You may not be staying in the relative luxury of Kilaguni Serena Safari Lodge or Severin Safari Camp, but a visit to either can be highly rewarding, for the pleasure of sitting on the terrace with a cold beer, or having lunch (allow $25), while you watch the enthralling natural circus going on a few metres away. At acacia-shaded Severin, guests and wildlife are on exactly the same level, making the experience very intimate, while the waterholes at Kilaguni, spread beneath the panorama of the Chyulu Hills, are a well-known magnet for animal visitors.
At Kilaguni, dazzling birds hop everywhere, agama lizards skim along the walls (the miniature orange and blue dragons are the males in mating colours), hyraxes scamper between the tables, and dwarf mongooses are regular visitors. Out by the waterholes, scuffling baboon troops, several species of antelope and gazelle, buffalo, zebra, giraffe and elephant all provide a constant spectacle, with the possibility of the occasional kill adding tension. At dusk, bats swoop, while genets, jackals and hyenas lurk near the floodlights, drawn by the smell of dinner – though, thankfully, the lodge has stopped the practice of baiting them with meat scraps.
The camp at Severin, meanwhile, seems to be absorbed by its environment, and there’s nothing to stop the animals treating the whole place as their own. Signs warn visitors not to stray off the paths, but you’ll need little reminding, as families of warthogs trot past the terrace, impala and giraffe nibble audibly, and lion kills take place close to reception. Unlike Kilaguni, which is fenced, guests at Severin have to be escorted to and from their tents after dark.