Lewa Safari Camp: Our full report
Lewa Safari Camp is one of only four permanent places to stay on the 250km² Lewa Conservancy, and though ...... it is run by a well-known safari outfit, it is the only one that is owned by the conservancy itself. Profits are all ploughed back into conservation and the surrounding communities. Comfortable tented rooms add to the overall feel-good factor.
Lewa was once a private family ranch owned by the Craigs, who – in response to the ever-reducing numbers of rhino in Kenya, which had become perilously low by the 1970s – had set aside a small area for breeding rhino. Success in this venture led them to dedicate the entire ranch to conservation, and in 1995 the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy was designated.
Lewa Safari Camp itself is located in the far west of the conservancy and is a great base from which to explore. Originally built in the 1980s as a home for the rhino manager, it is now still owned by the conservancy but managed by Elewana, an established safari company in East Africa.
The entire property is fenced and its main areas have the appearance of a simple but comfortable (although rather dark) colonial farmhouse, with earthy red walls on the outside, and cool cream walls and exposed wooden beams on the inside. Open fireplaces, wooden floors and comfortable sofas make for a cosy, homely atmosphere which is enhanced by relaxed and friendly staff. Guests tend to gather for drinks at the bar here, before settling at their individual tables for dinner.
In front of Lewa Safari Camp, a veranda looks out across lush green lawns to a birdbath and waterhole in the distance. Breakfast and lunch are usually set up here, to be enjoyed before or after your morning activity, depending on what you choose to do that day. A sparkling pool, surrounded by a lush lawn, is set with sun loungers and parasols and is the focus of an outdoor lounge area. On our most recent visit in 2019, we found these main areas to be frequented by an abundance of varied birdlife, easily enjoyed from the veranda.
The 15 tented rooms at Lewa Safari Camp are widely spread through the bush, and very private. Four of them form two family units, each sleeping four. Relatively simple in style, with white, beige and natural colours in the design, the rooms are unfussy but also quite stylish. Each is raised on a concrete platform with canvas walls that can open right out, and a thatched roof that offers additional shade and helps to keep the room cool. Huge beds and rugs on the floor create a homely feel, whilst 24-hour lighting and a writing desk are useful practicalities. Three rooms are slightly bigger than the others: one with three single beds and a second with a double and a single.
In each tent, the bathroom is located to one side, through a curtain, and has white-washed stone rather than canvas walls. Rough wood makes up the sink area and there is a flush toilet and good shower with toiletries provided.
Chatting with the managers on our last visit we were told that there are plans to replace these with new, marginally larger tents in 2020, however the interiors will remain much the same.
A short walk downhill from the rooms is a hide overlooking a waterhole, where guests can visit and sit quietly and see game coming to drink. On a previous visit we saw six rhino relaxing in the shade and a large herd of buffalo in the distance.
Activities at Lewa Safari Camp include game drives in comfortable 4WD Toyota Land Cruisers – each with three rows so that all guests have an unobstructed view to one side. The game viewing is good here, with rhino being the real highlight, though, on as clear day, the views of Mount Kenya are pretty impressive too. Guests who wish to head out on longer drives to explore further afield in the conservancy can opt to take a packed breakfast or lunch. Walks are also offered here, led by a guide and an armed ranger who take you out across the plains. These are best done in the cool mornings, when the light and views are stunning.
A further range of activities at Lewa Safari Camp can be arranged at extra cost. With advance notice, horse and camel safaris, run by the neighbouring Lewa Wilderness, can be organized at US $85 per person for horse riding and US$65 per person for the camels. Visits to Il Ngwesi village, which can give real insight into the local Maasai culture, cost US$45 per person. Finally, there is the option of a day trip, at US$50 per person, into the Ngare Ndare Forest. These walks, accompanied by a guide and an armed ranger, offer a real contrast to the plains of rest of the conservancy. Though we didn't get a chance to go here when we last visited Lewa we were told that the canopy walkway, and swimming in the waterfall and pools, is great fun.
Lewa Safari Camp is a well-run property, and is comfortable and well kept. Dining at separate tables rather than guests all eating together creates a slightly more formal atmosphere than at the other properties on the Lewa Conservancy, but the activities are great and service very friendly. We think this is a good place from which to base yourself to explore Lewa.
- Laikipia, Kenya
- Ideal length of stay
- 3 nights
- There are daily flights from Nairobi to Lewa Downs airstrip, which take about 60-90 minutes, depending on the route taken. It is then a further 45-minute direct drive to Lewa Safari Camp, or longer if you stop to look at wildlife.
- Accessible by
Food & drink
- Usual board basis
- Full Board & Activities
- Food quality
- On our most recent visit in 2019 we did not have the chance to eat at Lewa Safari Camp, however when we stayed here in 2018 we thought the food was good, although not particularly standout, with fresh ingredients most of which we were told are sourced locally.
Breakfast is usually served on the veranda between 7.00 and 9.30am. A buffet of fresh fruits and cereals is laid out, whilst a waiter will bring fresh tea and coffee, and take your order for a cooked breakfast. Those making an early start may prefer to take a cooked breakfast out on safari with them, which will include fruit and cooked items such as hard boiled eggs and cold sausages. Tea or coffee kept hot in a flask will help take the chill off the morning.
Most people head back to Lewa Safari Camp for a buffet lunch, also served on the veranda whenever possible. In 2018 we had chilled pea soup, aubergine parmigiana, sliced beef and a selection of salads served with freshly baked focaccia. Desert was a mango fool. Bush meals and packed, picnic lunches can also be provided if you're going for an all-day game drive.
Afternoon tea is served before your afternoon activity, with a selection of teas or coffee along with homemade cakes and biscuits.
Dinner starts with canapés and drinks at Lewa Safari Camp's bar, or by the fire pit in the garden, before guests move off to their own tables. A three-set course meal is then served to the table. On our previous visit the starter was a choice of bean soup or a sage and ricotta ravioli. Main course was beef fillet served with mange tout, carrots and roast potatoes. This was finished off with a large chocolate profiterole and tea or coffee.
- With its lush lawns and verandas overlooking a busy birdbath, Lewa Safari Camp offers great birdwatching from the camp itself. The hide overlooks a waterhole, where mammals and birds regularly drink, and bush walks give birding a new perspective.
- See ideas for Birdwatching
- Riding holidays
- Horseback and camel safaris are arranged with nearby Lewa Wilderness Camp, whose 40 horses are available to experience riders as well as beginners. The plain grazers are relaxed around horses, making it a great way to get up close.
- See ideas for Riding holidays
- Wildlife safaris
- Lewa Conservancy stands out for having 10% of Kenya’s black rhino population, plus a healthy number of white rhinos, and a very high population of the finely marked Grevy’s zebra – and a scattering of other big game.
- See ideas for Wildlife safaris
- Attitude towards children
- Lewa Safari Camp doesn't particularly recommend the camp to anyone younger than seven years old, but it is really quite child-friendly. Meeting the tracker dogs that are used to protect the rhinos is a popular experience. Note that the minimum walking age is 16 years.
- Property’s age restrictions
- There is no specific minimum age.
- Special activities & services
- Lewa Safari Camp can arrange early meals and child-friendly walks around the camp and within the fence. For added entertainment, there are a swimming pool and board games.
- Highchairs and cots are available. Lewa Safari Camp can offer child care, this can either be by a member of the housekeeping staff or possibly one of the security team standing guard outside the tent.
- Generally recommended for children
- Lewa Safari Camp is fenced and so comparatively good for children, though parents must supervise them at all times. That said, the evening atmosphere is quite adult and so might not suit younger or more boisterous children.
- Power supply notes
- There is 24 hour power throughout the lodge and guests can charge devices in their rooms.
- There is free WiFi in Lewa Safari Camp's central areas and in each room. There is also intermittent cellphone reception around the lodge, mostly near the central, reception area.
- TV & radio
- There is no TV for guests' use, but for big sporting occasions a plan can be made using the staff TV.
- Water supply
- Water supply notes
- The borehole water supply is double-filtered. Drinking water is provided in flasks and all guests are given a branded metal drinking bottle.
Health & safety
- Malarial protection recommended
- Medical care
- There is a first-aid kit in the lodge and one in each vehicle; guides are first-aid trained. Lewa clinic is close by for emergencies, and the camp has links to the flying doctor service. Nanyuki is a 90-minute drive away and has a good hospital.
- Dangerous animals
- High Risk
- Security measures
- There are guards on site and guests are escorted to their tents after dinner. The camp also has an electric fence which reduces, but doesn't eliminate, the chance of big game passing through camp.
- Fire safety
- Lewa Safari Camp has designated fire assembly points, and a fire plan in each of the rooms. Extinguishers are also by every room and central areas, and the staff are trained to use them.
Guided walking safari
- Disabled access
- On Request
- Laundry facilities
- A full laundry service is included and takes 24 hours. Items are hand washed, and for cultural reasons ladies’ underwear cannot be included.
- There is a safe in reception for valuables.
- Accepted payment on location
- You can settle any extras at Lewa Safari Camp in cash using US dollars, British pounds or euros. They also accept Visa, Amex and MasterCard with a 5% surcharge.
Other lodges in Laikipia
Alternative places to stay in this same area.