10 things to know before camping in Northern Kenya
I was recently in the Northern part of Kenya, Isiolo to be specific. After coming back, a lot of people were very curious about it. Questions like, “why choose to camp in the driest and probably hottest part of the country?”. Some of my friends were also worried about their security.
So, here are the 10 things you need to know about camping in Northern Kenya:
1. Respect your ranger
Most events being held in Northern Kenya such as The Great Grevy Rally make it mandatory to have a ranger with you at all times, and with good reason. It is very easy to get lost in the meandering roads that characterize the Northern landscape especially when off-roading. The ranger is an amazing resource for you; they literally know the landscape better than you know the size of pizza at your local. We had a very awesome ranger who went above and beyond to get to the most amazing places for beautiful images. If one of those images wins a Nat Geo awards, you bet I will be thanking my guide in my acceptance speech.
2. Get the right shoes: good and sturdy
When you get to Nanyuki, just past the Kenya Army artillery range, be sure to open the window and throw out your favorite pair of sneakers (Bazinga!). But really get a better pair of shoes if you can. The terrain is very demanding and the ground can get very hot. We don’t want you getting blisters and thorns now, do we?
3. Be nice to the locals
Remember that you are a guest of the local community. As such it pays to be very nice to them. Life becomes a lot more enjoyable when the locals like you. And should you get a puncture 135 miles from the nearest mechanic, you will be extremely grateful for the support they will give.
4. Carry a lot of water and food.
This is the supreme commandment when camping in Northern Kenya. Hydrate, hydrate, repeat. Dehydration gets you grumpy. Trust me, no one wants to be stuck with a grumpy person in a camp. You will be doing some hard work chasing sunsets all around the Northern expanse. It is incredibly important to eat well. Your body needs to maintain optimum energy levels. Plus, food just tastes better there, carry lots of it.
Get emergency evacuation and or health insurance just in case anything goes south. AMREF offers a spectacular cover, where they will come pick you up (in a plane) if your stomach grumbles (okay, maybe something a little more serious) but you get the point
6. Carry a spare tire
Make sure you check and recheck your tires and take your baby for maintenance before going off-road. A spare tire is simply the universe’ way of telling you it loves you and does not want you to get stuck in the wild for 7 hours straight.
The way my skin is set up, anything more than 27 minutes in the sun results in a scaly epidermis. I would definitely suggest you carry sunscreen and apply very generous amounts when you start walking under the Isiolo sun. Your skin will be forever grateful.
8. Extra cameras don’t hurt
Look, you are here to see Kenya’s amazing landscape. Trust me, nothing hurts more than having a camera malfunction or run out of battery. Carry extra cameras. This is not a request, it is an order.
9. Bring fun people
When traveling, you will spend a significant amount of time with the same people. It is critical that those people be as fun as possible. You are after all going to camp for fun and a bit of stress relief. It makes sense to leave behind anyone who is unable to clean after themselves, grumpy, boring or a downright douchebag. Again, leave those ones behind.
10. Get a proper tent i.e a Tarpo Camping Tent
The climate there can be very challenging especially when compared to the 3 bedroom ensuite bungalow you are used to. To alleviate some of the difficulty, please, I beg of you, get good camping tents. I do not mean one that is made of polythene, smells like warm bread when it is hot and a damp hole when it cold. Get you something made of canvas that stays cool when it is hot but feels as snug as a TARPO sleeping bag when cold. Send these guys an email, and throw away that monstrosity you call a tent.