Where To Stay: Lewa
Lodges play a key role in conservation, ensuring a continued protection of wildlife while directly enriching the lives of surrounding communities. At Lewa, a conservancy fee of Ksh 4,500 per guest (for residents) goes directly to community projects at some of the properties, while others pay a lump some of their profits for the land which they lease. Guests have also been known to take individual interest in, for instance, providing bursaries for a child’s education. Lewa Wildlife Conservancy has at least five high end lodges. Here are two that we checked out during our visit:
Photographs: Brian Siambi
As though in some unexplained rush, dusk falls rapidly all around us as we mercifully huddle around a log fire, a glass of wine in one hand and a dessert plate with a decadent slice of carrot-and-pecan cake balanced on the lap. The elegantly dressed owner of this family-run property, Sue Roberts, joins us for a tipple with her excitable black retriever hot on her heels. Pretty soon, the most melodic of choruses rents the air as the birds call out to one another, perhaps gossiping about the day’s occurrences or simply saying goodnight. Sue periodically stops mid-conservation to identify all the birds and animals by their sounds, a trait I have always found admirable in those that dwell within the wild. A baboon overzealously barks from its vantage point on the branches of an acacia, warning the surrounding antelopes about a leopard which we can only spot lurking in the tall grass further beyond via a telescope. Unfortunately for the prey, he might not be getting any dinner tonight. The resident giraffe saunters surprisingly close after drinking up at the watering hole. To say that Sirikoi is stunning would be a gross understatement. Set on private land adjacent to Lewa, its contemporary African decor is as country as it is elegant. The ceilings are high, the cottages open-faced and with private wooden decks, and the tone is very earthy with dark woods accented by cream and burnt orange colours. Heck, I would be content to even sleep in one of the expansive bathrooms with their white Victorian clawfoot bathtubs. There are four luxury tents, a twobedroom cottage, a three-bedroom house and one swimming pool.
Being welcomed by Karmushu, the lodge manger here, in his full traditional Maasai garb, is a very welcome sight. Original home of owners Will and Craig, the property now boasts nine cottages made of stone and wood, then thatched, all seamlessly blending into the hillside. The grass, like an expansive green carpet, is meticulously tended to. It is incredulous that the views so nonchalantly found here even exist in this world. A river meanders along the valley below, and the flora is lush and green from the recent bout of rains. Up in the hills, an elephant rubs against the trunk of a tree while a Somali ostrich is preoccupied with something on the ground; these animals are spotted in the distance by Karmushu, and thanks to my poor eyesight, it takes a bit of pointing and squinting to finally spot them with my naked eye. Best enjoyed, I would suggest, from the primary salt-water swimming pool which stands elevated on a cliff, or a private plunge pool a few metres from your bed. The garden cottages are perfect for families, but for couples, the hillside rooms allude to romance. The decor is old country- rustic, understated and perfect for the location. The furniture and rugs are all hand-made in conjunction with the local community, and are available to buy should any catch your eye- and trust me, they did. Meals at this intimate property are communal, served in banquet table set in the middle of an openair dining room. I was also delighted to find out that they operate a yellow open-cockpit biplane, the only of its kind in East Africa and very reminiscent of the old-safari era, for anyone keen on a scenic air safari.