FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

Browse through these FAQs to find answers to commonly raised questions. If you’re a new customer of one of the services below, we encourage you to read through the relevant articles.

Visiting the Big North

The Big North is unlike any other destination on earth. This is a once-in-a-lifetime destination; where wilderness and culture meets epic adventure. And the icing on the cake? It is responsible tourism at its very best.

The collective name for Northern Kenya, The Big North refers primarily to the counties of Samburu, Isiolo, Baringo, Meru, Laikipia and Marsabit.

When to go

In Kenya, we have two seasons, the dry season December through to March and June through to October. And the wet season is normally in April, May and October, November although with today’s weather this is extremely variable.

 

If it’s wildlife you are after on your trip then we would recommend visiting in the dry season, the best thing to do is find a water hole and what the wildlife and birdlife come in from afar to drink.

 

If you are keen on flowers, plants and a lush green landscape then visiting just after the rains is a must! There is nothing better than seeing the North covered in a carpet of flowers after the rains.

Getting around

If you are looking for adventure, heading off the beaten track or to explore the Big North then the best way to do this is via a 4 wheel drive vehicle. The majority of the NRT member conservancies are accessible on dirt roads although these become difficult to travel on in the wet season.

Click here to explore The Big North map

Weather

If you are staying in an area near Mt Kenya then you can expect hot sunny days and cold chilly nights but as you move further North you can expect warmer temperatures. Whilst it is normally a dry heat, one can expect the temperatures to move into the high 30s so make sure you have plenty of water, a hat and sunscreen with you.

 

It’s also a good idea to travel with a set of warm clothes, jumper and jeans as you never know what the weather will do and don’t forget your waterproofs.

Towns

When visiting the Big North you will most likely start your trip from Nanyuki Town which is found approximately 196km from Nairobi. Nestling on the slopes of Mt Kenya, Nanyuki is a bustling town with several supermarkets, restaurants, hotels, fuel stations etc. If you are heading into the bush for a few nights camping then we would suggest doing all your final bits and pieces i.e. shopping, fuel stops, and water collection in Nanyuki.

 

If you are heading north towards Marsabit then you will come across Isiolo Town. This is a good final reliable spot for filling up with fuel. You will also be able to get some basics such as fruit, vegetables, bread and a few other staples.

Fuel

The final places to get reliable fuel is in Nanyuki or Isiolo Town. If you are doing a long trip with a lot of driving around the north then we would strongly recommend carrying all the fuel you will need with you.

To bring

Clothing – in general, long-sleeved, lightweight shirts and trousers, with a sweater and/or light jacket are appropriate for the evenings/early mornings.  Shorts and t-shirts are suitable for the hotter days, as dress is casual.  The campsites and bandas do not have heating, so bring something warm in which to sleep.  A good pair of walking shoes or boots is advisable when out on walks.  However, within the campsites or bandas flipflops or sandals may be worn.  Neutral colors, such as grey, khaki, browns or greens, are best; bright colors and patterns, including white, can spook animals and birds. Try to avoid black or navy blue as these can attract tsetse fly.

Sundries – a wide brim hat. Strong, at least 30 factor suncream. Torch per person and extra batteries.  Binoculars. Camera equipment plus batteries. Basic first Aid Kit containing Insect-repellant spray for the body, rehydrant powders, anti-diarrhea tablets, aspirin, generic antibiotics, anti-histamine tablets/cream and plasters. Shampoo, soap, toothpaste and toothbrush.

 

Camping – Tents, mattresses or lilos (don’t forget a footpump). Sleeping bags or bedding.  Folding chairs and table. Camping gas cooker or burners – in some places you will be able to make a camp fire to cook. 2 Saucepans, 1 large frying pan. Spatula and large cooking spoon. Sharp chefs knife. Tin opener/bottle opener. 1 plate per person, 1 mug per person (can be used for hot and cold drinks), 1 knife/fork/spoon per person.  Dish wash soap and sponge. Dish towel. Paraffin lanterns or solar lights. Towel per person and bucket for a bush ‘shower’.

Bandas – All sleeping and cooking utensils are provided.  You need bring only your clothing, sundries and food/drinks.

Washing up water

Each campsite is different; some provide water and others don’t. Please check the facilities available at your campsite as there may be water available for washing etc.

 

If you aren’t sure what to expect we would recommend carrying the water you need with you. Water is scarce in the North.

Telephone Signal

As you disappear into the bush so does your signal! Amazing! When you book a campsite in one of the NRT member community conservancies we will provide you with a list of emergency numbers to contact should you have an issue – please keep them handy. You will also be expected to have a community scout with you – they will have a radio on them for communication purposes should there be a problem.

If you have a satelite phone then we would recommend travelling with it if you are heading completely off the beaten track.

 

We would also recommend letting a family member or a friend when to expect your return.

Food & Water

If you are an experienced self-catering camper then this may not be of use to you; but if this is a first time experience, then we hope it will help!

Water is the most important item; plan on a minimum of 5 litres of drinking water per person per day.  We also suggest bringing at least one large 25 litre jerrycan of tap water for washing up and sponge bathing.

For meals, you want quick and easy, one or two pot or pan meals where possible. It is also a great idea to take up ready made meals that just need reheating, especially for the evening dinner on the night of arrival.

Below you’ll find a suggested meal plan for a 2 night stay at either one of our Bandas or one of our campsites.  The only difference is that at the campsites you will also need to bring all the cooking and eating utensils whereas at the bandas these are provided for you.

Drinks other than water are your preference – bring 2 or 3 packets of juice, soft drinks, beers, spirits and wines as you like.

Day 1 – Arriving in time for lunch, we suggest a sandwich based meal so no need to cook.  Bring bread, cold meats or cheeses and vegetables as you prefer to make sandwiches with some easily portable fruits like oranges, apples, bananas and melons.  For dinner we suggest that you make a stew or curry at home before you travel; lots of vegetables and a meat of your choice.  Freeze the stew after you’ve cooked it in a pot that can travel with you and be put onto a burner or fire to heat up.  This makes dinner really quick and easy.

Day 2 – Fruits again are very easy.  Bring oatmeal with a jar of honey and the UHT milk. Use the remainder of the sandwich bread for toast with margarine or butter.  Eggs travel easily as do tins of baked beans. Sausages or bacon should be eaten today if you bring them and make sure they are frozen when you leave home.  Don’t forget tea and/or coffee and sugar.  For lunch we suggest a salad – lettuce, tomatoes, avocado for example – with a balsamic vinegar instead of a complicated dressing and pieces of chicken that you precooked at home and eat cold.  Dinner can be an easy pasta dish.  The pasta of your choice and then make a sauce from tinned tomatoes, garlic, onions and a jar of pesto sauce.  You can then add what you prefer into this – a tin of tuna fish, or extra vegetables like baby marrow or aubergines, or beef/pork mince as you prefer.  If you like something sweet then chocolate bars are the easiest to carry.

Day 3 – Breakfast again, if you had fruits and toast on day two then have eggs and oatmeal on day three.  Have some snacks to last you the later morning, crisps, nuts, popcorn etc.  as you start to head home and we recommend stopping off for lunch at any one of the restaurants in Nanyuki.

 

Shopping List

Bread

cold meat cuts

cheese fruits for 3 meals

oatmeal

honey

UHT milk for 1 or 2 meals plus tea/coffee

Margarine or butter

Eggs

Baked beans

Lettuce/tomatoes/avocado

Balsamic vinegar

Tinned tomatoes/garlic/onions/pesto

Pasta of your choice

Meat of your choice – tuna/beef mince/pork mince

Cooking oil

Snacks of your choice – crisps/nuts/popcorn

Chocolate bars

Tea/coffee/sugar

 

Cooked at home before departure – a beef stew with vegestables of a curry of some nature and frozen.

Chicken legs or thighs.

Landscape

The Big North landscape varies hugely! With lots of sandy luggas, rock Kopje’s and lava flows you won’t get bored of this stunning terrain. However the Northern landscape is hot and harsh, so be prepared for thorny bushes, not a lot of shade and a few bugs.

 

Make sure you have appropriate walking shoes and clothing with you for exploring this beautiful but wild landscape.

Wildlife

You will most likely come across wildlife whilst exploring The Big North, please remember these are wild animals and they need space. Do not approach wildlife, do not feed wildlife and please do treat them with respect.

 

If you are lucky enough you may come across one of the five species that are endemic to the Northern Kenya area; these are Grevy’s Zebra, Gerenuk, Rothschild Giraffe, the Somali Ostrich and Beisa Oryx.

 

It is worth noting that the Northern landscape is extremely different to the wide open grasslands of the Maasai Mara. The wildlife found in this area have massive territories to roam sometimes making you work harder to find wildlife.

Music

The sounds of the bush should be enough for your ears  but if you would like to play some music then please keep it to a low level so as not to disturb the wildlife in the area.

Alcohol

Please remember that you are in a beautiful wild area of Northern Kenya so drink responsibly.

Rubbish

Leave it as you found it! There is no rubbish collection on-site so we ask all visitors to ensure that they take with them all rubbish they produce.

Security

Community scouts will be provided for an additional 1000 KES per scout per day. We recommend taking 2x scouts so as one can help show you roads or walks while the other can look after your campsite. Scouts will be completely self-sufficient during their time with you.

Melakos Banda open Now!

A secret gem.

 

Melako Bandas is a self-catering banda set in the shade of Doum Palms and acacia trees on a stunning sand river. It is a fantastic little private paradise; a perfect little gate away for family and friends with an open area living room, a fully furnished kitchen and two en-suite bedrooms with three beds in each.