Borana

Borana: Our full report

Rooms
8 cottages, 2 of which are family cottages
Traveller's rating
Good (87%) From 3 reviews
Children
Great for 8+
Open
All year

Borana is a stunning lodge, privately owned by the Dyer family for three generations and set on the ranch of the same name. With a vast swathe of wilderness and few of the usual park rules, Borana treats its guests to an exclusive safari experience and offers a wide array of activities, while staying in understated luxury.

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 where lunch is often served, and nearby there's a stylish shop, well stocked with beautiful handcrafted bags, belts, shoes and curios. It’s worth pointing out that there are lots of stairs at Borana leading between the various main areas and some of the rooms.

Borana's facilities go much further though; on the other side of the hill, down some stairs, 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 lounge 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. Leather furniture and tartan fabrics offer a typical colonial feel. A fireplace makes the cottages cosy and warm in the evenings and each is well appointed with a safe, hairdryer and storage space for clothes.

Mirroring the style of the bedrooms are vast en-suite bathrooms with twin wash basins, a bath and a large 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 "kid's rooms" designed for children aged 5 to 12 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, 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 "kid's room" rate.

The activities at Borana are hugely varied:

  • 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.

  • One of the key activities is horseriding. Borana has two stables and around 50 horses altogether. The first of them, next to the Ngare Ndare River, has horses suitable for beginners and novice riders. The other stables is a 20-minute drive from the 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, zebra and eland.

  • Walking safaris with an armed guide (carrying a .375 rifle) can easily be arranged. Getting out of the vehicle to explore the landscape on foot, brings a completely different dimension and comes highly recommended from us.

  • In 2013, 21 highly endangered black rhinos were translocated from Lake Nakuru National Park and from neighboring Lewa Conservancy, and they're easily viewable as you drive around the ranch – although it's chance to track these beautiful animals on foot with the rangers. In September 2014, the fence between Lewa and Borana was opened up so that game can roam between the two. In the past few years two white rhino have moved into Borana, joining the black rhino, and we expect plenty more to follow. During our most recent visit in June 2017 we were very fortunate to witness a pride of 12 lion chasing two porcupines on an evening game drive. Fortunately for the porcupines they managed to escape!

  • If guests are interested then it's also possible to arrange a trip to the conservancy headquarters. Here you will meet the rangers on the frontline of the anti-poaching unit. After listening to a briefing you will be able to ask questions, before driving out to deploy two rangers at a vantage point where they will spend the night on the lookout. Learning about their successes and seeing tangibly how tourism was helping to protect this species was one of the highlights of our stay.

  • If you're feeling active you might also want to take out one of the mountain-bikes, go fishing, take out a quadbike (NB: It's essential that you read the Quadbike warning in the 'Health & Safety' section below for our comments on insurance issues regarding this activity.)
    or visit the working ranch and farm which has around 2,000 head of cattle and provides nearly all of the lodges produce.

  • Another popular activity from Borana is to visit the nearby Ngare Ndare Forest. There are some beautiful rock pools and waterfalls, fed by crystal clear spring water, that guests can spend the afternoon jumping into and swimming in.

  • Borana also happens to be just a five-minute drive from the rock that inspired 'pride rock' in Disney's animated feature film The Lion King. Every guest that stays at Borana will drive past this setting which, for many, is a huge draw.

Our view

Although it's all very informal, and a bit like a family home, Borana is a highly professional setup that runs seamlessly. Part of its charm is the unfussy style, and the fact that guests are encouraged by the delightful hosts and staff to relax and treat the place as if they'd lived here for years. We love this lodge, and although it may not be ideal if you're looking for wall-to-wall wildlife, it will suit you if you'd like the chance to get out of a vehicle and experience the bush in a variety of ways. The arrival of translocated black rhinos in 2013 – very visible as you move around – has also added a string to Borana's bow.

Geographics

Location: Laikipia, Kenya

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 Downs 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 10-15 minute drive away.

Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer

Key personnel

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 and delicious, enhanced by fresh seasonal vegetables and salads from their 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, fruit juice or smoothies, cereal, freshly made bread, eggs benedict, pancakes or eggs cooked to order with sausages and bacon. Tea and coffee are always on offer as well.

A light lunch, served in the open-sided dining area by the pool, is a buffet of cold dishes. On our recent visit we had fish wraps with avocado, tomato and onion, along with a green salad, rice salad and a butternut salad. One lunchtime we were also treated to a selection of fresh pizzas served straight from the pizza oven. Desert was strawberries and cream served on a meringue.
Dinner was a larger three-course meal, and just as delicious. Following a starter of tomato, mozzarella and pesto salad we had slow cooked steak served on a bed of mashed potato along with green beans and carrots. This was finished off with desert of a delicious chocolate mousse.

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 Champagne and specially imported wines and spirits. Filtered drinking water is provided in the rooms.

Further dining info: Borana can do room service but this needs to be arranged in advance, as there are no phones in the rooms.

Special interests

Family holidays: While there is relatively little apart from board games to discover for small children, teenagers can enjoy horse riding and mountain biking during your family safari holidays here in Kenya’s Laikipia region. Children under five stay free at Borana.

See more ideas for Family holidays in Kenya

Luxury: Stone-walled cottages featuring rustic, locally made furniture reinforce Borana’s understated luxury. Each has a fireplace, where a log fire will be lit for you on request. A large infinity pool overlooks the lodge’s waterhole and has magnificent views across the Borana Conservancy.

See more ideas for Luxury in Kenya

Children

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.

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. However, activities like fishing, riding little ponies and treasure hunts makes it quite family-oriented.

Infrastructure

Power supply: Generator

Power supply notes: Generator electricity, with inverters for the night.

Communications: Borana has WiFi in the reception, which can also be accessed by the pool. There is also good cell phone signal here.

TV & radio: TV in the manager’s house can be used on request if there is a special event.

Water supply: Borehole

Water supply notes: Borehole and bottled water is supplied for drinking. The tap water is not suitable for drinking. A wood burner provides hot water to each room.

Health & safety

Malarial protection recommended: Yes

Medical care: Borana runs a mobile clinic for the community employing three nurses who are based on the ranch. The nearest doctor is in Nanyuki, about an hour's drive away, at the locally renowned Nanyuki Cottage Hospital. Borana also has links to the flying doctors service. When we visited in June 2017, 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.

Quadbike warning: quad-biking is sometimes available as an activity from Borana. As with any potentially dangerous activity, it's vital that you take responsibility for ensuring that you have adequate travel insurance prior to getting involved. Be aware that some insurances cover quad-bike activities only for bikes with lower engine ratings: check such clauses particularly carefully before you get on a bike.

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.

Extras

Disabled access: On Request

Laundry facilities: Full Laundry Service - included (but they don't do ladies' underwear - washing powder is provided).

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 3% surcharge.

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