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Michele explores the Chyulu Hills

The striking Chyulu Hills National Park is tucked away between Amboseli and Tsavo East National Parks in south-eastern Kenya. You can’t help but feel totally captivated by this park with its dramatic scenery, exclusivity, and opportunity to see some of Africa’s largest remaining ‘Big Tusker’ elephants.

The park has a variety of landscapes, all of which are mesmerising, rewarding you with spectacular scenes from all directions. The ‘Chyulus’ form a breathtaking mountain range which are volcanic in origin. Their dramatic topography comprises ancient craters, cones and lava flows covered with lush green vegetation and it’s not hard to see why they’re fabled as the inspiration for Ernest Hemingway’s ‘Green Hills of Africa’. The hills frame endless rolling plains dotted with the odd lone umbrella acacia tree and sporadic rocky outcrops (which have their own wonderful views). If that’s not enough, the park is set against the backdrop of Mount Kilimanjaro, offering spectacular vistas of the iconic mountain towering over the savannah.

Aside from the scenery and exclusivity, there is a wide variety of wildlife to be seen including zebra, wildebeest, impala, eland, giraffe, kudu, elephant, cheetah, and lion. The game viewing is not as productive as neighbouring Amboseli, but it is still rewarding and, importantly, exclusive. The birdlife is varied and outstanding, with both plains and montane species resident. The area is also famous for being home to some of Africa’s remaining ‘Big Tusker’ elephants. These majestic creatures are known for their immense tusks which are so large they scrape the floor and can weigh over 100 pounds per tusk! It’s always so special to view elephants in the wild but with numbers of big tuskers dwindling, it really is a privilege to witness these magnificent animals and certainly a highlight of the area.

During my time exploring the Chyulus, I stayed at ol Donyo Lodge operated by Great Plains Conservation who pride themselves in conserving and expanding wilderness areas, using sustainable eco-tourism and restoring critical habitats to conserve wildlife and benefit local communities. In partnership with the Great Plains Foundation and Big Life Foundation, ol Donyo does important work to support the local Maasai community and their cultural heritage, helping mitigate human-wildlife conflict and demonstrating the value on conserving wildlife. The lodge works very closely with the community from whom they lease the land and beyond the immediate financial benefits of lease fees, they also support the salaries of 24 teachers in 15 schools in the area.

Perched on a hillside, the lodge has breathtaking views of the plains in the distance. The accommodation is stylish but rustic with earthy tones. The staff are wonderful and warm and nothing is too much trouble. A highlight is the lodge’s famous waterhole which animals frequent daily – an ideal spot to spend a lazy afternoon. Aside from game drives and bush walks, mountain biking accompanied by your guide allows you to explore the plains and get close to zebra, wildebeest, and giraffe. Horse riding is another highlight allowing guests to enjoy exhilarating medium to fast paced canters exploring the concession. A helicopter is now based at the lodge and offers scenic flights around the area – guests can enjoy a bird’s eye view of the Chyulus with a morning coffee or evening gin and tonic touch down perched on top of a rocky outcrop!

The Chyulu Hills and ol Donyo Lodge are the perfect destination if you are looking to immerse yourself in wilderness, unwind in comfort, and explore in a tranquil setting.

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