Safari at its Most Refined: Joy’s Camp

African parks are usually all about the animals but in the arid lands of Samburu, Kenya, the landscape will make your jaw drop just as fast. Samburu, Buffalo Springs, and Shaba are three reserves connected by rivers, volcanic mountains, and golden waves of grass … and with Joy’s Camp as our guide, we got to explore all three with expert precision. This is the land where Joy Adamson, naturalist and author of Born Free, raised and released Penny the leopard, and wrote a novel about her experience. We had the privilege of staying at the site of her former home where she captured it all, the gorgeous and inspiring Joy’s Camp.

 Without wasting a moment, the Joy’s Camp team picked us up in the town of Archer’s Post and we set out on safari. Heading into the reserve we passed through a neighboring Samburu village. This tribe is similar to the Maasai in that they are nomadic herders but their vibrant dress and unique homes of mud and cloth were perhaps even more striking. (I’ll never forget the little boy who came running to the roadside to wave to us, not minding one bit that he was stark naked).

Arid woodland dominates the landscape but lush rivers like these cut through, giving an instantly tropical effect. Doum palms grow like weeds along the shore and reticulated giraffes, elephants, and baboons can almost always be spied having a drink.

This is one of the amazing things about safari. We passed this very spot before lunch, and one hour later we return to find a lion relaxing in the shade of the toothbrush tree (the bristle-like branches are used by locals for teeth cleaning). It reminded us of the constant dance between animals and safari-goers and that just because you don’t see an animal doesn’t mean it’s not there.

We arrive at Joy’s Camp to find our glamping home for the week. Tucked into the trees, the canvas structures blend perfectly, making it ideal for immersion with the wild. (so much so that night guards always escort guests in the event a large animal crosses their path).

Walking into the reception area, the mood is set to capture Joy’s creativity. Her typewriter sits out on the desk, her paintings and sketches hang on the wall, and her favorite possessions decorate the space.


Though our tent may have appeared a demure canvas from the outside, the inside was as luxurious as a suite can be. A silk-trimmed mosquito net draped over our canopy bed, handmade glass lanterns illuminated the space, and graphic African accents gave it a sense of place.

After settling into our room, we took a dip in their gorgeous pool. We love that the edges naturally flow like the shores of a pond rather than the usual cookie-cutter rectangle.

Before our delicious Afro-European fusion dinners, we would gather for cocktails in the lounge. Each space in the hotel felt relaxed and sophisticated all at once.


The next morning we left for an early game drive and this incredible Grant’s gazelle training session was our first encounter. One alpha male dominates a herd of females while the rest of the bachelors band together plotting his demise. To keep each other’s skills sharp, they occasionally have sparring sessions. Watching these two lock horns and joust their way around the field felt as official as an Olympic fencing match. (Especially with that “referee” in the middle).

11JoysCamp Bush

Rather than eating breakfast before dawn or racing back to camp for sustenance, the Joy’s Camp chefs set up the most incredible meals along our route. A grill, complete with omelet station, fruit bar, and pastry table were ready as soon as we pulled up to this exclusive river spot. Now that’s service.


The game drive continued … spotting families of elephants, ostriches in courtship, colonies of rock hyrax, and the endangered Grevy’s Zebra. There are only 2,000 Grevys remaining in the wild and Samburu happens to be a place they thrive. We were lucky enough to study the close-knit stripes of this rare species on a few occasions.

There was an intensity level to each encounter at Samburu and Shaba reserves. What would normally be an average sighting, like vultures picking at a skeleton, turned into one of the most cut-throat Darwinian moments. Here, 30+ vultures scratched, squawked, pecked with desperation to get at the last bits of a buffalo. Watching the power change hands by the second, we were captivated.

14-JoysCamp Sundowners

A stay at Joy’s Camp is as well-rounded as an African safari gets. Fascinating cultures, breathtaking landscapes, thriving wildlife all make you feel like you aren’t just on a game drive, you are discovering Africa at its finest.

Anne and Mike Howard are creators of the around-the-world honeymoon blog and Trip Coaches for those looking to extensively travel the world safely, affordably and off the beaten path. You can follow them on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter at @HoneyTrek.

2 Replies to “Safari at its Most Refined: Joy’s Camp”

  1. Lovely to see such appreciation of Shaba and Joys camp. I lived there with Joy as her assistant in 1977-78, training penny to hunt. I have been back 3 times in recent years and am taking round some friends next year.

  2. Martin, wow what a pleasure to meet you! I can’t believe you were Joy’s assistant and trained Penny, what an experience! We have a great appreciation for this special place and hope we did it justice in this post. So happy to hear you have returned to Joy’s Camp so many times and will get the chance to go again soon. All the best to you!

Leave Your Thoughts Here