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A tale of two lodges part I

TAITA, October 21 – Located right next to the scenic Taita hills, in what was once an extensive sisal estate, then a sheep farm, and later a wildlife conservancy are two beautiful lodges that were constructed in 1969 and officially opened to the public in 1973.

Standing seven kilometres apart in the Taita Hills Wildlife Sanctuary, Sarova’s Tsavo Salt Lick and Taita Hills game lodges are pieces of art and a marvel to the beholder’s eye.

And here begins my tale of two gems acquired by the Sarova Hotels early last year.

Sarova Salt Lick Game Lodge

My relationship with this lodge could best be described using the cliché ‘love at first sight’, from the day I saw its pictures over a year ago: The unique concept of the Taita hut elevated on stilts aroused my interest to visit the lodge.

My dream visit finally came to pass last week.

After a five-hour road journey 400km south-east of Nairobi, we got to the Salt Lick entrance – small, unassuming and capable of fooling one to imagine there is nothing magnificent to the place.

However once you take the stairs to the lobby, you are struck by the amazing view of animals as they luxuriously quench their thirst oblivious of their admiring audience above. This view is enjoyed from any part of the lodge.

In the spur of what I will call ingenuity the designers of this lodge built watering holes right next to the walls with the intention of attracting animals as close to visitors as possible.

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Ephantus Maina, the lodges’ assistant manager, informs me that the on- going drought drives most animals within the Tsavo ecosystem to the lodge to quench themselves.

And by animals, I mean the big attractions – Elephants, Zebra, Buffaloes, antelopes and even Ostriches.

Dining area and rooms

Linking the lobby to the elevated rooms is a suspended walkway also leading to an elaborate dining area that includes Arabic-style lounges, big enough to accommodate groups of 10 to 12 for a meal or drink.

I do not intend to forget to mention that on the dining area is a lobby with huge sliding windows that allow diners to view the animals below. The sight from this area, complimented by the ambience, would melt even the hardest heart of stone.      
I mentioned a suspended walkway; it’s like the ‘traditional’ kind that was made of rafts tied together by ropes only that this one does not swing from end to end; it is a modern version that is well reinforced.

Across the bridge are 96 rooms modelled in groups of eight Taita huts with grey walls and tiled roofs. The décor is a fusion of traditional and modern look inspired by both the Maasai and Lamu cultures.

According to Mr Maina this lodge usually attracts honeymooners, young travellers and families, seeking seclusion and adventure.
The management has also vigorously marketed the lodge as a corporate challenge venue.
On the weekend of my visit, a group of nearly 80 people from a local bank were on a team building session.

Other facts and tips about the Sarova Salt Lick game lodge

It is located about 400kms from Nairobi which constitutes a 5 hour drive.

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From Voi town, along the Mombasa-Nairobi highway, take a right turn and drive 46km into the Tsavo East National Park.

The Salt Lick Lodge boasts of an underground tunnel that allows you to get as close as possible to the animals.

The weather is usually hot and accompanied by howling winds that could either lull you to sleep or remind you of a horror movie. However, the rooms are equipped with fans and gauze windows that afford you the luxury of leaving them open through the night.

Next week, I will give you a glimpse of the second jewel of the Taita hills – Sarova Taita Hills Game Lodge.

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