Lewa Wilderness is a family owned lodge, which was once a private ranch house.
Lewa Wilderness : Our full report
Lewa Wilderness (sometimes known as Lewa Wilderness Trails or Wilderness Trails Lodge) is set on a steep valley side looking out over the Western Marania Valley and spring below. Started as a tented camp by the Craig family 30 years ago, it is now a comfortable, eight-room lodge offering access to the great game of the Lewa Conservancy.
Over time, the tents have been replaced with permanent stone cottages: this is a beautiful fenced lodge, with a homely rather than wild feel. Lewa Wilderness is now the family home of, and run by, Will and Emma Craig, with two fantastic managers who help to maintain its very friendly ambience. Indeed, the whole place is exceptionally welcoming, as if you're a guest in an old friend's home. Many of the staff clearly enjoy their work and have been at the lodge for years, this really shines through and we were very impressed by the friendly service.
Lewa's communal areas are made up of several buildings. The main house, which is where Will and Emma live, has a lovely veranda that looks over a large lawn. It is here that tea is served in the afternoon, and guests are also welcome to make use of the billiards table and borrow some of the numerous books. A separate building houses a lounge area furnished with comfortably worn chairs and sofas, where countless artefacts collected over the generations lend an eccentric, slightly random style. Meals are served in a beautiful open-sided (but covered) room with views towards the steep valley side opposite.
Much of the furniture in the lodge is made in a local workshop, where 15 people are employed and trained. They make some beautiful pieces which can be bought and shipped home anywhere in the world.
Each of the nine cottages at Lewa Wilderness is different, but they fall into two categories:
- The three very large garden cottages, or family cottages, are located in lush gardens near the main communal areas. They have vaulted, thatched roofs, with divider walls extending to room height. Each has two bedrooms (one with a kingsize bed, the other with two queensize beds) with a shared bathroom, and sharing a lounge area with a fireplace. When we visited in 2017 the bathrooms were all being renovated.
- Six newer hillside cottages, a little below the main gardens and overlooking the valley, have stunning views out over the valley. Again these have their own en-suite bathrooms, some with bathtubs, as well as a lounge area with fireplace.
All the rooms in both categories are very spacious and have a rustic feel, with rough stone walls and polished stone floors. As well as chunky wooden furniture and woven carpets made in the workshop on site, some softer armchairs and sofas lend an almost English country-home feel.
As you’d expect, game drives are a big part of any stay here, but there are a host of other activities also available at Lewa Wilderness. At the lodge itself there's a tennis court and infinity pool, and from the nearby stables, guests (both beginners and experienced) can take part in a riding safari on one of their 40 horses – an excellent way to get much closer to the plains game than you thought possible. The equipment and saddles are all in a good condition. It’s also possible to go for a ride on one of their camels which we really enjoyed.
Full-day visits to Il Ngwesi Maasai community, a 2-hour drive north of the lodge, offer insight into local life. A further option is a guided safari walk and fly-camp, run from the lodge by Will Craig through a sister company, Walking Wild. While you're out walking, camp hands with camels will move ahead to set up a small fly-camp. This is a great way to get out and experience the bush in a much simpler set up, at an additional cost. You can often do something similar after a bush breakfast, coming back to camp with a camel train. Picnic lunches can also be organised by a nearby waterfall.
In early 2015, Lewa Wilderness added a new gym - allowing you to spin, cross-train or row in a deeply shaded area with superb views.
Also at an extra cost (650 US$), Will Craig can take guests up in an incredible retro-style bi-plane to get an aerial view of the lodge. This is one of only two such bi-planes in the whole of Kenya – it's all very Out of Africa.
Our viewLewa Wilderness is extremely friendly and relaxing. We really enjoyed the homely feel, and the way you could just help yourself to drinks from the cabinet. That the lodge gets a lot of repeat business is testament to this atmosphere, and also perhaps the fantastic variety of activities – you have to come back for more. Lewa makes a good option for families who want a fenced property for their children, and couples who want somewhere more permanent than a tented camp.
Ideal length of stay: Stay for at least 3 to 4 nights to make the most of the vast array of activities on offer.
Directions: The lodge is half-an-hour’s drive from Lewa Airstrip.
Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer
Owner: Will & Emma Craig
Staff: One of the managers, Karmushu, has been at the lodge for 16 years and a guide, Kilai, has been there for 38 years. The main walking guide is Rakita, Karmushu's brother. Kilai is a bird expert.
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: The food at Lewa Wilderness when we visited in March 2017 was excellent – plenty of it, and all very fresh and flavoursome. Most of the ingredients come from the farm belonging to the lodge, which has a huge vegetable garden as well as cows, goats, pigs and chickens. They even make their own goats' cheese.
Breakfast is sometimes taken out as a picnic if you're heading out for an early game drive. If you're in the lodge for breakfast, a selection of fruit and cereals will be followed by a cooked breakfast. Tea, coffee and juice are also available.
Lunch is always a varied buffet. We were offered barbecued chicken, warm lentil dhal, couscous and roasted vegetables, green salad, avocado and tomato salad, and a sweetcorn tart, as well as a selection of cheese and biscuits. For pudding there was a warm cashew nut and treacle tart with cream.
Our three-course dinner comprised a light soup to start, followed by beef fillet and a chocolate mousse for dessert. It was accompanied by some nice wine, and followed by coffee and tea.
Dining style: Group Meals
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included
Drinks included: All drinks at the lodge are included. Champagne and special whiskies can be arranged for an extra cost if ordered in advance.
Further dining info: Although Lewa Wilderness can serve meals in the cottages, this will need to be arranged in advance as there is no communication to the rooms.
Family holidays: Lewa wilderness is a great option for a varied family holiday. Along with game drives children can swim, play tennis, visit the local village, ride horses and even camels!See more ideas for Family holidays in Kenya
Riding holidays: Ride through the rolling hills of the Kenya's Lewa Conservancy on your holiday, or take a camel trek from Lewa Wilderness. Guided horse rides here can take from a couple of hours to the whole day, and allow you to get close to various antelope, giraffe and zebra.See more ideas for Riding holidays in Kenya
Attitude towards children: The lodge welcomes children of all ages.
Property’s age restrictions: No
Special activities & services: There is quite a range of activities for children at Lewa Wilderness. As well as horseriding, children can take part in Maasai bushcraft such as learning how to throw spears and shoot with a bow and arrows. There is also a spring nearby where they can go crab fishing, and jump from a low cliff into the water. An electric fence around the lodge keeps out big game, and there is plenty of space on the lawns for children to run around after a long game drive.
Equipment: They provide cots, highchairs and a booster seat for the vehicles. They can offer babysitting from a member of staff from the housekeeping, but they will not be specifically trained in childcare.
Generally recommended for children: Lewa Wilderness is a great option for families with children.
Notes: Although the lodge is fenced, there is game around, so children should always be supervised.
Power supply: Solar Power
Power supply notes: Guests can charge their electrical devices in their rooms 24 hours a day.
Communications: There is WiFi, in the main house, library and verandah, and good cellphone reception higher up on the property, especially around the car park. The office has a laptop which can be used in an emergency.
TV & radio: No TV is offered for guests' use, but a plan can always be made for major sporting events.
Water supply: Borehole
Water supply notes: Water is pumped from their own spring and the drinking water is boiled and filtered. Drinking water is also provided.
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: The nearest doctor is at Lewa clinic, which is half-an-hour’s drive away. The nearest hospital is an hour’s drive away in Nanyuki, where the cottage hospital is a highly rated local facility. The lodge has links to the flying doctors for emergencies.
Dangerous animals: High Risk
Security measures: Askaris guard the property day and night, and guests are escorted back to their rooms at night. A small torch is useful as the walk can be a little stumbly, especially if you have made liberal use of the help-yourself bar.
Fire safety: There are fire extinguishers around the property and staff are trained how to use them.
Disabled access: On Request
Laundry facilities: Full Laundry Service is included, but this excludes all underwear (male and female).
Money: There is a central safe in the main house for valuables. Guest cottage doors do not lock, and do not need to.
Accepted payment on location: All major credit cards are accepted, with a 3.5% surcharge for transactions below U$50. They accept most major currencies such as US dollars, euros and GB pounds. If you wish to visit a Maasai village, you will need to pay in cash.