Sarova Salt Lick Game Lodge and Sarova Taita Hills Game Lodge are two Kenyan, hidden gems you simply must visit this December.
After the 400 km bus ride from Nairobi to the Taita Hills Wildlife Sanctuary – a 28,000-acre private conservancy at the foot of the Taita Hills – I was looking forward to a good night’s rest. I forgot about my fatigue as we pulled into the Sarova Salt Lick Game Lodge, owing to the unique and clever design of the lodge and the surrounding spectacle. The lodge is built on stilts across two levels, affording every guest a panoramic view of the waterhole and the expansive Tsavo plains. A herd of elephants were enjoying their evening drink, and as we stood mesmerised by the blend of wildlife and scenery outside our room on a suspended walkway, the staff told us that we could get a much closer, ground-level view. He led us to an underground tunnel that had a bunker with ground-level windows where we were right about face to face with the game.
One person, heady from the experience, turned around and said it was never getting better than that. Turned out it was, because at the lobby, a mere few metres away, was a herd of elephants drinking in groups. The camera shutters went wild. Fun fact about elephants: they are a caring species.
A calf fell in the water and a bunch of the bigger elephants trooped in to lift it out using their trunks. I missed the best part of the experience as I was frantically scanning the room for escape routes. The commotion unnerved me; try having elephants grunting and roaring a few metres across from you and see if your brain won’t scream “bolt”, despite assurances from the staff that you’re safe.
At night, I heard the unmistakable roar of a lion and I ran to my window. It was too dark to glimpse the waterhole and when I excitedly told a group at the lobby the following day about it, they laughed and said that it was an elephant. Bummer!
The Taita Taveta County is steeped in history. It was a World War I battlefield. We got a sense of that when we later checked into Sarova Taita Hills Game Lodge, an arresting stone building in the shape of a German fort. The lodge has display panels of WWI collections and artefacts. Each room has a private viewing balcony. My room had a view of the lush gardens and the hills beyond.
Stays at both the lodges involve a lot of activities – game viewing, nature walks, visits to the local villages, bush dinners – but there are also tours of the battlefield areas – which include the Mashoti Fort and Maktau – that are within an 80 km radius of the lodges. The lodges are great places to escape the approaching holiday (outside traditional destinations). The rates are affordable – you can get a night on full board for less than Kshs 10, 000 over the low season.