Meru National Park is one of Kenya’s secret gems. While it enjoyed some fame after the 1966 movie ‘Born Free’ – based on the lives of Joy and George Adamson and Elsa the lion – in recent decades the park has been overshadowed by other Kenya reserves and parks like Masai Mara and Amboseli.
The nearly 700-square-mile reserve is home to wildly diverse habitat. Visitors can explore woodland, savanna, 13 different rivers and even swamps. Naturally, this equates to a wide variety of wildlife. From Africa’s well-known plains species such as buffalo, giraffe and elephant, and predators such as leopard, lion and cheetah, to less familiar species such as Grevy’s zebra, caracal, gerenuk and aardwolf, wildlife enthusiasts have a plethora of things to look forward to on a visit. Tourist numbers remain low, giving guests more exclusive wildlife sightings than in East Africa’s more well-known parks.
Meru’s 32-square-mile rhino sanctuary, affiliated with the renowned Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, hosts both black and white rhino species and gives guests a chance to observe these endangered and threatened wild species in a protected environment.
For your overnight stays, Africa Adventure Consultants recommends Elsa’s Kopje. This camp is named after Elsa the lioness from Born Free and sits at the site of George Adamson’s original camp where he raised and released orphaned lions, including famous Elsa. It offers sweeping views of the beautiful park, wonderful accommodations, excellent food and expert guides.
Elsa’s has seven elegant and luxurious cottages (including a family cottage), three honeymoon suites and a private house. The park boasts incredible wildlife diversity and travelers might see large elephant herds, hippo, lion and a sampling of more than 400 bird species. Guests at Elsa’s can enjoy day and night game drives, river excursions, bush walks, fishing, relaxing at the pool, bush breakfasts, visit a rhino sanctuary and spend time with the local Tharaka community.
Elsa’s Kopje helped save Meru National Park which had suffered from a lack of visitors. Before the camp opened and attracted travelers from around the world, there was talk of de-gazetting the park and turning the fertile land into rice plantations.
A visit to Meru National Park is fantastic in combination with a more popular park in Kenya such as the Masai Mara. You’ll have the chance to explore different ecosystems and see a wide variety of landscapes and wildlife, with a special sense of exclusivity in Meru. Its vastness combined with low visitor numbers make it a true pleasure to visit and an off-the-beaten-path AAC favorite.
Photos courtesy Elewana Elsa’s Kopje Meru and Anisha B.