Accommodation in the Chyulu Hills tends to the pricier end of the spectrum, but it’s not all bad news for the budget traveller.
OL DONYO LODGE
This lodge was set up by Richard Bonham, hunter turned conservationist, and was transformed into a luxury retreat when Great Plains Conservation bought into the lodge. The property comprises six pool suites and one two-bedroom suite, and are designed with colonial-era trappings, but with all of the modern comforts. Enjoy the little touches, such as the tot of whisky left in your room as a nightcap. Ol Donyo is big on activities, and horse riding is a big draw here, as is the chance to go mountain biking, or hike down the lava tubes in the hills. Resident rates start from Ksh 27,000 pp, all-inclusive of board, house drinks and activities. Conservation fees cost Ksh 5,155 per resident or citizen.
KAMPI YA KANZI
Further across the Chyulus, in the direction of Tsavo West, is this lavish property, founded by Italian Luca and Antonella Belpietro, as part of a 280,000-acre nature reserve. Similar in price to Ol Donyo, it also offers a comparable level of luxury. Accommodation is in cottages or tented suites with four-poster beds, cowhide rugs, and private verandahs overlooking a waterhole. Guests dine together, and the Italian influence shines through with the food. There is also Kanzi House, a private villa available for exclusive use. The lodge charges residents $51 in conservation fees, which are fed back into a community trust. Resident rates start from $380 pp.
Three hours from Nairobi, on the main Mombasa highway, is this popular stopping-off point for travellers making their way to the coast. Little remains of the original riverside lodge, built in 1958 by legendary game hunter, JA Hunter, who oversaw the culling of many of the rhino that used to roam this area. The lodge had over the years fallen into a state of disrepair, but was taken over by Mada Hotels a couple of years ago, and given a radical facelift. It may have lost some of its charm, but the rooms have been nicely done with Lamu-style beds, and swing-door bathrooms, and the food has seen quite some improvement. Starts from Ksh 8,000 pp sharing.
The only budget option within the Chyulu Hills range is camping, run by the Kenya Wildlife Service, and the best of the three campsites is undoubtedly Satellite Camp, a hillside grassy plain overlooking the emerald-green hills. It takes about 90 minutes from the main gate up a rough road. This is a remote camp, and there are no ablutions, merely the charred remains of campsites made by other groups. Given how few people visit the Chyulus, chances are that you’ll have the campsite all to yourself. If not, don’t fear, you can easily move on to another nearby grassy plain. The KWS has two other campsites: a run-down affair next to the main gate and another next to Kisula caves. Although the latter has some facilities, it is not nearly as attractive nor as open as Satellite. Camping costs Ksh 200 per citizen, Ksh 350 for residents.