My first plane ride was on a Safarilink flight to Satao Elerai Camp in Amboseli National Park. It was the most terrifying experience of my life! I was air sick throughout the flight and the guy seated next to me kept eyeing me like I would heave my breakfast on his lap. That trip seven years ago was my first visit to Amboseli. My second visit was on the last week of April this year courtesy of Tawi Lodge.
How to get there
Our journey started at 2pm and took 4.5 hours with a brief stopover at Mlolongo and Emali. The drive is pretty smooth up until you get to the conservancy where the tarmac ends and and then it is rough road until you get to the lodge. This means with good weather, you can actually self drive and do not need a 4×4 to get you there. From Nairobi CBD, get on Mombasa Road and drive 2.5 hours to Emali. From Emali drive about 500 metres and then take a right turn and drive 1.5 hours to the Tawi Conservancy sign board. From there, it takes about 30 minutes to the lodge.
About the lodge
Tawi Lodge is a boutique property located on the 6,000 acre Tawi Conservancy located about one kilometer from Amboseli National Park. The main building comprises of a restaurant, a lounge, a viewing deck and a small library above the lounge. Outside the main building is the swimming pool (there is a baby pool too) and within the compound is a small spa if you wish to have a mani-pedi or a massage.
Tawi’s 13 cottages – more of rondavels – are circular and feature high conical wooden roofs similar to Maasai hats. The cottages are huge and comprise of a small seating area, double/twin/triple beds (mine was a double!) and the bathroom area that consists of a bathtub, shower, two vanity sinks and a closet. I’m scared of bathtubs so I didn’t test it but my rain shower was the closest thing to heaven! I took so many showers on this trip! Each cottage has a name – mine was Ganesh!
What to do
Eager to catch a glimpse of Kili, I work up early the next morning. Mornings are the best times to enjoy views of Mt Kilimanjaro. It is said while the mountain might be in Tanzania, the best views are from Amboseli! Unfortunately, she was shy this morning and had her cloak of clouds firmly around her.
- Bush Breakfast
At 8:00, we trooped into two land-cruisers and headed out for a bush breakfast. What a way to start the morning! Chowing down on bacon and eggs as zebras and impalas graze at a distance is an interesting experience!
2. Game Drive in Amboseli National Park
After breakfast, we drove to Amboseli National Park for a game drive. En-route we came across so much wildlife – zebras, giraffes, impalas, even a gerenuk which are predominantly found in parks and reserves in the north!
Gerenuk (a long-necked antelope)
This mama zebra was so heavy she looked like she would drop a calf at any minute!
However, if you want to see the elephants that Amboseli is renowned for, you have to get inside the park. We got into the park through the Kimana gate. Amboseli has several gates, all manned by the Kenya Wildlife Service. Apart from Kimana, there are the Kulunyiet, Iremito , Meshanani and Kitirua gates. Visitors are required to pay park fees for themselves and their vehicle(s) as follows:
Adult: Ksh 860
Child/Student: Ksh 215
Adult: Ksh: 1,030
Child/student: Ksh 515
Vehicle fee per day: Ksh 300 for less than 6 seats
Located at the foot of Africa’s tallest mountain, Mt Kilimanjaro, Amboseli National Park is arguably Kenya’s most picturesque park. The park has varied habitats that include savanna plains, forests, swamps and rivers which are fed by streams from Kili’s melting snow. These waters are the lifeline of the hundreds of elephant herds found within the park’s 392 sq kms. Amboseli is known as elephant central. Whole families can be seen trooping from the forests heading to cool off in the swamps when the sun is at its hottest. Lone elephants can be seen be spotted feeding in solitude.
Observation Hill is Amboseli’s highest point. It gives a 360 degrees view of the park’s landscape. You get to the top via a flight of steps so it may be inaccessible for people with mobility issues. There is a picnic site on the hill where you can have a snack or meal before continuing with a game drive.
View from Observation Hill
3. Nature walk/ Sun-downer
After the game drive, we went back to the lodge for lunch and a brief rest before heading out on a nature walk to our sundowner location. I must say this was the most active trip I have been on in a while – and the most wonderfully surprising. After being in hiding all day long, Kili finally made her grand reveal while we were on the nature walk. Oh, what excitement!! The selfie/photo marathon that ensued, wacha tu!! Now imagine views of the mountain coupled by a stunning sunset – this was hands down the best sundowner I have ever been on!!
4. Barbecue Dinner accompanied by Maasai dancing
After an amazing sundowner we headed back to the lodge for a boma dinner. This was a Kenyan style choma fest – we had nyam chom, kuku choma, mbuzi served with ugali na mboga. Bliss! These Maasai dancer came along and surprised one of the guests at the lodge with a birthday cake – and the customary song and dance!
5. Maasai Village visit
The following day, after bidding camp staff goodbye, we visited the Maasai village where the dancers hailed from. It is a short distance from the lodge and is managed by the community in partnership with the lodge. We experienced first hand the Maasai men lighting the fire by rubbing sticks together and the women cementing a house with cow dung. These traditional practices are still practiced to date.
For a moment there I didn’t think that fire would light!
Maasai women cementing a house with dung
I would recommend Tawi Lodge for its fantastic customer service – Victor, the Assistant Manager, Dominic, the head waiter, Mary, our waitress, Paul our guide and the rest of the staff were wonderful. A special thank you to Claire from head office for the invite.
I would also recommend it for the variety of activities available to indulge in. No need to have a boring/inactive holiday!
Lastly, because Amboseli is only four hours from Nairobi (closer than the Masai Mara!) and is very accessible!
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