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ol Donyo Lodge

ol Donyo Lodge is nestled into acacia woodland facing Mount Kilimanjaro in the distance, in the Chyulu Hills of southern Kenya.

ol Donyo is a superb Relais & Châteaux property offering high levels of accommodation, food, service and exclusivity. The accommodation is spacious and luxurious, allowing guests the chance to relax and unwind in a tranquil setting as well as explore the surrounding wilderness. Management and service has always been very personal and high quality. Whilst there is big game to see, especially elephants and including the rare gerenuk, lion and cheetah, you do not come here solely for the game. Activities are varied, including cultural and conservation activities, walking, horse riding and even mountain biking, and the Chyulu Hills are beautiful. ol Donyo is therefore best for guests looking for an exclusive and relaxing stay where they can undertake a variety of different experiences and enjoy the hospitality of the lodge.

Rooms

The small lodge caters for around 20 guests in eight Deluxe Suites and one family suite known as the Sambu Suite. All suites are luxuriously appointed and have a separate bedroom section, dressing area, spacious bathroom, private outdoor deck with plunge pool and private ‘star deck’ on the roof. All suites have ceiling fans, 24 hour lighting, indoor and outdoor showers and panoramic views over the plains to Mount Kilimanjaro beyond. Most suites are open-fronted from the bedroom, with curtains that can be drawn closed at night, though one Suite and the family Sambu Suite have glass doors in addition to curtains. The Sambu Suite has a larger plunge pool and includes two en suite rooms which are linked by the external lobby area.

Central Areas

The main lodge houses the reception areas consisting of a spacious, yet intimate, lounge and open plan dining room and an outdoor fire deck. Slightly down the hill to the front is the main swimming pool with its own lounge and dining area. Beyond this you can access a sunken hide overlooking the water hole in front of camp, which is frequently visited by elephant.

Facilities

Wi-Fi – Yes
Power for Charging – Yes
Swimming Pool – Yes

Habitat & Wildlife

The Chyulu’s are a beautiful range of hills lying to the north-east of Kilimanjaro. They are of volcanic origin, and at their base, several forested volcanic lava flows snake out across the surrounding plains to create a varied and interesting landscape. There are also a number of granite hills dotted across the plains which add further to the scenic experience. Although a little further away from Kilimanjaro, this region offers a far more exclusive alternative to Amboseli. The game viewing is not as guaranteed, but the scenery is stunning and the safari experience more personalised. The eastern side of the hills are gazetted as a National Park, whilst the western side comprises a Conservation area owned by a number of Maasai group ranches.

The Mbirikani Group Ranch is home to wide variety of wildlife including elephant, zebra, wildebeest, gerenuk, impala, lion, cheetah, spotted hyaena and giraffe. The birdlife is varied, with both plains and montane species resident, and night drives can be productive with sightings of serval, genet, African wild cat, caracal, aardvark, aardwolf and leopard all possible.

Activities

Activities include day and night game drives by open four-wheel drive vehicles, guided walks (including exploring the local lava tunnels), mountain biking, running and horse riding. There is a sunken hide at the waterhole in front of camp where elephants and other game regularly visit. The hide has been made comfortable enough to for guests who want to spend several hours there, as well as being able to accommodate overnight sleep outs. For those staying a bit longer, day trips into the Chyulu Hills (more for the scenery than for game viewing) are also possible as are day trips to Amboseli (extra park fees are payable locally) and cultural excursions to nearby Maasai villages. There is also a helicopter based at the lodge and scenic flights can be arranged at extra cost.

Seasons

ol Donyo is open all year round. November, April and May tend to be the wettest months.

ol Donyo accepts children five years and older, though we would naturally recommend this lodge to families with children old enough to enjoy the variety of activities on offer. The Sambu suite is perfect for families with slightly older kids looking for an exclusive and active bush adventure. The wide variety of experiences on offer will allow families to keep busy, whilst the lodge will also provide a wonderful relaxation experience in between activities.

ol Donyo Lodge is operated by Great Plains Conservation which exists to conserve and expand natural habitats, using sustainable eco-tourism to protect and restore critical habitats, conserve wildlife, and benefit local communities. All resulting in responsible travel opportunities for guests and achieving the company’s aim of ‘conservation tourism’.

Together with their charitable arm, the Great Plains Foundation, they manage over one million acres of land across Botswana, Kenya and Zimbabwe. A conservation and community levy is added to each stay with Great Plains Conservation as a contribution to the Great Plains Foundation’s work.

Here are just some examples of the projects carried out and supported:

Great Plains Founders, Dereck and Beverly Joubert established the National Geographic Big Cats Initiative. More than a decade later, the initiative has funded more than 150 projects in 28 countries. Current projects operate in Zimbabwe, Kenya, and Botswana and utilize innovative approaches to generate maximum positive impact. In the past, the initiative has supported projects like the Maasai Olympics and communal cattle herding workshops which tackle human-lion conflict and emphasize conservation and building bridges between communities, conservation and wildlife.

Great Plains supports the Naboisho Women’s Bead Group, based in the community of Nkoilale near the Masai Mara. Great Plains’ support for the project helps the group to bulk purchase beads and other raw materials for their products and provides training, sales and marketing support. The project enables women in the local community to bolster household income, in turn supporting food security, education, health and more for their families. The project directly impacts the households of the women in the group which means that nearly 1,000 people are directly impacted by the money the program generates.

The Great Plains Student Conservation Camps, one of their longest running programmes, have reached students and teachers in both Kenya and Botswana with environmental and conservation education. By engaging and mentoring young people in communities bordering protected land, students see positive examples of local professionals working to protect their fragile ecosystems and are inspired to become champions of biodiversity themselves.

Through Conservation Roots the Great Plains Foundation is partnering with local communities to restore indigenous trees to landscapes across Kenya, Botswana, and Zimbabwe. Working with local communities, partner organizations and school systems Conservation Roots plants indigenous trees and teaches their value and critical role in functioning ecosystems.

In 2024, Great Plains expanded the reach of their impact beyond the areas in which they operate and established a partnership with 4Ocean. Plastic waste is collected from the world’s oceans and turned into fashionable bracelets, which are available for sale in their camps. Every bracelet removes 5lbs of plastic from the sea, provides jobs, and starts a clean-up movement. Great Plains is donating a percentage on behalf of each guest who stays at a Great Plains safari camp to ocean clean-up activities.

In addition to their own projects, Great Plains offers its guests the option to bring a donation of supplies in partnership with Pack for a Purpose where guests may use the empty space in their suitcases for donations of much needed supplies for ongoing projects.

ALTERNATIVE CAMPS IN Amboseli