Samburu Hannah Rayner
Classic | Kenya

The Seven Wonders of Africa: a guided walk through Samburu National Park

Welcome to the fourth of our Seven Wonders of Africa series, as chosen by the Journeys by Design team. This time round, it’s Hannah Rayner.

Having been to a variety of countries in Africa, I found it exceedingly difficult to choose just one highlight. I’m fortunate enough to have visited a lot of extraordinary places in Africa, meaning there’s a lot out there that qualifies for being wonderful. After racking my brain, I’ve not just chosen Samburu National Park, but also the Samburus who hosted my trip back in 2014.

At the time, I was a relative newbie, and had only been to Zambia and to Kenya the year before, so I was very excited at the prospect of a revisit. I was keen to fit in as much as possible into my two-week journey. It was very full on. It must have been during the 2014 World Cup, as I vividly remember sitting with the Samburu in the staff quarters watching England playing on a tiny television monitor very late at night.

There is one particular day I remember more than the others and it will stay with me forever, I am sure. We had been taken on a walk from our camp through the wilderness, guided by a group of Samburu warriors. As we wandered around the wilderness, the Samburu were teaching us not only about the surrounding flora and fauna but also about their own culture. They taught us about their clothing and jewellery, the meaning behind why they wear what they do and much more.

As we talked, we walked through lots of rocky outcrops, through some dry river beds for around two and a half hours. Our destination was the top of what at the time felt like a mountain, but on reflection may have been more of a large hill. Either way, it was quite a climb, and once we’d made its summit, you could see the Samburu’s sacred mountain –Mount Ololokwe – in the distance. The sun was setting. We sat around a fire with some lovely drinks and snacks. For a minute, it was all incredibly beautiful and serene. Time felt like it had temporarily been put on hold. Some of the local community joined around the firepit and started singing, in a chanting-like fashion. It was amazing to witness. The chants were followed by the Samburu’s well-known jumping warrior dance, in which the tribe bounce up and down, gaining a lot of height in the process.

As it turned dark, we were told we needed to head back. Lost in the reverie of it all, we had stayed longer than intended. We all piled into the support vehicle and headed back to camp. Our hosts suddenly started singing at the tops of their voices. It was such a special moment, heading back at some speed, through the wilderness in pitch black, the singing – the melodies and tones – the perfect live soundtrack to the perfect live experience.

Samburu National Park is a wonderful place, but I know that much of that wonder comes from the experience of being hosted so beautifully. It was highly original, truly special, and felt wonderfully genuine. I have voice recordings from that day, which I occasionally play, taking me straight back there, the ‘mountain’, the walk, the singing. I would – and do – wish it anybody and everybody.

If you would like to find out more about my trip to Kenya or interaction with the Samburu, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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