Stunning views in every direction are one of the most memorable features of Elsa's Kopje.
Elsas Kopje: Our full report
Named after Elsa, the lioness raised by George and Joy Adamson and made famous by the story of Born Free, Elsa’s Kopje sits high on Mughwango Hill above George Adamson’s original campsite. The camp is colonial in style, and has spectacular views over the plains of Meru National Park.
From the plains below you can barely see Elsa’s Kopje, which is tucked perfectly around the rocks and trees; not a single indigenous tree was cut down during its construction. Yet while the lodge is unobtrusive and discreet from the outside, it offers a great degree of comfort and style. It is worth noting, however, that because Elsa’s was so carefully fitted into the natural environment, there are quite a number of steps between the rooms and the main areas.
The main areas at Elsa’s Kopje start with a small reception, which incorporates a small shop selling T-shirts, jewellery and Kenyan curios, as well as useful items such as toothpaste and sun cream.
Up a few steps and along a stone path, where numerous rock hyrax keep watch, you reach two large thatched buildings connected by a short wood-and-thatch corridor. They are entirely open at the front, and their backs are composed of whitewashed stone walls with exposed wooden beams.
One of the buildings houses Elsa’s relaxed bar and lounge area, with a collection of low-slung wood-and-cushion chairs and sofas, safari chairs, leather stools and floor cushions. The bar itself is a stunning piece of natural polished wood, with wrought-iron bar stools propped against it. Animal bronzes sit on the sides, old black-and-white photos adorn the walls, the polished wooden floors are dotted with Persian rugs, and terracotta plant pots sit on the veranda at the front. The resulting impression – enhanced by the laid-back and convivial managers and staff – is very much that of a colonial African home.
In the neighbouring thatched building is the dining room, set with individual tables; dining is at separate tables, unless guests specifically request to be seated with others. Polished stone floors and huge natural rocks that form the centrepiece of the serving table make this room feel rustic, but its simplicity contrives to make it feel quite smart as well. On a practical note, the dining room is the place to recharge batteries for cameras and other gear.
Across the lawn is a sparkling swimming pool with spectacular views across the plains of Meru National Park. Surrounded by terracotta flagstones, sunloungers and shaded burnt-orange parasols, the pool area only adds to the colonial style of Elsa’s Kopje. The adjacent spa area, with stone walls and a thatched roof that is totally open at the front, takes in the views too. A variety of treatments is available here including massages, pedicures and manicures.
As with the rest of the lodge, the 12 cottages at Elsa’s Kopje are all built around the natural trees and rocks on the hill. As a result each is very different in layout, but all are the same in general style.
The ceilings are thatched and the walls whitewashed with exposed wooden beams, so each has a cosy, cottage-like look. Wooden or polished stone floors continue right through to the en suite bathrooms. Each bed is handcrafted out of chunky wooden beans that display their natural knots an texture. Sections of rock either act as features, or are built into the furniture in some way, such as a table, nightstand or maybe even shelves and hanging space for clothes.
Each room has an en-suite bathroom with hot and cold running water from the basins, shower and bath. Toiletries are provided, as are soft white towels and robes. There is also an outside deck with a lounge in each where you can relax during the afternoon.
We found the rooms rather dimly lit when we stayed at Elsa’s Kopje, but we were told that this is to help maintain a visual balance with the environment and wildlife. The camp deliberately uses earthy tones and natural materials for the same reason.
The honeymoon suite at Elsa’s Kopje is much like the other rooms, but with just a little more space. It is a three-tiered cottage with a bedroom, en-suite bathroom and private lounge area. There is also an outside deck with loungers which is a great place to relax.
For groups or families there is a large, two-bedroom private house. Both the large master bedroom, and the slightly smaller twin room, are en suite and share a spacious open-fronted lounge and dining room, as well as a lovely infinity swimming pool. The furnishings and décor here are very similar in style to the main areas.
Activities at Elsa’s Kopje focus mainly on morning and afternoon safari drives around the national park. A must-do on one of your drives is to visit the rhino enclosure, which is home to a healthy population of white and black rhino. It is also possible to head out for a full day and visit further reaches of the park, including Elsa’s grave, or to do short guided walks to the top of the kopje on which the lodge is built – the views from here are spectacular!
Our viewAlthough it remains earthy and unpretentious, Elsa’s Kopje is certainly the most luxurious place to base yourself in Meru National Park. It is a very well-run lodge and we instantly felt at home. The only potential downside is the number of steps for those with limited mobility.
Ideal length of stay: 3–4 nights
Directions: Elsa’s Kopje is reached via a 45-minute flight from Nairobi, then 20 minutes by road from the airstrip. This 15km drive through the park often takes the form of a leisurely game drive.
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: We thought that the food at Elsa’s Kopje was excellent: fresh, varied and always cooked and presented to a very high standard. Many of the fresh ingredients come straight from the garden!
Breakfast can either be taken out in the bush as a picnic or back in the camp’s dining room. Our picnic breakfast consisted of a choice of cereals, yoghurt, fruit, sausage, egg and bacon, coffee and juice. In camp it was broadly the same, but with a wider choice of eggs – and the cooked items were piping hot.
Lunch is usually served as a buffet of cold options such as fishcakes, salmon on potato rostis, artichoke and lettuce salad, avocado, and quiche. There is always a dessert, such as banoffee pie or lemon meringue pie, but if you don’t have a sweet tooth, there is the option of a cheese board and biscuits.
Dinner, a more formal sit-down meal served at the table, is always taken in camp. When we stayed the tables were set out in the garden with lanterns dotted around for soft lighting. Starters usually have an Italian slant and might include ravioli or asparagus wrapped in pasta with a light tomato sauce. The main course is usually a meat option such as steak, or chicken in a light cream sauce, served with crunchy vegetables – but vegetarians are very well catered for with prior notice. Pudding might be a chocolate and orange mousse, or a passion-fruit jelly with a passion-fruit sorbet.
Dining style: Individual Tables
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included
Drinks included: Soft drinks, beers, house wines and local spirits are included; top-shelf drinks are at additional cost.
Birdwatching: Meru National Park has around 300 different recorded bird species, and when we visited, Elsa’s Kopje had a top bird specialist and experienced guide. He was always keen to share his passion with fellow birding enthusiasts.See more ideas for Birdwatching in Kenya
Attitude towards children: The managers at Elsa’s Kopje feel that children of most ages can come here, but that it may not be suited to the very young, perhaps under the age of five years.
Property’s age restrictions: None
Special activities & services: Though there are no special children’s activities, the guides at Elsa’s Kopje are very good with kids, and can make safaris exciting and interesting for them.
Equipment: Elsa’s Kopje has cots, small beds and a highchair. There is also a private house that has plenty of space and private dining. The lodge can accommodate children’s meals slightly before the main adult meal.
Generally recommended for children: Elsa’s Kopje has a relaxed atmosphere and the private is perfect for families. However it is only really suited to those with older children who will respect other guests, and be careful around the various rocky steps and edges.
Notes: Elsa’s Kopje is set on a high hill with lots of ledges and edges. Parents are responsible for their children at all times, and will need to keep a close eye on them.
Communications: There is cellphone reception in most rooms, and WiFi in some of the rooms close to the main areas. There is good WiFi in the main areas and there is a computer in the charging room.
TV & radio: There is no TV or radio.
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: There is first equipment in camp and on the vehicles, and both managers and all the guides are first-aid trained. The nearest doctor to Elsa’s Kopje is at a hospital (rated second best in Kenya) that takes an hour to reach by vehicle. In case of emergency Elsa’s Kopje has links to the flying-doctor service.
Dangerous animals: High Risk
Security measures: There are safes in the rooms at Elsa’s Kopje and askaris who patrol in shifts at night. Guests are always escorted to their rooms after dark.
Fire safety: Elsa’s Kopje has a fire-fighting team that is trained every six months. There are fire extinguishers in every building and smoke detectors in most rooms.
Disabled access: On Request
Laundry facilities: Full Laundry Service - Included
Money: Elsa’s Kopje can exchange small amounts of any major currency.
Accepted payment on location: Elsa’s Kopje accepts payment in US dollars, British pounds, euros and Kenyan shillings. However, they won’t take coins, or dollar notes issued before 2000.