Borana mixes stylish accommodation with wildlife encounters and outdoor activities.
Borana: Our full report
Borana is a stunning lodge set in its own ranch, which has been privately owned by the Dyer family for three generations. With a vast swathe of wilderness and few ‘park’ rules, Borana treats its guests to an exclusive safari experience and a wide array of activities, while staying in understated luxury. And the views from the front of the lodge are something to behold.
Set atop a rocky hill, Borana has views and a location that were, to us, its main identifying features. With stupendous vistas from each of its eight cottages and all the main areas, you can’t help but be impressed, especially when there are animals drinking down at the waterhole in front.
Borana’s shared areas are split across two separate sites – with different views. On one side of the hill, with lovely views of the waterhole, you’ll find a sparkling blue infinity pool, where sunloungers, a big shaded day bed and a table with cushioned chairs invite you to chill out. Adjacent is an open-sided lounge area and bar, with built-in cushioned sofas, chunky African furniture and animal paintings on the walls. It’s rustic and simple in style, yet finished to a high standard. Above the pool is a fine, open-fronted dining area, usually set with one large group table, and nearby there’s a stylish shop, well stocked with beautiful handcrafted bags, belts, shoes and curios.
Borana’s facilities go much further, though – to the other side of the hill where there’s a large stone-walled thatched house with big glass doors and windows. Inside, in a huge lounge decorated in the style of an English country home, guests tend to gather before dinner for a drink beside the enormous protruding fireplace. As well as another lounging area, there’s a long wooden bar boasting an impressive array of drinks, while upstairs, a correspondingly huge indoor dining area features an inviting fireplace and splendid ostrich-egg chandelier. An adjoining outside lounge with rustic chunky furniture and flagstone floors offers a shaded spot to gather for afternoon tea.
- Borana’s eight cottages are all individually designed and slightly different: four have large double beds and four have twin queen-size beds, while two are double-roomed, so perfect for families. All, however, share a natural and rustic style that, in keeping with the rest of the lodge, is designed to be luxurious while at the same time fitting in with the surroundings. Polished wooden or stone floors, stone walls and high thatched roofs complement the furniture crafted from local and sustainable materials. A fireplace makes the cottages cosy and warm in the evenings and each is well appointed with a safe, hairdryer, space for clothes and WiFi.
- Mirroring the style of the bedrooms are vast en-suite bathrooms with twin wash basins, a bath and a walk-in shower. Hot water is plentiful, and toiletries are provided.
- For families, as well as the various double- and twin-bedded guest rooms, there are two much simpler "kids' rooms" designed for children aged 5 to 16 and offered at a greatly reduced price. Please ask about these if you are planning a family stay. More adventurous children will love the thrill of having their own room separate from parental oversight. They have 24-hour power, wifi connection, a shower and twin beds. In addition, for families taking the "Family Room 5 & 6" cottage (a double and a twin), if there are third or fourth children in the group, they would sleep in the "¾ room" of the cottage and be charged at the special "kids' room" rate.
The activities at Borana are hugely varied and as this is a private ranch, there are few rules. Game drives, day and night, allow you to explore the area in depth, and being able to drive off road means that you can make the most of any wildlife sightings. Elephant, cheetah and lion are often seen here as are the more unusual plains game such as oryx and Grevy’s zebra. While the game viewing here is pretty good, it’s not comparable to places like the Mara – but the lack of other visitors at Borana is a real treat and more than makes up for it.
Walking with an armed guide, mountain-biking, and visiting the working ranch with its 2,000 head of cattle make Borana all the more interesting. One of the key activities is horseriding. Borana has three stables: one of them, next to the Ngare Ndare River, has horses suitable for beginners and novice riders. Another one is located nearer to Mount Kenya and stables polo ponies, which are also available for ride-outs for experienced riders. The third is right by Borana Lodge with beautiful, ex-polo horses, catering for experienced riders and offering longer guided trips. Riding through this stunning terrain in Kenya allows you to appreciate the scenery in silence and get close to plains game such as giraffe and eland.
Borana is a like a family home and guests are welcomed by the delightful hosts and staff to relax, and treat the place as though they have lived here for years. The lodge runs seamlessly and is unfussy, and though it may not appeal to people looking for wall-to-wall animals, it will suit those who enjoy a wilderness experience and the ability to get out of a vehicle and experience the environment in a variety of ways.
Ideal length of stay: At least three nights to experience the array of activities on offer.
Directions: Most guests fly from Wilson Airport in Nairobi to Lewa airstrip, which can take between 40 minutes and two hours depending on the routing of the flight. It is then an hour’s straight drive to Borana, or up to two hours if game viewing along the way. There is also an airstrip on the ranch which is used by charter planes and this is only a ten-minute drive away.
Owner: The Dyer family
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: The food at Borana wasn’t too fussy and was really healthy – but delicious, enhanced by fresh seasonal vegetables and salads from their huge vegetable garden. Most of the beef, lamb, cream, eggs and milk comes from the Borana ranch, and they plan to start keeping chickens.
Weather permitting, breakfast is usually served outside, or as a picnic during an activity. Either way you can expect fresh fruit, cereal, freshly made bread, eggs, sausages and bacon. Tea, coffee and juice are always on offer as well.
A light lunch, served in the open-sided dining area by the pool, always includes a buffet of cold dishes such as green salad, rice salad, avocado and tomato salad, thinly sliced roast beef or mini quiches. One lunchtime we were also treated to a selection of fresh pizzas served straight from the pizza oven. Pudding was homemade strawberry and vanilla ice cream.
Dinner was a heavier three-course meal, and just as delicious. Following a starter of Caesar salad we had ranch steak, broccoli, cauliflower and boiled potatoes, and finished with apple and blackberry crumble.
Dining style: Group Meals
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included
Drinks included: Borana includes most drinks apart from specially imported champagne and specially imported wines and spirits.
Attitude towards children: Borana welcomes children of all ages.
Property’s age restrictions: No restrictions. Under 5s are free of charge.
Special activities & services: They can offer babysitting if needed, though please note that this would be a member of their housekeeping staff and not someone specially trained in childcare. They will also happily arrange early meals and will cater specially for children.
Equipment: Borana has a cot for infants, and board games for older children.
Generally recommended for children: We feel that Borana would suit older, teenage children who are able to make the most of activities such as mountain biking or horseriding.
Notes: Borana is not fenced and there are animals around. There are also some drop-offs in front of the rooms and main areas, so it’s not ideal for small children.
Power supply: Generator
Communications: Borana has WiFi in the rooms and there is intermittent cellphone coverage.
TV & radio: TV in the manager’s house can be used on request if there is a special event.
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: Borana runs a mobile clinic for the community employing two nurses who are based on the ranch. The nearest doctor is in Nanyuki, about an hour’s drive away. Borana also has links to the flying doctors service. When we visited in September 2012, both managers had done a trauma first-aid course and other team members are trained in basic first aid. There are basic first-aid kits at the lodge and in the game-drive vehicles.
Dangerous animals: High Risk
Security measures: Askaris patrol the property day and night, and escort guests back to their cottages after dinner.
Fire safety: Fire extinguishers are dotted around the property and are regularly tested.
Disabled access: On Request
Laundry facilities: Full Laundry Service - Included
Money: There is a safe in each room. Borana can exchange small amounts of cash, depending on what they have available.
Accepted payment on location: Borana accepts cash in most major currencies. They also accept MasterCard, Visa and AMEX, though these incur a 5% surcharge.