Sleepover: Porini Camp
A bed for the night in Kenya
Sunday 18 July 2004
A safari camp in the Selenkay conservation area, on the northern edge of Amboseli National Park, a bumpy three-hour, 100-mile drive from Nairobi. Surrounded by lush green foliage, the only sign of modern life is your Jeep.
Only 12 guests at a time are invited to explore this little-visited area to minimise the impact on the environment. The camp is run in cooperation with the indigenous Masai community, so guests embark on a variety of day and night game walks with local guides, observing the traditional "jumping" rituals of tribesmen.
The camp is unfenced and although its perimeter is supervised by experienced tribesmen day and night, wandering hyenas and the occasional lioness have been known to amble past the kitchen quarters, so this is not an experience for the faint-hearted.
Highlights include "sundowners" on Olosinkiran Hill, where you can sip wine while watching the sun set.
The comfort factor
The quality of the tents falls somewhere between the ludicrous five-star accommodation offered in some camps and a primitive bivouac experience with al fresco lavatory.
The six tents each have a single and double bed, solar-powered electric lighting, hot running water, and en-suite bathrooms. Living quarters are large, spacious and, most important of all, insect-proof.
The interior décor has a certain romance, with plenty of atmospheric lamplight and billowing white linen.
Separated from the sleeping area by a curtain, the bathroom has a large wooden shower cubicle with dribbling showerhead (you are limited to one bucket's worth of water, so each drop is precious), a washbasin and a surprisingly strong flushing lavatory on a raised dais, giving it a throne-like appearance.
The food and drink
Meals are homemade and intimate, eaten as a group under the shade of an acacia tree by day and by ambient lamplight at night. The dishes are simple and wholesome: meats, salads and pastas, with vegetarian options if you inform the camp organisers beforehand. However, the packed lunches can be quite basic.
After dinner, enjoy a drink by the campfire, listening to the sounds of the African jungle.
The camp is run by a middle-aged British couple, friendly hosts who grew up in Kenya and are experts in living in the wild. The Masai employees are welcoming and those who can speak English are interested in comparing cultures and customs, which can make for interesting conversations.
The guests range from single people to honeymooning couples and families.
The camp sits in a spot once favoured by big-game hunters. Situated in the heart of Masailand, the conservation grounds comprise a 15,000-acre private game reserve within a vast tract of land owned by the Kisonko clan of the Masai people.
Visitors are taken to the swamps of Amboseli a little further away from camp, as well as going on shorter safaris in Porini and night trips using a spotlight on the Jeep, which can make for exhilarating viewing of startled jungle cats and scuttling porcupines.
By the end of a typical two-day stay, you can expect to have seen an array of tropical birds, giraffes, zebras, lions, elephants, hippos and maybe even cheetahs and leopard if you're lucky.
Tropical Places (0870-160 5022; www.tropicalplaces.co.uk) offers a seven-night safari and beach holiday from £1,099 per person, based on two sharing, for November departures. The price includes return flights with Kenya Airways, two nights at Porini Camp on a full board basis, with all game drives, five nights at Pinewood Village, on an all-inclusive basis, all internal flights and transfers.
Not ideal for wheelchair-users, although with prior notice the camp can accommodate visitors with disabilities. Children must be at least six years old.
Porini Camp, Selenkay Conservation Area, Kenya (0800-316 5125; www.tropicalplaces.co.uk).
Arifa Akbar travelled with Tropical Places and Kenya Airways (01784 888222; www.kenya-airways.com)
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