Out of Nairobi/Travel: 24 Hours in Serena Mountain Lodge, Nyeri County
Located 193 kilometres, which is slightly under 3 hours’ drive from Nairobi, Serena Mountain Lodge offers a unique getaway away from the hustle and bustle of the city life. The fact that Sagana State Lodge, which has been dubbed as Kenya’s own version of United States reclusive Presidential getaway Camp David, is located a few kilometers from Serena Mountain Lodge speaks volumes about the ideal settings of the lodge. It is no wonder that whenever the President is conducting official business in that part of town, most of his guests end up staying at Serena Mountain Lodge. A few notables have spent the night there which includes, the current Deputy President, the former Chief of the General Staff and the current CS for Devolution and Planning who coincidentally happens to come from that region. Other guests who have found it fit to unwind in the reclusive and tranquil lodge are the British Army soldiers who happen to have a base in Mount Kenya region.
One of the things that immediately hit you as you approach the lodge is the clear fresh air, this is because the lodge is located inside Mt. Kenya Forest and it is located at 2,134 meters above sea level. The other laudable thing about the lodge is the all tarmac road up to the lodge. This is something you get to appreciate especially if you are driving yourself to the lodge as was the case with us in a small salon car.
The other interesting observation made about this lodge is, unlike others Serena properties which I have visited in the past, the Mountain Lodge is operated by Serena Hotels not owned by the Chain.
The lodge is built in a location which was identified by a game hunter who noticed its uniqueness in in the 1950’s since animals would always come to the present day watering hole to drink water. It is with this in mind that he suggested this location as a prime place to set up a lodge and in immediate post-independence period the lodge was put up. It was initially run and operated by a separate entity before the Serena chain took up the management.
The architectural style of the lodge is cabin styled and timber-built, and it has 42 rooms with private balconies overlooking the watering hole. The interior décor especially of the lobby echoes Kikuyu Culture with pictures of the community which date back to pre-British colonial settlements. The rooms have hand woven hangings which one would presume have been done by the surrounding community.
The lodge has high speed free Wi-Fi, which as you would expect seems like a basic need in this times we live in, so even if you take your holiday or getaway, you can still be in contact with the rest of the world. The location also has clear Safaricom coverage, which is what I use and as such you can still receive and make call, if you wish to be in touch. Otherwise, you can choose to switch off, relax and enjoy your stay at the lodge. As you would expect the place to be cold by the day and even colder by the night, the lodge provides hot-water bottles.
Dining, Bar and Hospitality
The lodge has a central dining room which is raised to tree level offering long views over the forest canopy which is ideal especially as you take your lunch or breakfast. The hotel offers personalized meal experience with a 3 course menu to choose from as opposed to Sweetwaters Serena Tented Camp which we visited next during the course of our itinerary. The diner also has a wide range of red and white wines to choose from offering an assortment of both local wines and South African wines.
At an extra cost, the lodge offers rooftop candlelit dinners and sundowners. We were able to experience the former, a candlelit dinner in the presence of Mr. Kathurima Mbuguru, the Lodge Manager, who was an outstanding host during our say at the lodge.
Adjacent to the main dining room is an exceptionally well-stocked bar; mind you they have Remy Martin and Napoleon Courvoisier! The bar has its own private game-viewing terrace which is similar to private box stands you would have in a stadium. This is an ideal location within the lodge for a delegation on hang around and for business delegations; this is an optimal place close a deal or two.
Activities and Cultural Interaction
There are quite a few activities that one can indulge into while at the lodge;
a) Guided Forest Walks
The lodge offers a guided forest walk under the leadership of the extremely well versed resident naturalist, Mr. Benson Maina. These walks normally begin at the lodge by being given the correct set of clothing, gumboots and raincoat followed thereafter by small induction of what to do and what not to do in the forest by Benson.
Thereafter, Benson takes visitors to the Kikuyu heritage Museum he is trying to set up which has items and artifacts from the Kikuyu community. Here he offers a brief overview of the community, to some of the cultural practices, that were observed by the Kikuyu people in the pre-colonial period. After this rather interesting encounter with some of the Kikuyu community customs and practices, the nature walk gets in Mt. Kenya Forest under the escort of 2 armed rangers, one in the front and the other at the back of the line.
During the 2 hour walk, one is able to observe, different bird species, come across interesting flora and in between Benson Maina would give lectures on different facets of the mountain ecosystem. Also, during these stop-overs, Benson would be able to respond to any queries such as, ‘what do you do when you come across a charging buffalo?’
What do you do when you meet with a charging Buffalo? Serena Mountain Lodge naturalist expounds your best options.. pic.twitter.com/Bl8o95uSfx
— Robert Njathika (@Njathika) August 15, 2015
In between this afternoon walk, which usually takes place between 3-5 pm, there is a tea break smack in the middle of the forest. The lodge has a prime picnic location in which one has tea, seated on a fallen log of wood with ‘tables’ made of vertical rounded timber trunks. The tea comes with the option of milk (white tea) or with ‘elephant milk’ (which is black tea with Napoleon French Brandy).
b) Trout Fishing in Mountain Streams
The lodge is located near a trout hatchery, which is the biggest trout hatchery in East and Central Africa. One of the quintessential things to do while at the lodge is to visit the trout hatchery. Here you will be shown the whole process that goes in the hatchery, from the harvesting of eggs to seeing the fully grown trout that are sold in the fish market in a nearby town centre at KES 600 per Kilo. While at the hatchery and with enough time, one gets to fish for their own lunch (that is if they want to have fish for Lunch!). However, in our case due to a tight schedule, no one in our delegation was able to capture a fish in the over 30 minutes fishing 101 we had with Benson.
c) Walking on the high moorlands and Luxury ascent of Mount Kenya
For visitors that have an itinerary that is more than five days, the lodge offers luxury ascent to Mt. Kenya. This package includes potters, and all the necessities that will make your scaling of Mt. Kenya easy and memorable.
For the guests that might not have the time to scale the mountain, walks to the moorlands can be organised by the lodge.
d) Viewing animals overlooking the Lodge’s water hole and Mount Kenya
In case you do not have the time to venture outside the lodge, special cases and circumstances where you have a conference in the lodge, then worry not about missing our since the lodge’s watering hole attracts a wide variety of game during the day and you can sign to be woken at night should an animal of your choosing be spotted at the watering.
Also, if you wake up very early in the morning or on cloudless days, one is able to view the peaks of Mt. Kenya from the balcony of your room.
The lodge offers a tranquil environment which is ideal for either an out of town getaway, wedding and honeymoon destination, and conference and event facilities. If you are planning a family getaway, please note that the lodge does NOT permit children under 7 years of age.
1. At the time of writing the room rate was $221, however, you can get in touch with the hotel through firstname.lastname@example.org to get the prevailing best rate.
2. Most of the photos are by Niazaro Kala
Disclosure: This trip was facilitated by Serena Hotel (accommodation).