Ilze Fox, a senior travel advisor in our team, was invited to Kenya in October to experience The Safari Collection’s lodges and camps. She was lucky enough to witness the tail end of the Migration. The following are excerpts of her impressions of the journey and the wildlife as well as a detailed description of the lodges she visited. If you’re considering an East Africa trip, read on.
Solio Game Lodge is located in Laikipia, a 3 hours drive from Nairobi or a 45 minute transfer from the Nanyuki airstrip that serves the region.
Solio is a private rhino conservancy featuring more than 200 black and white rhino, which is a joyful sight for anyone aware of the poaching epidemic in Africa. There are no elephant on the conservancy as the land area is not large enough to support both elephant and rhino, and the owners have decided to keep the focus on the rhino. Game drives are informative and the animals are easy to spot because of the short grass. We had the privilege of being guided by Ole, a Masaai who is passionate about the bush and patiently taught us about the toothbrush tree and how this is still used by the locals for making bows, and for brushing teeth! Solio is the only lodge on the conservancy, so there are no other vehicles around, ensuring a very exclusive safari experience.
In terms of other animal sightings, we had some incredible lion encounters, including viewing a pride of 15 lions – some resting in the trees, others lying in the grass, cubs playing nearby. Rhino sightings were also plentiful and we even witnessed a fiery stand-off between two males, each huffing noisily and firmly standing its ground. In addition, there are plenty of buffalo, zebra, waterbuck and other plains game around.
The lodge itself features 6 rooms – 5 standard rooms and a family room, which comprises of 2 separate bedrooms and a shared lounge area. The rooms are very spacious and glass-fronted so you can enjoy uninterrupted views of the impressive Mt Kenya in the distance. The lodge is located in a valley so the mornings and evenings can be cool – but you’ll be comfortable between the fireplace in the bedroom and the hot water bottle at turn-down!
The food was delicious, some of the best I’ve experienced on safari. They have a vegetable and herb garden on the property and they prepare the most amazing, fresh salads for lunch. Light and very healthy too.
A great lodge for families, Solio welcomes children of all ages. The lodge is fenced for your safety and the family room accommodates up to 2 adults and 3 children in comfort. There is no formal children’s programme, but the guides are always around to entertain the little ones. Bikes are available for short rides around the camp and horse-riding is offered nearby.
Sasaab is located on a private conservancy on the western border of the Samburu National Reserve. There is a private airstrip 10 minutes from the lodge.
My first impressions were wow, wow and WOW! The lodge is wonderfully luxurious and built in the Moroccan style – splashes of colour and north African lanterns feature heavily in the opulent décor. The rooms face the Ewaso Nyiro River and each has wonderful views of the elephants that dot this landscape. The bedrooms are spacious and under canvas while the bathrooms are open-air, with the whole unit sitting under a large thatched lapa. During the heat of the day, relax in your private plunge pool which enjoys wonderful river views.
There are some plains game on the conservancy but most guests will do a day trip into the Samburu National Reserve, about 30 minutes away. Here you will encounter the Samburu Special 5, which are weird and wonderful species only found here: the Somali ostrich, the gerenuk, reticulated giraffe, beisa oryx and the beautiful Grevy’s zebra with their white bellies. We also witnessed a pride of 7 lions feeding on a zebra and although we followed some cheetah tracks for a while, we could not locate the elusive animal.
Fly-camping is a real highlight for the adventurous! Experience a night out under the stars in a mobile camp, which is set up in a scenic location and manned by the lodge staff and an armed guard. Our location on the Ewaso Nyiro River was magical – we arrived just after sunset to find a 3 course meal prepared and waiting for us. After dinner, we enjoyed drinks and stories by the campfire – with ranger Daniel telling us about his adventures in the bush before everyone tucked in for the night. The tents are made from transparent netting so you can lie on your back and look up at the stars before drifting off into a blissful sleep…
Other activities include camel rides to Sundowner Rock, where sunset drinks will be enjoyed. You can also join a Samburu cultural experience which is colourful and very intriguing.
Sala’s is a fabulous tented camp located on the banks of the Sand River in the southern section of the Masaai Mara Game Reserve. This is a remote area with no other camps around, so you rarely see another vehicle.
The Masaai Mara is synonymous with fantastic animal sightings and this camp did not disappoint. Although the migration had already passed by the time we visited at the end of October, there is plenty of resident game around and we had some incredible wildlife encounters. Our spotter Mrefu has eyes like a hawk and ensured we located the cheetah with her 5 cubs, the pregnant lioness making her way down to the water and the young male cheetah attempting to hunt. I say “attempting” because we witnessed him try – and fail – twice in one day. Just needs a bit of practice! We also saw rhino on 4 separate occasions in 2 days, which is very rare for the Mara.
The camp itself comprises a mess / lounge tent and 7 tented rooms facing the Sand River. The rooms feature large double beds, shower and separate toilet area. There’s a charging station for your electronics and fresh tea / coffee is brought to your room each morning with your wake-up call. I spent some of my free time relaxing on the deck chair outside my room, taking in the marvels of the area. On our arrival day there was a huge herd of elephants crossing the river right in front of the lodge, a spectacular sight!
We dined mostly outdoors and the food was fresh and tasty. From a local fish curry the one evening to a barbeque with accompanying vegetable dishes the following, the meals were varied and enjoyed by all.
Enjoy fabulous game drives, afternoon sunset drinks in a scenic spot and even play a game of volleyball in the mostly-dry river bed! The excellent location of this camp makes it a firm recommendation for future guests.
Ilze is brimming with enthusiasm for East Africa, so if a safari to this part of the world is on your bucket list, get in touch with her. She’d be thrilled to assist with your trip planning.