The Sanctuary at Ol Lentille: Our full report
Perched on one of the highest peaks in Laikipia, The Sanctuary at Ol Lentille is an exclusive lodge of four ...... villas owned by the Laikipiak Maasai community. It's located on the Ol Lentille Conservation Area, which covers an area of 174km² (43,000 acres) of north central Laikipia, with the Samburu National Reserve to the east and the ranches and conservancies of western Laikipia to the west. Each of Ol Lentille's villas is booked exclusively and managed as a separate unit, and each has its own staff. All the diverse activities here are also privately conducted.
Arriving by road from Nanyuki airport or at the end of the long road journey from Nairobi, you pass the security barrier into the area immediately round the lodge and snake up the hillside to arrive finally at the lodge's reception area and a small gift shop. The reception faces west across the plains near the spine of a high, north-south ridge. Located at an altitude of 1,860m (6,100ft), this rocky ridge feels somewhat windswept and bare. The library is located at the the very highest point of the ridge and is the only communal area at Ol Lentille apart from the swimming pool, which is situated just to the west and slightly downhill. Walking to and from reception, the pool and the villas, you'll be giving your legs some good exercise: Ol Lentille has lots of steps and the various parts are linked together by sandy paths.
The villasThe four villas are ranged far apart from each other along the east side of the ridge. While each villa is quite separate, so you are not likely to interact with other guests except when using the library or swimming pool, they are all quite different in style. The Eyrie has panoramic views: the other villas all face east.
The Eyrie One bedroom, one bathroom, closest to reception, with a plunge pool.
Sultan's Villa One bedroom, two bathrooms, near the spa/massage room.
Chief's Villa Three bedrooms, in three separate cottages, each with a bathroom. Two of the cottages are effectively joined and the other is separated by a 30-second walk. This villa has a plunge pool.
Colonel's Villa Three bedrooms in a single building, each with an inside bathroom and an open-air shower. Again, this villa has a plunge pool.
There is no no smoking rule at Ol Lentille, so if that concerns you, please put in a request in advance for a villa that has not had smokers occupying it recently.
ActivitiesAn extensive range of activities is possible at Ol Lentille, all included in the rates, including: game drives in the conservancy; quad-biking; camel-rides; horse-riding*; mountain-biking; community** visits and visits to weekly livestock and vegetable markets; yoga sessions; and unlimited spa treatments. You can also visit a local habituated baboon troop.
* There are only two horses, meaning you will go out with a guide on your own, and you need to be an experienced rider.
** Guests at Ol Lentille have donated a remarkable US$5 million to the Ol Lentille charity since the lodge opened, enabling them to build: a hospital (Kimanjo Hospital); three primary schools, a secondary school; numerous nurseries; classrooms at eight other schools; and water and sanitation projects.
The Sanctuary at Ol Lentille is all about the community. Yes, some of the rooms and relaxation areas of the four villas could be better arranged and more comfortably furnished. And there’s an inconsistency of design and finish that is surprising in a lodge with Ol Lentille’s reputation. However, the huge benefits to the local Laikipiak Maasai and Samburu communities are undeniable. And there are many things to like here: we loved the panoramic views, the very wide range of included activities, the excellent food, and the warm and attentive staff. With some cosmetic improvements, Ol Lentille could be a real knock-out.
- Laikipia, Kenya
- Ideal length of stay
- Most guests stay at least 3-4 nights.
- The Sanctuary at Ol Lentille is about a 6-hour drive from JKI Airport, Nairobi, or roughly 2 hours drive from Nanyuki airport. If you're arriving by private charter flight, it takes about 15 minutes to drive from the lodge's own airstrip to the lodge reception.
- Accessible by
Food & drink
- Usual board basis
- Full Board & Activities
- Food quality
- The standards of cooking and the variety of ingredients we found to be very good indeed when we stayed in 2017. And they know how to make a good pot of tea and a nice jug of coffee – which is surprisingly rare in Kenya. Meals are largely prepared in the main kitchen and then finished in your own villa's kitchen by your butler and valet. And you eat whenever you choose, usually specifying at breakfast time for the rest of the day.
Breakfast is a joy: a platter of fruit with eight different varieties, cereals, muesli, good toast, jams and marmalade, eggs and bacon or more or less whatever you like. Plus every morning there's a breakfast special - we sampled poached eggs with crushed chilli-avocado on the side, and pancakes with spiced toffee apple.
Lunch is served on your deck or outside dining area and consists of a main dish, with salads (for example French beans and macadamia nuts, or potato salad) plus a green salad and fresh bread. Our grilled chicken was a bit dry on one occasion, but not disastrous. There's always a light dessert to finish with.
Dinner is served course by course, usually in your villa's dining room. One night we had spring rolls, followed by a main course where Morocco and Greece met India, with a good, rich lamb tajine with tzatziki and chapattis. Another night we had melon balls and feta accompanied by zingy Chenin blanc then steak served with a peppery garlic sauce and plenty of veg, followed by a very more-ish chocolate mousse. We tried the house Pinot Noir as well - delicious Alpatagua Reserva from Chile.
- Dining style
- Individual Tables
- Dining locations
- Indoor and Outdoor Dining
- Drinks included
- All water, tea, coffee and house drinks (soft drinks, house wines, Kenyan beers and house spirits) are included. There's a limited range of premium wines and spirits available at extra cost.
- Photography holidays
- The Sanctuary at Ol Lentille is a great location for keen photographers. Combining wildlife, adventure and cultural activities, the range of subjects is wide, and that's before you take account of the wonderful landscapes in the area. And the fact that all stays here are private, means you will never have to compromise over your photography time - except with other members of your own party!
- See ideas for Photography holidays
- Cultural experiences
- This lodge is in the heartland of the Laikipiak Maasai - the northern branch of the Maasai people. Local village, school and market visits can be organised as part of your activities. Ideally, it's best to book these excursions in advance.
- See ideas for Cultural experiences
- Attitude towards children
- Children are welcome and often stay.
- Property’s age restrictions
- Special activities & services
- There are no specific children's activities. All the female staff are mothers, so babysitting or child-minding can always be arranged.
- They have one babycot but no high chairs.
- Generally recommended for children
- We think Ol Lentille is fine for children, though there are not that many specifically child-friendly activities. Little ones will need very close supervision around some of the steep flights of steps and deck drop-offs.
- Under 5s stay free, children aged 5-15 stay for half-price.
- Power supply notes
- They use mostly solar power and the electricity is on in the villas 24/7. There are plenty of UK-style three-pin sockets so you can easily charge your batteries. There's also a backup generator.
- There is some cellphone reception. Wi-fi is restricted to the reception area, which requires a stiff climb from three of the four villas.
- TV & radio
- There is no TV available to guests and guests have apparently never asked to watch the staff TV. However there is a very good library of Africa-themed DVDs.
- Water supply
- Water supply notes
- We thought the water pressure, considering the hilltop location, was very good. They source their water from a large rain capture apparatus, a sub-surface sand dam and a borehole.
Health & safety
- Malarial protection recommended
- Medical care
- Eight of the lodge's rangers have first-aid training and there are first aid kits around the property, including very simple ones in each villa's kitchen. The nearby Kimanjo Hospital (a 20-minute drive away) was built with funds donated by Ol Lentille. It has 2 doctors and 4 nurses and is one of the best hospitals in Laikipia.
- Dangerous animals
- High Risk
- Security measures
- Ol Lentille has plenty of rangers, some of them armed.
- Fire safety
- There are fire extinguishers scattered around the property and fire-training of staff is carried out by the supplier twice a year.
Guided walking safari
- Disabled access
- On Request
- Laundry facilities
- Laundry is taken care of without any instructions required on either side. Leave your clothes in the basket and they come back neatly pressed a few hours later. We wouldn't put precious or delicate items through this system, but all other clothes are fine, including ladies' underwear that many lodges will not wash.
- There are lockup boxes in the rooms, but not the digital safes that might be expected.
- Accepted payment on location
- The usual currencies are accepted in payment for any extras, in cash. Or credit cards can be taken with a 5% surcharge.
Other lodges in Laikipia
Alternative places to stay in this same area.