Meru National Park

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Meru National Park Meru is the setting of Joy Adamson’s book ‘Born Free,’ well off the mainstream Kenya safari circuit and not a reserve to come and tick off the Big Five. Instead, it is an off-the-beaten-path African wilderness experience. Vast tracts of the park have no roads and must be explored on foot. The horizons are endless and game wild. 



Meru National Park, situated 348 km (216 miles) northeast of Nairobi and west of Mt. Kenya, is a hidden gem that offers some of the wildest and most untouched landscapes in Kenya. Covering 1,810 square km (699 square miles), this park has historically been overlooked by mainstream Kenya safari circuits due to the poaching crisis that decimated its wildlife population in the 1980s.

However, since 2000, the Kenya Wildlife Service has undertaken extensive measures to restore the park’s ecosystem, restocking it with a host of large mammals, including elephants and both black and white rhinos. As a result, the park has made a remarkable recovery and now boasts all of the Big Five.

Despite its impressive revival, Meru National Park is yet to attract large numbers of safari-goers, making it a unique and exclusive destination. With its abundant wildlife, stunning landscapes, and improved safety, Meru is now a fulfilling and safe destination for Kenya Safaris.

It’s worth something to say that this is the same park where Joy and George Adamson, renowned wildlife champions, famously hand-reared Elsa the lioness, who became the subject of the 1966 film Born Free.

What to see

Meru National Park boasts a diverse range of wild game to spot on safari drives, including some of Africa’s most iconic and majestic animals, such as buffalo, lion, leopard, cheetah, hippo, and giraffe. Additionally, the park is home to lesser-known but equally fascinating species such as the lesser kudu, hartebeest, Grevy’s and Burchell’s zebra, the gerenuk, waterbuck, oryx, and Grant’s gazelle.

This wildlife haven is situated within an extensive ecosystem that comprises Kora National Park, Mwingi, Rahole, and Bisanadi reserves. The park’s location straddling the equator and its varied terrain, which encompasses scrubland dotted with baobab trees, lush grasslands, and riverine forests, make it a unique and captivating destination for wildlife enthusiasts.

A network of thirteen rivers feeds into the Tana River, which is Kenya’s longest river and supports an abundance of birdlife. Among the bird species that inhabit the area are the Somali ostrich and raptors, such as the red-necked falcon and the palm-nut vulture. For avid bird watchers, Meru National Park offers the chance to spot the elusive Pel’s fishing owl, a rare and highly sought-after sighting that would be a “mega score” on any birder’s “life list.” This magnificent bird hides in the ancient trees that line the park’s rivers, adding to the already breathtaking scenery and wildlife that Meru National Park has to offer.


  • Elsa’s Kopje overlooking the site of George Adamson’s camp in Meru was the playground of Elsa, the lioness of “Born Free” fame.
  • 44 sq km rhino sanctuary, home to over 40 white rhino, and 20 black rhino, and several babies
  • Private, never busy, and offers excellent wildlife viewing with some dry country Kenya safari specials
  • Stunning scenery for photography with excellent birding

When To Go

Nairobi National Park is good all year round. However, the dry season—June to October—is the best time to visit Meru National park because it offers the best game viewing since wildlife congregates around the waterholes. The grass doesn’t grow much during the dry season, generally better for navigating the park’s lovely landscape. High grass tends to obscure the animals in the wetter months, and elephants depart for drier ground.

Getting There And Around

There’s a one-hour daily flight between Nairobi’s Wilson Airport and Meru National Park with Airkenya. You can drive from Nairobi; the road isn’t terrible, but it takes five to six hours.

If you’re already at a property in the area, say at Laikipia or Samburu, driving to Meru can make sense, but you must drive a 4×4 vehicle within the park.

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Elsa's Kopje Elewana collection, Accommodation in Meru National Park

Elsa’s Kopje

Price from $687

Elewana Collection Elsa’s Kopje is the best place to stay in Meru National Park. This stylish and romantic lodge is set above George Adamson’s original campsite, where he and his wife, author Joy Adamson, released their lioness Elsa (after which the lodge is named) back into the wild. The lodge presents a high standard of food with homegrown vegetables, free laundry service, and spectacular views across Meru.

Rhino river camp meru

Rhino River Camp

Price from $1,133

Rhino River Camp has an intense jungle atmosphere, enhanced by the constant background sound of the river’s small waterfall. It’s more like a relaxing getaway; guests prefer simply to relax and hang out in their zen hut. Each of the eight rooms is designed with a private meditation area. Here one can unwind, meditate, read a novel or simply sit back and listen to the sounds of the river. However, the room price does not include park fees.

Meru Wilderness Camp

Meru Wilderness Camp

Price from $550 

Meru Wilderness Camp is an exclusive and straightforward tented bush camp in a peaceful and private location deep inside Meru National Park. The camp has a classic Kenya safari feel with an atmospheric mobile tented camp in the heart of the wild. Fun, adventurous, and hosted passionately and expertly by the Laikipia Wilderness team. For the adventurous spirited and off-the-beaten-track enthusiasts in Kenya, this Camp is worth the asking price.