“ Amboseli National Park / Kenya / Africa „
I spent one night in Amboselli Lodge, and it turned out to be one of the best on my whole holiday, something i wasnt really expecting if im honest!
For me there were 3 main highlights, and in addition to these the food there was also amongst the best meals of my trip, partnered by very calm and pleasant service thoughtout. The Roast Pork really is to die for!!!
Highlight 1 - The lovely swimming pool and bar area. The pool sat in the back part of the campus, with an amazing view of Mount Kilamanjaro! To add to this, the barman on duty the day i was there was just the friendliest guy you could want to meet, and was a real pleasure to sit and chat to him!
Highlight 2 - The very quirky lodge - it was round and looked as though built from clay, with a wonderful bed with a kind of elephant thing built into the wall! Everything about the lodge was really quite different from so many others and was 'fun' to be in!
Hightlight 3 -The Hemingway Bar - a beautiful and classy bar to sit in, with fabulous seating and tables, an amazing range of drinks, and even more wonderful and knowledgable staff to talk to! It was a stunning place to be for the whole evening! Also underneath the bar was a viewing area overlooking an area where they put out some food to attract a few animals like moongoose and hyena (and some wild cats) which was great for photos.
This really is a stunning place to visit
I shouldn't be reviewing this lodge. In our pre-arranged safari, we were never meant to stay here. However, we did, and they were nothing but wonderful.
We left Ol Tukai Lodge and were heading down towards Taita Hills, when our trusty 4x4 packed up on us! We hadn't travelled too far fortunately, just 20 minutes or so outside of the Amboseli National Park (on a road where you have to drive in convoy with armed soldiers because of some trouble that was had in the area a few years ago regarding the close proximity of the Tanzania border! Nothing has actually happened there for a VERY long time, but they do it as a precaution.) where our 4x4 broke down and our excellent driver managed to patch it back together (with a soldier's help!) enough to drive us to a local lodge. This lodge happened to be Amboseli Sopa.
Amboseli Sopa is one of a small chain of Sopa lodges throughout Kenya. We hadn't stayed in any other Sopa lodge during our safari as our safari had booked us into (excellent) lodges that were all inside the national parks. The Sopa lodges all seem to be outside the parks themselves, which isn't a problem if you are intending on staying for a few days, but does mean a good 20 minute drive as part of your 'game drive' before you even reach the parks themselves.
When we arrived the hotel was empty - the guests had either left or were out on game drives, and all the staff were in a staff meeting. However, when the situation was explained to them, we were welcomed and given a drink. We were also then given lunch in their restaurant.
To make a very long story short, our 4x4 wasn't fixable, not even with Amboseli Sopa's on site mechanics and garage. So another 4x4 was to be sent down to us, but because of the remoteness of Kenya and our current location, it would take 7 hours! By that point it would be too late for us to travel to our next destination as you cannot travel through national parks in the dark.
Fortunately for us, even though our safari company doesn't really deal with the Sopa Lodge chain all that much, arrangements were made for us to be able to stay there overnight, and be fed and watered. We spoke to a representative from our safari company on the phone and he arranged for a free bottle of wine with our evening meal, and also discussed with us the remaining itinerary for our Safari. Out of the two remaining lodges we were due to stay at, we chose the one we'd been most looking forward to (which was completely the right choice in the end - I'll be reviewing Salt Lick Lodge soon!) .
Once we knew we were stuck at Amboseli Sopa lodge for the night, we managed to relax - after what had been a very stressful day!
The rooms here are incredibly quirky and very sweet! Each room is a self contained round hut. The main room containing the bed and storage is the majority of the round hut, and the bathroom took up a curved area at the back. The walls were literally curved throughout! The decoration was a slightly less tacky version of a Disney decoration (not that I don't like Disney, I do!!) - there was a large brown elephant head painted above the bed, and similar style decoration around the room.
The lunchtime menu was a la carte style, probably as many of the lodge's guests were absent from the lodge and it therefore made life easier than laying out a buffet - although I may be wrong! The food lunchtime was lovely, but I can remember very little of it due to the other goings on regarding our broken 4x4 at the time. The evening meal though we remember very vividly. Although it was a typical buffet style, there was also a carving station where a chef was freshly carving roast pork for those who wanted it. I have to say it was one of the most delicious roast pork meals I have ever had. The chefs there certainly know what they are doing with food!
The grounds are wide and 'ambling'. The paths that lead from the main facilities are natural looking and give you a sense of privacy from the other guests.
There was a lovely pool on site, and if we'd known a little earlier in the day that we were going to be there for the duration, we probably would have tried it. It looked incredibly clean and well maintained. Plus from the pool (and restaurant) you had an amazing view of Mount Kilimanjaro.
There were at least two bars on site that we knew about - one right next to the pool which was small but had plenty of choice, and another to the rear of the grounds, which had its own special feature! (See below!)
There are two styles of gift shop on site - a lodge owned one; and a market style shopping experience, run and owned by local Masai families. Unfortunately, when we decided to do a bit of retail therapy, the market had closed, but the lodge own shop was still open. We were very pleased that the lodge shop didn't seem as commercialised as some hotel shops can be, and the gifts and mementoes were much more unique than some of the stuff we'd seen so far (banana leaf napkin rings designed like Kenyan animals for one!).
Hemmingways Bar was the bar at the rear of the grounds, and this very special place was designed for one purpose only. To access the main bar itself you have to walk up and around the hill like structure that it's been built on. Parts of the path have small boulder like seats and viewing areas. The bar itself has plenty of windows which overlook a lit up area. Every night, the kitchen staff bring out left over meat and place it in the lit up area, specifically to entice one type of creature. Yes, other creatures get involved too - but you're mainly there to spot hyenas! Eventually through much patience, a hyena arrives - apparently there's been a pair visiting there for many years, but this year one seemed to have disappeared. The well educated bar staff in Hemmingways thought it was down to the drought they were currently having.
The staff throughout the site were wonderful. The manager was incredibly sympathetic and helpful throughout our ordeal, and she made an effort to find out what was going on with our safari company. Likewise, the barman stationed at the pool side bar was lovely. We spent a good hour or two there after we knew we were staying, killing time as the sun got lower in the sky before dinner, trying desperately to take a picture of the top of Mount Kilimanjaro (which had alluded us until now!) as the clouds slowly moved away. He was nothing but polite, chatty and very pleasant.
Overall, a highly recommended lodge. Not ideal if you're there specifically for game drives in Amboseli National Park due to the distance, but ideal as a more permanent base rather than a flying visitor. The staff were incredible, food delicious, and even Mount Kilimanjaro rewarded us at breakfast of the day we were leaving! We were supposed to be miles away from the mountain if our itinerary had gone to plan, but it was this morning that the mountain revealed itself completely, with no clouds anywhere in sight. We were very lucky.
(For the record, our new 4x4 had arrived the night before and our wonderful driver cleaned the whole thing from top to bottom before picking us up on time and taking us to our next destination!)