There’s something about camping that liberates you – the simplicity of life and being at one with nature, it’s a breath of fresh air (literally!) that my mind and body need ever so often.
It had been a while since I’d stepped out into the wild and pitched up a tent – the urge was daunting! With only a night to spare, I headed to Naivasha with 3 close friends (why? It’s only 1hr 30mins drive from Nairobi, the road is smooth albeit a little risky on the escarpment so drive safe and the views are breathtaking throughout the journey).
If you’re heading that way, you MUST stop at view point and absorb the wonder that is The Great Rift Valley.
My destination was an all time favourite, where many Nairobians escape to for a night under the starry Kenyan skies – Camp Carnelley’s
For those new to Carnelley’s, it’s located on the serene Lake Naivasha on beautiful green grounds. Google map link here: Map to Carnelley’s
It’s not just a campsite either, it caters to every budget and need from camping grounds, twin rooms, bandas and dormitories. For those on a day trip to Naivasha, they also have a bar and restaurant called ‘LazyBones’. Personally, I love their pizzas (but I also have a notorious reputation of being addicted to pizzas!)
- Camping – 800/- p/adult & 400/- p/child (Peak season – 1000/- p/adult & 500/- p/child)
- Lake front en-suite banda (1 to 2 pax) – 8000/- (10k in peak season) – includes breakfast
- Lake front en-suite banda (3 to 4 pax) – 12,000/- (14k in peak season) – includes breakfast
- Big Banda (sleeps up to 6) – 10,000/- (14k in peak season) – breakfast not included
- Small Banda (sleeps up to 4) – 6,000/- (9k in peak season) – breakfast not included
- Twin/Double Rooms (2 pax) – 4,000/- per room (5k in peak season) – no breakfast
- Dorm Rooms – 1000/- per bed or 8000/- for entire dorm (sleeps 8) (1500/- per bed and 12,000/- per dorm in peak season)
Note: Peak season is from 10th Dec to 3rd Jan and Easter week
I was keen for a camp though. If you’re a hardcore camper then Carnelley’s is a walk in the park – they have toilets AND hot showers!! I’m used to being in the middle of nowhere and having to dig my own hole, so Carnelley’s is luxury for a seasoned camper.
But if you’re a newbie and want to test out the camping life, then this is the place to go. And there’s lots to do to keep you busy all weekend, from boat rides to fishing to bird watching, rock climbing and even hiking in Hell’s Gate National park.
We got there for about 4:30 pm and the camp site was flocking with people. There were families, friends, couples and solo campers. Even though we got there pretty late, we were lucky enough to get a spot right by the fence with an amazing view of the lake. Some spots also have a shade but those usually get occupied first. We parked up and scouted the area for the best ground to pitch our tents (TIP: look for flat and even ground).
They already have pre-marked fire pits at the camp site so just shovel out the ash and prep your firewood there (TIP: Just outside Camp Carnelley’s gate, there’s street vendors selling firewood – stock up early!).
We have this go-to grill that comes on every trip with us, our faithful companion always keeping us fed with freshly grilled meat. So we had that and plenty of coal to last us for the night and morning. For dinner, we grilled some sausages, steak, eggplants (lace it with some lemon, chili and salt and this veggie is surprisingly delicious!) and snacked on crackers with hummus. Someone always has a spice kit on them so our meat and veggies are well seasoned.
I love stargazing and the night sky at Carnelley’s is stunning. My friend also brought his telescope along so we spent a lot of our night looking for familiar stars and clusters. If you’re into stargazing then I recommend downloading the app ‘SkyView Free’.. Point your phone to the sky and it gives you an entire map of the stars above you, their names and the clusters they belong to!
Now, Camp Carnelley’s is well known for its resident hippos that usually come out to the pier to graze. Every so often we’d hear a growl at night and because we had a super spot by the fence, with a flash of our powerful torch we saw glimpses of them really close by, in fact, one had a baby as well. Our torch was so good that the neighbours came by to check out the giants with us (TIP: Always carry a really powerful torch when camping, it’s so handy). The hippo sight was absolutely amazing! (Sorry, it was quite dark and couldn’t get a decent picture of them).
We woke up bright and early the next day, got our fire going again and put a pot of water to boil for that morning cuppa. Honestly, tea tastes sweeter when you’re camping, so satisfying! Our breakfast plan was – fruits, scrambled eggs with onions and tomatoes, sweet corn, bacon, chicken sausages and toast. I know right? That’s a lot of food! But we had an exciting day planned – We were going to climb Mt. Suswa! I’ve wanted to climb this double crater volcano for soooo long and the time was near… (or so I thought).
If you’re planning to climb Mt. Suswa, there’s no need to camp in Naivasha. In fact, there are campsites on the mountain. We just really wanted to be by the lake. It’s so close to Nairobi that it’s ideal for a day trip hike as well. Mt. Suswa lies between Nairobi and Naivasha in the Great Rift Valley. It’s usually overlooked and overshadowed by the more prominent Mt. Longonot. Google Map link to Suswa
To cut a long story short, we didn’t climb Mt.Suswa, heck we didn’t even make it to the gate. Why? Because we got so miserably lost and drove up and down a road for over an hour and had to give up! (So expect another post soon when I do conquer the mountain and I’ll be giving you guys full proof directions) I know right? That adventure didn’t last too long. If you really can’t wait for the post then I suggest calling Reuben – 0719 254 971 and ask him to meet you at the sign below.
Directions to the sign: If coming from Nairobi, take the lower escarpment Naivasha Road till Mai Mahiu, then turn left on to Narok Road. About 18km down this road is the signpost on your left (you’ll pass an earth satellite station on the way).
Still full from our hearty breakfast, we were not ready to go back to Nairobi just yet so we decided to head to the Go Karting place, The Great Rift Valley (TGRV) Circuit, back up on Narok road. I love a little competition so I couldn’t wait to race. It’s a little pricey but so much fun! And you gotta treat yourself sometimes, right?
- 15min sprint – 3500/-
- 30 mins – 6000/- (split in 3 races of 10mins or 2 races of 15mins)
The TGRV circuit also have accommodation if you want to stay there overnight. And there’s an ice cold pool in their club house as well.. which was perfect because it was a hot day and we’d been driving on dusty dirt roads for waaaay too long. A cool off was necessary. A quick dip and plate of fries later, I was ready to race.
We opted for a 15 min race and I’m quite proud to say that I kept up with the boys throughout the race! My best time was 1min 12secs whilst the overall best was 1min 10secs. I guess I’m badass (Please let me feel good and don’t tell me my time was actually not that great.. thanks!)
After showing off my amazing driving skills, it was time to go home and we headed back to Nairobi. Minus our failed attempt to climb Mt. Suswa, I got my camping fix, adrenaline fix and was with the best of company. All in all, it was a successful weekend!
And we saw a pretty rainbow! 🙂