Satao Camp, Kenya Review - Serene Nature Spot- Spectacular Wildlife

Satao Camp, (named for the famous bull elephants with huge tusks) is located in the center of the largest national park in Kenya, Tsavo East.  It has a very understated, elegant feel to it while being luxurious, spacious, and comfortable at the same time.

The staff is always busy making sure the environment is clean and inviting

Satao Camp is part of the glorious Out of Africa collection.  The owners and managers are always there for you, helping you to enjoy the artistic and comfortable world they have put together for you.


Wildlife live out their own drama as you watch from your patio

Imagine being out far from civilization as we know it in your own gorgeously appointed, large tent-home with windows all around it and a patio that looks out on the plain ahead with a large watering hole animals love. While you are soaking in your luxury tub, you may see gazelle or even hippo right outside the window!


You never know what may walk by when you're having a shower

When you go up to the nearby lookout tower, you get a fantastic view of the whole plain and any animals that are on their way to or from the watering hole.

You may see two waterbucks competing right from your patio


Among the residents of the camp, you will find a flock of shimmering blue guinea fowl, as well as multiple species of gorgeous birds who will sing to you as you are served delicious food on the veranda.  As I am sitting here writing this, I am watching the fabulous orange and blue Superb Starlings who hop over to see what I am doing. 


A handsome waterbuck may be just as interested in what you're doing as you are in him!

Stylish Sparrow-head Weavers in black and white also are singing nearby.  Did you know that the weaver bird males make competing nests, and the female can pick for her mate whichever male makes the best nest?


Comfy bed artistically made, and other sizes with more beds for bigger families

We also had a visit at breakfast from the Red-billed Hornbird.  Even when they are not in view, you can just close your eyes and be serenaded by the cacophony of songs and chirps from all these lovely flighted creatures.


Elephants at the watering hole!

And Satao is not without its drama. In the evening there are usually small herds of dik-diks, waterbucks, gazelle, or impalas prancing through the camp. 

Cimb up the watchtower to see who else might be coming for a drink at the watering hole

Last night two lions were stalking them, and we could see the whole game from our campgrounds, including the great escape of the prey.

Resident guinea fowl in their silvery blue-striped suits


I was amazed at how tame the impalas were. Large families with lots of tiny ones were seated on the lawn on our way to dinner, and they did not flee as we walked by.


Friendy Superb Starling says hello

The night before, lions stalked and caught a huge water buffalo, just feet away from the campus. The animal's skeleton was the only thing left in the morning.


Sparrow-head Weaver parents are taking turns feeding their offspring - the one in the middle

Since Satao is one of the few places where wild animals are able to roam right beneath your nose, the staff has a system in place where you flash your given flashlight when it’s dark and a protector guard will come with a big stick and accompany you to your destination.


Spectacular Red-Billed Hornbird also paid a visit

Satao Camp was created as close to nature as possible. As explained by Assistant Camp Manager Michael (with a laid-back and melodious voice like Morgan Freeman), “Not one shrub was removed. The camps were built around nature so that, if we closed down, nature would take over immediately. Not one part was degraded.”


Animals seen today at water hole- there's also a yearly total

Some acacia trees were added to give the animals more to eat. But some of the magnificent big trees, like the tamarind and the sausage trees, have been there for two or three hundred years. Those trees harken back to Arabia and were planted during the time of the slave and ivory trades.

Planet of the Apes? Just a family of curious baboons checking us out

The husks from the sausage tree have been used to make a special traditional beer by the Kikuyu tribe. That beer has always been a necessity at big celebrations like weddings. No sausage beer - no wedding!


Old muddied water buffalo grazing

All the staff of mature men who work at Satao have been there for years. They are like a brotherhood, a community of wizened ones who enjoy nature, their work and the tourists. The great thing is that they are always looking out for ways to help nature. When they spotted an abandoned young buffalo recently, they were quick to call the David Sheldrick Wildlife Veterinary Unit, which came and rescued the baby.


Was that the buffalo the lions ate?

It is so peaceful here with nothing but the sounds of the wind and the animals.  And there is no light or air traffic - nothing but clouds to block the view of the stars. 

Lioness on the road with full belly

After all, Tsavo East is over 4,500 square miles, and we are sitting in the middle. Yet we get the best of service and food. The kind-hearted chef Moses is willing and able to help with any special diets, and he checks back to make sure you are happy.


One of the very helpful Manager Michael makes sure you enjoy yourself with always an interesting story to tell.

Our visit towards the end of May, just coming on the beginning of high season, was quiet and serene. I would highly recommend opting for a less busy time when you have so much space to yourself.  When you go on a game drive, you are not competing with lots of other tour drivers to see widlife. On the other hand, the animals are thirstier in the summer during peak dry season, so greater numbers of them are likely to show up at the watering hole. Even at high season you won't feel crowded because you can retreat to your spacious and comfortable tent home.


Tamarimd tree a few hundred years old

We came upon two lions in the middle of the road. They lazily looked up at us so nonchalant, as if to say - just go around.  Their tummies seemed full - probably from eating the water buffalo.  

Ancient sausage tree used to make beer

We’ve also seen - up close - baboons. hyenas, jackals, gazelle, ostriches, storks, oryx, and lots of giraffes and zebras. And several smaller herds of elephants.


Mother and baby in the red dust of Tsavo East

Tsavo is the most protected national park in Kenya. David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust has 8 planes and 2 helicopters for patrolling and helping animals in any part of Kenya, but the primary emphasis is Tsavo.  Perhaps it’s because they have raised over 200 elephants who have joined wild herds right here. This park is where the young elephants eventually go back to the wild when they are accepted into a wild herd. I started to help sponsoring the baby elephant orphans about eight years ago, and I sometimes wonder when we see a herd if any of that herd was once in that orphan group.


Oryx says goodbye. Come again!

Just relaxing at camp is the best meditation in the world. With no exertion at all, you are witness to vibrant beautiful life in the wild, all while enjoying your laid-back, gourmet service and cappuccino.

Georja Umano is a journalist, actor and animal advocate. All photos by Georja Umano

Go to

  • Satao Camp is part of the The Out Of Africa Collection. A collection of chic eco luxury camps covering most Kenyan National Parks.
  • Fax: +254 (0)20 2434610
  • Southern Cross Safaris, Lights
  • Mombasa, Kenya
  • P.O. Box 90653 - 80100




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