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Hot Spots: Solio Lodge in Laikipia, Kenya

Rahul Jacob

 

What is it? Situated more or less in the centre of Kenya, Solio Lodge may just have the largest hotel grounds in the world. It is set in a ranch that stretches over 45,000 acres, of which 17,000 are given over to a game conservancy and Africa's most successful rhino-breeding reserve. It is so successful, in fact, that within four hours of stepping off a plane from Hong Kong, we have seen half a dozen rhinoceros. The reserve was established in 1970 by Claude Parfet and his wife, with less than 25 animals. Today, there are 177 white and 56 black rhinos thriving here, despite the difficulties of protecting them from poachers seeking horns for the insatiable market in China. There are also giraffes (we practically bump into one on our arrival at the lodge), lions, leopards and flocks of birds, all of which are likely to be spotted during a Solio-organised game drive. Last year, land for the lodge was handed to local travel company Tamimi, and Solio is run to help support the conservation efforts.

 

What are the rooms like? The lodge has six "cottages", but other than the thatched roofs, nothing could be more of a misnomer. For starters, they are huge, and each has a bathroom the size of a … erm … cottage, with its own wood fire. The design is contemporary, with glass walls that open on to Mount Kenya. A colour scheme of lime green, silver and khaki is more designer hotel than safari lodge.

 

What can you do between game drives? On the off-chance you tire of looking closely at the rhinos' communal dung heap - crucial to learning about how the dominant male stomps his territory, in case you were wondering - there is plenty to do. For starters, there is horse riding, mountain biking and fishing in the nearby Aberdare Mountains - where Britain's Queen Elizabeth was staying six decades ago, when she learned that her father had died - with naturalist Pete Fleck. Solio manager Ava Paton and Fleck seem especially capable in dealing with children.

 

OK, we'll probably see one, but can we feast like a lion, too? Days begin with a cooked breakfast and lots of tropical fresh fruit. Lunches feature delicious eclectic salads - beetroot with orange rind and cumin. Dinners are Thai or Indian curries, or a grilled meat. Addictive cookies seem to appear for no reason at all.

 

What's the bottom line? Packages cost from US$545 a person per night, including food and house beverages, game drives within the sanctuary, and transfers to and from the nearby air strip, at Nanyuki. Solio Lodge is a three to four-hour drive from the capital, Nairobi.

 

Solio Lodge is at Laikipia, Kenya; www.tamimiea.com/solio-lodge

 

 

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