• It is a gateway to Kenyan safaris with chances of seeing four of the big five in one day
It must have taken a great deal of vision and foresight for Emma and Anthony Childs to picture where the Emakoko Lodge would be best positioned. And subsequently, a terrific eye for design in its construction to end up with a product that blends luxuriously fitted accommodation into the natural environment.
Positioned close to the Moikoyet picnic site across the Mbagathi river is the reception area, which welcomes hot and thirsty visitors with a cool towel and a tangy refreshing juice.
For many making their first visit to Africa, a 45-minute drive has taken them from the hustle and bustle of Mombasa Road after leaving the airport to the serenity of Nairobi National park through the East Gate. Often, the only prior sightings of African wildlife have been at the zoo, and with a good chance of seeing lions, black rhinoceros or buffalo on the way to the lodge, the safari is off and running.
Many of the guests at Emakoko spend the first day or two of their Kenyan safari here before moving off to other parks and reserves. It gives them a wonderful introduction to Kenya and to luxury safaris with a very real prospect of seeing four of the big five in one day. There have even been excellent and regular sightings of several leopards in close proximity of the lodge, and the skilled guides know exactly where to look.
It’s not all about animals, of course. Looking down from the wooden footbridge across the river approaching the lodge, there could well be a crocodile basking itself on the bank, though never fear, as they keep well away from the lodge itself.
Adjacent to the reception area is a small gift shop, which then flows through to a large, open airy bar lounge with deep, comfortable sofas and an open fireplace. Many happy hours can be spent here, enjoying the house speciality drink, a chili dawa, while the lions provide the bush choir. The frequent nocturnal visitors include genet cats, who will opportunistically seek out a dropped morsel or two.
The cuisine here is high-end. The owners and chefs are always seeking to explore new dishes and menus and to incorporate particular dietary restrictions of guests. Being allergic to gluten, they freshly baked some delicious gluten-free bread for me and ensured everything was gluten-free, while negating any drop in taste bud tantalisation. For those who enjoy their wine, there is advice available on pairing a wine to bring out the best of the flavours in the dish and vice versa.
In most cases, however, people come from far away on the trip of a lifetime to see the big five, and the guides seek to fulfil those desires as best they can. The guides and management are in regular contact with other frequent park visitors and know the areas the prides of lions, grumpy black rhino and even the elusive leopards frequent, and few guests are likely to return from a game drive disappointed. In fact, the guides have become so good at finding leopards that some have even been named after the lodge in recent years.
The newest addition to the lodge is the resplendent private house, which sits right at the top of the hill. However, there is no need to overly exert oneself, as the electronic funicular will effortlessly take you up the slope, while you savour the view over the park and at the top step onto the platform.
The private house has its own pool, bar and fireplace, and with a small kitchen, the staff can provide your meals here as well, so you don’t even need to leave. The two rooms, each equipped with spacious bathrooms and individual terrace, open up to the spacious living room with a large fireplace and deep sofas.
It’s the view, however, that makes it stand out. From the top of the hill, you have a commanding view of the park, and there is a handily placed powerful telescope with which to identify the movement in the trees.
The bar is the social focal point of the lodge. It is a great communal gathering point for telling and hearing stories from the bush, laughter, challenges and making memories.
For Kenyan residents, the Emakoko offers special rates and these can be obtained from them directly. Whether coming from near or far, it is time well spent and very well worth it.