Frequently Asked Questions
Tips for your trip
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 Big North is the collective name for the counties of Samburu, Laikipia and Marsabit. This huge wilderness area is home to many different pastoral tribes who live their life sharing the area with wildlife. This makes the Big North a fabulous place to visit for an introduction both culture and the wilderness.
Rock climbing, rhino tracking, bartering in a local market, game driving, nature walks, or simply sitting watching a view with a cold drink in hand; the Big North offers an endless list of activities in which to partake.
So, whether you are an adrenaline junkie or a safari and sundowner type, or an adventure family, the Big North says Karibu!
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.
If you are looking for adventure, heading off the beaten track 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.
The closer you are to Nanyuki, the higher the altitude. So 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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! If staying at the Bandas we have chefs to do the work for you but the ideas listed below are still useful. We also have suggested recipes with ingredients to bring listed below.
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. If staying at the Bandas you need only bring drinking water.
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.
cold meat cuts
cheese fruits for 3 meals
UHT milk for 1 or 2 meals plus tea/coffee
Margarine or butter
Pasta of your choice
Meat of your choice – tuna/beef mince/pork mince
Snacks of your choice – crisps/nuts/popcorn
Cooked at home before departure – a beef stew with vegetables of a curry of some nature and frozen.
Chicken legs or thighs.
For the dough:
350gms – all purpose flour
100mm warm water
Salt to season
Mix the flour with the water until it a lump of rollable dough. Roll out to the required size – 3 small or 1 large. Bake in oven for 10 minutes and set aside.
For the toppings:
3 ripe tomatoes fine chopped
1 medium red onions fine chopped
1 clove garlic minced
Grated black pepper and salt to season
250 grams mince beef or 250 grams mushrooms
2 tablespoons cooking oil
200 grams Mozzarella cheese – grated
Add oil, onions, tomatoes, garlic and meat or mushrooms and fry until soft and brown. Season with salt and pepper. Place sauce mixture on the pizza bases; sprinkle with cheese and place in oven. Serve once the cheese has melted.
5 medium potatoes
Cut potatoes into bite size pieces. Boil in salted water until tender but not falling apart – approx. 8-10 minutes. Drain and toss in a bowl with mayonnaise until all covered.
CUCUMBER & TOMATO SALAD – Sammy – Nkoteiya
1 large tomato
Thin slice each item and lay out on a small platter. Season with salt and pepper.
RED CABBAGE SALAD – Henry – Koija
1 red cabbage – finely chopped
1 red onion finely chopped
1 orange – squeezed for juice
1 apple cubed into small pieces
Fry the cabbage until soft, add the orange juice, onion and apple. Simmer for 5 minutes.
Can be served hot or cold
1 whole chicken
1 chicken stock cube
1 piece rosemary
3 cloves garlic
50 g butter
Handful of breadcrumbs
Salt and pepper to taste
Fry onion with the cooking oil, combine the onion with breadcrumbs and the egg, mix well and use to stuff the chicken. Seal the opening to keep the stuffing inside.
Combine all the other ingredients. Add a small amount of water and place in oven until almost dry. Use this dry sauce to rub into the chicken as marinade.
Roast chicken in over. Normally around 1 hour.
Use juice from the cooking tray to make gravy.
YELLOW LENTIL STEW
Chopped fresh tomatoes
Wash and boil the lentils until tender.
In a separate pan, fry onion until browned. Add garlic and simmer for 4 minutes.
Add cumin, curry powder, pepper and the chopped tomatoes. Simmer for 6/7 minutes.
Add the lentils and mix well.
You can add other vegetables to this –root vegetables like pumpkin, carrots or butternut squash should be boiled with lentils.
Chicken pieces on the bone
Onions – fine chopped
Garlic – fine minced
Tomatoes – chopped
Fry onions in cooking oil until golden brown, add garlic and simmer. Add the chopped tomatoes and simmer until soft. Add the spices and tomato paste and simmer until fragrant.
Add the chicken pieces and mix well. Let simmer for 30 minutes, stirring to stop sticking.
Serve with rice or chapatti.
Wash, peel and Cub all the vegetables. Blanch the potatoes and carrots. Fry the onions in oil with garlic, when soft add tomatoes and tomato paste. Simmer until soft. Add all the spices, mix well and simmer another couple of minutes. Add all the vegetables and simmer for 15 -20 minutes.
Serve with rice or chapatti.
BEETROOT AND RED ONION TART – VEGAN
For 2 pax
100 grams wheat flour
Salt for taste
1 pinch sugar
50 grams margarine
0.25 mm warm water
Mix all ingredients together and knead into a dough. Roll the dough out and then spread out in the baking tine and bake for 5 minutes.
For the filling:
1 medium red onion sliced
1 medium beetroot chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
1 spoon oil
Fry onion for approx. 5 minutes til soft. Add beetroots, salt and pepper and stir for a couple of minites.
Lay the mixture on top of the pastry and then bake for 7-8 minutes.
GRILLED BEEF OR PORK FILLET
250Gms per person beef or pork
1 tps white wine vinegar
1 clove minced garlic
Salt and pepper to taste
1 table spoon cooking oil
Mix the spices and vinegar and place the fillet in a bowl with the spices to marinade. Heat grill/charcoal, and then cook to the client’s taste. Beef can be served rare to well done; pork should be medium to well done.
2 large onions chopped
1 clove garlic
5 peeled tomatoes
2 red pepper
2 green pepper
1 stock cube
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp salt
2 kg goat meat
1 tspn thyme
1 tablespoon tomato paste
Fry onions till tender. Add tomatoes, and garlic, stir and simmer until soft. Add peppers and herbs and simmer covered for 5 minutes. Add the goat meat and simmer covered for at least one hour.
Can be used on any meat.
4 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons curry powder
2 tablespoons Garam masala
3 tablspoons oil
1 teaspoon chilli powder
A pinch of salt
1 table spoon water
250grm per person meat cut into equal size cubes
Peal and crush garlic and ginger. Mix all the ingredients except the meat into a bowl and mix to form a paste. Test the flavour and add if needed. Add the meat and ensure all pieces are covered in the paste. Cover and leave to marinade for 6 hours.
Use skewers to make kebabs of the meat. Cook over an open fire, keep turning the skewers to cook evenly.
5 peeled tomatoes
1 large red onion
½ green pepper
½ red pepper
2 cloves garlic
¼ piece ginger
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon coriander
2 tins of beans – any two types
Chop the vegetables into bite size pieces. Fry the onion, ginger and garlic until soft. Add all other ingredients except beans and simmer for 10 – 15 mins. Add the drained tins of beans and simmer for 5 minutes. Serve hot.
AUBERGINE, TOMATO, COCONUT MILK BAKE
3 peeled tomatoes
1 clove garlic
¼ piece ginger
1 red onion
1 tablespoon tomato puree
Pinch of salt
Black pepper to taste
½ tin coconut milk
Slice the aubergines and bake for 10 minutes. In a pan, fry the onions, garlic and ginger under soft. Add the tomatoes and other spices and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the aubergines and coconut milk and bring to boil. Then simmer for 2 minutes. Serve with rice.
ROASTED MBUZI – NYAMA CHOMA
2 pieces goat leg
1 table spoon salt
Soak the goat legs in water with the salt. Just enough to cover the meat. Soak for at least 15 minutes.
Grill in a jiko for 45 minutes.
Chop tomatoes and onions and crush the garlic. Fry the onions until soft, add the garlic. Then add the tomatoes and simmer for 2 minutes. Add tomato paste, cumin and coriander and black pepper to taste. Add the mince beef and keep boiling with constant stirring for 5 minutes. Turn down gas and simmer for another 5 minutes. Serve hot.
Pasta – can be any kind of pasta –most popular is spaghetti
Place water, oil and salt in a pan and bring to the boil. Add the spaghetti and keep boiling for 7-8 minutes or longer depending on the type of pasta. Drain using a sieve and serve with the sauce on top.
MBUZI GOAT CURRY
For 3 people
250 grams goat meat
20 grams curry powder
20 grams coconut milk
2 medium size tomatoes
1 medium size green pepper
2 tablespoon fresh or powder ginger
Slat to taste
1 medium red onion
2 cloves garlic
Optional tablespoon tomato paste
Black pepper to season
Cut the goat meat into bite size pieces and cook over gentle heat until tender. Set aside.
Chop onion finely and cook for 5 minutes until soft. Mince garlic and add to the onions. Add tomatoes and simmer until all soft and mashed. Add the goat meat and green pepper and keep on high heat for 10 minutes, then turn to simmer. Add the coconut milk, ginger, salt and black pepper to taste and simmer for 7-8 minutes. Serve hot with chapatti, rice or ugali.
The Big North landscape varies hugely! With lots of sandy luggas, rocky 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.
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.
Community Conservancy rangers 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. rangers will be completely self-sufficient during their time with you.
Dear Rufo, I just wanted to let you know how much we enjoyed our time in the Big North. Everyone was so cheerful and kind, and all our meals delicious. We loved sleeping under the stars at Koija, the stunning view at Nkoteiya and the campfire under the fig tree at Olgaboli. We feel refreshed and rejuvenated and will be back.