Camping in Kenya on a budget

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My friend Chris in his tent at Fisherman’s camp, 24th June,2018

I have just arrived home from an overnight camp in Naivasha. I am just about to run out of brain juice for the night, but I just had an idea to write about my experience and hope it inspires someone to take that risk and finally go camping.

There are a few reason to why I want to write this article.

  1. To inspire someone like me, who has wanted to camp for a very long time, but has just never taken the next step.
  2. To dispute any notion about how hard and expensive camping is.
  3. To prove that camping can be done in a day.

There are a lot of people who have wanted to try out camping and a number of things has stood in their way.

 

  1. Lacking company to camp with. -My brother cannot camp when there are hotel rooms.
  2. Overall cost of camping is costly- Transport there, rates of camping ground, food at campsite, renting camping gear.
  3. Finding Camping gear- tent,  sleeping bags, mattress, blankets,
  4. Choosing the perfect time for camping.
  5. Choosing where to camp.
  6. Planning and going for the camp.

This are not all the problems, but this are the main ones I faced. This is how I addressed each.

LACKING COMPANY TO CAMP WITH

Now, in Nairobi, there are a lot of fun activities to do that are common among people, but in my circles, camping was not one of them. Most people I know went for camps as scouts and girl guides, which is how I also went for camp, with the school and church.

So later on in life, after discovering my love for travel, I realized that camping is one way to cut down on travel costs. This is because camping is always cheaper than rooms. The only problem is that I couldn’t convince anyone. I tried it with my brother and he wondered why we should leave our home and travel so that we sleep outside on the ground.

This led me to seek a solution elsewhere. It was my constant suggestion of camping that led me to meet people who might have been interested. I literally brought it up in any conversation!

I realized that a lot of people are usually interested in trying out new things, it’s just always at the back of their minds and then the urge goes away. Once I identified people who might be interested, I thought we should start planning our trip and that is when the next problem set in.

OVERALL COST OF CAMPING IS HIGH

This proved true after outlining all the things we would need.  First was getting to a good campsite in areas like Naivasha would first require a car (which is not necessarily true). Car= fuel to and fro, then paying for camping, then renting camping gear, from tent to sleeping bag/mattresses to blankets. Another problem would be food and knowing some appetites….

All this were issues I had no idea about being someone who has never camped alone or with friends before. And as a budget traveler, cost is the one thing I love to cut. and in doing so, save on other activities I could enjoy.

I took my problems to Dr. Google. I found out about different camping sites around Kenya and read their rates on their websites for camping. Camping with rented gear is two to three times more costly than with your own gear.

Just take a look at the rates of the beautiful campsite I camped at.

Fisherman’s camp rates

Thus the first thing I would advise is,

If you want to make camping an activity you often do, I would be a good idea to invest in your own camping gear. I bought my tent at Nakumatt for only 2600/= (treading lightly on the ‘only’ part).

It is a three people tent (2 people comfortably) and I was surprised to be able to buy one in a supermarket. Seek and you will find, Ask and you shall be answered. Knock….moving on, you could also ask around to see if a friend has one. Options people!

Buy a sleeping bag. I got mine while I was a girl guide and it has served me till now, though it had taken a 9 year leave of absence. This is more portable than a mattress and blanket. However, some sleeping bags are very light and do not protect from the cold ground. Choose wisely. This is not set on stone however, because my friends slept on a small mattress(that could fit in their tent) and covered themselves with a duvet. So whatever is convenient, do that!

Carry your own food, drink and probably kuni (firewood). Ensure you look at the campsite policy first. At Fisherman’s camp, one is allowed to bring their own drinks and firewood for their campfire, but this is not the case everywhere. This is really cost effective. Coming for camp prepared saves a lot on cost.

With all these things to carry, you might wonder: how are you going to do it without a car?

The answer is…..I don’t know, for now. But as soon as I try you will be the first to know. But it must be possible with a plan.

FINDING CAMPING GEAR – I bought my tent for 2600/= in a supermarket. For sleeping bags, I looked around and didn’t find any thick in a supermarket but it can probably be found at Nairobi Sports House.

Other necessary camping gear

  1. Torch – we used our phone torches though..but they are not that bright unless you have the heavy duty X-TIGI next generation phone like me.
  2. Firewood – If you can buy it prior the better.
  3. blankets- sleeping outside is a challenge. it can get really cold.
  4. matresses

Do not overlook items that might not be provided.

Tissue, Soap, Towels, Toothpaste.

Also prepare for the weather: The weather might change and it might rain so carry items that will ensure you are prepared.

CHOOSING PERFECT TIME FOR CAMPING

I chose to include this problem, not because of weather or season, but because of a constant comment I have come across. ‘Camping needs us to prepare and buy stuff and get a car and do a lot of things before we go’.

This is true but most times, such comments block the way of any progress. If you want to go camping, work towards going camping. Find campsites that have cheaper rates for renting equipment or have all inclusive rates. Camping does not need to be done when you have three weeks time. Camping can be done even one day, look at me 🙂 , hypothetically. 😐

CHOOSING WHERE TO CAMP

In Kenya, there are so many options. From within Nairobi to Mombasa to Naivasha. Camping also requires some planning. In this digital age, all one needs to do is google campsites. this will help in familiarizing with their policies like on food and drink from outside.

Another reason would be to find out which activities are offered and whether there is a bar and restaurant on site as well as seeing how it looks. (Be aware that sometime what you see is not what you will get all the time). But I kinda like that in travelling, its not always pockets full of sunshine. This research helps in planning the budget. At the lake, the boat rides can be costly, depending on how much costly is to you. 2000/= – 3500/=.

When planning to go camping, my friend and I visited a few campsites in Naivasha to see which ones we would like and which activities were offered. Of course you don’t have to go all the way to see if you live far. If you want information, you can always try sites like Trip Advisor where you can read reviews of the campsites.

PLANNING AND GOING FOR THE CAMP

In this last point, I will use my own experience. It was not planned for a long time. It happened on Thursday, four days ago, when my friends and I thought of going for a road trip. We all thought it was a good weekend plan.

With my knowledge about a campsite, (which was from a year earlier, yes it took that long), we already had a place in mind. We all contributed to fueling one of my friend’s car. I carried my tent and sleeping bag. Two of us had sleeping bags. We carried a mattress and duvet for the others and got another tent from my friend. We packed our bags and just headed out, choosing to learn the rest ahead.

We arrived at Fisherman’s camp at night and paid 700/= per person to camp with our own gear and purchased a bundle of firewood at 250/= for a fire. It was VERY COLD. We warmed up by the fire, played games, talked, panicked after hearing hippos (which we were separated from by an electric fence). We had a great time camping on the shores of Lake Naivasha.  Surprisingly, there was a number of people during a considerably odd time for camping (not a special holiday).

Next time, we will plan better hopefully remember to carry toothpaste, soap, towels, sleeping clothes, socks, and sweaters and by ‘we’, I mean mostly me.

FINALLY,

I want to say that there can’t be a perfectly planned trip, just go for it the first time and once you realize like us that setting up your own tent is not as hectic (as long as you are sober), and we set up ours at 1:00 am, you will be surprised about why you didn’t do it sooner, but that’s just me. 🙂 #lights out.

 

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