Nestled in the natural amphitheater of the Nguruman escarpments, in the heart of the Olkirimatian Conservancy, the simply breathtaking Lentorre Lodge is a dream come true.
Growing up, I’d hear Dad talk about wanting to visit the Shompole Camp. However, we never got around to it and unfortunately, due to conflicts with the local community, the camp was shut down permanently in 2013. Later, sometime earlier this year, when I was reading one of my favorite travel magazines: Nomad Magazine Africa, I came across the regular column written by the owners of the Shompole Wilderness Camp. I reached out hoping to visit the camp. That camp, sadly, lacked wheelchair access so instead, they referred me to Lentorre Lodge. And I finally made it to the lodge earlier this month for the last family getaway before Diva went back to uni, along with Dad’s friends from the UK. This was after a lot of back and forth with the manager, Raaji, who did his best to ensure the lodge to accommodate to my accessibility needs.
We left home at 6AM to beat the traffic. The drive through Ngong Hills was scenic as the winding roads eventually led us to the Lake Magadi around 9:30AM. The lake was super scenic, dotted with lesser flamingos and we even saw some wildebeests in the distance. We then stopped by the hot springs along the salt deposits from the lake. The weather had changed from cool, chilly winter temperatures that we had been experiencing in Nairobi to hot, drier temperatures in the depths of the Rift Valley.After a quick pit stop in Magadi town where we picked up a spotter from the lodge, we began the bumpy journey through the heart of the Rift Valley, beyond the volcanic lunar landscape surrounding the soda lakes of Magadi and Natron. Without a spotter, this drive to the lodge would be difficult. I’m told there is a shorter route, but it is currently ruined due to the heavy rains. We reached Lentorre Lodge at 11AM. Built on a spur overlooking the vast untouched wilderness of the Olkirimatian and Shompole conservancies, Lentorre lodge, previously known as Olaikar Camp, is the luxury we needed after the bumpy ride.
As we stepped out of the car, we were greeted by Kush, the manager, and fresh towels to cool off from the hot, dusty ride. As we sipped on fruit juice, I looked at the open-sided reception. Unfortunately, not wheelchair accessible due to a pond with aesthetic stepping stones, the reception was elegantly designed with stone floors, natural wood and brass adornment, and safari beige furnishings. Next to the reception was an open-sided shop, where Kush also sells her amazing artworks, which we bonded over during my stay at the lodge.
After the refreshing welcome drink, we headed to the rooms, all with an unspoiled view of the wilderness looking towards Shompole Mountain. Lentorre lodge has a maximum capacity of just 16 people with four large villas that hold either a double or twin bed configuration, a family villa and a honeymoon villa. Since we were the only guests at the lodge, we got to choose the rooms. Dad chose the family villa for us (YAYY! Family sleepover, as Diva exclaimed).
The pathways were sandy and had little stones. The staff, all local Olkiramatian Maasai, were super helpful and helped me to go to my room (and later around the lodge). In fact, two people were stationed outside my room, always on call to help me move to the dining area or to the reception.The villas have small steps (like lips) to keep out the snakes. The open-plan family villa had two rooms, both mirroring each other.
The rooms had an open closet area, a large bed (double or single bed, depending on our needs), with a plunge pool on the deck with sun loungers and a huge sunbed.
The bathrooms had a huge open style power shower with cold and hot water on request (from solar heaters), a toilet and two sinks.After checking out the room, Diva and I quickly decided to swim in the plunge pool, while the rest of the group lounged near us. Overlooking the surrounding acacia woodlands and the distant peaks of the Shompole hill, the views were truly incredible.
The lodge also has a waterhole, that we could see from the rooms too, where various species of wildlife and birdlife including the big cats come by to drink water. In fact, a leopard had visited the waterhole two days before we went and it also came by for a sip of water from the pool in my room then.
Around 1PM, we got out of the pool, freshened up and at 1:30PM, headed for lunch in the dining area, which is located after the communal pool. The dining area is an open space with a dining table, sofas for lounging and a bar. The dining space also overlooks the waterhole.
We enjoyed a three-course meal for lunch. We started with a cold Mango Soup for lunch. A lemony, mango gazpacho, the soup was ideal for the heat. We then had two Salads with house-made dressings: green goddess and Dijon vinaigrette. Then, for the mains, we enjoyed a hearty Vegetable Lasagne. For dessert, we had Beetroot Coconut Fudge.The food was incredibly delicious. We later learned that the lodge chefs are not really trained in cooking school, but instead have honed their skills based on their passion and love for cooking.
After lunch, Diva and I, full, headed to the room for a nap, while the rest lounged in the dining area.
At 4PM, we headed out to the reception for some tea and coffee, before embarking on a game drive in our own car, but with the lodge’s guide.
The Olkirimatian Conservancy is situated on the elephant migratory corridor between the world famous Maasai Mara and the Amboseli National Park ensuring that the wildlife is both prolific and diverse. The staff told me that they can hear the elephants early in the morning. Alongside these rare beauties, the conservancy is home to a range of wildlife and bird species.
The community-run Lale’Enok Research Centre and Rebuilding the Pride’s hard work has led to a healthy population of lions in the area, from a once non-existent population. Today, over 70 lions in approximately eight prides spread between the conservancy and the neighboring Shompole Conservancy have been identified, together with a growing population of cheetah and numerous leopards.
These two protected areas are combined to create a 60,000-acre safe haven for wildlife in the area with a game dispersal area of more than 300,000 acres. The Ewaso Nyiro River forms the boundary of the conservation area. Beyond these, the area is also home to wildebeests, colobus monkeys, impala, waterbuck, zebra, Maasai giraffe, Grant’s gazelle and eland.
Beyond day and night game drives, Lentorre lodge also offers game walks with an armed guide, bird watching, fishing in the Ewaso Ngiro River, walking with baboons at the local research centre, predator research with Rebuilding the Pride, community visits to the local Masaai community, kids’ activities, bush meals and visits to Lake Magadi and Lake Natron.
The landscape is different from the usual savannah with dry grass but lush, green trees and bushes. We spotted giraffes, zebras, impalas, wildebeests, warthogs and birds species such as the Marshall eagle on our game drive. Since it is a private conservancy, we could easily drive off road too.
As the sun began to set, we set up a sundowner somewhere in the bush. There’s nothing quite like watching the sun go down in the African bush!
As it got darker, we embarked on a night game drive, which allowed us to see more of the secretive and nocturnal animals including hyenas, hares, bat-eared foxes, bush babies and genet cats. My aunt and I spotted a lion, but once we reached that spot, it had disappeared into the dense bush, which was hard to spot even with a flashlight. Regrettably, the ever-elusive leopard was not seen.
We got to the camp at 8PM and headed straight for dinner. We enjoyed another three-course dinner, starting off with Vegetable Samosas, that had Chinese spring roll filling inside. Then for the mains, we had Stuffed Zucchini, a cheese-topped, couscous stuffed zucchini log on a bed of mashed potatoes and tomato salsa was placed in front of us. It was quite delicious and a unique dish, one that I’d never had before.
The non-vegetarian option was a fish fillet on a bed of mash. We ended the meal with a helping of Chocolate Mousse topped with toasted coconut flakes. We washed all this down with chilled rosé wine. The waiter accidentally had swapped the bottle we had brought from Nairobi, which was being chilled, with a bottle from their collection. Nevertheless, it was a refreshing accompaniment on the balmy night.
As we ate, I had my eye on the brightly lit waterhole, where we spotted a hyena come by.
Exhausted after dinner, we headed straight to bed by 11PM.
We woke up at 5:45AM the next morning and were at the reception for a quick cuppa before leaving for a game drive at 6:20AM. While we saw some fresh poop and footprints, we missed the elephants and the lions. We did, however, see the ever-present impalas, giraffes and zebras. Oh, and earlier before the sun was fully up, we spotted a bat-eared fox.Upon returning a little disappointed for not seeing a leopard, we headed for breakfast at 8:30AM. As we waited for it to be set up, we spotted some zebras and baboons at the waterhole. Everyone else went down to a secret tunnel which led to a lookout point right at the waterhole. Due to the terrain, it wasn’t accessible, but I did have a good view of them.
Apparently, there is a glass view hole, which even a light tap can frighten the game at the waterhole. It is exactly what happened when my aunt accidentally startled the zebras.
Meanwhile, breakfast was set up here. There was a cereal and tea/coffee station. On our table, we enjoyed a selection of fruit salad, baked beans, mixed veggie fritters, spicy sweet potato .I had a one-egg Spanish omelet, some veggie fritters, fruit salad and coffee to drink.
As we were eating, a warthog came by to the waterhole.
After our scrumptious breakfast, we headed to the room where I lounged while everyone else packed. We left the lodge at 11:20AM, bidding goodbye to a wonderful place full of special memories and inviting people.
We got to Magadi by 1:30PM where we dropped off the guide. We were home by 4:15PM, having beaten the rush hour traffic.
I’d highly recommend Lentorre Lodge, not just for its spectacular location, but for its thriving sense of community, scrumptious food and that plunge pool!
Photos, unless stated otherwise, by Hitesh & Diva Shah