OL DONYO LODGE
A CAPTIVATING LODGE WITH STUNNING VIEWS OVER MOUNT KILIMANJARO
This magnificent and stylish lodge on the slopes of the Chyulu Hills blends contemporary and traditional design, and offers guests a magical experience. To stay here is a chance to explore Africa in numerous and unexpected ways – by horseback, mountain bike, by foot or by four-wheel drive vehicles. Ol Donyo enjoys a stunning location overlooking the plains with the savannah at its feet stretching as far as the eye can see. The real exclusivity for Ol Donyo Lodge is apparent when out exploring the land. The entire area is reserved exclusively for Ol Donyo guests – no other tourists, no fleets of mini-buses – it’s private pure and wild. Imagine sitting in a hide just a few paces from some of the largest tusker elephants in the world. This is the Africa of the mind’s eye.
Ol Donyo is one of the most luxurious small lodges in East Africa. This privately owned Relais & Chateaux property, part of the Great Plains Conservation, is located in the heart of the 275,000 acre Mbirikani Group Ranch between Amboseli and Tsavo National Parks in southeast Kenya. It is a lodge rich in history, passion and conservation. The main area is set high on the hillside and opens out onto the plains below with Mount Kilimanjaro ever present in the distance.
The lodge consists of ten expansive guest suites in six stand-alone villas. No two spaces are of the same design, but all have a dramatic view of the archetypal African savannah and its flattop acacia trees with Mount Kilimanjaro in the background. What is consistent is the attention to detail; the décor is luxurious while still retaining the atmosphere and sense of place that is an essential ingredient of an outstanding bush lodge. The guest suites are spacious with their own private sitting rooms and swimming pools. Art from around Africa, coupled with the photography of Carol Beckwith and Angela Fisher, creates a commanding space under the high thatched roofs. All suites have a lounge, veranda, indoor and outdoors showers, bath and a rooftop Star bed that is accessed via a winding stone staircase. This is a fabulous sleep-out option with utter privacy and all the amenities of the suite below.
Candlelit dinners in the main dining room are wonderful, tantalizing meals, accompanied by an extensive wine list. There are also dinners under the Stars of Kenya in the romantic setting of the bush. A private chef is available for in-villa catering, and total exclusivity.
The lodge, and its conservation partner, Big Life Foundation, continues to push the boundaries in innovative community conservation schemes. It has worked closely to engage the Maasai community with their wildlife heritage and to see wild animals as an economic asset. They also are trying to help them to cope with wildlife-human conflict. The foundation works actively against poaching, not just of elephants, but the critically endangered of black rhino. The successful pioneering “Predator Compensation Scheme” has stopped much of the retaliatory killing of lions throughout the area and has now been extended to cover the region around the Amboseli Reserve.
The camp help fund the Predator Compensation Fund, under Big Life, by paying fair value for cows killed by lions, while Maasai warriors have agreed to stop spearing lions. Dereck Joubert tells about a Maasai warrior; “The warmth of a warrior’s smile one day, a six foot tall man in red checked robes with beads and spears and swords is something I will not forget but when he told me that real warriors don’t need to kill lions anymore, my heart swelled with pride, compassion and a sense of shared hope”.
There is no set routine at Ol Donyo Lodge. The experience is there for the making – a safari of the guest’s design. The real pleasure of Ol Donyo Lodge lies in the more non-traditional, more active mediums of safari. This is not a place to go for game viewing. Visit for the magnificent views of Mount Kilimanjaro, for the vast landscape and for some exciting activities. Guests can travel without limitations across the incredible savannah of this portion of East Africa in open 4 x 4 game drive vehicles, or feel the rhythm of Africa beneath their feet as they walk with expert game trackers in the breathtaking Chyulu Hills. Other safari choices include horseback riding and mountain biking – all with Mt. Kilimanjaro as a stunning backdrop. Comfortable wildlife viewing can also be accomplished in an open-air hide by the lodge waterhole.
The Maasai of the Mbirikani Group Ranch are as natural a part of the area as the wildlife. After years as partners on the land, Richard and Tara Bonham have a very unique ‘second home’ with the Maasai. Guests are welcome to visit the Maasai villages on the ranch, without a feeling of interruption of life. It is an authentic experience, offering guests insight into the culture and traditions of the Maasai.
The Chyulu Hills and the surrounding ecosystem are perfect for horseback safaris. The rides are over course volcanic sand, which is ideal footing for fast or slow riding. A horse can navigate this diverse landscape gracefully, moving in and out of the wildlife without disturbance, all while covering miles of open country. For lodge guests, horse rides are offered every morning and evening with a break during the middle of the day. The herd of 25 horses ranges in size and performance to suit riders of all levels. Ol Donyo takes great pride in the care and training of the horses. More enthusiastic riders, wanting more hours in the saddle can opt for one or two nights of fly camping where they ride further afield, keeping the horses with them throughout, while tasking a lightweight camp to sleep in at night. Guides and camp crew accompany these camping adventures, making for comfortable, safe and unforgettable experiences – a true wilderness adventure.
Cheetah, elephant, giraffe, zebra, fringe-eared oryx and gerenuk make for easy viewing. Rhino, buffalo, leopard and lion are present, but more elusive. The variety of birdlife and plant species is astounding.
This lodge is situated in the foothills of the Chyulu Hills where the shadow of Kilimanjaro stretches across the open plains. The rolling Chyulu Hills and snowcapped peaks of Kilimanjaro invoke images of Africa as it was in the earlier part of the last century. This is a unique place for landscape photography. There is also an open air hide only minutes from the lodge and situated right next to the water hole where one can sit and wait for an up-close experience with the wildlife that come to the waterhole to drink primarily elephant, giraffe, zebra, fringe-eared oryx and gerenuk.