By Ro 06 June 2019

Why you should consider visiting Meru as part of a Kenya safari

YZ expert Ro has just got back from a safari to the hidden-gem reserve of Meru National Park. Here she explains why you should consider visiting Meru as part of a Kenya safari holiday.

Meru National Park is a relic of safari days gone by. Woefully devastated by the poaching crisis of the 1970s and 1980s, today it stands as one of Kenya’s most underrated parks, meaning there has never been a better time to visit. Venture north to this rugged and arid land, and you’ll be rewarded with stunning landscapes steeped in history, the chance to see all of the Big Five, and barely another vehicle in sight! Here are just a few reasons why you should visit Meru on your next safari to Kenya:

MERU IS HOME TO THE BIG FIVE & BORN FREE LION, ELSA

Meru is most famous as the park in which Joy and George Adamson released their beloved lioness Elsa, and the area featured in the book and subsequent film Born Free. Both Joy and George continued their groundbreaking work and research in northern Kenya for years after Elsa’s release, and if you wish you can visit the lioness’s grave during your visit. You can also seek out the lions that roam the park today. Meru is home to a number of successful prides of lion, making this a wonderful location for some seriously iconic big cat viewing.

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MERU HAS SOME INCREDIBLE LANDSCAPES

The landscape of Meru is gorgeously crisscrossed by fast-flowing streams that feed the park with constant fresh water. The park also features forested river banks, dry savannah, and lush green terrain dotted with enormous baobab trees and beautiful doum palms, standing tall against the backdrop of the Nyambene Hills. A visit to Meru is a sensory overload!

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Meru presents a very different wildlife habitat from the generally open plains of the Maasai Mara, and this can make for a challenge at times to see a buffalo lurking in the bushes or lions lazing in the undergrowth. However, this challenge only adds to the feeling of being able to enjoy safari as it was meant to be enjoyed – in truly remote, quiet, and peaceful surroundings. Spotting wildlife in Meru is a far more rewarding experience than it is in the Maasai Mara, where wildlife is ever present. In fact, Meru makes a really nice contrast to the Mara, and the two areas complement each other really well – particularly if you’re a seasoned safari enthusiast!

MERU HAS GREAT BIRDING

Meru isn’t just about the Big Five, though – plains game abound in the park, and you also have the chance to see some of the rarer species only found in northern Kenya. The other attraction is the huge variety of bird species! A vast array of birdlife frequents the park, making Meru a fantastic destination for birding – even if you’re not an avid twitcher, you’ll find it hard not to be amazed by the sheer diversity and beauty of the bird population here.

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MY ADVICE ON WHERE TO STAY IN MERU

There are two excellent accommodation options in Meru that I’ve visited recently and loved, although for different reasons…

Elsa’s Kopje is perched high up on a granite hill and boasts 360-degree views around the park. At the foot of the hill is the site of George Adamson’s camp, and the hill itself was the playground of Elsa the lion. With each room individually designed and built around the rocks, this property is unashamedly romantic. Today it’s run by the renowned Elewana Collection, and the quality of service is superb. There’s a lovely personal feel to the experience here, as a result of the history of the lodge and area. I think the lodge strikes the perfect balance between this and the classic Elewana touch of luxury, making Elsa’s a great property for a comfortable and conventional option in Meru.

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Elsa's Kopje

If you’d like to experience the wild and rugged essence of safari in Meru, then Meru Wilderness, run by the successful Laikipia Wilderness, is the adventurous alternative! A stay here guarantees a very authentic bush camping experience, and a chance to really immerse yourself in the bush. Guiding is exceptional – there are fewer luxuries than at properties like Elsa’s Kopje, as the sheer quality of the safari experience is the focus. From constructing a pool for you in a stream when you need to cool off, to preparing a barbecue bush breakfast alongside a pod of hippo, staff at this camp ensure your stay is all about adventure!

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Meru Wilderness Camp

MY OVERALL OPINION

In short, Meru National Park is back on the scene, and for good reason. This is a thrillingly diverse park with some first-rate game viewing and a proper range of experiences, with something for everyone. While Meru might hold greater appeal for the more intrepid traveller or safari connoisseur looking for something ‘off the beaten track’, in my opinion the park could attract a wider variety of visitors than this… but perhaps it would be better to keep it off the radar for now!

If you’d like to know more about Meru, or you want to start planning your safari to Kenya, please don’t hesitate to contact our Kenya experts here. Alternatively, take a look below at our favourite Kenya destinations and lodges for more inspiration: