When we first stepped foot on the 1,000 acre lands of the Kongoni Game Valley, the property surrounding Kongoni Lodge, it was like a dream location. Everything is lush and verdant as you go up the hill among the grasses on the private road.
Gazelles, zebras, giraffes and warthogs are prancing around, and as you ascend you realize you are coming into an unbelievable panoramic view of lake, mountains and lush lands of the area. And it's only a two-hour drive from Nairobi. Then you enter the very expansive and artistic lodge - and you realize you are in heaven.
The spacious and luxurious lodge was built in 1927 by a Franco-American couple who spared no expense. The verandas, the courtyard inside, the enormous six bedrooms, the large windows with vistas from every corner - are something you just don’t see every day unless maybe you visit the palace in Granada or other noble properties in Europe. Every detail is finely crafted.
The furniture, much of it original from the time, was handmade in Malinda Kenya. The wooden floors throughout look as though they must be exotic (probably now endangered) wood. In the back of the property there are two more separate cottages with three bedrooms each, done in similar style.
The appointments have been upgraded in the most up-to-date luxury. The large bathrooms, which are tiled throughout, have large glass-enclosed showers, huge tub, and lots of space. The bedrooms are likewise enormous and equipped with king-sized beds and lovely duvets. (Did I mention there are only six bedrooms?)
The food is wonderful, made to order for any diet. The cuisine is international, including local, Indian and Italian dishes. You can choose to be served on the veranda, in the dining room or by the pool.
There is a lovely couple, Cindy and Rob Mills, who are guest hosts and managers, accompanied by a large staff. Cindy was very kind about showing us around and sometimes being our chauffer. One morining she drove us to the nearby salty lake to watch the flamingos and other birds. Beautiful!
Delicious and hand-tailored meals are served absolutely at the whim of the guest. There is room- upon-room of various sitting, lounging and dining areas throughout. Wi-fi is turned on. Beautiful and unique animal and African art adorn every foot of the establishment. If you are lucky, you might get a glimpse of Ava and Jade, the Mills’ two baby girls.
The land also includes an even higher area with a 360-degree panoramic view where guests can be taken for a traditional “sundowner” with a bonfire and cocktails to watch the sun go down.
If you want to do nothing, this is the place to do it. If you want to explore the area, visit Lake Naivasha and its hungry hippos, or the salty lake nearby with is gorgeous flamingos.
Or you can hike in the beautiful Hell's Gate National Park gorges up the road. Or go on a game drive of any kind. It is all available to you. This is an idyllic place for private tourists as well as for weddings and corporate events. You decide, and it is all part of the package.
“Wildlife is our top priority,” says Cindy. “Guests get educated about our charity (Animal Rights Reserved). It’s like an exclusive home away from home.” Yes, very exclusive indeed. In fact, I have never watched zebra, giraffes, fox and warthogs - and even hippos - prancing around on my lawn at home!
Not once as at Kongoni Lodge, has a zebra come to drink from my pool! Never at home have I been privy to the level of caring and service that is offered inside. They make it feel like your private palace, the way they cater to you, with a friendly staff of thirty.
Kongoni Lodge was gifted by a wealthy Polish telecommunications mogul to his wife about two years ago. Margaret Zak, a lifetime animal and Africa enthusiast set about to make what was already a treasure into a masterpiece. Besides adorning the lodge, she immediately purchased another 1,000 acres nearby as a sanctuary for wildlife.
Together with her daughter Ola Zak and manager Rob, they created Animal Rights Reserved (ARR) to help wildlife in the area. So part of the of the Kongoni Lodge property includes an orphanage for mostly young animals that have been found in distress. (Please see my accompanying article on the vet rescue work of ARR.) Ola's partner Edward Winter, is helping to expand the possibilities of Kongoni Lodge. In the near future they will have photography excursions and classes, as well as a volunteer program for those who want to help with animals.
So when you book a stay at Kongoni Lodge, (about $300/night per person includes full board, sundowner and game drive), you are setting yourself up for a royal and magical experience. In addition, you are contributing to the welfare of animals and ensuring the growth of a charity that hopes to minimize the current problems of human-animal conflict. You are enabling an important forward-looking mission for animals to sustain itself.
Photos courtesy of Kongoni Lodge and Georja Umano.
Georja Umano is an actor and animal advocate.
To see more, visit www.kongonilodge.com and
Published on Dec 29, 2012