Lewa Wilderness: Our full report
Lewa Wilderness (previously known as Lewa Wilderness Trails or Wilderness Trails Lodge) is set on a steep ...... valley side looking out over the Western Marania Valley and a spring below. Started as a tented camp by the Craig family 30 years ago, it is now a comfortable, nine-room lodge offering access to the great game of the Lewa Conservancy.
Lewa Wilderness is a beautiful fenced lodge, with a homely rather than wild feel. It 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 borrow some of the numerous books in the library. 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. Here there is also a self-service bar where guests are invited to help themselves if a member of staff is not around.
Meals are served around a large communal table in an open-sided (but covered) room with stunning views towards the steep valley side opposite. Wildlife is regularly seen from the dining area and guests reported regularly seeing giraffe and elephants over lunch. Throughout the gardens there are often numerous birds, especially around the rooms, as well as game that wanders through – when we stayed here in 2018 dik dik, a 'semi resident' giraffe, elephant and rhino were all seen in and around the grounds.
Much of the furniture at the lodge is made in a local workshop, where 15 people are employed and trained. They make some beautiful pieces which can be bought by visitors and shipped anywhere in the world. When we called in to the lodge in 2019 we spent time in the spinnery with a group of ladies who were producing beautiful crafted rugs made from the wool from local sheep, these were used throughout the lodge and as well as being sold internationally.
Over time, the tents at Lewa Wilderness have been replaced with permanent stone cottages. Each of these nine cottages is different, but all are very spacious and have a rustic feel, with rough stone walls and polished stone floors. Chunky wooden furniture and woven carpets made in the workshop on site are balanced by some softer armchairs and sofas, lending an almost English country-home feel.
The cottages fall into two categories:
- 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 king-size bed, the other with two queen-size beds), each with its own bathroom, and a shared lounge area with a fireplace. These cottages are perfectly suited for families or couples travelling together (two separate groups would never be booked in here).
- Six newer hillside cottages, are down a number of steps a little below the main gardens, and have stunning views over the valley. These have one incredibly spacious en-suite bedroom, some with bathtubs, as well as a lounge area with fireplace. Although not hugely far apart, the cottages are well screened by the shrubs and feel quite private. One of the hillside cottages is designated as a family room, with two en-suite bedrooms, a central lounge with fireplace, and a large outdoor deck with its own private plunge pool. It is ideal for a family, honeymooners or two couples travelling together.
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 good condition. At present there is a weight limit of 80kg for the riding, however the lodge is looking to bring in stronger horses who can cater for higher weights. Depending on availability it's also possible to go for a ride on one of their camels, which we really enjoyed on a previous visit.
Full-day visits to Il Ngwesi Maasai community, a two-hour drive north of the lodge, offer insight into local life. A further option is a guided safari walk and fly-camp (at an additional cost), 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. You can often do something similar after a bush breakfast, too, coming back to camp with a camel train. Picnic lunches can also be organised at a nearby waterfall. The walking wild experience takes a little planning and this is best booked in advance.
It is also possible to take a full-day visit to the Ngare Ndare Forest which is around a 90-minute drive from the lodge. Explore this tropical forest via the canopy walk, one of the longest of its kind in Africa, enjoy a picnic lunch and go swimming in the pools. This excursion is at an extra cost.
Also at extra cost (from US$650 per person), guests can be taken up in Will Craig's incredible retro-style yellow 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! We were lucky enough to experience the flight on our last visit; it was really very special to cruise high and low across the plains and through the winding valleys, spotting game along the way.
Lewa 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 to the fantastic variety of activities – you have to come back for more. Lewa makes a great option for families who want a fenced property for their children, and couples who want somewhere more permanent than a tented camp.
- Laikipia, Kenya
- Ideal length of stay
- Stay for at least 3 to 4 nights to make the most of the vast array of activities on offer.
- The lodge is half-an-hour's drive from Lewa Downs Airstrip.
- Accessible by
Food & drink
- Usual board basis
- Full Board & Activities
- Food quality
- We have always found the food at Lewa Wilderness to be excellent: when we stayed here in March 2018 there was 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 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. We did not eat here on our most recent visit in 2019, however when we stayed in 2018 we had excellent scrambled eggs with avocado, bacon and toast.
Lunch is always a varied buffet. When we have stayed here previously we were offered chicken curry, vegetable curry, dhal and various accompaniments such as papadoms and chapatis. This was followed by a selection of cheese and biscuits and finished off with a refreshing tropical fruit sorbet.
When we stayed in March 2018 dinner started with butternut soup and fresh bread, followed by beef bourguignon served with potatoes, carrots and courgettes. Dessert was a rich tiramisu. It was accompanied by some nice wine, and followed by coffee and tea.
- Family holidays
- Lewa Wilderness is a great option for a varied family holiday. Aside from doing game drives, children can swim, play tennis, visit the local village and school, and even ride horses and camels. The cottage rooms have plenty of space for families.
- See ideas for Family holidays
- 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 ideas for Riding holidays
- Staying at Lewa Wilderness is a delightful way to spend a few nights of a luxury safari. The cottages are huge and the polished stone floors, stone walls and handmade furniture combine to give them a rustic, super-comfortable feel. A private fireplace and veranda are fine places to relax.
- See ideas for Luxury
- Attitude towards children
- The lodge welcomes children of all ages.
- Property’s age restrictions
- 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.
- 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.
- Although the lodge is fenced, there is still dangerous game around, so children should always be supervised, and the pool is unfenced too.
Our travellers’ wildlife sightings from Lewa Wilderness
Since mid-2018, many of our travellers who stayed at Lewa Wilderness have kindly recorded their wildlife sightings and shared them with us. The results are below. Click an animal to see more, and here to see more on our methodology.
- Power supply notes
- Guests can charge their electrical devices in their rooms 24 hours a day.
- 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
- Water supply notes
- Water is pumped from the lodge’s own spring.
The bathrooms are fully plumbed with hot and cold running water.
Conservation and environmental education programs
Lewa Wilderness Lodge has 9 cottages situated in the 65,000-acre ranch of Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, one of Kenya’s major private conservations and is home to many endangered species including 12% of Kenya’s black rhino and 20% of world’s Grevy zebra population.
The lodge has initiated different programs and conservation activities to support the conservation of wildlife and their natural habitats. One of the projects launched in partnership with Lewa Wildlife Conservancy is the Lewa Education Programme (LEP) which contributes to the sponsorship of 21 institutions where about 7,000 students can learn about wildlife and acquire the necessary skills to preserve Kenya’s wildlife. Lewa offers support through infrastructure and curriculum development, student empowerment programmes, teachers’ training and provision of school supplies.
A similar program is the Conservation Education Programme (CEP) which was established in 201 to provide holistic conservation and environmental education for visiting school groups. Every year, more than 3,000 Kenyan students visit Lewa to learn about endangered species, the environment and their role protecting it.
Additionally, Lewa Wilderness Lodge provides employment and training opportunities on-site such as handmade or crafting souvenirs that can be sold to guests. This allows locals to keep their local customs alive while generating income, thus improving their livelihoods.
See more great sustainability projects in Kenya
Health & safety
- Malarial protection recommended
- 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 a flying doctor service 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. The walk can be a little uneven so it is worth using the solar torches provided in the rooms.
- Fire safety
- There are fire extinguishers around the property and staff are trained how to use them.
Guided walking safari
Sleeping under the stars
- Disabled access
- On Request
- Laundry facilities
- A full laundry service is included, with the exclusion of all underwear (male and female).
- There is a central safe in the main house for valuables. Guest cottage doors do not lock.
- Accepted payment on location
- All major credit cards are accepted, with a 3.5% surcharge for transactions below U$50.
Cash payments may be made in most major currencies such as US dollars, euros and GB pounds, as well as Kenyan shillings. If you wish to visit a Maasai village, you will need to pay in cash – preferably in Kenyan shillings.
Other lodges in Laikipia
Alternative places to stay in this same area.