From Mount Kenya to Shaba

We awoke to a spectacular view of Mount Kenya. At more than 17,000 feet, Mount Kenya is a challenging technical climb suited only for the most experienced mountaineers. When the clouds break to reveal its peak, it becomes obvious why. Then mountain slopes gently up for much of its height, but at the very top one finds a peak so steep that it looks like a mountain on top of a mountain.

Charles, our host at The Ark, led another short bird walk before breakfast. We saw double-collared and golden sunbirds, wild canaries, ducky flycatchers, and red-winged starlings. After breakfast, we headed north toward the equator and Fairmont Mount Kenya Safari Club for lunch.

Pool & Grounds

Pool and grounds of Mount Kenya Safari Lodge.

Originally the retreat of Hollywood actor William Holden, Mount Kenya Safari Club straddles the equator. (Its premiere suite boasts two bathroom sinks, one on each side of the equator. Since draining water drains counterclockwise in the Northern and clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere, you can fill the sinks, unplug them and watch the water swirl down in opposite directions.)


Both Hemispheres in One Bathroom

Both Hemispheres in one bathroom.


The club boasts beautiful colonial-style architecture and furnishings, a nine-hole golf course, putting green, large outdoor pool, nature center, and indoor-outdoor dining. Horses and bicycles are available for rent and offer a unique way to view the club’s natural areas.

After lunch, we took the highway northwest to Shaba National Reserve, watching the landscape change from lush green forests and farms to arid savannah as we dropped about a mile in altitude. As we passed by towns and villages, we observed cultural changes, as well, with some Muslim women in hijab and many shepherds and goat herders in the traditional clothing of the Samburu tribe. Ethnic cousins of the Maasai, the Samburu settled many years ago in the lands northeast of the Rift Valley, while the Maasai continued to travel south. Both tribes share similar languages (locals say the languages are mutually intelligible, but the Samburu “talk fast” while the Maasai “talk slow”) and semi-nomadic lifestyles.

Bedroom at Sarova Shaba Lodge

A towel origami elephant greets guests to Sarova Shaba Lodge.

We arrived in Shaba late in the afternoon, enjoying a beautiful landscape of acacia trees and euphorbias on the way into Sarova Shaba Lodge. The lodge is set deep in Shaba Reserve on the banks of the Ewaso Nyiro River. The name means “muddy water” in the local language. We were greeted by vervet monkeys and, after we settled into our cabin, we relaxed at the lodge’s large pool and watched crocodiles rest on the shore. (Sarova Shaba is surrounded by a secure electric fence, so there is no need to fear the gargantuan reptiles.)

Before dinner, we had Tusker beer, freshly made watermelon juice and a fascinating discussion about Kenyan and East African history with our bartender. Dinner entertainment included traditional dancing by members of the Samburu tribe.

After another action-packed day, we settled in behind our mosquito nets for a restful, bite-free night of sleep.