Tassia is a unique and interesting lodge...
Tassia Lodge: Our full report
Tassia Lodge is a unique, rustic and natural-feeling lodge, quite unlike any others in the region. Set on a rocky outcrop on the spiur of an escarpment in the 243km2 Lekurruki Community Ranch, Tassia is a partnership between its managers and the local Mokogodo Maasai community.
In 2007, Martin Wheeler and Antonia Hall, secured an initial five-year lease with the local community to provide an eco-conscious, culturally sensitive lodge which blends in with the landscape and brings benefits to the local community. We stayed at Tassia in August 2012 and again in November 2013, after they had signed another 20-year lease – testament to their exceptional work, and the very special lodge they had created.
Since 2016 Martin has been continuing with his young family the work started at Tassia, while Antonia has moved on to other projects. However, the legacy of her work with the local Samburu community continues in the beading businesses of Samburu ladies in the area.
Activities at TassiaTassia is not somewhere to come for large quantities of big game. Sightings of giraffe, gerenuk and plains game are common, with cats being occasional, rather than regular, visitors. Elephants do come in their dozens during the rains on their migratory routes, but generally the wildlife is quite dispersed and a little shy. Although we were lucky enough to spot wild dog on our last visit, the emphasis at Tassia is far more on enjoying the wilderness and the lack of other tourists in the area, and getting involved in some of the projects that Martin and Antonia set up. For guests who are looking for something a little offbeat and different, it offers an amazing experience.
Game drives are possible, but Tassia has only one vehicle for guests, and there are only a couple of roads which can be used. Activities that don’t impact on the environment are preferred. These include short botanical walks with one of the Maasai guides who will teach you about the smaller insects and plant life – including the traditional medicinal and cultural uses of these plants. More rigorous treks are usually led by Martin, who will teach you how to track wildlife and explore some of the stunning scenery. Be sure to visit the caves and rock shelters not far from the lodge which show signs of human habitation going back 40,000 years.
For those who’d like to learn about Maasai culture, a trip to the local village gives a very authentic and uncontrived insight into their daily life. Guests can also join in with the beading business that Antonia set up involving 160 local women in the surrounding villages. There’s a small shop on site where you can buy some of their crafts.
Another side project of Tassia is Martin’s bird of prey rehabilitation centre, where injured and ill birds are nursed back to health before being released into the wild. Martin is more than happy to show guests his work and answer any questions. It’s impressive work, and he’s becoming quite renowned, taking in injured birds from as far afield as Tanzania.
A night’s camel safari and bush-camping can be arranged, too. This involves walking with Martin in the late afternoon, as a small caravan of camels and a team of Maasai lead the way and go ahead to set up camp. You’ll sleep on canvas bedrolls with proper duvets set out under a simple mosquito net with wonderful views of the night sky. Meals are all cooked for you and you’ll return to Tassia Lodge in the mid-morning, after breakfast and a short game walk.
For those who are after a little more relaxation, a couple of members of staff are trained in massage and manicures so can help you relax after a long walk.
Most of these activities are included in the nightly rate, apart from the village visit, for which there’s a US$20 donation per person, beauty treatments which are extra and cost betweenUS$25-40 depending on the treatment, and bush camping which is an extra US$100 per person per night.
Tassia’s central areas and roomsThese many and various activities aside, the lodge itself is a reason for visiting. Tassia’s open sided communal areas afford magnificent views over the acacia-filled valley below. A small watering hole is often surrounded by squabbling baboons, or visited by the occasional plains game. Binoculars are provided so you can keep an eye on the action. The small Moroccan-style lounge has plenty of large cushions and wide sofas, and is usually the setting for pre-dinner drinks and snacks. There’s a well-stocked bar, and a dining area down a few steps, although usually dinner takes place under the stars. There’s lots of wood, stone and thatch, creating a stylish rusticity which almost blends into the rocks behind. In front of the main areas, a swimming pool is dug into the rocks, enjoying the same panoramic views over the valley.
The six rooms at Tassia are all very different from each other, but all are exceptionally private, and two are well suited for families as they can take an extra bed. Each room is completely open sided, with great views from the bed, shower and bathroom. Inside, they are designed much like the communal areas with lots of chunky wooden furniture, natural colours, and stone floors and walls. The mosquito-netted beds are very comfortable and each room has an en-suite bathroom with hot running water and flushing loo. There’s certainly plenty of space, and the absence of many walls gives a remarkable feeling of airiness.
Our viewTassia is a rare gem; we love it! It’s a place where you can get as involved as you like with their projects, but which is also a great place to relax. Tassia is at its best when guests buy into the ethos of the place and the atmosphere that has been created here. It’s not a lodge where you can focus just on game-viewing, but it makes an excellent stopover to add variety, culture and wilderness to a more conventional Kenyan safari.
Ideal length of stay: Spend at least three nights, but if you’d like to include a night bush-camping then four or five would probably be better.
Directions: The best airstrip to fly to for Tassia is Lewa, followed by a scenic 2½–3-hour game drive to the camp. Alternatively, you can fly to Nanyuki or Lewa then take a private charter to Tassia’s own airstrip. It’s far quicker and only works out about US$200 more than the road transfer.
Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer
Owner: Community owned; managed by Martin Wheeler.
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: The original menus at Tassia were devised by Antonia, who completed a Leith’s cookery course. We understand the same style has continued under the management of Martin and his wife. Expect inventive recipes with fresh ingredients and great presentation. They tend to offer dishes where guests can help themselves, rather than plated meals.
Breakfast is a feast of cereals, fruit, fresh bread, eggs, bacon and other cooked treats. There is plenty on offer to keep you going for the morning.
Lunch during our visit was a buffet of spicy beef samosas, avocado salad, green salad, and quails’ egg frittatas, followed by some small cookies.
Dinner started while we were having drinks, with small plates of delicious canapés including falafel balls with yoghurt dressing, devilled quails’ eggs, spicy tomato soup and a leek and feta tart. All of them were incredibly tasty, and it was a nice informal atmosphere.
On our first visit, we then moved to the top of a huge flat kopje for dinner, when waiters brought round large plates for us to serve ourselves. We enjoyed roasted vegetables, thinly sliced beef fillet, and rice nasi gorang with tomato chutney, followed by a dessert of baklava. On our later visit, we had dinner on the roof terrace, sitting around the table on floor cushions, Moroccan-style. However, the evening's dining style is always agreed with guests, and the spacious tables normally used for lunch and breakfast are always available.
Dining style: Group Meals
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included
Drinks included: All drinks available at Tassia are included in the price except for Champagne, which has to be ordered in advance.
Further dining info: Tea and coffee is brought to each room at 4.30pm before the afternoon activity. And you will also get a wake-up call with a hot drink if you're doing an early activity.
Honeymoons: For a unique and rustic lodge, with a touch of luxury, Tassia is a great choice for couples seeking something a little different on their Kenya honeymoon. The views from the open-sided, yet exceptionally private rooms are stunning, and the whole lodge is extremely romantic.See more ideas for Honeymoons in Kenya
Cultural experiences: Tassia operates as a partnership between the local Maasai community and the managers – and so there is great involvement with the local villages. Guests have the opportunity to visit, learn and get involved in as much as they like, in this exceptionally well-integrated lodge.See more ideas for Cultural experiences in Kenya
Walking safaris: Martin leads the walking Safaris from Tassia Lodge. He will teach you how to track wildlife and explore some of the stunning scenery – there is not huge quantities of big game around, but there should still be plenty to see.See more ideas for Walking safaris in Kenya
Walking: The bush camping offered at an extra (approx.) $100 per person per night might appeal to those interested in some more serious walking in Kenya. This gives you a chance to get further into the bush and experience the Kenyan wilderness.See more ideas for Walking in Kenya
Attitude towards children: Tassia is very happy to host children.
Property’s age restrictions: None.
Special activities & services: They can offer childminding from the housekeeping, and will often take children off on different activities without the parents, so they can do their own activities. Riding is on option, on two small Ethiopian ponies.
Equipment: They have a cot for infants and a plan can be made young ones who normally need high chairs.
Generally recommended for children: Tassia is a very good option for children as you can get out and about and aren’t just stuck in a vehicle. There are lots of community activities, as well as bushcraft skills. However, it is a very open lodge, and they do get the odd leopard here, so parents must be aware of this and ensure children are always supervised.
Power supply: Solar Power
Power supply notes: A generator available as a backup is rarely ever needed. There are sockets behind the beds in all the rooms, which are always on.
Communications: Consider yourself completely out of touch at Tassia. There is no cellphone reception or WiFi at the lodge, and no internet for guests to use. There is intermittent cellphone reception at the "magic tree" at the main office, five minutes away from the lodge.
TV & radio: No, not available at all.
Water supply: Other
Water supply notes: The water supply at Tassia is gravity-fed, from a spring 2km away. The lodge also harvests rainwater. All water is filtered and drinking water is double filtered and completely safe to drink. Commercially bottled water is also available for those who prefer it.
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: The lodge has a basic first-aid kit which they also take out on walks and drives. The guides are trained in basic first aid. The nearest doctor is in Nanyuki which is a 25-minute flight away. Wamba Hospital is a missionary hospital 15 minutes’ flight away and has a good reputation for handling bush accidents. The lodge has links with the flying doctors, and there is also space for a helicopter to land in an emergency.
Dangerous animals: High Risk
Security measures: There are askaris and two armed scouts at the lodge. Guests are escorted to their rooms at night.
Fire safety: There are fire extinguishers in the kitchen and the store room which the staff know how to use. There are sand buckets dotted around too but no fire extinguishers at the rooms.
Disabled access: On Request
Laundry facilities: Laundry is included, but all underwear (men's and women's) has to be done by guests, for which washing powder is provided.
Money: There is a central safe for guests to store valuables. Tassia can exchange very small amounts of money.
Accepted payment on location: The lodge accepts cash only, in US dollars, pounds sterling, euros and Kenyan shillings. Credit cards cannot easily be accepted as there is no reliable phone signal.