Posts filed under ‘Tembea Kenya Series’

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.

Serena Mountain Lodge External View | Photo by Maneno

Serena Mountain Lodge External View | Photo by Maneno


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.

Mr. Kathurima Mbuguru, the Lodge Manager, Janet from Serena, Eric, Njathika and Kelvin | Photo by Maneno

Mr. Kathurima Mbuguru, the Lodge Manager, Janet from Serena, Eric, Njathika and Kelvin | Photo by Maneno

The Lodge
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.

Waterhole | Via Serena Hotels

Waterhole | Via Serena Hotels

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.

Serena Mountain Lodge Bar | Via Serena Hotels

Serena Mountain Lodge Bar | Via Serena Hotels

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.

Benson Maina, Serena Mountain Lodge Naturalist | Photo by Maneno

Benson Maina, Serena Mountain Lodge Naturalist | Photo by Maneno

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.

Armed Ranger | Photo by Maneno

Armed Ranger | Photo by Maneno

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?’

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).

Tea Break in the Middle of the Forest | Photo by Maneno

Tea Break in the Middle of the Forest | Photo by Maneno

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.

Kevin trying his hand out at fishing | Photo by Maneno

Kevin trying his hand out at fishing | Photo by Maneno

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.

Viewed from the Balcony of Serena Mountain Lodge | Photo by Maneno

Viewed from the Balcony of Serena Mountain Lodge | Photo by Maneno

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.

A Buffalo drinks water at the Watering Hole | Photo by Njathika

A Buffalo drinks water at the Watering Hole | Photo by Njathika


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.

The Details
1. At the time of writing the room rate was $221, however, you can get in touch with the hotel through cro@serena.co.ke to get the prevailing best rate.

2. Most of the photos are by Niazaro Kala

Disclosure: This trip was facilitated by Serena Hotel (accommodation).

August 23, 2015 at 6:39 pm Leave a comment

Out of Nairobi/Travel: 24 Hours in Amboseli Serena Safari Lodge, Kajiado County

Amboseli Serena Safari Lodge | Photo by Njathika

Amboseli Serena Safari Lodge | Photo by Njathika


Amboseli Serena Safari Lodge has this blend that exists between it and the ecosystem around it. From a far it would be hard to tell if the lodge does indeed exist! Trees have been planted around the lodge and the Masai architectural design of lodge minimizes disturbance to the surrounding ecosystem. The only give away about the lodge’s existence is the constant traffic of vehicles plying to and from the lodge.

Location


Amboseli Serena Safari Lodge is located inside the Amboseli National Park which is in Kajaido County. One can access this lodge using two fronts -either from Tsavo National Park (from Nairobi-Mombasa node)or from Nairobi-Namanga Road

In our case, we accessed the lodge from Kilaguni Serena Safari Lodge and as such we connected through the road that cuts through Tsavo West National Park. This road cuts across the no man’s land / Tanzanian Kenyan border – tour vans are accompanied by armed KWS wardens. This is because in the late eighties bandits used to ambush convoys but this is no longer the case. There has not been any reported incident in the recent past.
KWS offers security to tour vans leaving Tsavo Park to Amboseli at 8 and 10 am and also for the reverse traffic. When you use this stretch road, you will get to to see Shetani Lava Flow. This is an area where volcanic activity took place a few hundred years ago and the local not understanding the phenomena named it shetani which is Swahili for the devil.

Mt. Kilimanjaro | Photo by Maneno

Mt. Kilimanjaro | Photo by Maneno


This road cuts across the Masai heartland and on a clear day you can view Mt. Kilimanjaro on the background. Occasionally, you will meet with Masai herd’s boys with their cattle who normally herd they cattle next to the road so as to make an extra buck from curious tourists. The traffic along the route has also resulted to some form of entrepreneurship – Masai folks who sell beadworks. Occasionally some will propose you pose with them for a photo in exchange for a few bucks! When using this stretch of the road prepare for some dust – this is a dirt road and the vehicles normally move in a convoy.

Thursday
1. Lunch | 1 pm
The lodge offers buffet lunch with a wide selection to choose from offering and caters also for the vegetarians. Lunch is served from 12.30 to 2.30 pm.

The lunch

Buffet Lunch Menu
From The Salads Counter
A selection of
Fresh Garden Salads, Cold Platters
With a Choice of Dressings and Condiments
Soup
Cream of Carrot and Grinder
Or
Mutton Broth Flavored with Turmeric
Hot Chaffing Dishes
Beef Strongnoff, Chicken Drumsticks,
Grilled Red Snapper Set on Leeks Fondue,
Steamed Rice, Boulangere Potatoes, Njahi,
Fleshly tossed Vegetables in Season
Indian Option
Parathas, Creole ice,
Ghobi Mattar, Green Daal,
Papadums, chutney, Pickles and Condiments

Active Cooking
A choice of stir fry vegetables and pasta

The Desserts
Selection of deserts, pastries, cakes and sweets
Tropical Fruit Slices and fruit salad
Kenyan Cheese Board with Crackers and Relishes
***
Freshly Brewed Kenyan Coffee, Tea or Herbal Infusion

Selection of Serena House White and Red Wine (paid separately)

2. Afternoon Game Drive | 2.30 pm
Amboseli offers a wide selection of game one can view and in our case we were not disappointed. It is easier to spot animals in Amboseli as opposed to the Tsavo East where terrain and trees hinder one from viewing the animals.

Elephant Crossing | Photo by Maneno

Elephant Crossing | Photo by Maneno


If you are doing a game drive you are assured of spotting the elephants, zebra, hyenas, buffaloes and ostriches. You will need a lot of patience if you intention is to spot the big cats. However, with a measure of luck and a good game driver you are assured of making the drive memorable. The drivers normally exchange information on places where they have spotted certain animals

3. Bush Barbeque Dinner with Masai Traditional Dance and Drinks | 8 pm

Dance to some Masai tunes while having a 7 course meal | Photo by Maneno

Dance to some Masai tunes while having a 7 course meal | Photo by Maneno


For an extra cost* you can have a seven course dinner bush barbecue dinner accompanied with Masai traditional dance. The setting for the seven course meal is impeccably done in one of the open spaces near the lodge. While enjoying your dinner you can view the sky and listen to herbivores that normally grace within the vicinity of the lodge.
If you are having a family event or an office retreat – the Bush Barbecue Dinner is highly recommended.
Bush Barbeque Dinner

Dinner Menu
Salads
A Selection of Fresh Garden Salads and Cold Platters
With a Choice of Dressings and Condiments
Soup
Puree of Vegetables
Or
Clear Essence of Chicken
Main Course
Grilled Medallion of Beef Served with Thyme Reduction
Or
Broiled Red Snapper Fillet Served with Lemon Butter
Accompaniments
Steamed Rice
Or
Parsley Potatoes
Freshly Tossed Market Vegetables
Vegetarian Offer
Baigan Masala, Risi Bisi Rice,
Chana Chole, Daal Aloo Palak,
Papadums, Chutneys and Condiments
The Active Cooking
AChoice of Stir Fry Vegetables with Pasta

The Desserts Buffet
Selection of Desserts, Pastries, Sweets, Cakes
Tropical Fruit Slices and Fresh Fruit Salad
***
Kenyan Cheese Board with Crakers
***
Freshly Brewed Kenyan Coffee, Tea or Herbal Infusions
Recommended Wines
ST. EMILLION
ARNISTON BAY (chenin blanc)

Serena Hotels Chef Preparing the Dessert | Photo by Maneno

Serena Hotels Chef Preparing the Dessert | Photo by Maneno


Hat tip: You need to have ready for the seven course because it is not a joke!

Friday
4. Morning Game Driver (Sunrise in the Amboseli) | 6 am

Catch the Sunrise in the middle of the Park | Photo by Njathika

Catch the Sunrise in the middle of the Park | Photo by Njathika


Catching the sunrise should be one of the things you need to do while in Amboseli Serena Safari Lodge. One need to arrange in advance with their tour driver so that they can be picked from the lodge by 6 am. The sunrise is best observed in the park, since the is few vegetation.

5. Breakfast at Observation Hill | 8 am

Sundowners Overlooking Mt. Kilimanjaro | Photo via Serena Hotels

Sundowners Overlooking Mt. Kilimanjaro | Photo via Serena Hotels


If you choose to obviously at an extra cost*, you can have breakfast served overlooking Mt. Kilimanjaro and Elephants in the vicinity. The additional cost incurred for this is totally worth it and on a good day you can spot elephants in a marsh that is close to the viewing hill.
Ideal for place for celebrating special occasions.
The lodge also provides sundowners overlooking Mt. Kilimanjaro on the same spot.

6. Tree Planting | 10.30 am

Eric planting a Tree | Photo by Njathika

Eric planting a Tree | Photo by Njathika


Tree planting initially started as Corporate Social Responsibility initiated by one of the previous managers of the lodge.The noble project grown over time and hotel guests are invited to leave a tree footprint around the lodge. This idea has also been bought by KWS and they are now partners of this project. The end goal is to plant more trees around park.
Kevin receiving his Certificate from the Lodge's Manager Herman | Photo by Maneno

Kevin receiving his Certificate from the Lodge’s Manager Herman | Photo by Maneno

7. Swimming, Shoulder Massage or Bird Watching? | 11.30 am
If your schedule does not allow you – there are lots of activities to do within the lodge such as take a dip in the immaculately cleaned swimming pool or reward yourself with a massage. Their masseuse is really fantastic and you are bound to forget you Nairobi problems momentarily!

Birders | Photo by Njathika

Birders | Photo by Njathika


As a result of the tree planting around the lodge, you are bound to spot some bird species and it is not uncommon to spot birders.

8. Lunch / Check Out | 11.30 am
One can check out by 11 am and have lunch which is advised, especially if you are using the road to get back to the city.

Additional Information
Costs
Bush dinner will take you back – $ 35/40
Breakfast at the observation hill – $ 30
Game Drive – $ 50
The room rates depends on the season – check out the Amboseli Serena Safari Lodge site for the best rates.

ION: The lodge has been nominated by World Tourism Awards as one of the Kenya’s Leading Safari Lodge

Disclosure: This trip was facilitated by Serena Hotel.

March 18, 2015 at 6:32 pm 1 comment

Out of Nairobi/Travel: 20 Hours in Kilaguni Serena Safari Lodge, Taita Taveta County

Kilaguni Serena Safari Lodge

Kilaguni Serena Safari Lodge


Wednesday
In between Nairobi and Mombasa cities lies the Tsavo East and West National Parks, now in Taita Taveta County. Tsavo is more synonymous with the man eaters of Tsavo – the lions that brought havoc to the railways constructors in the late part of 18th century. Coincidentally, the railway is being constructed this time not by the British but the Chinese. While there I did not come across any news of a re-occurrence of the fate that befell the British. Maybe the lions like the Chinese!

If you access the Park by road like we did, you will see a high level of activity on Nairobi-Mombasa Road – the building of the Standard Gauge Railway.
Of the two Tsavo’s the West is more a popular destination and Kilaguni Serena Safari Lodge is located inside. By road the Safari Lodge is a 5 hour’s drive from Nairobi but it is also accessible by air. We were informed there is an airstrip within which you can access the park. If you can the 1 hour’s flight from Nairobi is highly recommended.

Since Tsavo West boarders Tanzania, one of the things you need to be aware is, the phone network might be an issue especially Safaricom customers – it is recommended you have an Airtel line. Otherwise, you can buy an Airtel or Orange sim card from the gift shop.

Location

1. Lunch with a View | 2 pm
Our group arrived at the Lodge a few minutes after two and upon arrival one of the things that hit us was the watering hole which is next to the dinner/restaurant area. The watering hole is also visible from the rooms.
At this time of the day, there were few animals at the watering hole – we were able to spot Zebras, Thomson Gazelles and Baboons. If you planning on visiting the lodge it is advisable you carry a pair of binoculars and a camera to snap the animals.

The lunch offered here is a self-service buffet which is included in package but the facility does allow one to drive in for lunch [reservations recommended]

2. Drive to Mzima Springs | 3 pm

Mzima Springs which provides water to Voi and Mombasa residents

Mzima Springs which provides water to Voi and Mombasa residents


Drive to Mzima spring was the next item in our itinerary after having had late lunch and checking in to our rooms. The Spring we were duly informed is the source of water to the residents of Mombasa. The park has constructed walking pavements along the spring with an underwater observatory. During our visit we were unable to spot any crocodiles – the only animals we were able to see were the monkeys and hippos who seemed to be playing a hide and seek game with us!
Hippos which seemed to be watching us from a far!

Hippos which seemed to be watching us from a far!


However, to and from the spring we were able to see a number of animals; masai giraffes, hornbill birds and some gazelles.
Kilaguni Serena Safari Lodge at Night

Kilaguni Serena Safari Lodge at Night


3. Dinner – Chyulu Bar and Night Vigil around the Watering Hole | 7.30 pm
Chyulu Bar is where we had our dinner; an area reserved for groups that wish to have some privacy and is situated next to the conference room. Thereafter, we proceeded to the observation area to view the animals at the watering hole.
At night chances of spotting the cats are significantly higher as opposed to the day. The lodge has a resident nature officer who is usually at hand with any clarifications one might have. Also, the lodge has a room call for any visitor who wishes to be woken up in the middle of night in case they spotters are able to see a specific animal one is interested in.

Thursday
4. Breakfast and Checkout | 8 am
The lodge does not have a gym but has a football field where one can jog in the morning and two bicycles in case jogging is not your thing. Also, their swimming pool opens at 7 am and in my case I was able to do a few laps before breakfast.
Breakfast is served from 6.30 to 10 am and in the morning one can spot a few animals at the watering hole – such as giraffes and buffaloes. At that time of the day it is usually not very hot.
Since we were going to Amboseli, we were not able to do a morning game drive. (game drive usually costs KES 4000 pp).

Note:
– There is no television in the rooms – the lodge is set out in a manner gives the visitors more time to interact with the environment as opposed to staying indoors watching TV. However, in the conference room there is a television – in case one wishes to catch up with the news.
– The lack of indoor entertainment (TV) is made up with very good Wi-Fi – which is free.
– The reception area has an excellent running exhibition with photos of railway line construction under the British to some very interesting photos of Kenya’s first President Jomo Kenyatta visiting the Lodge watching the elephants at the watering hole.
– Paintings in the rooms are by Yony Waite.
– There are caves within the vicinity which were used by the British durung World War I when fighting the Germans who had control of Tanganyika by then.

If you are traveling to Mombasa and need a place to recharge, then Serena Safari Lodge is most ideal. Also, for tourists visiting the coastal circuit and wish to have a game view the location of the lodge on your way to the coast offers convenience to any Safari itinerary.

Reservations recommended but walk in guests accommodated as well.

Useful links:
a) KWS Tsavo West National Park
b) Serena Hotel’s Kilaguni Serena Safari Lodge

Disclosure: This trip was facilitated by Serena Hotel.

February 1, 2015 at 5:50 pm Leave a comment

Serena Hotels Jamhuri Weekend Getaway, Dec. 12-14 2014 @ Serena Hotels across the Country

Lipa Pole Pole

Shopping around for the long week-end/Jamhuri plan?

Check out the sensible festive offers and rates which also come with an option of paying in installments under Lipa Polepole facility.

Giraffe with Mt. Kilimanjaro in the Background at Amboseli Serena Safari Lodge | Photo via Serena Hotels

Giraffe with Mt. Kilimanjaro in the Background at Amboseli Serena Safari Lodge | Photo via Serena Hotels


Contacts: 0733 284 200 | cro@serena.co.ke

Find more info here.

December 8, 2014 at 4:32 pm Leave a comment

Travel: Book your Holiday Early & Enjoy the Serena Festive Rates, Applicable for Dec. 23 2014 – Jan. 1 2015

Serena Festive Rates E.A

Looking for a December holiday destination?

Sensible place to begin your search would be with the Serena Hotels.
The hotel is offering sensible festive offers / rates which also come with an option of paying in installments under Lipa Polepole.

Dates: December 23 2014 to January 1, 2015
Venues: Serena Hotels
Contacts: 0733 284 200 | cro@serena.co.ke

Find more info here.

November 12, 2014 at 1:49 pm Leave a comment

Weekend Getaways: Shoulder Season, Oct. 1 – Dec. 22 2014 @ Lake Elmenteita Serena Camp

Serena Hotels Lake Elmenteita Camp | Photo by Njathika

Serena Hotel’s Lake Elmenteita Camp | Photo by Njathika


Shoulder Season Dates: October 1 – December 22, 2014
Venue: Lake Elmenteita Serena Camp
E.A Residents Rates*: Double KES 31,000, Single KES 19,000 and Suite KES 46,000
Day and night game drives to Soysambu conservancy are available at KES 4500 and KES 6700 respectively.
For reservation and or for more info: cro@serenahotels.co.ke, +254 20 2842000

Rates include: Full board accommodation, Soysambu conservancy fees, mineral water and all soft drinks with meals

About
Lake Elmenteita Serena Camp is an exclusive and up market camp. Evocatively styled to echo Syosambu’s rich history, the camp combines the magnificent accessories of a bygone era with unadulterated luxury and an enticing range of activities. Idyllically set among golden barked acacias with breath taking views across the sapphire blue lake to a backdrop of ancient volcanoes, it is an easy 2 hours’ drive from Nairobi.

A game drive through the conservancy is one of the must do things while at the camp. Some of the wild animals that are found in the conservancy are zebras, buffaloes, black rhinos, giraffes, cheetahs. Leopards and tree climbing lions have been spotted most recently at the conservancy.

It is also advised you carry a pair of binoculars so that you can be able to spot different bird species that are found in and around the camp.

Website: http://www.serenahotels.com
Blog: http://www.theserenaexperience.com/

October 7, 2014 at 8:32 am Leave a comment

Travel: Book your Holiday Early and Enjoy the Serena Festive Rates, Dec. 23 2014 – Jan. 1 2015 @ Serena Hotels

Serena Festive Rates E.A
Book early for your December holidays and enjoy sensible Serena Hotels festive rates which also come with an option of paying in installments under Lipa Polepole.

Dates: December 23 2014 to January 1, 2015
Venues: Serena Hotels
Contacts: 0733 284 200 | cro@serena.co.ke

Find more info on the poster.

October 1, 2014 at 9:04 am Leave a comment

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