5 of the Best Self-Catering Hostels in Kenya’s National Parks

I need a six-month vacation, twice a year!! – Anonymous

As an adult, there are very many ways to reset your…well, everything! Let’s just call it ‘being’; there are very many ways to reset your ‘being’ to a setting that actually functions efficiently. One way is to take a break every now and again. That’s why the good Lord created weekends. Another way is to indulge in an activity (healthy or otherwise…preferably healthy!!) that fills your blood with adrenaline and helps you unwind.

The best way we know of is to travel! Going to new places simply washes away everything else you already knew and opens up your mind to new possibilities and perspectives, and that is a FACT!

Close-up image of a Lion

Now, if you are going to travel (and we strongly recommend it) there are certain things that you need to take into consideration:

  • You need to go somewhere fun
  • You need to go somewhere safe
  • You need to go somewhere with your friends (unless your friends only want to go to the same old places, in which case you have a valid case for leaving them behind; they’ll understand!)
  • You need to go somewhere that lets you be who you are

It’s the last one we are going to focus on today. Going somewhere that ‘lets you be who you are‘ means that you need to go somewhere that gives you as much space as possible to be yourself. Chances are this will not be a high-end hotel. For the most part, high-end hotels will have strict rules and regulations that you would need to follow. With good reason; there are other people there and it’s just good manners to be considerate.

However, if you want to go to a place where you can cook whenever you want to, sleep whenever you want to, listen to your music as loudly as you want to and leave your clothes lying around as much as you want (you are on holiday after all and your mom isn’t here to shout at you for being untidy) then you need to go to a self-catering hostel.

KWS (Kenya Wildlife Service) has a tonne of those in Kenya, and they are all within National Parks!!!

The best self-catering hostels in Kenya run by KWS

Now don’t get it wrong, KWS has rules and regulations that need to be followed when visiting any one of their National Parks and using their self-catering hostels. For the most part, these rules have a lot to do with common human decency. You know, ‘don’t set your bed on fire’ and ‘try not to tear up the floors’, that sort of thing. But other than that, they let you be so you can enjoy your holiday. Here are some of the best self-catering hostels run by KWS in Kenya.

Murera Cottages, Meru National Park

Although lesser known and frequented than the Maasai Mara or Tsavos, Meru National Park is one of the best conservancies Kenya has to offer. The park is not only vast (870.4 km²), but it is also part of an even bigger conservation area that covers over 4,000 km² with even more national parks and conservancies within it. With everything on offer from the Big Five to puny creatures like the lesser Kudu and a wide variety of bird species, Meru National Park is a good visit every single time.

closeup of a waterbuck

Murera Cottages are within the national park and are some of the most laid-back facilities on location. The cottages are big enough to host a group of friends and are situated right in the thick of the action. They are purely ‘self-catering facilities’. With the availability of outdoor barbecue, this is the one place to be if you want affordable, fun and laid-back accommodation as you marvel at the diverse flora and fauna found in Meru National Park.

Batian Guest House, Mount Kenya National Park & Reserve

Now, this is one for the mountain lovers. Named after the highest peak on this Kenyan giant (Batian-5,199 meters), this self-catering guest house can host up to 8 people. Offering you sweeping views of Mt. Kenya and set on the backdrop of sheer serenity, Batian Guest House is a neighbor to about 800 different plant species, a host of gorgeous birds and wild animals such as buffalo, leopard, hyena, baboons and even elephants.

Sabuk Guest House, Ol Donyo Sabuk National Park

Ol Donyo Sabuk meaning ‘Big Mountain’ (crazily enough) in Maasai, is a big mountain in Kyanzavi, Machakos county only an hour’s drive from Nairobi. Now, scaling the mountain itself (2,145 meters) is not exactly a Herculean task and it will not earn any medals at the annual Everest Veterans Parade, but it is still an impressive feat.

Apart from giving you muscle pains that will ache for days on end, Ol Donyo Sabuk also offers you a national park with a host of captivating flora and fauna as well as the resting place of Lord MacMillan, a Knighted American soldier who played host to Theodore Roosevelt on his Kenyan safari and also founded the famous Macmillan Library in Nairobi.

Water buffalo

Sabuk Guest House has a capacity of up to 12 visitors, is a self-catering facility and offers you access to Ol Donyo Sabuk National Park which is home to Fourteen Falls, McMillan grave and portions of Athi River.

Sable Cottages, Shimba Hills National Reserve

Would you, perhaps, like to go to a National Reserve that gives you clear views of Kenya’s iconic coastal destination, Mombasa? If so, you’re in luck! Sable Cottages are a series of self-catering facilities nestled above the forest canopy in Shimba Hills and overlook Mombasa town. It is a beautiful…beautiful place that gives you access to Sheldrick falls, dozens of nature trails and lush coastal forests that are home to hyenas, warthogs, elephants, leopards and reedbuck among other fascinating flora and fauna.

Alia Bay Guest House, Sibiloi National Park

Located on the shores of the outstanding Lake Turkana, Alia Bay Guest House gives you unfettered access to the ‘cradle of mankind’. As a guest here, you will be close enough to visit Kobi Flora Museum which is home to ancient fossils, go boating and maybe even fishing on Lake Turkana. Be careful, though, this lake is home to the largest Nile crocodile population in the world. Which is something you might enjoy seeing while you are here!

Every one of these self-catering facilities gives you an opportunity to take a break from your day to day life and ‘reset your being’ at an exceptionally affordable rate. The fact that they are run by KWS means that they observe high standards of service delivery and customer relations. Plus, you get to visit Kenya’s iconic national parks.

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