Meru National Park
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Meru is the least visited of all the main parks and reservers. The main cause is the heavy drop in visitor numbers during the 1980s as a result of banditry and poaching, which almost wiped out the entire rhino population.
Since a decade, KWS has firm control of the situation again and international organisations have invested heavily in this park. Visitor numbers have increased again from 1000 in 1997 to 10,000 in 2004, but are still very low in comparison to Masai Mara or Amboseli.
My tip: visit the park now while you still have it practically to yourself. Though wildlife viewing is a bit more difficult here because of the lavish vegetation, it’s scenery is stunning: unspoiled and pristine.
Eurasian roller in Meru National Park, Kenya
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Meru is located in central Kenya, 200 miles (320 kilometers) north-east of Nairobi. It’s part of a big protected area along the Tana river which also encompasses Kora National Park and the Mwingi, Rohole and Bisanadi National Reserves. The park covers 870 square km.
The riverine forest, savannahs with long grass and lush swamps – fostered by the many rivers and heavy rains in this area – make Meru a great place for fauna lovers. The western part is rugged and hilly with rich volcanic soils. The vegetation is dense in many parts of the park, so you’ll never know what’s behind the next corner.
In fact, visitors regularly get lost in the vast wilderness, so it’s wise to take a guide with you, who can be hired at the entry gates. Apart from 3 large rivers – the Tana, Ura and Rojeweru rivers – the park is crossed by many other permanent streams. A part of the park is designated as a wilderness area without any roads.
The downside of all this natural beauty is the good cover it gives to wildlife. While many big animals are present, it’s not always easy to spot them.
Be aware that security is not as high in Meru as in Masai Mara or other popular parks. It’s no reason to stay away, but ask the park wardens about the precautions to take, or go with a guide.
Reticulated giraffes are quite common in Meru Natinonal Park
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Large herds of elephants, reticulated giraffes and buffaloes are present in the park as well as lions, hippos and cheetahs. In the more open areas you’ll find generuks, zebras and ostriches. Antelopes are pretty rare. White rhinos have been introduced into the park and now number around 40. Leopards have been released in the Laikipia area, too, but they are hard to spot.
Guided walks, and day and night game drives start from Elsa’s Kopje Tented Camps (see below). It’s main competitor, Leopard Rock Lodge, offers guided bush walks and camel walks.
With all the rivers and streams, the park also gives some great opportunities for fishing.
The former home of famous author Joy Adamson and her husband George can be visited. Joy Adamson wrote the international bestsellers “Born Free” about raising young lion Elsa, and “Queen of Shaba”. She was murdered by her former employee Paul Ekai (a Turkana tribesman) in 1980 in Kenya, while her (later ex-) husband was killed 9 years later by poachers.
You can also visit the Rhino Sanctuary, one of the best places in Kenya to see wild rhinos and the Rojewero river, where you can see hippos and crocodiles.
With the Bwatherongi Campsite & Bandas, the KWS runs one of the best budget park camps in Kenya. It has great facilities for a modest price. Throughout the park there are also a dozen ‘special’ campsites with no facilities. Not all are open continuously, so ask the park wardens. On the top-end side, there’s the beautiful Elsa’s Kopje Tented Camps and the also recommendable Leopard Rock Lodge.
You can only access park with a 4WD (take care: there’s no petrol station in the park) or with an organized tour. The park has a main airstrip at Kina and a second, smaller one at Elsa’s Kopje. The two entrance gates are Murera Gate and Ura Gate. Entry fees are for non-Kenyans $75 for adults, $40 for children.
Kenya wildlife resorts - Facts page
Introduction to Kenya National Parks