Part of Great Plains’s east African portfolio and located in the Chyulu Hills, in southeast Kenya, ol Donyo Lodge has for years been the favoured destination for a loyal, well-heeled, and well-travelled clientele, and has garnered a reputation for providing a service that is luxurious, responsible and extraordinarily creative.
Initially set up by East Africa safari-hand Richard Bonham and representatives of the local community, ol Donyo Lodge is situated on the Maasai owned Mbirikani Group Ranch, whose 275 000 odd acres now constitute a huge wild area in which, thanks to various conservation initiatives, both fauna and flora are flourishing.
A stone, wood and thatch build, the main lodge overlooks a waterhole, and consists of a beautifully designed living and dining area. With an emphasis placed on creating a space that is both intimate and large, huge iron chandeliers and an enormous fireplace combine with a design that favours winding spaces over straight lines, the arch over the rectangle, a range of artefacts and furniture over a single style – producing an effect that is welcoming and, at the same time, awe inspiring. Below, but still elevated enough to act as a wildlife viewing platform in its own right, is the pool, complete with lounge and dining area.
Food & service
The food at ol Donyo Lodge – salads, soups, meats – is healthy and innovative, while the service is equally as fine.
With room for 20 guests, the sleeping accommodation at ol Donyo Lodge is housed in seven discreetly placed stone and thatch villas, which break down into 10 guest suites. Each villa of ol Donyo Lodge has its own name, its own architectural characteristics, and offers, by way of space, a slightly different living arrangement. While some are more suited to couples, and one, the Hide, is just a one bedroom facility, others are large enough to accommodate families, groups, or couples travelling in tangent.
However, there are similarities. Each is built to the highest of standards and designed with an eye for both luxury and function. The bathrooms, for example, all contain standalone baths, which in some cases come with their own attached basins – and most have star bed decking, private pools and outdoor showers. Wi-Fi is available across the lodge.
Activities at ol Donyo Lodge include wildlife drives, horse riding, hide views, bush picnics, guided walks, massage, mountain biking, and trips to Amboseli.
Great Plains Conservation make sure that their camps are run in the most sustainable way possible. In their own words:
‘We believe that responsible tourism has the capacity to protect natural wildlife habitats, support community development and alleviate poverty. It is the only responsible way into the future of Africa.
‘Our aim is to create best practice, world-class conservancy with long terms commitment to the environment, wildlife and the local communities.
We also have an initiative to contribute to halting the alarming decline in Big Cats around the world: For each guest’s four night stay at one of Great Plains Conservation’s Botswana (Zarafa, Selinda or Duba Plains) and Kenya (ol Donyo or Mara Plains) camps, we will donate $25 per person per night to the National Geographic Big Cats Initiative.’