Lewa Wilderness

Lewa Wilderness : Our full report

Rooms
9 cottages (3 garden; 6 hillside)
Traveller's rating
Excellent (100%) From 4 reviews
Children
Great for all ages.
Open
1 Jun to 31 Oct & 1 Dec to 31 Mar

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 make use of the billiards table and borrow some of the numerous books in the downstairs 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. While we were enjoying lunch on our most recent visit in June 2017, we saw a herd of giraffe browsing the acacia trees on the hillside beyond.

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.

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 share a lounge area with a fireplace. When we last visited in June 2017 these bathrooms were all being renovated.


  • Six newer hillside cottages, a little below the main gardens, have stunning views over the valley. These have one en-suite bedroom, some with bathtubs, as well as a lounge area with fireplace. 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.

As you'd expect, game drives are a big part of any stay here. During our recent visit we were amazed to see about 18 rhino (both black and white) on one afternoon game drive! However, there is a host of other activities at Lewa Wilderness too. At the lodge itself there's a tennis court and infinity pool, and a little away from the main lodge, is a gym – allowing you to spin, cross-train or row in a deeply shaded area with superb views.

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. 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 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.

Also at extra cost (US$650), 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 view

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 good option for families who want a fenced property for their children, and couples who want somewhere more permanent than a tented camp.

Geographics

Location: 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.

Directions: The lodge is half-an-hour's drive from Lewa Downs Airstrip.

Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer

Key personnel

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 have visited – most recently in June 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 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. On our recent trip we were there on a Sunday, when it’s traditional to have a curry in Kenya. We were offered chicken curry, vegetable curry, dhal and various accompaniments such as papadoms and chapatis. For those who do not enjoy curry there was also a vegetarian quiche and a selection of salads. This was followed by a selection of cheese and biscuits and finished off with a refreshing tropical fruit sorbet.

Our three-course dinner started with courgette fritters, followed by pork loin served with green beans, carrots, rosemary potatoes and gravy. Dessert was a tasty lemon mousse. 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. Water for drinking is boiled and filtered and provided in the rooms.

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.

Special interests

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

Children

Attitude towards children: The lodge welcomes children of all ages.

Property’s age restrictions: None

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.

Notes: Although the lodge is fenced, there is still dangerous game around, so children should always be supervised, and the pool is unfenced too.

Infrastructure

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 the lodge’s own spring. The bathrooms are fully plumbed with hot and cold running water.

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 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. A small torch is useful as the walk can be a little uneven.

Fire safety: There are fire extinguishers around the property and staff are trained how to use them.

Extras

Disabled access: On Request

Laundry facilities: A full laundry service is included, with the exclusion of all underwear (male and female).

Money: 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.

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