Sosian: Our full report
Built in the 1940s, then abandoned during the 1990s, Sosian was restored as a riding and game-viewing base in 2002.It's still a working cattle ranch, too, with a 1,600-head herd of Boran cattle - which is the largest stud Boran herd in Kenya. The main building is an Argentine estancia-style ranch house with views across lawns to the remote savannah of north-west Laikipia, close to the Ewaso Narok River.
Coming from Loisaba airstrip (the closest for scheduled flights) you cross Sosian's narrow bridge over the Ewaso Narok and drive up to the earth car-park area behind the main Sosian ranch house. Down a flight of red-brick steps, there's a small office where guests can pick up WiFi and a modest hallway. Beyond is the handsome lounge of the house, with big comfy sofas and bookshelves full of intriguing old tomes. The focal point of the room is a grand stone fireplace, which is framed by two huge elephant tusks – something that we felt a bit uncomfortable with. There's a billiard room with a full-size table around the corner, and a fine dining room. Through the French doors from the lounge, a generously wide, shady terrace – with wicker chairs for taking stock of the view and a nice old telescope – runs the entire width of the house.
The gardens and lawns at Sosian stretch for several acres. It is safe to walk around the gardens during the day but not any further. Watchmen are on duty at night to keep the elephants at bay. The freeform swimming pool, with plenty of space to relax around, tennis court (with net from Wimbledon!) and changing facilities are a short stroll away from the main areas.
Sosian's seven rooms, one of which is a family room, are set in blocks of two either in rough stone and mortar or a kind of pink adobe finish. They start just to the right or south of the main house and run along the west side of the lawn towards the swimming pool. They're at the back of broad verandas set with adjustable recliner chairs. Three of the rooms are double and four rooms are optional twin or double. All the rooms can be made into triples with an extra single bed for children. The last block before the swimming pool was converted at the end of 2012 to a family unit, with a double and en suite bathroom on one side and an interconnecting triple with en suite bathroom on the other. There is one larger, more private room on the other side of the main areas, called Italian Cottage, that is typically used for honeymooners, or those after a quieter stay.
The room interiors are bright and homely, with colourful rugs and bedcovers, writing tables, easy chairs, good lighting and optional mosquito nets. The bathrooms are a very good size, traditional in style, with large, pedestal washbasins, corner showers using pull-around shower curtains and wooden drainage platforms, towel horses and comfy robes.
Life at Sosian can be as fast paced or sedate as you like. It's a supremely relaxing place where you can do very little, or just flop by the beautiful pool, yet there's an abundance of activities to tempt you – and lots of good stuff for active kids too.
- Sosian's stand-out activity is riding. Sosian breeds horses and usually has around 15 available for riding. You can do 2-3 hour rides as a morning or afternoon game-watching ride, or gentler rides close to the ranch house. All the horses are thoroughbred or Ethiopian breeds and range from around 13 to 16 hands in size – though at the moment there is a rider weight limit of 90kg. There's a good selection of quiet horses as well as more spirited mounts for more experienced riders. To ride out in the bush, however, guests have to be experienced riders, meaning confident at all paces up to a canter or gallop in open country where they might encounter big game. This usually means people who have owned their own horses or have ridden for five years or more. They can also do short arena lessons and rides around the lodge for the less experienced who want to have a go. Rides are not accompanied by a gun holder and they rely on the mounted guide to be able to avoid any situations that may arise. Wildlife is generally less easily spooked by people on horseback than on foot. When we went riding here in February 2019 we rode alongside several giraffes, which was an incredible experience. For experienced riders looking for longer rides Sosian offers fly-camping with the horses; you will ride for three to four hours in the morning, reaching camp around midday, in the afternoon you can choose to relax and relax or go for a gentle walk. After spending the night in the bush you will then ride back to Sosian Lodge the following morning.
- Sosian also has a herd of five camels available for short rides – up to half a day.
- You can also choose game walks of 1-3 hours, or walks out to a fly camp for an overnight away from the lodge. A licensed firearms holder, carrying either a .375 or .416 rifle, accompanies walks.
- Game drives, including night drives, are available in Sosian's vehicles on the 97km2 Sosian Ranch, which has superb wildlife. There are two Toyota Land Cruisers, each of which comfortably carry nine passengers plus driver and guide. They're both open but have canvas roofs for rainy days or in very hot weather. The third vehicle is a Land Rover 110, which has a hard top with roof hatches and open sides, but the lodge hopes to replace this with another Land Cruiser. With the exception of rhinos, all the large mammals are present on Sosian Ranch, which used to include a resident, breeding pack of wild dogs. Sosian collaborated with neighbouring Mpala Ranch on predator research and there used to be radio-collared indiviudals within the pack, allowing for tracking activities and reliable sightings. Sadly however, in 2017, canine distemper had a devastating impact on the wild dog populations across Laikipia, so much so that sightings these days are much more hit and miss. On our most recent visit in February 2019 we were told that wild dogs are slowly coming back in to the area due to the plentiful food sources. Whilst sightings can never be guaranteed, Sosian remains one of the better conservancies in Laikipia for wild dogs.
- Sosian also has a pride of lions, some of which have been radio-collared. The ranch occasionally does leopard-baiting, using dead livestock from the ranch that they put in a tree near to the lodge. We have mixed opinions on this practice; on one hand we question the ethics of baiting a leopard, whilst on the other hand we can appreciate that the livestock died of natural causes and that this has led to some of the best leopard sightings we have had in Laikipia.
- Swimming and rock-jumping at the waterfalls not far from the ranch house are always a lot of fun, too – though you might want to check ahead that water levels are a good height. Swimming is possible all year round, and jumping normally from May to January or February. If the river is high enough then you can also go tubing instead.
- Community visits to a local Samburu village can be arranged, typically taking around two or three hours.
- Finally, archery and fishing are also available and all equipment is provided. Fishing is the river or dams produces tilapia, catfish and barbel – no huge catches but big enough to eat as bitings for supper.
What we like so much about Sosian is the sense of being a house guest on a long-established country farm with a huge variety of wonderful distractions. A safari that includes river swimming and camel or horse-riding is far from the norm, but typifies the sort of activities you can find in Laikipia – though not usually all in the same place. When you add in really excellent cuisine that relies greatly on the lodge's own garden produce, very comfortable rooms and top-quality hosting, it makes for a highly recommended stay.
- Laikipia, Kenya
- Ideal length of stay
- Four nights.
- About 50% of Sosian’s clients arrive by charter flight to Sosian airstrip, from where it’s a five-minute transfer to the lodge. Scheduled flights connect with Loisaba airstrip (road transfer 1½ hours) and Nanyuki airport (road transfer 3 hours).
- Accessible by
Food & drink
- Usual board basis
- Full Board & Activities
- Food quality
- Sosian prides itself on its excellent fresh produce, much of it coming from its substantial organic vegetable and herb garden where the output includes: rocket, lettuce, beetroot, swiss chard, onions, leeks, courgettes, spinach, celery, chillies, tree tomatoes, passion fruit, kai apples, tomatoes, carrots, parsnips, rhubarb, horseradish, watermelon, butternut, limes, lemons and oranges. The head gardener spends all day either in the veg garden or feeding the chickens and ducks.
First thing in the morning guests are woken at the time they've requested with a knock at the door and tea, coffee, hot chocolate or juice on their veranda. On the main lodge veranda there are always more drinks, yoghurt, fruits, cereals and biscuits, allowing guests to have a bite to eat if they want before heading out for a morning activity.
Breakfast is either on the lodge veranda or in the bush. Brunch/lunch is either by the swimming pool or in the bush and dinner is either in the lodge dining room or, again out in the bush. A barbeque buffet may be served for something a bit different. After dinner, they usually serve tea, coffee and chocolates by the fire in the lounge.
On our most recent visit in February 2019 we enjoyed a fabulous bush lunch which was served on a wooden deck overlooking a waterhole. We were served tasty filo pastry parcels served with a selection of fresh salads and home cooked bread; this was followed by a tropical fruit salad.
Dinner was a three-course meal. We started with lentil soup which was followed by breaded tilapia (a fresh water fish commonly found in East Africa) and potato wedges and seasonal vegetables. Desert was a crème brulee.
- Family holidays
- Sosian is great for family holidays in Kenya with very active children, usually aged at least 5+, ideally 12+. Come for varied activities like horse- and camel-riding, game walks and drives, fishing, tennis, archery, swimming and rock-jumping in the nearby river.
- See ideas for Family holidays
- Solo Travel
- Sosian has a lot to offer. Besides exciting game drives tracking wild dogs and other wildlife on Laikipia’s high plains, guests really enjoy the guided walks. As an added bonus, it’s also one of few lodges which levies no single supplement on solo travellers.
- See ideas for Solo Travel
- Riding holidays
- Sosian owns very good stables and breeds horse; it has 23 available for riding. More experienced riders will enjoy guided full-day bush rides and gallops across open plains, while beginners on holiday can go on gentler walks of a few hours closer to the ranch house.
- See ideas for Riding holidays
- Walking safaris
- Sosian also offer walking safaris; these typically last between one and three hours and are lead by a guide with a full firearms license. Walking to a fly camp to sleep out under the stars is also a great option.
- See ideas for Walking safaris
- Attitude towards children
- Active families are welcome. Bush horseriding is only for 12+.
- Property’s age restrictions
- Special activities & services
- None for very young children, but there are plenty of activities at the lodge that would appeal to older children. The lodge offers basic accommodation for nannies accompanying families, at a significantly reduced nightly rate.
- Generally recommended for children
- We recommend Sosian for older children, but not for tiny tots and babies. Sosian is very activity-oriented, guests are out and about all the time, and it would be unfair on guests sharing facilities (vehicles, syces while riding, etc) to have little ones on bush picnics or similar activities.
- As usual, children will always need close supervision in an environment where wildlife is present.
Our travellers’ wildlife sightings from Sosian
Since mid-2018, many of our travellers who stayed at Sosian 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
- The bedrooms have lights all the time, but only full power during the following hours when the generator is running: 07:30-11:00, 14:00-16:00 and 18:30-22:30.
- There's usually patchy network down at the ranch house, with a booster in the office. Guests can use WiFi in the office, if it's running.
- TV & radio
- Staff have TVs that guests could share in the event of a big sporting event or similar.
- Water supply
- Water supply notes
- There is running hot and cold running water at Sosian. Drinking water is also provided in the rooms.
Futures for the Kinamba Community
Sosian has been supporting the local community since the 1940’s, when owner Major Gerry Edwards set aside land to provide homes for his ranch workers. Today, this land has grown to become the Kinamba community, a sanctuary to many displaced families from nearby regions. Employing 100 staff means that 100 people are benefiting from the lodge’s activity in the region.
The ranch actively supports Kinamba through their ‘Sosian Community Education Project’ which involves many initiatives from the co-funding of nurses’ salaries to the protection of local wildlife. Sosian believes that the key to helping the community maintain sustainable lifestyles and preserve the natural beauty of their environment is through education. The ranch partners with neighboring ranches to educate local adults and children alike on various issues including livestock management and environmental preservation. Money raised by the project also funds the improvement of children’s education through upgrading school facilities. Sosian offers tourists the opportunity to get actively involved with the local community and help make a positive difference through specially arranged visits and donations.
Meeting the staff and students at Ol Maisor Primary school, and receiving regular updates on the progress of their contribution, allows visitors to see first-hand how donations are responsibly used and can brighten the futures of young local people during and long after their stay.
See more great sustainability projects in Kenya
Health & safety
- Malarial protection recommended
- Medical care
- First-aid kits are located in the lodge and vehicles, and several staff have first-aid qualifications. Although the response time in a serious emergency would normally be two hours, the closest town with medical expertise, clinics, hospital etc is Nanyuki, a twenty-minute transfer by air. The lodge has links with a flying doctors service and Sosian also has its own light aircraft.
- Dangerous animals
- High Risk
- Security measures
- During the day, ranch staff and conservancy rangers are on site; at night, two askaris patrol the property.
- Fire safety
- Every room has fire extinguishers, and staff have done fire training.
Guided walking safari
- Disabled access
- On Request
- Laundry facilities
- Full laundry service – included. Items – excluding ladies’ underwear – are hand washed and line-dried; soap powder provided in rooms.
- Safe in reception. No currency exchange facility.
- Accepted payment on location
- Cash payments may be made in US dollars, euros or Kenyan shillings. Visa and MasterCard are accepted with a 5% surcharge.
Other lodges in Laikipia
Alternative places to stay in this same area.