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It’s easy to form a mental picture of a hotel just by its name, such as the Icehotel or Treehotel in Sweden. However, when I recently traveled to the Elephant Bedroom Camp in Kenya, I wasn't immediately sure what to expect: Would elephants actually be in my bedroom? Or, does the name simply mean the entire lodge is elephant-themed?
As it turned out, my Elephant Bedroom Camp experience didn't involve sleeping with any elephants, nor did it mean cozying up under elephant-print sheets. It did, however, involve quite a few massive mammals roaming about freely — and that was enough for me.
The Elephant Bedroom Camp is a 12-tent safari lodge located near the Samburu National Reserve in central Kenya, on the southern border of Samburu County. It’s owned and operated by Atua Enkop Africa, which literally means “out of Africa” in the Maa language. Formed in 2006, the Kenyan-owned business also operates Mbweha Camp in Lake Nakuru National Park, as well as two lodges in the Maasai Mara National Reserve: Tipilikwani Mara Camp and Mara Ngenche Safari Camp.
Elephant Bedroom Camp is also about a five-hour drive from the Kenyan capital, as it’s situated 200 miles northeast of Nairobi. The property is easily accessible via Safarilink or Air Kenya, with each airline providing regular daily flights from Nairobi's regional Wilson Airport to the Kalama, Oryx and Buffalo airstrips in the Samburu area.
Upon landing, I immediately noticed endless hunks of shimmering raw rose quartz blanketing the ground. After we climbed into our modified, open, four-wheel-drive Land Cruisers, we were immediately treated to a game drive en route to the lodge, spotting giraffes, Somali ostriches, two species of oryxes, an impala and many endangered Grevy’s zebras (imperial zebras) on the way. We also witnessed a few dainty giraffe gazelles, so named because they strongly resemble baby giraffes.
The property is set on the banks of the Ewaso Nyiro River, which originates at Mount Kenya. The river is the water source for the thirsty herds of elephants and other wildlife in Samburu, so the location of the camp facilitates many close encounters between elephants and guests. Yet, while it’s tempting to interact with the elephants, the lodge’s Kenyan staff discourages any direct contact with them.
During check-in at Elephant Bedroom Camp, I didn't immediately notice any elephants, but I did observe an abundance of doum palm trees. Also called gingerbread trees, these lush and bountiful clusters of palm trees are relatively short, compared to the tall, thin, solitary ones I've come to know in my native California. The doum palms also yield an edible oval-shaped fruit.
My first experience with an elephant at the camp came in the morning, when I awoke to what sounded like a giant, crumpling paper bag. I looked out the window above my bed and observed a solitary elephant about 10 feet from my tent, trampling across leaves while wildly swinging its trunk. We briefly made eye contact before it calmly turned around and left. Later, as I was having my continental-style breakfast outdoors, another elephant casually trundled up to the dining tables, at which point the staff calmly asked us to quietly move away. Soon, the elephant grew disinterested and walked away on its own, permitting us to resume eating.
Certainly, Elephant Bedroom Camp isn't the only place to observe wildlife in the area. The lodge provides accredited local guides to lead multiple daily game drives, which are usually capped off with picnic meals or the trademark safari "sundowner." On our safaris, we saw a range of fascinating creatures, from tiny dik-dik antelopes to majestic leopards and more.
When not participating in any of the day's game drives, the luxurious tented lounge at Elephant Bedroom Camp is an ideal place to rest and elephant-watch, while also absorbing the beauty of the riverine surroundings. The camp's standalone tents are also fantastic for relaxation, as each one features a hot tub on the deck. There is no Wi-Fi access in the rooms, however; it’s only available in the lounge. But with all the monkeys swinging from cabin to cabin, there's plenty of built-in entertainment here without the internet.
All told, the Elephant Bedroom Camp appears to be straight out of an early 20th-century adventure novel. It's a postcard-perfect study of contrasts between adventure and leisure, elegantly bridging the gap between the rustic and the modern while uniting the exotic and the familiar. Guests may not actually come face to face with any elephants, but in a place like this, they won't care.