Hotel Review: Ol Donyo Lodge, Chyulu Hills
Ol Donyo Lodge
Chyulu Hills, Kenya
Ol Donyo is one of only two hotels in which to stay if looking to stay in the heart of the beautiful Chyulu Hills. This is a truly stunning retreat overlooking Ernest Hemingway’s “Green Hills of Africa,” with fabulous activities to boot.
Starts from Ksh 27,000 pp, sharing, all-inclusive of board, alcohol and most activities. Conservancy fee of Ksh 5,155 pp. No children under five.
Style and character
For sheer beauty, luxury and “classic” Africa, look no further than Ol Donyo. Established in the 1980s by Richard Bonham, legendary hunter turned conservationist, the lodge has bags of history. It is now run by the highly-experienced Great Plains Conservation, and is a fully-hosted experience.
It’s all in the details. Every little touch is considered, whether it’s a tot of whisky to help you nod off to sleep or the bath that follows your every curve. It’s so intuitive, that you can’t help but look for the next surprise. Photographer guests can book a private safari vehicle with the use of a camera and lens kit.
There’s little to beat the verdant beauty of the Chyulu Hills, and the expansive plains that stretch out below the lodge. Most people fly in, but if you’re driving, you’ll have to brave the Mombasa Road as far as Emali before leaving the road at Mirikani to head into the dramatic hills.
Service & Facilities
Exemplary service, and guides armed with lots of local knowledge, including the tools to make a lion roar. The game is found mostly on the plains below the lodge, with the predators keen on lurking close to the volcanic rubble. Guests are greeted on arrival by the hosts in residence, not to mention a nice, cold drink.
- Private plunge pool
- Main pool
- Drinks bar
Some rooms are larger than others, with some having their own sitting room. Each one has its own outdoor plunge pool, and is designed along an “old Africa” theme with white cotton linen, leather chests, and beautiful photographs on the walls taken by one of the owners, Beverley Joubert. Bathrooms are large and accommodating, with dressing gowns, slippers, vanity products all provided. Views from all are staggering.
Food & Drinks
This is perhaps the only aspect that proved a little disappointing, given the price one expects to pay. Dinner is taken communally in the dining room in front of a roaring fire. Some dishes were better than others, and the time we visited, the roast turkey was a little stringy. Lunch was good, but not exceptional.
Under fives are not allowed, but this is probably better for older kids than youngsters anyway, not least because of the probably quite wealthy clientele, who one worries might not tolerate noisy offspring. There are nevertheless some good activities on offer, including horse riding on the lodge’s own steeds, cycling in the hills and on the plains, exploring the lava tubes of the Chyulus and excursions further afield to the forests of the mist. The lodge also runs a young explorers’ programme, where kids can paint, learn archery and tracking techniques.
Value for Money?
Ol Donyo is undoubtedly expensive, but you get such a lot for your buck. This is a place to make your proposal, celebrate an anniversary, or just splash out because you deserve it. In low season, it might be possible to negotiate a better rate.
Reviewed December 2017 by Catrina Stewart