Meru National Park is one of the least visited and therefore one of the unspoiled, untamed and exceptionally beautiful Kenya’s national parks. The park is approximately 350km from Nairobi, which is roughly 7 hours drive from Nairobi city. Located east of Mount Kenya, the park covers 336 square miles (870 square kilometers) and is bordered by the Kora, Rahole and Bisanadi reserves. Straddling the equator and bisected by 13 rivers and numerous mountain-fed streams, the park boosts diverse scenery from woodlands at 3,400ft (1,036m) on the slopes of Nyambeni Mountain Range, north east of Mt. Kenya, to wide open plains with meandering riverbanks dotted with doum palms.
The park was established in 1966, and later became famous as the setting for Joy Adamson’s book “Born Free”, the story of the Adamson’s life and research amongst lion and cheetah. The park is also home to an 84-square kilometer sanctuary for black and white rhinos. Most people appreciates the park for its northern specials, which are animals that are specially adapted to arid conditions. The reticulated giraffe is distinguishable by its dramatic pattern. Grevy’s zebra occur alongside the smaller and more common Burchell’s zebra. This is one of few places to encounter the shy lesser kudu and the impressive-looking beisa oryx. Most odd of them all is the gerenuk with its elongated neck.
Mammals inhabiting the park include leopard, cheetah, elephant, lion, both Grevy’s and plains zebra, hartebeest, hippo, reticulated giraffe and some decent sized herds of buffalo. The big cats can sometimes be difficult to spot due to areas of tall grass cover and dense bushland.
Birdlife in the park is exceptional with over 300 recorded species, some of which include; Red-necked falcon, Heuglins courser, brown-backed woodpecker, sunbirds Peter’s Fin foot, Pel’s Fishing Owl, kingfishers, rollers, bee-eaters, starlings and weavers. Click here to read more about Kenya Safari Animals and Wildlife.
Meru has a hot, arid climate. Temperatures are fairly uniform through the year. Daytime temperatures are around 32°C/90°F, and at night temperatures fall to about 17°C/63°F. The warmest time of year is generally early to mid March where highs are regularly around 80.4°F (26.9°C) with temperatures rarely dropping below 55.7°F (13.2°C) at night. Rainfall in this area is abundant with 635–762 mm (25.0–30.0 in) in the west of the park and 305–356 mm (12.0–14.0 in) in the east.
Meru can be visited throughout the year, but the dry season from June to September is widely recognized as the best time for wildlife sighting, when animals congregate around predictable water sources. Wildlife viewing is usually more difficult during the long rains (March to May) and short rains (October to November). At this time the grass tends to be very high, making spotting animals more difficult. Elephants migrate out of the park in the rainy season.
Meru is a bird lover's paradise and offers good bird watching throughout the year, but the best time is from November to April when the migrants from Europe and North Africa are present. This coincides with the breeding season when many species are nesting.
Meru has some of the best hotels, specifically tented camps and lodges, ranging from budget camp to midrange camp/lodge to luxury options located both outsides and inside of the park. Some of these luxury Tented Camps and Safari Lodges are international award winners. Below is a simple list of some of the more outstanding accommodation in Meru.
Family cottage interior at Luxurious Elewana Elsa's Kopje, Meru.
Typical tent interior at Ikweta Safari Camp, Meru.