The Wilderness of Meru
Many safaris and game drives are planned every day in Kenya. Mostly to Mara, Nairobi, Nakuru and Amboseli. Very few to Meru National Park. Yet this far-flung wilderness park holds a beauty that shouldn’t be missed by anyone who loves being in the wild.
Tucked away from the mountainous green, lush highlands of the slopes of Mt Kenya, Meru is a wilderness that rarely sees rainfall. Brown is the predominant colour here. Thought it’s vastness means spotting wildlife isn’t easy, it has wild open spaces you’ll otherwise hunt for in other parks.
Our first photographic stop on the way to Meru NP from Nairobi was the wheat fields of Timau. We’d chosen to use the Nanyuki and not Embu route because it has less corners, bumps and hills to negotiate.
We underestimated the distance we had to get to Meru NP which is 50km from Meru town towards Maua. We called the Park office and alerted them that we were running late. They were kind enough to allow us into the park after the gates were closed.
There’s a story about beans – lots of beans – that should come here; but to preserve our status in society I’ll leave it out.
We pitched tent at Bwatherongi Campsite (who comes up with these names?) and as expected, we were all alone. The campsite had clean showers, a swimming pool that was closed for maintenance and a grilling area. It is also frequented by a clan of baboons who served as our alarm clock every morning.
Roads in the park are gravelled and well maintained. This made movement in the vast park a breeze. Animal spotting wasn’t easy as most of the park has shrubs and bushes that wildlife use to shelter from the scorching heat.
This is Leopard’s Rock. We drove around it and stuck our necks out of the car windows to see if we could spot some wild cats. It was all rock and no leopard.
Joe’s audience didn’t think much of the planned career change.
We’d carried enough supplies for the duration of our stay and took turns to prepare dinner and breakfast. We also ventured outside the park for some meals, just to spice up our diet. Beans were avoided.
Straight out of God’s Sunset manual.
A rock hyrax. This is the elephant’s closest relative.
The Tana River flanks one side of Meru NP. At the point where it crosses Adamson’s Bridge are rapids that have done a fantastic job sculpting the rocks in the river.
Not to be left behind, the sand by the banks of the Tana shows off it’s artistic nature as well.
One thing you must do when you visit Meru NP is climb Elsa’s Kopje. It will take you about 20 minutes on moderate pace and test your fitness. Talk to the management at the lodge with the same name and they will be kind enough to show you the way up. Once you get to the top, you’ll take in a view that will leave you more breathless than you were when climbing.
For the all the energies we expended while getting to the top, we rewarded ourselves with selfies.
I’ve just noticed the rays of light filtering through Paul’s right hand. Amazing, right?!
View from the top: a herd of elephants and buffaloes grazing in the Meru NP plains below.
One animal we hadn’t seen much of during our four-day expedition was the mighty elephant. Apart from a young one we’d spotted further than our telephotos could reach and the family in the photo above, the tuskers had proved elusive.
As we left the park on our way back to Nairobi, we had the best wildlife spotting of our expedition. It was a family that was browsing quite close to the Murera Gate. We spent more than fifteen minutes clicking away.
Here, the little one’s mum ordered us to stick to telephoto lenses and not switch to wides.
After that, we packed our cameras and returned to Nairobi, having dusted the rust off our wildlife photography skills, and looked forward to Masai Mara.
Ubar, Shani’s Forester that we used during our Meru NP expedition. We made great images from the comforts of this car. Only downside is the turbo that’s so loud it scared animals away as we approached.
Meru National Park is a wilderness park and you need to be well prepared if going camping there. Take the A2 out of Nairobi and stick on it until you go past Nanyuki. Keep driving until where you’ll leave the A2 for the B6 that goes to Meru. From Meru town, take the D484 that goes towards Maua town. As you get to Maua, follow the KWS sign boards directing you to the park gate. Bwatherongi Campsite is about 30km from the Murera Gate so stock up on supplies quite well to enjoy more time touring the park.
You can purchase a park map at the gate or at any reputable bookshop. We used Open Street Maps for Garmin which had all the tracks in the park clearly marked.
For more information, check out the KWS website.