- High end lodge in secluded location
- Spectacular wilderness views
- Deluxe suites with pools and star beds
- Horse riding, biking, game drives, hiking
Ol Donyo Lodge is an upmarket establishment on a private reserve bordering the Chyulu Hills National Park, in southeast Kenya. Perched on a wooded hillside within the vast Maasai owned Mbirikani Group Ranch, the lodge boasts splendid views of the surrounding plains, and on clear days the iconic Mount Kilimanjaro provides a stunning backdrop. Boasting strong hosting and guiding and a good choice of activities, the lodge offers eight deluxe suites with plunge pools. The surrounding wilderness is home to the big 5 (rhino, lion, leopard, elephant, and Cape buffalo) along with giraffe, oryx, zebra, and the elusive cheetah, and provides solid game viewing opportunities, although note that animal density is less intense than in the Masai Mara.
The stone main lodge has high thatched ceilings and an open-fronted aspect with panoramic views across the savannah. Communal areas include a cosy main lounge with an open fire, a dining area, bar, library, and gift shop. Outside is a spacious terrace with dining tables, a campfire area, and an inviting infinity pool with loungers. The camp runs predominantly on solar power, and supports eco-friendly initiatives including water and refuse recycling.
The wide range of activities includes morning and afternoon game drives and night drives with informed enthusiastic guides, plus mountain biking, hiking, and guided walks. Exhilarating, up-close wildlife viewing is possible from a nearby log pile hide which overlooks an adjacent water hole. Horse riding is available for all levels of experience, including beginners and cultural visits to local villages and schools provide an authentic glimpse into the traditional Maasai way of life. Bush breakfasts and dinners take place in stunning, atmospheric wilderness locations and in-room massages are available at an additional cost.
The accommodation comprises eight spacious, individually designed stone and thatch suites which stylishly combine traditional and contemporary African design. Each suite has a king or twin four poster bed draped with mosquito nets, a comfortable lounge, and an en-suite bathroom with twin basins, WC, bath, and both indoor and outdoor showers. Tranquil alfresco verandas offer super views over a busy waterhole, whilst the majestic Mount Kilimanjaro looms in the distance. All suites also have a stone staircase leading to a private roof terrace equipped with a ‘star bed’ for unforgettable ‘sleep outs’ beneath African skies. Six of the suites have their own private plunge pool, whilst two units have a shared pool.
Children age five years and over are welcome at Ol Donyo, and discounts are offered for under 16s sharing with adults. The camp runs a young explorers programme for children, with activities including bush skills, Maasai fire making, and arts and crafts. Two of the lodge suites interconnect to make a spacious two-bedroom villa, ideal for families or groups. The villa comprises a generous lounge, and one king and one twin bedroom, each with a sleek en-suite bathroom with indoor and outdoor showers. Outside, there’s a swimming pool, and two rooftop terraces equipped with four poster star beds and the viewing deck is perfect for enjoying spectacular sunsets.
The trip was amazing everything was better than we could have imagined.
There was a moment climbing the mount Kenya where my wife accused me of tricking her into doing this (half kidding) as some of the nights got pretty cold, but we were dressed well and the sunrise at the peak was astonishing.
Safari was spectacular, Ben who was our main guide and driver was awesome! We saw everything excepts rhinos which were more of a hope than a reality. We also were able to watch a rock python eat a Thompson gazel live. It was one of the most interesting and unsettling things I have ever seen.
Just overall, so many moments that make you think wow or I can't believe I am here. Thank you for your help in getting everything set up. I don't believe I could have booked the trip without your help and guidance. It was an amazing way to start our marriage and truly the trip of a lifetime!
William K reviewing 11 Day Mount Kenya Trek and Masai Mara Safari Combined on 29 October 2018
We both suffered but enjoyed it immensely. Just how it should be!!!!
Our route up the mountain, the Burguret trail is very arduous and certainly should not be used for people who are not very fit and experienced trekkers. It mainly followers animal trails through the forests and bog lands around the mountain. The Chogoria route down was great. The guide and porters were great. Wild camping means just that, really just what I wanted, but I have lived in Kenya.
Jonathan B reviewing Mount Kenya: Burguret Chogoria Traverse on 24 September 2018
Speke's camp was absolutely ideal - small and personal, with great hosts. We'd definitely recommend the "tented safari" experience to others. The kid's didn't miss having a pool (too interested in Safari). Speke's camp give you your own landrover and driver/guide, which gave us great flexibility (much better I suspect than what is offered by some of the larger camps). Our guide was brilliant. See below for the review we just posted on rip Advisor.
I think the only negative of the trip was getting through Nairobi airport (multiple security checks, and they ask you to "board" two hours in advance, which in fact means going into crowded transit lounge with no facilities), but there's not anything anyone can do about that
It's also worth saying that Peponi really is a unique experience. It's a proper East African institution, with all the locals dropping into the bar. It's the perfect antidote to anyone wanting to get away from the soulless all inclusive resorts which could be absolutely anywhere in the world (which seem to be a bit of a feature of Zanzibar). Lamu is still amazingly undeveloped.
We stayed at Speke's camp for 4 nights in August 2018 - a family of two adults and two children. For us it was the perfect location to experience the Mara. The camp is only a short drive outside the main Mara reserve and is in an amazingly picturesque location, set by a small river in the shade of trees. Wildlife roams near (and sometimes through!) the camp. You get to feel very close to nature when you have a buffalo rooting up grass just outside your tent in the middle of the night!
The camp itself is small and has a very personal feel to it. There are only eight or so guest tents, so you get to meet everyone passing through. One of the great pleasures was getting to chat to other guests over the evening meal or round the camp fire, swapping stories of the day's sightings. If you do want a little more privacy, then it's absolutely fine to eat in your own group.
Whilst you do sleep and eat under canvas, it is an extremely civilised experience: the beds are comfy (with hot water bottles provided to ward off the chill of the evenings); there are bucket showers which sound much more primitive than they really are; the communal area is very elegantly laid out; tea is brought to the tent before setting out on early morning game drives, and the food was fantastic.
What really makes the experience however are the wonderful hosts. Both Adrian and Veronique made a real effort to get to know us and ensure we were well looked after; and it's certainly worth picking Adrian's brains on the history of the region (it's not called Speke's camp for nothing)
The final word must go to our wonderful guide/driver Ambrose and our Masai spotter Marco. It was a real privilege to have our own land-rover and to be shown the reserve by such knowledgeable and charming individuals. Ambrose is a proper naturalist, can identify a lilac breasted roller at 200 yards, and knows where to see the best wildlife without simply following other trucks. On our final afternoon, with 30 minutes before we had to leave the Mara Triangle, we had seen every animal and bird that was on our wish list (including a live Cheetah kill), but had not seen a rhino. Marco saw a speck on the horizon, Ambrose drove like the clappers and as a parting gift we were able to see this most elusive animal up close. Notwithstanding all the awe-inspiring nature, I think my wife's personal highlight was driving the land rover back to amp along the dirt track through herds of zebra and ambling giraffe. A truly amazing experience all round.
Jonathan I reviewing Laikipia & Masai Mara Safari on 24 August 2018