Elsa's Kopje: Our full report
Named after Elsa, the lioness raised by George and Joy Adamson and made famous by the story of Born Free, ...... Elsa’s Kopje sits high on Mughwango Hill above George Adamson’s original campsite. The camp is colonial in style, and there are spectacular views over the plains of Meru National Park.
From the plains below you can barely see Elsa’s Kopje, which is tucked perfectly around the rocks and trees; not a single indigenous tree was cut down during its construction. Yet while the lodge is unobtrusive and discreet from the outside, it offers a great degree of comfort and style. It is worth noting, however, that because Elsa’s was so carefully fitted into the natural environment, there are quite a number of steps between the rooms and the main areas.
The main areas at Elsa’s Kopje start with a small reception, which incorporates a small shop selling T-shirts, jewellery and Kenyan curios, as well as useful items such as toothpaste and sun cream.
Up a few steps and along a stone path, where numerous rock hyrax keep watch, you reach two large thatched buildings connected by a short wood-and-thatch corridor. They are entirely open at the front, and their backs are composed of whitewashed stone walls with exposed wooden beams.
One of the buildings houses Elsa’s relaxed bar and lounge area, with a collection of low-slung wood-and-cushion chairs and sofas, safari chairs, leather stools and floor cushions. The bar itself is a stunning piece of natural polished wood, with wrought-iron bar stools propped against it. Animal bronzes sit on the sides, old black-and-white photos adorn the walls, the polished wooden floors are dotted with Persian rugs, and terracotta plant pots sit on the veranda at the front. The resulting impression – enhanced by the laid-back and convivial managers and staff – is very much that of a colonial African home.
In the neighbouring thatched building is the dining room, set with individual tables; dining is at separate tables, unless guests specifically request to be seated with others. Polished stone floors and huge natural rocks that form the centrepiece of the serving table make this room feel rustic, but its simplicity make it feel quite smart as well.
Across the lawn is a sparkling swimming pool with spectacular views across the plains of Meru National Park. Surrounded by terracotta flagstones, sunloungers and parasols, the pool area only adds to the colonial style of Elsa’s Kopje. The adjacent spa area, with stone walls and a thatched roof that is totally open at the front, takes in the views too. A variety of treatments is available here including massages, pedicures and manicures.
As with the rest of the lodge, the 10 cottages and one private house at Elsa’s Kopje are all built around the natural trees and rocks on the hill. As a result each is very different in layout, but all are the same in general style. Three cottages have recently been upgraded to honeymoon suites (three of the 10 are now for honeymooners), each with an outside bath and a private terrace overlooking the park. The cottages are quite spread out, and if you have any mobility challenges, you might find the distances a bit far: room no. 3 is the best here as it is closest to the central areas and pool, although the views are not as dramatic as the others.
The ceilings are thatched and the walls whitewashed with exposed wooden beams, so each has a cosy, cottage-like look. Wooden or polished stone floors continue right through to the en suite bathrooms. Each bed is handcrafted out of chunky wooden beans showing off their natural knots and textures. Sections of rock either act as features, or are built into the furniture in some way, such as a table, nightstand or maybe even shelves and hanging space for clothes.
The original honeymoon suite at Elsa’s Kopje is much like the other rooms, but with just a little more space. It is a three-tiered cottage with a bedroom, en-suite bathroom and private lounge area. There is also an outside deck with loungers which is a great place to relax.
Each room has an en-suite bathroom with hot and cold running water from the basins, shower and bath. Toiletries are provided, as are soft white towels and robes. There is also an outside deck with a lounge in each where you can relax during the afternoon.
We found the rooms rather dimly lit when we stayed at Elsa’s Kopje, but we were told that this is to help maintain a visual balance with the environment and wildlife. The camp deliberately uses earthy tones and natural materials for the same reason.
For groups or families there is a large, two-bedroom private house. Both the large master bedroom, and the slightly smaller twin room, are en suite and share a spacious open-fronted lounge and dining room, as well as a lovely infinity swimming pool. The furnishings and décor here are very similar in style to the main areas.
Activities at Elsa’s Kopje focus mainly on morning and afternoon safari drives around the national park. A must-do on one of your drives is to visit the rhino enclosure, which is home to a healthy population of white and black rhino. It is also possible to head out for a full day and visit further reaches of the park, including Elsa’s grave, or to do short guided walks to the top of the kopje on which the lodge is built – the views from here are spectacular. In 2022, the lodge started to offer guided bush walks and night drives as well as their other activities.
Although it remains earthy and unpretentious, Elsa’s Kopje is certainly the most luxurious place to base yourself in Meru National Park. It is a very well-run lodge and we instantly felt at home. The only potential downside is the number of steps for those with limited mobility.
- Meru National Park, Kenya
- Ideal length of stay
- 3–4 nights
- Elsa’s Kopje is reached via a 45-minute flight from Nairobi, then 40 minutes by road from the airstrip. This 15km drive through the park often takes the form of a leisurely game drive.
- Accessible by
Food & drink
- Usual board basis
- Full Board & Activities
- Food quality
- We thought that the food at Elsa’s Kopje was excellent: fresh, varied and always cooked and presented to a very high standard. Many of the fresh ingredients come straight from the garden!
Breakfast can either be taken out in the bush as a picnic or back in the camp’s dining room. Our picnic breakfast consisted of a choice of cereals, yoghurt, fruit, sausage, egg and bacon, coffee and juice. In camp it was broadly the same, but with a wider choice of eggs – and the cooked items were piping hot.
Lunch is usually served family-style with a selection of cold options such as fishcakes, salmon on potato rostis, artichoke and lettuce salad, avocado, and quiche. There is always a dessert, such as banoffee pie or lemon meringue pie, but if you don’t have a sweet tooth, there is the option of a cheese board and biscuits.
Dinner, a more formal sit-down meal served at the table, is always taken in camp. When we stayed the tables were set out in the garden with lanterns dotted around for soft lighting. Starters usually have an Italian slant and might include ravioli or asparagus wrapped in pasta with a light tomato sauce. The main course is usually a meat option such as steak, or chicken in a light cream sauce, served with crunchy vegetables – but vegetarians are very well catered for with prior notice. Pudding might be a chocolate and orange mousse, or a passion-fruit jelly with a passion-fruit sorbet.
- Dining style
- Individual Tables
- Dining locations
- Indoor and Outdoor Dining
- Further dining info, including room service
- Elsa’s Kopje can arrange dining on your private deck, and there is a radio in each room which can be used to order room service.
- Drinks included
- Soft drinks, beers, house wines and local spirits are included; top-shelf drinks are at additional cost.
- A luxurious lodge, with stunning views, Elsa’s Kopje offers a very romantic destination for your safari honeymoon to Kenya. The honeymoon suite is three-tiered with plenty of private space to relax. The lodge itself is incredibly stylish and opulent, and the service is great.
- See ideas for Honeymoons
- Meru National Park will appeal to those on a Kenya birdwatching holiday for its more than 300 recorded bird species, including Pel’s fishing owl. Low visitor numbers and leisurely safari drives mean you can take your time to seek out the birdlife.
- See ideas for Birdwatching
- Private villas & houses
- Elsa’s Kopje has a two-bedroom private house with a large master bedroom and a slightly smaller twin room, both of which are en-suite. The rooms share an open-fronted lounge and dining area and the house has a private infinity pool.
- See ideas for Private villas & houses
- Elsa’s is one of northern Kenya’s best-loved luxury retreats, offering an all-round combination of stunning landscapes, wildlife and total comfort. A marvellous infinity pool carved from the rocky hilltop, excellent food, attentive service and top-rank wildlife guides are all on the menu.
- See ideas for Luxury
- Attitude towards children
- The managers at Elsa’s Kopje feel that children of most ages can come here, but that it may not be suited to the very young, perhaps under the age of five years.
- Property’s age restrictions
- Special activities & services
- Though there are no special children’s activities, the guides at Elsa’s Kopje are very good with kids, and can make safaris exciting and interesting for them.
- Elsa’s Kopje has cots, small beds and a highchair. There is also a private house that has plenty of space and private dining. The lodge can accommodate children’s meals slightly before the main adult meal.
- Generally recommended for children
- Elsa’s Kopje has a relaxed atmosphere and the private is perfect for families. However it is only really suited to those with older children who will respect other guests, and be careful around the various rocky steps and edges.
- Elsa’s Kopje is set on a high hill with lots of ledges and edges. Parents are responsible for their children at all times, and will need to keep a close eye on them.
Our travellers’ wildlife sightings from Elsa's Kopje
Since mid-2018, many of our travellers who stayed at Elsa's Kopje 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
- There is power in the cottages 24 hours a day for electric lights and charging smaller items such as phones. There is a backup generator. There are also plans for the camp to go fully solar in the future but this is not in place as yet.
- There is cellphone reception in most areas of the property, and WiFi throughout.
- TV & radio
- There is no TV or radio.
- Water supply
- Water supply notes
- All rooms have running hot and cold water.
Health & safety
- Malarial protection recommended
- Medical care
- There is first equipment in camp and on the vehicles, and both managers and all the guides are first-aid trained. The nearest doctor to Elsa’s Kopje is at a hospital (rated second best in Kenya) that takes an hour to reach by vehicle. In case of emergency Elsa’s Kopje has links to the flying-doctor service.
- Dangerous animals
- High Risk
- Security measures
- There are safes in the rooms at Elsa’s Kopje and askaris who patrol in shifts at night. Guests are always escorted to their rooms after dark.
- Fire safety
- Elsa’s Kopje has a fire-fighting team that is trained every six months. There are fire extinguishers in every building and smoke detectors in most rooms.
- Disabled access
- On Request
- Laundry facilities
- Full laundry service except underwear is included
- Elsa’s Kopje can exchange small amounts of any major currency.
- Accepted payment on location
- Elsa’s Kopje accepts payment in US dollars, British pounds, euros and Kenyan shillings. Credit cards, including AMEX, are also accepted.
Other lodges in Meru National Park
Alternative places to stay in this same area.