Reviews of Il Ngwesi Eco-Lodge
Wildlife sightings and reviews
10 independent comments and wildlife information from our travellers who have visited Il Ngwesi Eco-Lodge and kindly agreed to share their thoughts. They do not necessarily represent the views of Expert Africa
"Il Ngwesi Eco-Lodge review"
We loved the open bandas and the very natural feel of this camp staffed and run by Maasi from the local community. We had a great view of the waterhole from our room and it was wonderful to watch so many animals come to drink. Being so high up, we had great bird sightings including a lovely tawny eagle which flew right in front of the banda.
The game drives were excellent and we had great guides in Steven and trainee, Terence. We particularly enjoyed our drives in the conservancy where we did not encounter another vehicle and a visit to the nearby Rhino Sanctuary was a most memorable experience as was our visit to the community village - an opportunity not to be missed. Hearing a leopard while out on a walk was another highlight as was watching a pride of lions from our banda.
We enjoyed how the days were arranged starting with an early morning drive or walk and then returning to camp for breakfast until the afternoon activity. There's plenty of time to relax and soak up the views and listen to the wonderful peace of this beautiful camp.
On our final night we were treated to a traditional Maasi dance as a thank you for supporting the community which was a joyous experience and great fun!" See all these reviews: 10n in Kenya
Stephen and Peter (in their Maasai splendour) met us at Lewa airstrip (got to be the best 'airport' toilets in the world). We sat on the Landcruiser roof (love the mods) to travel through Lewa conservancy where we saw many rhino, elephant and grazers near the swamp. The views coming over the hills down to il Ngwesi were breathtaking. It was VERY dry, having had no proper rains for 2 years. On arrival at the lodge we were greeted by the Maasai staff doing their greeting dance/song (very impressive). The Main House has spectacular views to the horizon, and after settling in to our incredible thatched rooms with quirky facilities (shame one of the toilets was smelly , shower water was a bit cool, ropes on the bridge falling off), we were served a delicious lunch by the pool (which is lovely but could do with cleaning more regularly and skimming the numerous insects out at lunch time). There was a large extended family gathering (the widow of the designer of the lodge) and it was very interesting to meet them, and the staff made sure that we had our space. The bush breakfast (in gorgeous location) and bush sundowners were highlights. Massage by Jackie was expert. We saw many giraffe, numerous dik-dik, geranuk, ostriches, eland, and many birds (loads of vulturine guinea fowl, eagles, hornbills, vultures). Stephen was very knowledgeable., and we enjoyed spending time with him and Peter (who was learning his trade). The trip to the traditional village was interesting, to see the boma and huts, and some traditional hunting methods, making fire, and mancala game. There were lots of beaded items etc to buy, and had to haggle for them; prices were as high as the shops, but it did feel good about putting the cash directly in the hands that made them. We heard Lion and Leopard at night, and saw prints in the dust, but no sightings. Guided walks were lovely; I am not sure that being accompanied by Maasai in red shuka and jingly jewellery is the most likely way to spot wildlife! (we and the ranger dressed in drabs). As there wasn't a blade of grass to be seen at il Ngwesi, most of the grazers had moved on, leaving just the browsers that can survive on the still-green trees and bushes. The Maasai had also moved on with their cattle. The food was very good (chef was Francis), especially the fish pie, but our large voracious teenagers could have done with some extra bread/ chapatis/ rice on offer to fill them up each meal. Joseph looked after us diligently and gracefully. We ate in several locations which was nice to ring the changes. The boys were delighted to be addressed as 'young warriors' and enjoyed being dressed up for the village visit. Our departure was really quite emotional; we had an extraordinary send-off in the evening with dancing/ singing/ jumping by the WHOLE team around the pool area after dinner. Both boys joined in. Stephen, Francis and Peter took us to Lewa gate to pass us on for our travel to Meru, and we all felt such fondness for them after a short visit it was really touching (tearing up now!)." See all these reviews: 17n in Kenya
"Il Ngwesi Eco-Lodge review"
We slept under the stars on the 'star bed' and got woken by the moonlight as the moon rose over the hills. Our room overlooked the waterhole, we saw leopard, elephants, reticulated giraffe, so many grazing animals and birds from our room. We had game drives and bush walks with our very knowledgeable and enthusiastic driver and guide, Sankei, trainee guide Terrace and Franklin, the ranger. Il Ngwesi is a wonderful lodge, owned and run by the Maasai community. It's not a top end luxury resort but it felt authentic, it was very comfortable and staff were wonderful. We highly recommend it." See all these reviews: 8n in Kenya
"Il Ngwesi Eco-Lodge review"
We visited the village and women's cooperative for beading. We wanted to get a taste of the culture and customs, as well as the challenges facing the people, and feel that we did get a sense of the community.
One note about the "afternoon walk" which turned out to be the hike from hell. What started out a walking safari ended up as a hike up the hillside a few hundred feet high, complete with rock scrambles in 95F heat, treacherous terrain, and high altitude. Not what I signed up for. The guide seemed oblivious, and in the future, I suggest all hikes/walks are better described. I love hiking, but not informing us about the intensity was a big mistake on their part. It could have ended poorly with an accident.
And on a wildlife sighting note, a hyrax was a frequent visitor in the cabin. He seemed to like hiding in the roof, and was noisy at times. Fortunately, the kids were fascinated by their unexpected room mate." See all these reviews: 11n in Kenya
Following this feedback, Il Ngwesi confirmed that going forwards: 1) they will only conduct this hike first thing in the morning; 2) travellers will always be warned in advance that this hike is tough in parts; and 3) they will let hikers know that there are several places to pause where they have the option to stop and turn back.
"Il Ngwesi Eco-Lodge review"
Again a lovely location with hills in the distance and the dry river course in front of the camp, great location .
An amazing banda, built in old tree structure, and at views, very large. It needs some repairs as the floorboards have loose protruding planks.
Did not like being asked to sign a form absolving them form any liability for anything; we did not do so, but have never had this before and not the start you want.
Food was OK, our best meal was when we asked them to cook us a typical Kenyan lunch.
Guide Steve, was local and very good and friendly.
Again good birding, rhinos, have to look for the game but worth coming here for the different experience.
The pool is lovely and makes this a good place to slow down a bit after busy safari.
Again a great visit to the local village, to be recommended.
The management at this camp was almost invisible and it was the only camp where one or two of the staff were grumpy, most were not." See all these reviews: 11n in Kenya
"Very special place"
It is a beautiful eco-lodge, but it is the people that make it so special. Jackie, Lawrence, Sam, James and so many others were just the best staff anywhere. Our rooms were wonderful, the food was fantastic. But our chats at dinner with Jackie and sitting in the main house talking with everyone was what we loved most. Our walk to the rhinos was great - it felt good to get out and walk for awhile after sitting for so long on game drives. Our beading class was fun and gave us so much appreciation for their works for art. Another family (another Expert Africa group) asked us to join them in a goat roast. What a magical evening - the goat was delicious and the traditional dancing and singing was so special. The visit to the local village was well-done.
Because they did not get April rains, they are experiencing a drought. The number of animals in the area reflects this, but we didn't mind at all. We were ready for some downtime by the pool and a less intense schedule. The staff convinced us that the green season is the time to visit and we can't wait to go back.
Note: it is a long drive from the Lewa airport. (We did learn quickly in our trip that one hour "African" time was usually double that.) It was about 3 from the airport on our arrival day and about 2 to return. There is a private airstrip and we might have considered that! It would have meant not seeing Lewa Conservancy and some of the villages along the way, so there is a trade-off for flying right in." See all these reviews: 11n in Kenya
"Stunning location, luxurious"
The world's most scenic shower and loo location. Bed on the deck under the stars was wonderful. Bushwalks very interesting, rhino walk memorable. Sundowners and sunuppers in beautiful spots. James had lots of stories to share.
Very convincing model of profits going back to the community." See all these reviews: 13n in Kenya; 5n in Tanzania; 2n in Zanzibar
"Rhinos on foot"
Visiting Il Ngwesi not only means you help the Maasai community owners of this lodge protect their rhinos, but also promote greater sustainability in the community, balancing the interests of the grazers with the wildlife. The lodge has helped to provide schools, health clinics, and water as result of eco-tourism. This is what is all about.
We had many wonderful walks in the bush with James Olekinyaga as our guide, and big hugs to Marcy and the other staff at the lodge for a very special send off with dances and singing. We loved our visit." See all these reviews: 18n in Kenya
"Il Ngwesi Review"
It rained one full day we were there however we were able to see multiple herds of elephants cross multiple times a day right outside of our room. We went to the Rhino conservatory, had multiple game drives, a bush walk, and a visit to a nearby Masai village.
The drive to the lodge from the Lewa airstip is a bit long (~3 hrs) but it's actually a nice game drive where you're able to see different animals than what you'll see around the lodge. It will be handy if they get the airstrip close to the lodge up and running." See all these reviews: 7n in Kenya
"Great stay, great project"
In writing the following detailed comments, we would note that in both relative and absolute terms the overnight rate at Il Ngwesi is very affordable and excellent value for money.
We actually stayed in two rooms - two nights in each - not because of any fault with our original accommodation but because, half-way through our stay, a room with a sleeping deck 'under the stars' became available and management offered to move us there, which we accepted. Both rooms were rustically pleasant and comfortable with good showers: sleeping under the stars was a real treat.
The staff at the camp were all extremely welcoming and hospitable and we were very well looked after. Particular commendation goes to James, who not only oversees the running of the camp but who is also an excellent guide and very good company (as well as being the presenter in London who first inspired us to want to visit).
In marking food as 'average' (see below), we would underline that we are taking a numerically literal interpretation of the word, especially relative to the other camps at which we stayed this trip. And we would stress that the meals were wholesome, tasty and plentiful. A little more imagination - and, perhaps, a little more leisurely pace between courses - could easily see this rating improve.
Our dominant activity was walking/birding. The walks were consistently enjoyable (including the climb to the top of the hill behind the camp) and the bird population in the area was huge - great time of year to visit with many resident birds nesting and migrants in the area. As for mammals, since this was the early part of the dry season, sightings were regular rather than abundant: but we still did well - especially for elephants. Our hopes for first ever sightings of vulterine guinea fowl and the remarkable gerenuk were realised (in both cases) within minutes of arriving.
Our afternoon at a local Masai village, followed by dinner, was fascinating. We were very well hosted by a young local, Peter, aspiring to go on to university shortly - and therefore himself a beneficiary of the project which has helped finance him through secondary education. We learnt a great deal not only about Masai history and traditions but also about the aspirations of the community, building on dialogue throughout our stay with the staff at the camp. There were also some very interesting comparisons to draw later between the way the Il Ngwesi project operates and the approach adopted by the other two community-based camps at which we stayed during this trip." See all these reviews: 13n in Kenya
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