Ol Donyo Wuas lies in the foothills of the Chyulu Range, halfway between Tsavo and Amboseli National Parks. The Lodge consists of 7 rooms built of local materials with spectacular views of Mt. Kilimanjaro.
Imagine…275,000 acres of scenic Africa, where the wildlife can be found free and roaming, without tourists in mini buses or a set schedule.
Imagine…travelling across the archetypal savannahs of East Africa in an open 4x4 game drive vehicle without limitation, feeling the rhythm of Africa beneath your feet as you walk with expert trackers, or horseback riding with Mt. Kilimanjaro as a backdrop.
Imagine…exploring this paradise, and then coming home to one of the most luxurious small lodges in East Africa where a hot bath, in or outdoor shower, or private swimming pool await – all with inspiring views across the expansive plains, plus delicious food, charming hosts and world-class service.
ol Donyo Lodge is in the heart of the 275,000 acre Mbirikani Group Ranch, located on the slopes of the Chyulu Hills National Park between the Amboseli and Tsavo West National Parks in southeast Kenya. Its location is unrivalled with full views of Mount Kilimanjaro and in the path of seasonal elephant migrations. It is a lodge rich in history, passion and conservation.
ol Donyo Lodge's founder Richard Bonham had often flown over this spectacular landscape but one day in the 1980s, he was moved to land his Cessna on the open plains and meet the local Maasai. That was only the first of many meetings, before the birth of a pioneering community conservation tourism project. The concept was simple: Richard brings guests to this remote group ranch to participate in safaris, and the Maasai share the benefits. But nothing in Africa is that simple, really. And so began a life-long relationship with the Maasai, the wildlife and the game ranch.
ol Donyo Lodge is a 20-bed lodge, rebuilt and redesigned in 2008, and perched on a hillside, with no two suites or villas the same. What is consistent is the attention to detail, the comfortable yet utterly luxurious décor and the tradition of greatness. Regarded as one of the most attractive lodges in East Africa, ol Donyo Lodge is a place to call home for as long as possible.
The real exclusivity of ol Donyo Lodge is apparent when out exploring the land. The entire area is reserved exclusively for ol Donyo Lodge guests – no other tourists, no fleets of mini-buses – it's private, pure and wild. Each day is different, there is no set routine. It is there for the making – a safari of the guest's design. While it may be tempting to laze around the lovely suites, and bask in the sun next to the private pool, the diverse activities at ol Donyo Lodge are equally as alluring. There is arguably no other lodge in Africa with this wide a range of options for the safari enthusiast.
Of course we depart daily in the 4x4 game drive vehicles on the search for wildlife, but the real pleasure of ol Donyo Lodge rests in the more non-traditional mediums of safari. Often, we will simply set out tracking and walking as a means of wildlife viewing. The Mbirikani Group Ranch features an incredible diversity of habitats. Perhaps the most unique is the high-altitude mist forest, where leopard and rhino lurk, and an incredible amount of biodiversity is present. It is a microcosm, unlike any other area of the ranch. So in addition to tracking, a hike to this area, from the lodge, is very rewarding.
Imagine being at eye-level with one of ol Donyo Lodge' 100-pound tusker elephants, or looking at the knobby knees of a giraffe, or the antics of warthog all while sitting peacefully and absorbing the intimacy of this precious moment. This is ol Donyo Lodge's open air hide or "log-jam" hide, a mass of heavy logs piled about five feet high and three feet thick shaded by canopy, where guests are able to safely view wildlife at exceptionally close range at the lodge's waterhole. It is a privilege. This "log-jam" hide, located just a short walk from the lodge's main area, is a lovely midday activity or for those wanting impromptu wildlife viewing opportunities.
The breadth and depth of ol Donyo Lodge's living and dining area is absolutely awe-inspiring. Upon entering, one is immediately struck by spaciousness and yet the intimacy. The entire main area is set high on the hillside, and opens completely to the plains below, with Mount Kilimanjaro ever present in the distance. The use of stone, thatch and wood make for a very tactile experience, which fills the senses. The low-impact gunnite construction (a combination of wire, hessian cloth and minimal cement) creates a contemporary style. The space flows, there are no straight lines and unique architectural details give character to every area. The magnificent iron-ore chandeliers coupled with grand fireplace provide a warm glow, accented by the rich earth tones. Arched doorways, indoor gardens, bronze sculptures, Zanzibari wood doors, Victorian furniture and romantic prose grace the space. It is captivating.
Just below the main area, but also on the hillside is a breathtaking infinity pool, complete with a private lounge and dining area. With views of the lodge's famous waterhole and luxurious voile curtains and cushions, it's the perfect place to while away the afternoon.
Al fresco lunches on the verandah and or candlelit dinners in the main dining room are wonderful, but we also enjoy hosting breakfasts in the plains and dinners under the African sky; or surprise sundowners and classic English tea in the romantic setting of the bush. Finally, it's a night cap around the cozy outdoor fireplace to round out another perfect day in Africa.