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“A great start to our first safari experience”

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Great Plains Conservation ol Donyo Lodge
Certificate of Excellence
Reviewed 8 July 2013

We spent four days at Ol Donyo, which we coupled with a Great Plains Conservation sister camp, Mara Toto, on a 7-day safari. We absolutely loved everything about Ol Donyo. We were glad we decided to spend more time at each camp rather than hopping around to too many places. Managers Alyssa and Ray were two of the nicest people one could ever hope to meet. Our guide Dan and the rest of the staff were also top-notch.

Each of the handful of rooms at the lodge offers great views of watering holes. The accommodations are incredibly comfortable and there was not a meal that wasn't outstanding. Ol Donyo certainly deserves its status as a Relais & Chateaux property, the only one in Kenya at the present.

We enjoyed a gamut of activities, including day and night safari drives, hiking, bicycle riding, and horseback riding. The picturesque Chyulu Hills area sometimes seems to come with a caveat that the game isn't as plentiful as in other areas, notably the Maasai Mara. Nonetheless, we saw plenty of game, and with its location in a conservation area, we had the entire place virtually to ourselves. And honestly, what's not to love about sleeping under the stars on the star beds.

Kilimanjaro had been shrouded in cloud for our first three days there and we were saddened that we might leave without getting a chance to see it. But just as we dismounted our horses on our final day there and we about to enjoy our farewell sundowner in yet another unbelievably gorgeous location, our guide pointed to us to look in the distance -- the mountain with its snowy summit had emerged from behind the clouds. This, which capped a string of unforgettable days, was only topped by a final memorable dinner.

We deeply hope to visit again one day.

  • Stayed: June 2013, travelled as a couple
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1  Thank jiaotze
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Reviewed 5 July 2013

We loved our recent stay at Ol Donyo Lodge. Our group took over the 23 or so spaces at this very special lodge for about 6 days, in part while working at a Maasai school about 45 minutes away. I would encourage anyone able to incorporate this lodge int their Kenya travel plans, as we did, visiting 3 other areas.

The rooms at Ol Donyo are all a bit different but the same in that they are luxurious and comfortable. We had room 1 of serra wing and for 3 of us enjoyed a huge sitting room with fireplace (a fire in which they would build for you if you want) looking out on the private "plune pool" right out the door (there is a larger lodge swimming pool), a large bedroom with a King bed and a single bed for our daughter, and a huge bathroom with large soaking tub, shower, double sinks, etc., all rooms looking out at the water hole which attracted elephants, giraffes, hyenas and other animals during our stay.

and the staff. what can i say other than that they manage to combine the delicate balance among always happily and graciously being there for anything you need, leaving you your privacy and feeling like family. nothing requested is out of sorts. they are kind, friendly like all Kenyans, professional and well-trained, seemingly happy and so knowledgeable about the area and the animals. Meals and drinks, wine, liquor were all included, encouraged and the food was delicious (co-manager Ray is a long-timechef in prior career). Included and taken advantage of during our trip were horseback rides, hikes with guides, bicycle rides, the most wonderful "sundowner" every evening for cocktails at some extraordinary spot, game drives and more. They even invited our young travelers to come play volleyball with the staff one evening.

One time while enjoying tea after breakfast with a few of our friends (though not everyone was up), one of the guides came running in and asked the few of us there if we wanted to go see a lion and we jumped up, gabbed what we had in the gorgeous "great room" (luckily I had my camera) and drove off quickly towards a sighting of the most majestic male lion sitting on a hill. It was great spontaneous adventure and Jackson and the other staff had known we had hoped to see some lions, and they went out of the way to quickly get us. Later that night, we saw 5-6 more lions in another spot on a game drive.

The common facilities are really nice, from the large and multi-area "great room" (several sports great for relaxing, quiet conversation and cards) and bar with the fireplace always going int he evening and the fire pit outside always going, the dinning rooms, common pool, small gift shop with the wonderful Joyce. My husband enjoyed the special star bed made up at his request on the rooftop terrace of our room three nights and loved it (the staff comes and makes it up with lanterns and mosquito netting, etc.). The view from the great room is wonderful, with occasional sightings of Mt. Kilimanjaro and of course, constant gatherings at the waterholes down the hill from the lodge of elephants, giraffe, zebras and other animals.

We were fortunate in our 6 days as we saw many different animals and birds on our game drives in the chyulu Hills and surrounding areas. lions, zebras, giraffes and pregnant giraffes, warthogs, Thompson and grant's gazelles and much other wildlife. and the birds, so many different varieties. Yes, this is not the Mara but the wildlife was pretty abundant for us and we benefited by not having any of the tourist traffic of the Mara. It was as if no one else was around (as we had taken over this lodge with our group).

I can't say enough good things. It is one of my very favorite places I have ever stayed anywhere. Feel free to private message me if you need more details or have questions.

  • Stayed: June 2013, travelled with friends
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2  Thank Tellus9
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 14 May 2013

What a great introduction to safari lodges. Perfect accomodation and great staff. Ray and Alyssa are wonderful managers who made us feel so at home. Jonathan was a fantastic guide and to be greeted off the plane by him in his full masai outfit was a magical experience.
Make sure you spend time down in the hide by the waterhole, just as a place to sit and relax its beautiful enough but when a large bull elephant comes stomping out of the bush its heart stopping!
As said before you may not get the Big Cat experience here, but theres certainly plenty of other options. Doing a bush walk up in the hills and ending with a sundowner was special enough, then doing a morning horse ride and being served breakfast on the plains just couldnt be topped.
There's still plenty of interesting wildlife around and if you need more, then Amboseli is only a short drive away. Watch out for the Genet around camp, its a beautiful creature and well worth spotting.
After staying for 3 nights this place felt like home which was mainly down to our hosts who did a great job of making us feel like friends and made it very difficult to leave. thank you to everybody at Ol Donyo for a wonderful experience.

  • Stayed: April 2013, travelled as a couple
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Thank ausgeordie
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 10 April 2013

Landing at the airport (only grass, rocks lined up and painted white, giraffes standing along the runway) was an experience in itself!
So many reviews of ol Donyo stress how wonderful the views/rooms/food/etc. are and I couldn't agree more, but what really made this the highlight of my two weeks in Africa were the people that Great Plains Conservation have working there. From the young couple (Ray and Alyssa) managing the lodge, to our Maasi guide Jonathan (so knowledgable and fun), waiter Jackson, the Ride Kenya staff (Kim and Paddy) and the countless people behind the scenes (notably Long John). The experience my family and I had was one of a kind and I can't stress how impressed we were with every aspect of ol Donyo. At dinner one night, Jackson, one of our waiters, ask my brother and I if we played volleyball, we said yes and he invited us to play in the staffs nightly game the next day. The buzz that this created around the lodge got so big that other guests wanted to come and watch, so it ended up that every guest and most of the staff were there to watch and play volleyball in the most beautiful setting I've ever seen for a game. That inclusion in their everyday life, I'm just so appreciative of Jackson, Ray and Alyssa for letting us take part, it's something I'll not forget!
Chyulu Hills was the 1st place we did any game drives, so needless to say I was impressed, but if you are coming from Serengeti I can see how you may not be blown away. Any shortcomings on wildlife are easily made up for with the view of Mt. Kilimanjaro. It is so incredible to wake up to the sun shining on the face of that beautiful peak. Also, hiking the lava tubes was a great time. It was slightly challenging for my parents (60's) but they were both SO happy they had decided to do the hike.
If I could I'd give ol Donyo a 6 out of 5!

  • Stayed: March 2013, travelled with family
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Thank TheIowaCullen
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 5 April 2013

If your quality of life is determined by the variety and depth of experience you choose - rather than just ticking items on a list - this is the perfect spot for you.
A stunning spot visually with a wonderful commitment to its Maasai neighbours, topped with fine food and warm receptive hosting makes this a spot neigh on impossible to beat.

Room Tip: All the rooms are wonderful, if you have the chance a night's sleep under the stars will refresh...
See more room tips
  • Stayed: April 2013, travelled as a couple
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Thank JamesHAfrica
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 3 April 2013

This lodge was absolutely perfect. It has a very private, family-owned feel and is luxurious with top-notch service. It's in a quieter location, away from the crazed tourist game viewings in the Mara. We loved that you can get out and ride a bike, go horseback riding, and hike rather than stay in a vehicle all day. The private splash pools, outdoor showers, and star-gazing beds were great amenities. We also were there for Christmas in 2011. The property managers threw a great picnic, handed out complementary presents, and put together an amazing dinner with a visit from local Maasai for entertainment. All around a great experience, and we can't wait to go back!

  • Stayed: December 2012, travelled as a couple
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Thank Bill W
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 13 March 2013

This is a lovely lodge but after living and traveling throughout Kenya, I can honestly say that there are much more impressive accommodations with more game viewing. Although the wildlife is more limited, I will say that the elephants are majestic here.

I just visited the reviews here to see what people are saying since I visited in November 2011 (note the date below is inaccurate since the scroll down dates do not go back to 2011). I am sorry I did not rate this sooner because the management and future guests need to know what I am about to say. What I am most surprised about is that only one reviewer gave this lodge less than 5 stars for cleanliness. This is very strange because I found our room extremely dirty. There were large stains on the furniture as well stains on the bed linens. While taking a shower, I noticed the concrete between the stones looked dirty, I leaned over and ran my finger over it and dirt completely filled my long finger nail. I thought I would gag at this. I was so grossed out, I wished I had brought a pair of flip flops to wear in the shower. I feel there is no excuse for this. Are they saving water so much that they do not clean the shower? A little soap and water and a scrub brush would take care of this problem very easily. Anyway, I don't understand how the other reviewers could not have seen this. Are they blind?

I wanted to mention the uncleanliness of our room to our relief manager but she never asked how things were and she never gave me a chance to speak to her even though I had told her I would like to. For the price we were paying, I was disappointed and not comfortable. For those who do not like rock hard beds, beware - they are very hard here. The food was okay but not memorable. We did really appreciate the surprise bush breakfast at the end of our lovely horse back ride though. That was wonderful.

  • Stayed: April 2012, travelled as a couple
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Thank jrsygrl
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
GreatPlainsConservat, Director of Sales at Great Plains Conservation ol Donyo Lodge, responded to this reviewResponded 28 March 2013

Thank you for taking the time to give us your feedback.
Great Plains Conservation are very sorry to read about the disappointment experienced during your stay at ol Donyo Lodge. Please note that any feedback of this kind is always appreciated and is taken extremely seriously. We have noted in particular your comments in regards to room cleanliness and the food.

Though there is no way to make amends for the poor service which you found at ol Donyo Lodge, we would like to reassure you that guest comfort is of utmost importance to us in all areas of the lodge, including house keeping and dining.

We would like to let you know that we acknowledge that there were some weaknesses at ol Donyo Lodge last year when you stayed and have since changed the management team there.
We have now hired a highly professional and capable management couple, whose attention to detail knows no bounds and are already receiving rave reports from recent guests.

Ray & Alyssa Wyatt, the new managers, are running ol Donyo Lodge now, and have been focusing on improving anything that was previously not up to standard.
Ray is also a professionally trained chef and has revitalized the cuisine, with new and varied menu options.
They are a warm and hospitable couple, who host their guests for regular meals and are present throughout the day should any guests need them.

Great Plains Conservation are extremely sorry that your experience at ol Donyo Lodge was so disappointing. Should you consider a return trip to Kenya, please do visit us again as we believe the changes that have been made since then have been extremely positive and beneficial to the all-round product.

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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Additional Information about Great Plains Conservation ol Donyo Lodge

Address: Mbirikani Group Ranch | Chyulu Hills, Kenya
Region: Kenya > Rift Valley Province > Amboseli Eco-system
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Free Breakfast Free Parking Children Activities (Kid / Family Friendly) Restaurant Room Service Shuttle Bus service Spa Suites Swimming Pool Wheelchair access
Hotel Style:
Ranked #9 of 20 Speciality Lodging in Amboseli Eco-system
Price Range: £1,238 - £2,160 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
Hotel Class:4 star — Great Plains Conservation ol Donyo Lodge 4*
Number of rooms: 10
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Imagine...275,000 Acres of scenic Africa, where the wildlife can be found free and roaming, without tourists in mini buses or a set schedule. Imagine...Travelling across the archetypal savannahs of East Africa in an open 4x4 game drive vehicle without limitation, feeling the rhythm of Africa beneath your feet as you walk with expert trackers, or horseback riding with Mount Kilimanjaro as a backdrop. Imagine...Exploring this paradise, and then coming home to one of the most luxurious small lodges in Kenya where a hot bath, in or outdoor shower, or private swimming pool await - all with inspiring views across the expansive plains, plus delicious food, charming hosts and world-class service.Ol Donyo Lodge is in the heart of the 275,000 acre Mbirikani Group Ranch, located on the slopes of the Chyulu Hills National Park between the Amboseli and Tsavo West National Parks in southeast Kenya. Its location is unrivalled with full views of Mount Kilimanjaro and in the path of seasonal elephant migrations. It is a lodge rich in history, passion and conservation. ... more   less 
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Also Known As:
Ol Donyo Hotel Amboseli Eco-System

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