Ol Donyo Lodge
Ol Donyo Lodge is located on the Masai-owned Mbirikani Group Ranch, 275,000 acres of wilderness between the Amboseli and Tsavo National Parks and bordering Chyulu Hills National Park. This stunning area is diverse and has spectacular views of Mount Kilimanjaro. No other lodge in Africa offers such a wide range of experiences in such a private setting. Kenya’s first Relais & Chateaux lodge is perched on a hillside, with East Africa’s classic savanna below.
The 16 bed lodge is a sympathetic blend of contemporary and rustic with each suite merging into the park’s landscape. Designed for a wide appeal, the lodge is ideal for a getaway for families, honeymooners or multi-generational groups. What makes it stand out is its wide variety of activities; cultural visits, great wildlife viewing, hiking, horseback riding for riders of all levels and mountain biking. Ol Donyo Lodge is a place to get a feel for Africa, and get away from normal life.
Add to this the lodge’s creature comforts – fine dining, massage, infinity pool, star beds and multiple lounges, and it is a place to relax and unwind for days. Wildlife is here, but this semi-arid region does not host the large volumes of the Masai Mara area, so the lodge is best paired with a stay in one of the Masai Mara lodges. Together, this combination gives you a complete Kenya itinerary.
No two of the lodge’s eight suites is exactly the same, but what is consistent is the view to Mount Kilimanjaro. Furthermore, the lodge has fabulous waterhole and each of the suites has a ‘star bed’ atop for sleeping out under the stars. Six of the lodge’s suites have private plunge pools, and two are connected for a ‘villa’ concept, ideal for families or couples traveling together. Constructed of local thatch and gunnite, the suites blend in with the environment although they have great views. Flashes of bright color interspersed with earthy tones, wildlife photography and local crafts punctuate the open-air layout.
The lodge’s main lounge, with a grand stone fireplace, a small library, an inviting open bar and expansive veranda, is the place to rendezvous with new friends and the local staff. The attached dining area or the nearby pool lounge is where sumptuous meals are served, and good times are to be had. The main infinity pool, curio shop and office offer other diversions should you need more activity after exploring the area.
Most of the lodge staff is from the local Masai community and are keen to share their fascinating culture with guests – this is great opportunity to learn about it first hand. Also, the Mbirikani Group Ranch and Ol Donyo Lodge are one of the first examples of a community tourism partnership where land is leased from the Masai by the lodge. Therefore, providing the Masai with the benefits of tourism and an incentive for conservation.
Pool Suites (8)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 veranda 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.
Ol Donyo 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 savanna and its flat top acacia trees with Mount Kilimanjaro in the background. The décor is luxurious and opulent, while still retaining the atmosphere and sense of place that is an essential ingredient of an outstanding bush lodge. Art from around Africa coupled with the photography of Carol Beckwith and Angela Fisher create a commanding space under the high thatch roofs. The design is contemporary and yet traditional.
All suites have a lounge, veranda, indoor and outdoor showers, double washbasins, flush toilet and bath, and “star-bed”. The rooftop “star-bed” is accessed from the veranda via a winding stone staircase. This is a fabulous sleep-out option, with utter privacy and all the amenities of the suite just below.
The pool suites are four-bedded private villas and are ideal for families or small groups of friends. They are designed to be versatile and function either as family villas or for two couples while still maintaining an element of privacy. An outer central foyer connects the two suites. These are Nyati, Sirra, and El Mau.
Lastly, one of the villas, Sambu, functions more as a bush home intended for families or groups of friends. This villa is purpose built and designed for a couple who want space and seclusion or for parents who require their children under the same roof, but with adequate space and privacy. It has two bedrooms under one roof and one swimming pool. Each bedroom has its own spacious en-suite bathroom, complete with an indoor and outdoor shower, "star bed" and sundowner viewing deck.