Sosian is one of a few Kenyan lodges where you have a better than 50/50 chance of seeing wild dogs.
Sosian: Our full report
First built in the 1940s, then abandoned during the 1990s, Sosian was completely restored as a riding and game-viewing base in 2002. It’s still a working cattle ranch, too, with a 700-head herd of Boran cattle. The main building is an Argentine estancia-style ranch house with views across lawns to the remote savannah of north-west Laikipia, close to the Ewaso Narok River.
Coming from Loisaba airstrip (the closest for scheduled flights) you cross Sosian’s narrow bridge over the Ewaso Narok and drive up to the earth car-park area behind the main Sosian ranch house. Down a flight of red-brick steps, there’s a small office with a cellphone booster (good signal usually) and a modest hallway. Beyond is the handsome lounge of the house, with big comfy sofas and bookshelves full of intriguing old tomes. There’s a billiard room with a full-size table around the corner, and a fine dining room. Through the French doors from the lounge, a generously wide, shady terrace – with wicker chairs for taking stock of the view and a nice old telescope – runs the entire width of the house.
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The gardens and lawns at Sosian stretch for several acres. It is safe to walk around the gardens during the day but not any further. Watchmen are on duty at night to keep the elephants at bay.
Sosian’s seven rooms are set in blocks of two either in rough stone and mortar or a kind of pink adobe finish. They start just to the right or south of the main house and run along the west side of the lawn towards the swimming pool. They’re at the back of broad verandas set with adjustable recliner chairs. Three of the rooms are double and four rooms are optional twin or double. All the rooms can be made into triples with an extra single bed for children. The last block before the swimming pool was converted at the end of 2012 to a family unit, with a double and en suite bathroom on one side and an interconnecting triple with en suite bathroom on the other.
The room interiors are bright and homely, with colourful rugs and bedcovers, writing tables, easy chairs, good lighting and optional mosquito nets. The bathrooms are a very good size, traditional in style, with large, pedestal washbasins, corner showers using pull-around shower curtains and wooden drainage platforms, towel horses and comfy robes. It's fair say they are fairly old-style, and it's worth noting that we’ve stayed twice at Sosian and on our second visit in May 2012 found the hot water supply (provided by wood boilers) was problematic. We’ve been assured, however, that this was a temporary glitch while the lodge wasn’t properly open.
Sosian is a supremely relaxing place where you can do very little, or just flop by the beautiful pool, yet there’s no shortage of activities to tempt you – and lots of good stuff for active kids.
- Sosian’s stand-out activity is riding. Sosian breeds horses and usually has around 16 available for riding. You can do 2–3 hour rides as a morning or afternoon game-watching ride, or gentler rides close to the ranch house. All the horses are thoroughbred or Ethiopian breeds and range from around 13 to 16 hands in size – though there is a rider weight limit of 90kg. There’s a good selection of quiet horses as well as more spirited mounts for the more experienced riders. To ride out in the bush, however, guests have to be experienced riders, meaning confident at all paces up to a canter or gallop in open country where they might big game might be encoutered. This usually means people who have owned their own horses and have either competed and/or hunted and ridden for five years or more. We can also do short arena lessons and rides around the lodge for the less experienced who want to have a go. Rides do not have a gun and rely on the rider-guide to be able to avoid any situations that may arise. Wildlife is generally less easily spooked by people on horseback than on foot.
- Sosian also has a herd of camels available for short rides – up to half a day.
- You can also choose game walks of 1–3 hours, or walks out to a fly camp for an overnight away from the lodge. A licensed firearms holder, carrying either a .375 or .416 rifle, accompanies walks.
- Game drives, including night drives, are available in Sosian’s vehicles on the 97km2 Sosian Ranch, which has superb wildlife. There are two Toyota Land Cruisers, each of which comfortably carry nine passengers plus driver and guide. They’re both open but have canvas roofs for rainy days or in very hot weather. The third vehicle is a Land Rover 110 which has been lengthened to have three rows of seats with seatbelts and a hard top with roof hatches and open sides, more suited to longer drives and short transfers.
- Apart from rhinos, you can see all the large mammals at Sosian, including wild dogs (see below).
- Sosian also has a pride of lions, some of which again have been radio-collared, and the ranch occasionally does leopard-baiting, using dead livestock form the ranch. About half their leopard sightings, however, are not actually on the baits.
- Swimming and rock-jumping at the waterfalls not far from the ranch house are always a lot of fun, too ¬– though you might want to check ahead that water levels are a good height. Swimming is possible all year round, and jumping normally from May to January or February.
- A tennis court is available at all times and rackets and balls are kept at the swimming pool.
- Finally, archery and fishing are also available and all equipment is provided. Fishing is the river or dams produces tilapia, catfish and barbel – no huge catches but big enough to eat as bitings for supper.
Our viewWhat we like so much about Sosian is the sense of being a house guest on a long-established country farm with a huge variety of wonderful distractions. A safari that includes river swimming, wild-dog tracking and camel- or horse-riding is far from the norm, but typifies the sort of activities you can find in Laikipia – though not usually all in the same place. When you add in really excellent cuisine that relies greatly on the lodge’s own garden produce, very comfortable rooms and top-quality guiding and hosting, it makes for a highly recommended stay.
Ideal length of stay: Four nights is a good length of stay.
Directions: About 50% of Sosian’s clients arrive by charter flight to Sosian airstrip, from where it’s a five-minute transfer to the lodge. Scheduled flights connect with Loisaba airstrip (road transfer 1½ hours) and Nanyuki airport (road transfer 3 hours)
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: Sosian prides itself on its excellent fresh produce, much of it coming from its recently enlarged organic vegetable and herb garden where the output includes: rocket, lettuce, beetroot, swiss chard, onions, leeks, courgettes, spinach, celery, chillies, tree tomatoes, passion fruit, kai apples, tomatoes, carrots, parsnips, limes, lemons and oranges. The head gardener spends all day either in the veg garden or feeding the chickens and ducks.
Head chef Nicodemus Musota has been in charge of the kitchen for 27 years and has very wide experience. He is ably assisted by David Muchiri who was trained at Sosian having started there as a waiter.
First thing in the morning guests are woken at the time they’ve requested with a knock at the door and tea, coffee, hot chocolate or juice on their veranda. On the main lodge veranda there are always more drinks, yoghurt, fruits, cereals and biscuits, allowing guests to have a bite to eat if they want before heading out for a morning activity.
Breakfast is either on the lodge veranda or in the bush. Brunch/lunch is either by the swimming pool or in the bush and dinner is either in the lodge dining room or, again out in the bush. After dinner, they usually serve tea, coffee and chocolates by the fire in the lounge.
There are no menu rotations, but a recent three-day menu included:
Lunch – Tuna and Spinach Roulade, Pizza Rolls, Celery/apple/radish salad, green salad. Coconut pud
Tea – Carrot Cake
Bitings – Courgette Pakoras, sausage rolls
Dinner main – Lamb, yoghurt gravy, cous cous, carrot and feta, French beans
Pud – chocolate fondant
Breakfast – Eggs Benedict
Lunch – Lamb curry, rice, chapatis, salad
Pud – Passion and Lemon flan
Tea – Banana cake
Bitings – onion tartlets, cous cous balls
Dinner main – pan fried beef, roast pots, roast veg
Pud – Macadamia tart + ice cream
Lunch – Quiche, chicken salad, rolls
Tea – Mango slices
Bitings – lamb Yorkshires/bruscettas
Dinner main – noodles, s+s pork, stir fry veg, pineapple salsa
Pud – Banoffee pie
Dining style: Group Meals
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included
Drinks included: All local and standard drinks are included. Champagne and premium wines and spirits would be extra (and may not be available).
Riding: Sosian breeds horses and usually has around 16 available for riding. You can do full-day bush rides, or gentler walks close to the ranch house. All the horses are thoroughbred or Ethiopian breeds and range from around 13 to 16 hands in size – though there is a rider weight limit of 90kg. There’s a good selection of quiet horses as well as more spirited mounts for the more experienced riders. To ride out in the bush, however, guests have to be experienced riders, meaning confident at all paces up to a gallop in open country where they might big game might be encoutered.See more ideas for Riding in Kenya
Wildlife safaris: With the exception of rhinos, all the large mammals are present on Sosian Ranch, including a normally resident, breeding pack of wild dogs. Sosian collaborates with neighbouring Mpala Ranch on predator research and, as the dog pack includes three radio-collared individuals, it’s common to go out with the tracking aerials, which adds an extra dimension to game drives. Sightings aren’t guaranteed, as wild dogs range far and wide, and move quickly, but they’re frequent enough to make them a likely possibility.See more ideas for Wildlife safaris in Kenya
Attitude towards children: Active families are welcome, but under 5s are allowed only on a case-by-case basis – and usually not in high season. Bush horseriding is only for 12+.
Generally recommended for children: We recommend Sosian for older children, but not for tiny tots and babies. Sosian is very activity-oriented, guests are out and about all the time, and it would be unfair on guests sharing facilities (vehicles, syces while riding, etc) to have little ones on bush picnics or similar activities.
Notes: As usual, children will always need close supervision in an environment where wildlife is present.
Power supply: Generator
Communications: There’s usually patchy network down at the ranch house, with a booster in the office. Guests can use WiFi in the office, if it’s running.
TV & radio: Staff have TVs that guests could share in the event of a big sporting event or similar.
Health & safety
Malarial area: Yes
Medical care: First-aid kits are located in the lodge and vehicles, and several staff have first-aid qualifications. Although the response time in a serious emergency would normally be two hours, the closest town with medical expertise, clinics, hospital etc is Nanyuki, a twenty-minute transfer by air.
Dangerous animals: High Risk
Security measures: During the day, ranch staff and conservancy rangers are on site; at night, two askaris patrol the property.
Fire safety: Every room has fire extinguishers, and staff have done fire training.
Disabled access: On Request
Laundry facilities: Full laundry service – included. Items – excluding ladies’ underwear – are hand washed and line-dried; soap powder provided in rooms.
Money: Safe in reception. No currency exchange facility.