Luxury Explorer Review

5-Star Hotel Review

Sasaab Lodge

Kenya

A stunning blend of Moroccan and Swahili design

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Sasaab Lodge
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Sasaab Lodge

Location

Sasaab enjoys remarkable views across the Laikipia Plateau, while its river location is prime for sighting elephant and other game.

Travel Information

A 50 min direct flight from Wilson Airport, Nairobi. Anti-malaria pills advised. There is year round game, but the best wildlife viewing months are during the dry season from late June to October.

Top Tips

As it can be extremely warm here, bring light clothing with sunscreen and bug repellent. The riverside family suite is divine but be aware there are many steps to climb back up!

5-Star X-Factors

The location is bewitching, with breath taking views across the Northern Frontier.

Sasaab Lodge

Sasaab Lodge is exotic. Its alluring blend of Moroccan and Swahili style is intoxicating. After a sultry 45-minute drive from the airstrip, across spectacular untamed arid terrain, arriving at the lodge feels like you have hit the oasis jackpot. There is even a cool breeze that somehow flows into the entrance lobby, masking the pulsating African heat.

LOCATION

The lodge is situated atop a mount in a private wildlife conservancy, which borders the Samburu National Reserve, one of Kenya’s most famous northern game parks. The wide Ewaso Nyiro river runs, or rather races, alongside the lodge. What better place to entice all creatures great and small? Being lulled to sleep by the flow of the river was enchanting, but being awoken by the deep gravelly groan of a prowling leopard was enthralling. You are safe in your luxury tent while the all pervading soundtrack of the bush is something quite out-of-your-world. It’s an auditory elixir that trumps all other senses and it is why so many of us fall truly madly and deeply in love with African game reserves. You are cocooned in an Animal Kingdom but you must respect your boundaries, or your very existence is threatened: a reversal of a zoo.

LODGE LAYOUT

There are eight aesthetically pleasing tents, all individually styled with a sensual Moorish-Swahili attitude. The bathrooms are quite literally open to the elements, bar a short curved wall. They are totally private and screened by bush and location; however, it is something to be aware of. Of course, none of us came to any harm in our al fresco bathrooms, though I stayed in the family suite down by the river and, as it happens, my lavatory and shower were housed within the twin-bedded tent. Each tent has a refreshing tiled plunge pool, sunken into a private screed terrace with daybeds and loungers facing sweeping views of the exquisite valley from up high or from the riverbank. This free flowing living merges into one luxurious experience and that combined with unfettered views is sublime.

The Lodge’s open-plan U-shaped hub is situated at its pinnacle and is designed around a sunken central sand courtyard. It houses the dining areas, both covered and open-air, as well as the lobby, lounge space, curio shop and bar. It is stunning in design as well as relaxed and Boho-chic charming. There is also a peaceful pool area with loungers and a bar, located mid-way between the lobby and the river, plus a spa overlooking the riverbed, with an enticing water feature and plunge pool. If you don’t fancy too many steps, then the luxury tents nearest the main reception area are advisable.

GAME DRIVES

Samburu provides a unique alternative ‘special five’- the Grevy’s Zebra, Reticulated Giraffe, Somali Ostrich, Gerenuk and Beisa Oryx, as well as the Big Five. We sighted all the former, but not all the latter, though our ‘takeaway’ experience will forever be lodged in our memory banks. We drove at sunset through the conservancy, passing small villages teeming with goats, camels and local school children running beside the road with their food bowls, waving frantically. We then saw impalas, warthogs, eagles, giraffes and zebra before entering the main Samburu National Reserve.

After a breakfast under trees beside the riverbank, where we spotted ‘floating logs’ that were actually crocodiles as well as a variety of birds, whilst munching on baps filled with fried eggs and a variety of fillers, we set off on our return to camp. Shortly after we spotted a small gathering of elephant, huddled beneath a shade-bearing acacia. As luck would have it, these majestic beauties were very close to the road so, with the engine turned off, we spent a blessed hour observing a mother with her tiny infant, along with three other females and a lazy teenager.

The infant suckled and cavorted, still trying to master the mechanisms of his saggy- skinned buckling legs and his wayward swaying trunk, whilst cajoling his big brother in the process then sucking his trunk, like a child with a thumb, when rebuked. The contented magnificent females stood protectively, flapping away flies with their mammoth ears, while swishing the fine ochre sand with their trunks to keep the little ones cool. Our respectful near silence, while only a few feet away, did not seem to worry them and we left with our hearts exploding and our heads filled with a desire to protect them. They so do not deserve their cruel fate of impending extinction.

GUIDES AND THE UNEXPECTED

Our guide Jacob is a Samburu warrior and looks and plays the perfect part while Daniel is equally as knowledgeable and both will do their utmost to provide you with spectacular viewings, as well as educate you along the way. However, the element of surprise comes not only from the animal world.

It was nearing sunset and we thought we were heading for a camel ride along the river’s ‘beach’ (which is an activity included in your stay). Instead, we arrived at a clearing with a row of canvas deck chairs facing the river and a well stocked mobile cocktail bar behind. The mixologist at Sasaab was particularly adept at creating the perfect Kenyan Dawa (medicine in Swahili) cocktail; a mixture of vodka, honey and fresh lime, with a Dawa stick plunged in to stir the honey. We sat with our Dawa waiting for the camels when a group of fabulously dressed Samburu warriors entered from nowhere jumping straight up, like a pogo stick, in true warrior-style in order to attract the hand of a young Samburu girl. The young girls, tall, lean and remarkably beautiful, followed and soon held the hand of their chosen handsome suitor while they danced and sang until dusk.

This primary-coloured spectacle was followed by an extraordinary bush dinner beneath a picture-book cosmos, by a roaring tepee fire. The food was sensational; avocado soup, a buffet spread of Swahili spiced braai dishes, salads and South African wines. The long table was decorated with white ostrich feathers around candlelit lanterns on crisp white linen - a perfect contrast to the black satin overhead. I didn’t really know where we were, other than somewhere in the middle of nowhere, under flawless African sky.

Another memorable and highly recommended experience was sunset on the sundowner rock near Sasaab. It’s only a short climb to the flat smooth summit, while the 360 panoramic views leave you speechless. Daniel made a fire on a nearby rock and flame-seared some distinctly aromatic nutmeg and all spice boerwors (African sausage) to accompany our gin and tonics. The equatorial sun set gently on this day, cloaking the skyline and endless mountain folds in a violet blanket, leaving us with a purple-hazed memory for all time.

THE SERVICE AND OTHER MENTIONS

The service was/is incredible. All the lodges in The Safari Collection’s stable offer a level of service that make you feel welcome, comfortable with friendly staff always on hand to help with suggestions or particular needs. I think Sasaab is definitely a two (minimum) to four-night stay and is an ideal authentic escape for romancing nature, for honeymooners, as well as for families who can take the family suite beside the river.

The wide range of activities, including; quad biking, camel rides, guided bush walks, game drives and special requests, including fly camping (which can be organised if you discuss your wish list before arrival); make your stay in this wild and remote area of the Northern Frontier District varied, compelling and interesting.

When you stay at Sasaab, expect the unexpected.

Sophie Marchant
Sophie Marchant


Luxury Explorer
Luxury Explorer
Luxury Explorer

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