Off the beaten track: Shompole Wilderness

Smack in the middle of nowhere.

After an hour of seemingly aimless driving in wild, remote dusty country, Johann du Toit stops his vehicle in front of 5 Maasai gentlemen holding glasses of fruit juices, who seemed to appear out of the blue. “Welcome to Shompole Wilderness”, they said. I’m stupefied! There had been no signage, no indication of a building, just towering termite castles for miles and then bam! we had arrived! So cleverly constructed is Shompole Wilderness.

Human height Termite Castle
Shompole Maasai hosts

Five and a half hours earlier, we had descended Corner Baridi and proceeded down the smoothest ride to Magadi Town. The road is fantastic with hardly any other vehicles. The rains had paid this beautiful Masai country in the south-east of the Great Rift Valley a visit and the result was incredible greenery against the largest bluest skies. We stop to register at the barrier of Tata Chemicals Magadi Limited which is flanked on either side by the lake and large flocks of the lesser flamingoes. TCML (formerly Magadi Soda Company) is the largest manufacturer of soda ash in Africa; the mineral is used to produce household products, industrial chemicals and agricultural inputs.

Pink Lesser flamingoes
Lake Magadi

After picking a glass of juice, we follow the three gentleman down a winding lane that opened up to a beautiful green space – an amazing contrast to the dry, brown land that we had encountered a few minutes before. We sit down for an introductory brief by Johann.

Located on the banks of the Ewaso Nyiro River, Shompole Wilderness is owned and managed by the du Toit family – Johann, Samantha, his wife and their two children Seyia and Taru. Seyia, a perfect hostess served us bread and kept us entertained with stories about living in the bush – she is definitely running her own camp/lodge someday. The camp stands on community land adjacent to the Shompole Conservancy and an important wildlife corridor in this pristine bushland. The Nguruman escarpment stands sentry over this expansive land which extends over 250,000 acres. The tents are sumptuous as are the meals which are tailored to accommodate the hot Magadi weather.

Tented room
Pool

Between Lake Magadi, River Ewaso Nyiro and the acres of unspoilt wilderness, Shompole has so much to offer. The choice between kayaking and tubing is easy to make for me. However as I sit with my bum in the hollow center of the black tube in the middle of the river, scared that I would topple over and fall in the brown waters, I start questioning if it was the right choice after all. Johann gives instructions on how to use our arms as oars to help us propel forward and sideways. Its all useless as I keep forgetting and head to the opposite direction. Sigh! Later in the evening, we take an evening nature walk as we head to a sundowner spot. The sun shows off beautifully in this part of Africa; everyone deserves to experience a Magadi sunset.

Tubing down the river
Sunset over Shompole

A male baboon knows when the female wants to mate by looking at the shade of pink of her bum. Close by, a baby baboon hangs from its mother’s belly while a teenage baboon grooms another. We’re trailing a troop of monkeys as our guide Sisco from the Lale’nok Research Centre gives interesting facts about the Olive baboon. The baboons keep getting away from us each time we try to get close. One of us is wearing red; baboons don’t like red. The colour reminds them of the red shukas that the Masai wear. Masai and baboons are not exactly friendly. Samantha runs the center which carries out research on all types of wildlife.

Lale’enok Research Centre
Walking with baboons

“Anyone want to go for a night game drive?” Johann asks. You can experience nocturnal wildlife either on night game drives or at the animal hide. The hide, an underground bunker, is positioned in front of a man made waterhole where animals and birds regularly sip from. Equipped with beds and other conveniences you can actually spend the night in the hide as you watch wildlife come and go.

Summary

Shompole is an exclusive-use camp, it is therefore recommended for groups of family or friends who can take up the entire property.

Highly recommended also for travelers who love an active trip because there’s so much to do from tubing, to kayaking, walking, game drives and much more.

It is hot! Carry light clothes.

One comment on “Off the beaten track: Shompole Wilderness

  • Ivy , Direct link to comment

    I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading this, especially because Shompole has always been high up on my bucket list. Love the photos and it’s interesting that baboons don’t like the colour red lol. Overall, can’t wait to experience the place! Thanks for sharing

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