For some time now, I have been yearning to go back to Chui Lodge, a cute hotel set in the heart of a private wildlife sanctuary nestled in an indigenous forest between Lake Naivasha and Lake Oloidien overlooking the Mau escarpment. I thought it was one of Naivasha’s best-kept secrets, until now…
A couple of years ago I had stayed at the lodge and its sister property, Kiangazi House, too. My wish to go back finally came true when just a few weeks ago, we escaped the hectic Nairobi bustle to stay the night at Chui Lodge with Dad’s friend and his family.
We left home at 12 noon and were in Naivasha by 2PM. The ride was pleasant and we snacked on still warm freshly-roasted maize bought at the Rift Valley viewpoint!
For lunch, we stopped at Matteo’s Italian Restaurant located on Moi South Lake Road. The simple, rustic restaurant serves up an amusing range of Italian dishes. They also offered freshly-squeezed juices and an array of desserts to choose from. They also sold pasta and other artisanal products, too. We got some Bruschetta for starters, and then we ordered some pasta to share. Dad got the ever-classic Penne Arrabbiata and Mom got an Eggplant Lasagne, which I think was just an eggplant parmigiana, also known as parmigiana di melazane. Diva and I shared a portion of Spinach and Ricotta Ravioli in Pink Sauce (a mix of tomato sauce and white béchamel sauce). Across the table, we shared some pizza. Overall, the restaurant was popular, well-priced and the service was good. With flavorful food, I’d happily come back.
After the meal, we drove straight to Chui Lodge, an hour away from the restaurant. Once we got into the private, 18,000-acre Oserengoni Wildlife Sanctuary, Diva took over and drove us to the lodge.
As we checked in upon arrival around 4PM, we were greeted with fresh watermelon juice and eucalyptus-scented washcloths.
After checking in, the Chef briefed us on his dinner menu (something he’d do prior to every meal, ensuring our bellies were always happy and full). We then headed to the rooms.
Designed and created by June Zwager, Chui Lodge is built from simple bush stone, Acacia, Olive and Leleshwa wood, all sustainably sourced from within the sanctuary. Throughout the lodge, the furniture and décor pieces would add a unique African flair to the lodge.There are eight en-suite individual and well-spaced luxurious cottages all with a private veranda and views of the watering hole nearby. Huge and spacy, the bedrooms have magnificent four-posted beds, roaring log fires, a sofa bed, a vanity area, a small closet, an electronic safe and a gigantic bathroom. The bathroom is one of the most luxurious bathrooms I’ve seen in a bush setting with an enormous bathtub and spacey showers. The enormous stained-glass tree-branch framed windows are spectacular and add a lavish air to the lodge’s homey feel. I hear each room has a unique decor, each different from the other, but they all aren’t accessible so I only visited my room.
After freshening up, we headed to the main area, which houses a dining room, lounge and bar area. Alongside a roaring fireplace, there are ochre-colored walls and murals with intricate African carvings evoking the touch of luxury. A short walk from the main building and cottages is a large swimming pool with views of the waterhole and the wildlife sanctuary beyond.
As we enjoyed some tea and freshly-baked banana bread, we were told that the lodge has Wi-Fi access in the main area, but the rooms don’t. However, the rooms all have telephones as even mobile networks are weak. Also, the entire lodge has power 24 hours a day, which sets it apart from other bush camps.
I was also told that the camp doesn’t have any bugs, which is quite surprising for a bush camp, but the rooms all have insect spray, should you encounter one.
After enjoying the delicious tea treats, we set out on a game drive in the sanctuary on the lodge-provided 4x4s. Packages at the lodge allow a variety of day and night game drives, tailored to the guests’ wishes and interests. The 4x4s range from the open safari vehicles to the normal land cruisers. To keep warm from the chilly weather, they offer Maasai shuka blankets and hot water bottles. The staff at the lodge were super helpful from helping to get me into the 4×4 to assisting in getting extra blankets to helping me move around the sanctuary.The Oserengoni Wildlife Sanctuary was created in the mid-1990s to give the resident wildlife a safe refuge. Since the sanctuary is fenced, illegal cattle grazers are kept out and wildlife is kept from straying into the nearby farmlands. However, the wildlife can still freely move between the neighboring Hell’s Gate National Park, the sanctuary and the lakeshore, ensuring constant movement throughout the localized eco-system.
Since the creation of the sanctuary, the number of wildlife, especially species such as leopard and giraffe, persecuted in the past, has stabilized and increased to sustainable levels. There are over 50 species in the sanctuary, including leopard, topi, Grevy’s zebra, impala, wildebeest, giraffe, serval cat, warthog, and jackal. The sanctuary previously also housed rhinos but due to poaching concerns, they were all moved to other parks and reserves in the country. With Naivasha being the main stop for many migratory birds, there are over 400 species of birds thriving in the sanctuary.
As we drove around, we saw some warthogs, ostriches, jackals, impalas, Grevy’s zebras and some giraffes.
We stopped for a sundowner when the sun began to set.
With chilled drinks prepared on site in hand, we snacked on the provided bitings sitting in front of a bonfire. We even roasted some marshmallows on a twig. Just sitting around a roaring log fire after a fun game drive with a Gin and Tonic as we watched the sun go down looking over at some zebras in the distance is truly the perfect way to end the day.
Once it was dark, we set off for a night game drive on the way back to the lodge. Unfortunately, we didn’t see anything. Or maybe it’s because I dozed off.
We gathered for dinner after freshening up once we got back.We were served a four-course dinner with many ingredients sourced from their own dairy and farm. Opting for a glass of rosé, we started off with a Vegetable Risotto and Roasted Butternut Soup for starters, followed by Spinach And Ricotta Ravioli in a creamy Garlic Sauce, Eggplant Parmigiana and French Fries. For dessert, we enjoyed Hot Chocolate Fudge with Fresh Strawberries. I thought the food was delicious but not as good as I remembered it from my previous visit.
The next day, we woke up at 8AM and got ready to go for a bush breakfast. We assembled at the reception at 8:30AM where we were driven to the sanctuary for a magical lakeside breakfast. As we sat on our table under the vast acacia trees (a sure sign that you’re in Naivasha) along the shores of Lake Oloidien, we were served a glass of chilled bubbly. On the table lay plates of assorted fresh fruit cuts, mandazis and crepes. There were several food stations including a cereal station, a hot beverage station and a hot food station where chefs whipped up breakfast dishes such as eggs, sausages, mushrooms, baked beans and hash browns.
I was in awe of the beautiful surroundings, perfectly content eating my sunny side up eggs with toast and hash browns in this serene setting.
The lodge offered to take us on a boat trip on Lake Naivasha after breakfast, but we opted to sit in leisure back at the lodge instead, having been on the lake several times before. While sitting around, we spotted a shy giraffe come over for a quick drink of water. Chui lodge also offers a wealth of other activities including bush walks and a visit to the Oserian Flower Farm, one of the first and largest flower farms in Kenya. They are known for growing flowers for export including carnations, roses and sunflowers.
At 12:30PM, we sat for an al fresco lunch.Another four-course meal, we had some Tomato Soup, followed by Chinese Rice and Stir-Fried Vegetables. We also had some Asian-Inspired Wraps, which were pancakes stuffed with saucy veggies and the meal was wrapped with a scrummy Beetroot Pannacotta.After lunch, we bid farewell to the Chui Lodge, with our gifted rose bouquets from the Oeserian Flower Farm in hand. Home by 5PM, I reflected on this short, fun weekend getaway – a truly luxurious way to pamper yourself when you need a break from the daily hustle!
Photos by Hitesh & Diva Shah