“Who will now care for the animals, for they cannot look after themselves? Are there young men and women who are willing to take on this charge? Who will raise their voices, when mine is carried away on the wind, to plead their case?” – George Adamson
Kora National Park
Kora, “The last wilderness” a part of Kenya not many people visit, was the home of the famous George Adamson, who was also known as Baba Ya Simba.
George was born in Etawah, India. In his youth, George attended boarding school in England, thereafter when he turned 18, he moved to Kenya to help out on his Dad’s coffee plantation. As a young adult George was not too keen on being stuck there for the rest of his life. He decided to live a little and try out different jobs like being a gold prospector, even a goat trader and a professional safari hunter. By the age of 32, he became a Senior Wildlife Warden of the Northern Frontier District of Kenya and he then later married “Friederike Viktoria Gessner” who came to be known as Joy Adamson. The nickname, Joy, was obtained from her 2nd of 3 marriages. The 3rd marriage being to George.
You’re probably wondering when the famous Elsa from Joy’s world renown book “born free” comes into the picture… It’s a rather tragic story actually. One day while hunting George shot a lioness in self-defence. He then realised she was a mother protecting her cubs. As they lay there in their innocence George couldn’t leave these defenceless cubs without a mother to protect themselves. What type of human being would leave these cubs to die? Not George. Feeling rather guilty he decided to take them in. Two of them went to a zoo but George and Joy kept the smallest cub which they named Elsa (the star of Born Free). As much as the thought of having a giant lion as pet around was an enticing one, the Adamsons decided to raise her in a way where she could be reintroduced back into the wild.
Elsa was encouraged to develop her instincts to hunt and to survive in the wild. After many years she was released and fascinatingly she continued her bond of trust and affection with the Adamsons. She continued to be their dearest friend right up until her death from what was believed to be a tick disease. Elsa is buried in Meru National Park and to this day many visitors go to Meru to visit her grave and pay their respects.
In 1961 George retired from his position as a warden to devote his life to working with lions. A few years later he moved to Kora to continue the rehabilitation of captive or orphaned big cats for eventual reintroduction into the wild. Sadly in 1989, he was murdered by shifta bandits when he went to rescue his assistant and another tourist not too far from his camp. You will find his grave in the Kora National Park near his brother Terance (whom he was very close to) and two lions Super Cub and Mugi, a lion released into Kora after George’s death.
In short Kora National park was the backdrop of George’s epic story. It was the place he called home for many years, this is where he raised his lions and this is the place he was murdered and buried. Have a look at this incredible interview of George Adamson where he talks very fondly about Elsa https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=btggzW4Exok
Adamson falls bridge
It was no easy feat getting there, the drive takes you through Meru National park which takes around 5-6 hours, however, you’re treated to a scenic picnic site with the rumble of the Adamsons falls in the distance!
The Tana river in all her majesty looks inviting, but you would be wise to not take the plunge, as she’s filled with a large number of crocs. In the morning as we were having breakfast, just across the banks, a crocodile came up out of the water and basked on the warm, rocky bank heated by the morning sun. A chilling reminder of how easy it is for us to get devoured by one.
This picnic site (our campsite for the night) also has flushing toilets and cold showers (a relief from that heat!) Makes me wonder why we always tend to go to hot places for these trips?!
As the sun set you’d think the temperature would drop, but you’d be wrong and with the darkness came lots of bugs! But hey the night sky made up for that, literally stars, on stars and stars! I mean just look at the photos below, it’s spectacular!
Kampi Ya Simba – Lion Camp
“Yes… This is where you find the poachers.” Our guide eerily whispered as we entered Kora National Park. Once an entirely lawless land, Kora was and to an extent still is a derelict part of Kenya, it owes a lot of its existence to George Adamson. A dry landscape, where we mainly saw goats, lots of Guinea Fowl sprinting across the road and a few rock hyrax in and around our campsite. Kora’s undeniable beauty is a great attraction on its own. It took us another 5 – 6 hours from Adamsons fall bridge to reach “Kampi Ya Simba”. We were told there was a shortcut but the road had deteriorated, making it impassable for us.
As we entered Kampi Ya Simba it felt surreal that not so long ago this camp housed George’s lions. This very place is where he raised them, taught them how to hunt and eventually returned them to the wild. Reality hit when we saw the lion enclosure and some pretty torn up tyres hanging from a tree.
If you’re feeling adventurous you can climb Kora rock, to really take in the beauty of the park. Much of our time was spent sitting in the same huts George many years ago would have been relaxing. I could just imagine him sitting at the dining table, staring into the distance and puffing away at his pipe.
On our last day, we visited Geroge’s grave. He rests next to his brother, Terence and two of his lions.
Kampi Ya Simba is open for anyone who wishes to visit it (you must go with a KWS ranger), but if you want to spend a night consult with the caretaker beforehand.
There are no set costs for anyone who visits and stays at Kampi Ya Simba, just pay the caretaker an amount that you feel appropriate. This, of course, should be based how many people there are in your group and how many nights you plan to stay.
Meru National Park
This was our last night of the trip. And we were all looking forward to it. We had read that this campsite had a swimming pool. Yes, an actual swimming pool! In the middle of a KWS national park! It was one of those moments where I didn’t actually want to believe it to save myself from utter disappointment if it wasn’t true. Driving through the campsite gates, I felt like a child, giddy with excitement when I saw the blue ripples of the pool. We were all hot and dusty from a day’s drive and I literally just wanted to jump in.
After checking out the public campsite, we asked the caretakers if we could pitch our tents next to the pool instead. Since the pool had bathrooms, showers, toilets and running taps, it was a given that we would camp there for the night.
If you don’t feel like pitching a tent, Bwatherongi has a few bandas (which can hold 2-4 pax) each has outdoor bbq pits and their own bathrooms.
All in all Meru and Kora National park are wonderful parks to visit, I just wish we had more time there. I would recommend you spend at least 3 nights there since each park is huge! You would also need a ranger to accompany you, not only can they help guide you through the parks they’re also there for your protection.
Here is also some useful information about conservation fees by KWS:
If you want to have a look at more vintage photos of George Adamson go to this website: http://www.fatheroflions.org
5 thoughts on “Meru and Kora National Park – A nostalgic trip”
This is such an interesting piece! Love it xx
Thanks so much Gideon!
This is the article I have been waiting for, Meru NP is one of my favorite parks and it’s great to see it done such justice. The video was a really nice touch and the star photos were especially r well done. This is a trip I would really have loved to be a part of. You didn’t give much information on the Kora side of things. Whats currently going on at the camp and is it accessible to the public? Any associated costs?
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Thanks so much! 😀 Always appreciate your feedback.
Yeah, we had initially discussed going to Turkana (in December, you weren’t free then) we had to change our plans due to safety reasons. I’ve just added a little more info about the costings. Kampi Ya Simba is open for visitors but you’d have to consult with the caretaker if you wish to spend a night.
Meru National Park should be marketed more. Its a destination so unique. Thank you for sharing this information with the whole world.
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