as food. It is hoped that the beehive project will provide the schools with sustainable income. In addition, students will be actively participating in conservation of the park and surrounding areas. Ideally this local honey will be sold to and in lodges within the Samburu and Buffalo Springs National Reserve.

Also, EWS camp, as well as Olerai House, uses the wood from trees that are unsavable to make furniture, such as bed frames, coffee tables, and bookcases.

EWS would like to express their sincere appreciation to the African Elephant Conservation Trust (AECT) for funding the Bees and Trees project. In the photo at left, Susannah Rouse, Chair of the AECT board, visits with the staff at Elephant Watch Camp.

If you would like to make a contribution to support any of the EWS projects, please contact Oria Douglas-Hamilton at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . A contribution of any amount will help make a difference!

Scholarship Programme

The local communities surrounding Samburu and Buffalo Springs National Reserves struggle to send young people to secondary school. Save the Elephants (STE) and Elephant Watch Safaris (EWS) sponsored a survey in the area as part of their community projects. The main aim of this survey was to establish what the communities regarded as their most important needs. The general consensus was that education and training opportunities are the most beneficial. The stated preferences for assistance are on educational projects like scholarships, as well as specialized training in order to allow young people to attend secondary school. As a result of this, STE and EWS have created a fund for education and training opportunities.

Some of the students at the Elephant Watch Camp participating in the Scholorship ProgrammeWe work closely with local primary schools in the area to select young, highly motivated students for secondary school scholarships. Most of these children come from impoverished pastoralist backgrounds where their families are unable to afford the secondary school fees. Unfortunately, without a secondary school education, these students will have little access to higher training or employment opportunities. The local people are now beginning to realize the genuine value of a secondary education on their child's future and are extremely supportive of the efforts of STE and EWS.

One of our main focuses is the spread of conservation education and we strive towards encouraging the students to become ambassadors of the area and their cultures. Guests who visit the Elephant Watch Camp in Samburu have the opportunity to sponsor an individual student from the surrounding areas and to create an extremely personal relationship with the individual. We select students based on merit, determination and motivation. These students build new friendships with their sponsors and stay in close contact through letters and pictures. Sponsoring the secondary school education for these young people provides them with a rare and precious opportunity that will change the rest of their lives. We now have 14 students that are being sponsored from the Samburu, Borana and Turkana communities. Alex Lekalaille is one of four students who has already completed their secondary school education and are now actively involved in conservation and eco-tourism. He says “The opportunity that I have received as a result of the scholarship programme, has changed my life. Without this opportunity, I would now be struggling to make a living and would not be helping to protect the land and animals that I love. I respect and thank my sponsors with all my heart and will be forever grateful to them.”

US $2000 will fund a child for 4 years of secondary education, paying for everything from books and uniforms to mattresses and transportation allowances. If you are interested in sponsoring an individual, please do not hesitate to contact us and we will help you begin your new relationship with a student.

If you would like more information about our scholarship programme or how you can contribute to our scholarship fund, please contact:

A Masai member of staff from the Elephant Watch CampShivani Bhalla
Education Officer
Save the Elephants and Elephant Watch Safaris
P.O. Box 54667, Nairobi 00200, Kenya
Tel: (25420) 891112 Fax: (25420) 890596
Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

General Contact Details

Elephant Watch Safaris
Oria Dougla-Hamilton
Langata Link Complex, Office No. 28, Langata South Road
Nairobi, 00200, Kenya
Office (Info and Bookings)
Tel: +25420-891112
Fax: +25420-890596
Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


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