Kenya : Meru
Meru National Park is a beautiful, wild and little visited park on the equator near Mount Kenya, and is part of a vast 4,000 sq kilometre conservation area along the Tana River, encompassing Meru and Kora National Parks and the adjacent National Reserves of Bisanadi and Mwingi. Immortalised by Joy Adamson as the home of Elsa the lioness in her book Born Free, there are next to no vehicles here and with only two lodges in the park, you feel that you have the park pretty much to yourself.
Meru suffered heavy poaching in the 70s and 80s but, thanks to a good park warden and game scouts, is now once again home to the Big Five. Rhino were recently reintroduced, and a great number of other species including Grevy's zebra, Reticulated giraffe, leopard, gerenuk and lesser kudu, are thriving. There is also some great bird life, and you can go fishing for catfish and certain types of barbel. It is the only National Park where you are allowed to walk and go on night drives.
Although it's not a place to tick off the big animals, the game improves year on year, and if you enjoy seclusion and wilderness, or are looking for somewhere a bit of the beaten track, it's a lovely place to spend a few days.
Elsa's Kopje, named after Elsa the lioness raised by George and Joy Adamson, is a magnificent lodge with excellent food and very good guiding. It is a small and intimate lodge a beautiful situation high up on a kopje, with nine beautifully constructed rooms all of different shapes and sizes, some with outside baths and all very private. There is also a family cottage set slightly apart from the main lodge. The rocks of the kopje are incorporated into the rooms, which are all open-fronted with fantastic views which stretch for miles over the open bush. The game here improves year on year.
Offbeat Meru is a small six-tent camp which brings you back to the simple pleasures of being on safari and in the bush. Traditional and low-key, each tent is furnished with a large iron bed and has its own en-suite bathroom with a traditional bucket shower and flushing loo. Dining is informal and hosted in the mess tent or around the campfire. There is also, despite its simplicity, a stunning infinity swimming pool, and nothing beats cooling down after a game drive and watching the wildlife as it comes to drink from the Bisanadi River below you. Activities include day and evening game drives, bush breakfasts, picnics and fly fishing in the local rivers, and the days are tailored to suit you.