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Ngong House: Our full report
A calm oasis in the hustle and bustle of Nairobi, Ngong House is a small, quirky lodge situated within four hectares of private land, in the Karen/Langata area of Nairobi city. It aims to provide a welcoming overnight stop either at the beginning or end of a Kenyan safari.
Ngong House was originally a hunter’s lodge, before the Belgian owner, Paul Verleysen, took it over and transformed it into the unusual place it is today. Paul lives here with his wife, Penny Winter, and children, and the friendly welcome they offer, combined with the lush ‘wild’ feel of the gardens, really does make you feel removed from the hectic city around you. That said, when traffic is good it is within 40 minutes of Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, and just 20 minutes from Wilson Airport (for internal flight within Kenya), so it makes a great overnight base.
The lodge itself has one main living area, with a roaring open fire (welcome on Nairobi’s cooler evenings), plenty of comfy cushion-scattered sofas, ornate rugs strewn over shiny wooden floors, and a fascinating collection of ornaments, pictures and coffee-table books. For those who have longer than a night to spend here, the swimming pool is a welcome bonus, and the two billiard tables are a good distraction for some after dinner entertainment. Penny has a small shop on site where she sells her own collection of jewellery and clothing.
Dining at Ngong House is often in a large thatched rondavel, lit by an open fire and plenty of candles, but you may find your table set up in a quiet, secluded area for a little more privacy. It’s usual for guests to meet for a pre-dinner drink and nibbles around the campfire, although dinner times are very flexible – especially useful for those flying with British Airways into Nairobi, who may not arrive at the lodge until late.
The accommodation at Ngong House is the most interesting feature of the lodge. Six of the rooms are luxury treehouses, spread out around the large gardens, affording a good amount of privacy. Each is unique, yet all are designed and built by Paul in the same very simple and rustic style.– they are certainly some of the quirkiest rooms we’ve seen in Nairobi!
Raised about five metres off the ground, each treehouse has two storeys (usually bathroom and sitting area downstairs, and bedroom upstairs) and involves relatively steep stairs, which those a little less stable on their feet may find quite tricky. Inside is reminiscent of a log cabin, with chunky wooden bedframes swathed in mosquito nets, polished wooden floors covered in dark red rugs and en-suite bathrooms with twin sinks; some treehouses even have a bath designed to look like a dhow boat.
There is also a private cottage, which faces the swimming pool and is much more permanent and solid in feel. The deep red of the walls and bedspread complement the creams of the furniture and the dark brown of the wooden floors, resulting in a rustic and earthy charm.
Ngong House also has a log cabin in the gardens which can sleep up to six people – and hence is a great choice for families. It’s similar in style and feel to the treehouses but is significantly larger. There’s an open fireplace, a small bar area (complete with aeroplane propellers on the wall above!) and plenty of comfortable seating.
The final room at Ngong House is a single suite. It’s located in the main house, so is a little less private, but is better suited for those who are a little less mobile (although there are still steps within the room).
Our viewOverall, Ngong House is an interesting and unique property which is great for travellers wanting something a little different for their time in this hectic city. That said, the nightly rate is up there with some of the most expensive in Nairobi, and while the property is certainly very well run – it isn’t quite as luxurious as some of the other options available at similar prices.
Ideal length of stay: Up to two nights.
Directions: Ngong House is about 30-40 minutes from Wilson Airport – a journey that will be quicker once the roadworks are finished. From Jomo Kenyatta International Airport it can be about 45 minutes to an hour, but longer if traffic is bad.
Owner: Paul Verleysen
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Half Board
Food quality: Ngong House has a herb garden on their land and source as much of their fresh fruits and vegetables locally – so the menu has a very healthy and fresh feel.
Breakfast at Ngong House is usually served in the grounds in the shade of the trees. You’ll start with a platter of fruits and freshly squeezed juices, followed by homemade roasted cereals, followed by a full cooked breakfast with your choice of eggs, bacon, sausage and pancakes.
Lunch on our last visit (September 2012) was also served outside. We enjoyed a seafood salad to start, followed by roast lamb. We were really impressed by the food – it was light and tasty with great flavours and presentation.
Dinner will usually start around the campfire where the guests will all meet for a drink and some ‘bitings’ (canapés). Guests will then continue to their separate tables where they’ll enjoy a four-course meal – soup, starter, main and dessert. Although we didn’t get a chance to sample the dinner, we expect that, as at lunch, plenty of thought will have gone into the menu.
Dining style: Individual Tables
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: £20-25
Drinks included: All drinks are included apart from champagne.
Attitude towards children: Ngong House welcomes children of any age.
Property’s age restrictions: No age restrictions
Special activities & services: There are two billiard tables in the main areas, and the log cabin is perfect for families.
Equipment: They can provide cots and highchairs.
Generally recommended for children: Whilst Ngong’s pool, gardens and log cabin make it very family friendly, the steep staircases to the treehouses and to some of the beds in the log cabin mean that it may not be suitable for very young children.
Power supply: Mains Electricity
Communications: Room telephones are for internal use only, but there is good cellphone coverage. They also have free WiFi, plus a computer with a laptop and a printer that guests can use.
TV & radio: No
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: There is a very simple first-aid kit on site. The hospital in Karen is just ten minutes away by car.
Dangerous animals: Low Risk
Security measures: The property is gated and fenced, with one or more security guards on duty day and night. They are also linked to Securicor for emergencies. There are safes in each room.
Fire safety: There are fire extinguishers dotted around the lodge and the team practise fire drills regularly.
Disabled access: On Request
Laundry facilities: Full Laundry Service - Included
Money: They can’t strictly do a currency exchange here, but when possible they’re willing to exchange US dollars if you need some local currency.
Accepted payment on location: They accept cash payment in most major currency, including pounds sterling, US dollars, euros and Kenyan shillings. The shop takes credit cards (no surcharge) but not the lodge.