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Camping offers an alternative to famed East African safari tours

By OTIATO OPALI in Nairobi, Kenya | China Daily | Updated: 2023-10-02 07:47

From left:Great white pelicans take off in the wild and as flamingos in the background in Naivasha, Kenya;One canvas tent at Kenya's Jambo Mutara Camp offers an expansive view of untouched wilderness, showcasing the hidden and vastly unexplored camping spots in Kenya;A deck under the tent stands amid the wild, surrounded by the sights and sounds of the bush within the camping grounds in Kenya's Laikipia County. Campers are free to choose either public or private sites across the country.

Adventurous travelers can escape the crowds and see some of the region's most beautiful sites

With a coastline stretching for 536 kilometers along the Indian Ocean, Kenya, which is rich in tourist attractions like the savannah, lake lands, the world-famous Great Rift Valley and mountain highlands, is one of the leading tour destinations in Africa.

As part of its staple offerings, the East African country is home to wildlife like lions, elephants and rhinos. Most tourists who visit Kenya seem to prefer safari visits in the numerous parks, like the Maasai Mara Reserve, known for its annual wildebeest migrations, and Amboseli National Park, which offers panoramic views of the 5,895-meter-high Mt. Kilimanjaro in neighboring Tanzania.

In recognition of its world-class safari destinations, Kenya, which is East Africa's largest economy, scooped the world's leading safari destination award at the World Travel Awards held in Oman last November.

Despite its fame for safari tour packages, in which tourists are picked up at the airport and whisked off to a game camp, where they join a line of safari trucks to catch a glimpse of the country's diverse flora and fauna, Kenya is also home to relatively unknown and hugely underutilized camping spots across the country.

For adventurous travelers, camping in Kenya offers the chance to escape the crowds and see some of the country's most beautiful sites from the rugged comfort of their own tent. Unlike safari tours, camping allows visitors to enjoy a night under the cover of countless stars and the feeling of morning dew on your feet as you wake up in the pristine wild breathing Africa's crisp, clean morning air.

Unlike spending your visit in five-star hotels, the beauty of camping is that visitors are in charge of their schedule, including sleeping, meal and even bath times, and visitors with tight time schedules will find that picnicking at Kenyan camps is an excellent option.

One of Kenya's famous camping sites is found about 230 kilometers north of the capital, Nairobi, in the Ngare Ndare Forest Reserve. What visitors will find unique about this camping site is the forest reserve's 7-meter-high tree platform on which they can set up their tents and camp.

The tree platform leads to a tree canopy walk made of a suspended wire bridge going several hundred meters through the trees. Below the tree platform and the suspended bridge, campers can gather beside a fire pit dug out under a giant tree and tell campfire stories while watching the African sunset as darkness sets in. Campers will also revel in Ngare Ndare's famed blue rock pools that you can leap into from great heights.

Nights in the Ngare Ndare forest reserve in Kenya's Meru County can be very cold, and tourists planning to camp in the reserve are advised to pack warm clothing. However, a campfire is always provided to keep campers warm at night.

For an optimal camping experience, it is best to visit the camp during the dry season between June and October and from December to March. The roads leading to the remote campsite are more easily accessible during the dry season.

For tourists who enjoy group activities, the Rapids camp, located just an hour-and-a-half drive north of Nairobi is an ideal destination. Rapids Camp is the definitive rafting capital of East Africa and a great team-building site. Its proximity to Nairobi and the famed Thika Super highway makes it very easy to access. The camp lies close to the Sagana River and has a river frontage of about 450 meters and Kenya's largest waterfall in terms of volume in Kenya.

Aside from offering a magnificent camping site for visitors, the Rapids camp has a myriad of activities for tourists, especially those who travel in groups, to immerse themselves in. Some of the fun activities that can be enjoyed in the park include white-water rafting, kayaking, river trekking, bungee jumping, bird watching, sport fishing, rock climbing, star gazing, boating and waterfall challenges.

The camp also has one of the most amazing zip lines in Kenya, cutting across the Rapids Falls located within the site. The 250-meter zip line is 110 meters above the river, which makes it unique in Kenya. Visitors who pitch their tents at Rapids Camp are assured of spectacular stargazing activity at night offering tourists a glimpse of the universe through the beautiful, dark skies.

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