All the Ways to Go Off the Grid in Kenya

The Chalbi desert in Northern Kenya
The Chalbi desert in Northern Kenya | © WikiCommons
Photo of Nandika Macharia
27 April 2018

Kenya attracts tourists of all calibers to its picturesque landscapes that dot the entire country. You name it, Kenya has it, from pristine beaches along the Indian Ocean to remote cabins within national parks. Here are some exceptional places ideal for visitors looking for off-the-grid getaways in the country.

Escape to undisturbed Lamu

Lamu seems to have been left behind when everyone else in Kenya was changing their town into an urban living environment. However, the narrow alleys that only accommodate donkey carts, the lack of vehicles, and the Arabic style dhows that dot the waterfront have earned the oldest town in East Africa a following with tourists who want to go off the grid during their vacation. Getting to the town is done by traditional dhows and you can enjoy languorous visits of the German Post office museum (the first post office in Lamu), the Lamu Fort and museum, and the donkey sanctuary on the island. Donkeys are the main mode of transport in Lamu, so there is no traffic to contend with on the island. You can hire a donkey to ride around the island and explore.

Slow pace of life in Lamu | © Maria Hagglof / Flickr

Switch off everything as you conquer Mt. Kenya

This second-highest mountain in Africa has attracted off-the-grid adventurers for decades. Trekking and climbing the trails and the lesser peaks gets you away from the hustle and bustle of the city to mountain peaks that have had snow capping them for thousands of years. The extinct volcano has forested slopes and beautiful scenery from the Ontulele, Makinders, and Likii valleys. The camps that dot the climbing route use solar power and you will have no internet connection.

Enjoy panoramic views from the Idyllic Aberdare Cottages

At the foothills of the Aberdare mountain ranges are five luxury tents and six wooden houses that brings you up close and personal with the African wild. The cottages overlook the Karaitho and Mathioya rivers and have the Aberdare mountains as their backdrop, with panoramic views of interlocking valleys and hills.

Interlocking valleys and ridges in Aberdare mountain ranges | © Kathryn Bullock / Flickr

The campsite is a private Eco Resort with the cottages made from reclaimed hardwood and local materials by local artisans.

Go trout fishing in the middle of the Aberdare Mountain Range

These are cabins that are embedded inside the Aberdare National Park and are managed by the Kenya Wildlife Service. You will have an exceptional nature experience with the walking safaris where you can see waterfalls, moorlands, and wildlife, like rhinos, buffalos, and lions. Cooking is done using gas and visitors have to cater for their own meals, as there is no restaurant. The lodge provides an exceptional place for trout fishing and mountain climbing and hiking. You will need a guide for your safaris, who will be a Kenya wildlife service warden.

Aberdare National Park entrance | © Make it Kenya / Flickr

The Saiwa National Park

The Saiwa National Park is the smallest national park in the country and home to the endangered Sitatunga antelopes, as well as the De Brazza monkey. These antelope are semi-aquatic, existing in water and land. The park is untouched by influences of humanity and features elevated walkways to ensure visitors do not interfere with nature. Animal and bird life are abundant, making it a haven for nature lovers. The park is off the beaten path and is accessible by road 27 kilometers from the nearest town, Kitale.

The semi-aquatic Sitatunga antelope | © Ozzy Delaney / Flickr

Immerse yourself in Manda Island

There may be luxury hotels like Manda Bay, which are exclusive and have spectacular views, but the small island off the Lamu archipelago has retained much of its coastal charm. The ambiance of the island is casual and has down-to-earth simplicity and natural rhythms to the days and nights. Hammocks pepper the island and mkekas line the doors, with large ceiling fans for air conditioning. The island has secluded unspoiled beaches where turtles come to lay their eggs with stone buildings dating back to the 9th century. There is limited motorized activity, especially in the hotels, and solar energy is powering most hotels. Internet reception is best in the public areas and intermittent in the rooms.

Approaching Manda Island by boat | © Maria Hagglof / Flickr

Reach up to awesome birds of prey at Mt. Longonot

The Mt. Longonot is another extinct volcano with a huge crater that can be accessed. It offers impressive views of the great Rift Valley and hikers and climbers will enjoy the scenic trails where wildlife crosse your path as they roam free. You can also bike up the mountain, but only so far, as it gets more rugged as you go higher. You will find the Oloongonot campsite to be comfortable in a basic way, with wooden stoves and solar energy for light and cooking, but internet is unavailable. The word Oloongonot is Maasai for “mountain of many steep ridges.” The park is home to exceptional birds of prey, like the white-backed vulture and the larger Rupell’s vulture, which are uncommon all over Kenya.

The African white-back vulture | © Ronnie Macdonald / Flickr

Explore Kenya’s Northern Frontier for an oasis in the Chalbi desert

The chalbi desert is dry, hot, and semi arid. It is also home to Kalacha, a beautiful oasis right in the middle of the desert featuring acacia trees and doum palm trees, where you can stay in one of the campsites or lodges. After the oasis where Kalacha is situated, there is nothing but desert all around, and although the campsites have the obvious comforts, you will be away from internet connectivity and access to the area is only by 4×4 vehicles. But not to worry, the beautiful cultures and traditions of the Gabbra people found in the Chalbi desert will keep you busy and entertained. You will also encounter the El Molo, a tribe of people on the verge of extinction because of the disappearing Lake Turkana and intermarriage.

The Chalbi desert in Northern Kenya | © WikiCommons

Relax on Rusinga Island

Rusinga Island is the remotest spot within the Western region of Kenya. The island is actually situated on Lake Victoria the second largest freshwater lake in the world. The island is extremely beautiful with a magnificent resort, Rusinga Island Lodge, which capitalizes on the serenity and inaccessibility of its surroundings to offer a relaxing and tranquil experience. Because of its remoteness, the island is accessible by air and boat and is not frequented by droves of visitors.

Rusinga Island rising from the waters of Lake Victoria | © Ryan Harvey / Flickr

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