Samatian Island – Lake Baringo

First published in Nomad Magazine (Issue 16 – Weekend Away)

Tucked away at the bottom of the Rift Valley is Lake Baringo, a fresh water lake renowned for its array of bird life, breathtaking sunsets and spectacular surroundings. Lake Baringo is also a Ramsar site, having been recognized internationally as a vitally important wetland.

Lake Baringo is home to several small islands but we had set out to explore one in particular, Samatian Island. We left Nairobi at the crack of dawn, 275km and 4hours 30mins later, we were at the shores of Lake Baringo at Robert’s Camp. This is where we would park our cars for the next 3 days (charges are 500/- per vehicle per day). We eagerly waited for the Island manager, Richard, to come collect the 12 of us, our food, drinks and luggage on his two Sesse Canoe boats. Samatian Island is another 20minute boat ride from Robert’s Camp.

Samatian3

Samatian Island is a small and exclusive private island on Lake Baringo. It boasts panoramic views across the waters with the Laikipian Escarpment as a backdrop. The island offers self-catered accommodation comprising of five open-plan thatched rooms. Two of the rooms are family units with a partitioned bedroom, verandah, sitting room and bathroom. The other three rooms are en suite with sitting areas. One of the family rooms also has a rooftop deck, and the other has the best bathroom view and a tub for added luxury. All bedding, mosquito nets, towels, loo paper, soap, firewood and charcoal are provided on the island.

The island can comfortably fit 12 adults and 3 children. Note: there is an option to book full board catering for 6pax or more.

You have to be totally self-sufficient so plan out your meals in advance and ensure you take everything with you on to the island. Once you’re on the island, you can relax, put your feet up and brace yourselves for the next few days of ultimate tranquility. The staff on the island include chefs and cleaners and trust me, they’ve got all your needs covered.

There is a communal bar area, which until recently was underwater due to the dramatic rise in water levels. However, the good people at Samatian Island have repainted and refurbished it and it’s good to use.

There is (or was) also a pool but that’s still underwater and is now a plunge pool. I think I preferred this rather than being confined to a pool. It is a little slippery so be wary. Yes, there are hippos and crocodiles in the lake but the staff said they’re not usually on that side of the island, and what’s life without a little daring adventure, right? Just don’t swim after dark. Your booking also comes with two kayaks so if you’re not up for the risk then you can still have some fun paddling out into the lake.

There is a separate dining area on the island under a mess tent with views of the lake. The staff usually set the table up there with plates, glasses, crockery etc. and bring you your food up there for breakfast and dinner. For lunch, they set up the grill for us down by the lake/pool area as per our request.

It is Kenya, you are in Africa. There are harmless snakes on the island and two species of scorpions so be vigilant of that.

Sunrise and sunsets on Samatian Island are absolutely magical! I cannot stress this enough. You also enjoy a spectacular starry sky at night. If you are planning a trip here then try to book during or close to a full moon, because I witnessed the most magnificent moon rise during our stay there.

What can you do?

Apart from the usual just chill out, relax and do nothing, there’s plenty of activities to keep you (and the kids) busy. For one, you can go on scenic boat trips with Richard on the Sesse Canoe’s where you can bait fish eagles with fish from the Njemp fishermen (boat rides are an extra cost of 2000/- and fits 7pax). Canoe around the island on the kayaks provided, and for added fun, take a fishing rod with you and try your luck. Take nature and bird walks over the top of Samatian. Make a trip to visit the local Njemps tribes. Take a walk around Giraffe Island, home to six endangered Rothschild’s, ostrich, warthogs, impalas and hyrax (500/- per person conservation fee and 2000/- for the boat ride). And lastly, sundowners to a beach, Richard can arrange this for you.

Pros

  • Remote and exclusive getaway
  • Ideal for large groups
  • Unique, one-of-a-kind location. Stunning views!
  • Chefs! And daily cleaning
  • An entire island just for you!

Cons

  • Dramatic rise in water levels means no chlorinated pool (it’s now a plunge pool)

How to book & costs

A night on Samatian Island is 6000/- per person on a self-catered basis regardless of how many people you are. To book the island you can email them on infosamatian@gmail.com or call 0700 888 646. And check out their website www.samatianisland.com for more information.

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