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Eating with the elephants!
Voi Safari Lodge (Kenya)
Member Name: Wickedinrock
Voi Safari Lodge (Kenya)
Advantages: Close to nature, fantastic food, lovely relaxing place to stay!
Disadvantages: The wake up call was late!
We arrived at Voi Wildlife Lodge after a four hour journey from our hotel at Diani Beach, Mombasa. We were hot and sweaty and quite miserable after the horrific journey including a one hour wait for a ferry during which we weren't allowed to open the roof of our jeep! However, arriving at this lovely lodge made the journey worthwhile. We entered the modern looking reception and were greeted by a few members of staff who welcomed us to the lodge. The first thing I noticed was a blackboard which listed all of the animals which had been spotted at the lodge that day, along with how many. I was excited already to see that there had been 22 elephants, 4 zebras and a hippo before midday! All new guests were then escorted to their rooms. Our lady asked us to follow her and then proceeded to walk across the whole site so slowly that it was almost impossible to stay behind her. She was an older lady and we did say that we were happy to take the key and find our own room, however she wouldn't hear of it. So about 10 minutes later we finally arrived at our room and gave her a tip before she started her long walk back!
When I hear 'safari lodge' I immediately think of a basic room which possibly isn't clean and has bugs everywhere. Narrowminded? Yes - but with no prior knowledge of safaris this is what I thought. So we were pleasantly surprised by our room! Fairly small but with a nice double bed surrounded by a mosquito net. There was a desk with a chair and a sliding door with a lovely view out over an elephant watering hole! Stunning! I can quite honestly say that I'd never stayed in a hotel like this! There was no balcony outside - the sliding door opened onto a railing to stop us falling out but it was a nice touch, especially seeing as a monkey kept coming up to look through the window at us! There was no minibar or TV or any extras but I didn't expect these at the lodge and certainly wouldn't have wanted them unless I was staying there a long time! There was no air conditioning which would have been quite nice in such hot, humid conditions but we had a rather loud fan in the room that kept us cool enough. However, keeping it turned on kept us awake all night!
The bathroom was quite dated but very clean and actually had a nicer shower than our hotel back at Diani Beach! The water was always a good temperature and was fresh water, not salty water which I'd heard was common from other guests!
Overall we thought the room was fine and were perfectly comfortable there for the night. It wasn't exactly luxury but fine for a few nights and in my book, a much preferred option to camping! The lodge's lights went off several times during the evening which only bothered me the time I was in the shower, in the room by myself, and couldn't find the tap or my towel! We knew from our travel guides that this was common in Kenya so it was half expected. Later that evening it happened a few times when we were at the bar and there was a big cheer every time it came back on - which was usually within a minute.
The lodge had 88 rooms in total including 12 superior rooms which I didn't have the chance to see.
When we arrived we dropped our bags off and headed straight down to lunch. The lunch was a large buffet served in the restaurant which included steak in peppercorn sauce and sautéed potatoes! Yum! I was already in my element and was full within minutes after a long journey. Alex ate their leek and potato soup and then had Spaghetti Bolognese which he said was lovely. It looked quite ordinary to me - almost like it was spaghetti with ketchup. There were a range of vegetables and lots of different options for both meat eaters and vegetarians. Desserts included a mousse and a range of cakes and pastries which we ate lots of knowing that we would be going back on safari for another few hours in the afternoon. Tea and coffee were provided and other drinks were at an extra cost.
Later than evening we returned to the restaurant for our evening meal. It was quite busy with everyone queuing for something down at the far end of the restaurant. We decided to grab a bowl of soup and a few rolls to keep us going and hope that the queue would die down. The soup was mushroom and was really tasty - one of the nicest mushroom soups I have tried! After the first course we got in the queue and couldn't wait to see what was at the end! On my way down I picked up a couple of cooked vegetables and Alex chose a salad, then we picked up some potato gratin until we reached the end - the meat counter! There was a grill where the chef was cooking chicken pieces. Yummy! We were really impressed with the food, especially as we expected to receive a packed lunch and something like a pasta dish for the evening meal! By far the best part of dinner was the dessert. They still had the wide selection of cakes and pastries but there were also two hot puddings. Chocolate fudge cake with chocolate custard and apple crumble! I nearly cried with delight - my favourites! We could help ourselves as many times as we liked, so of course, I did!
As for breakfast the next morning, we knew we would be in for a treat after the two meals the previous day. One chef was on the eggs counter and would make them to order. I asked for a fried egg to have with some toast and Alex went for scrambled. He went for the full English breakfast but I wasn't quite as hungry at 6.30 a.m. (I've not seen that time in the morning for years!) so just had the fried egg with beans on toast! However, realising that we would be on safari for 4 hours before we came back to check out and have lunch, I thought I should eat some more. I went for two pancakes with maple syrup! It was surprisingly easy to eat after I'd said I wasn't hungry! Fresh orange was a very strange greyish colour and I accidently poured myself a mango juice as it was the most orangey in colour. I didn't like it and went back for some grey orange juice instead! Again there were tea and coffee making facilities but we didn't have much time for that!
We were amazed when we found that Voi Wildlife Lodge had not one, but two swimming pools! We had expected a campsite in the desert and instead were surrounded by lovely pools and amazing food. After being dropped off and eating lunch we had another hour and a half to kill until our driver would be picking us up for the early evening safari so we decided to spend it by the pool! Unlike our hotel at Diani Beach there was no breeze in the complex at all so at almost 100 degrees it was far too hot for me to sit in the sun. Instead I kept my hat on and spent about 30 minutes reading my book in the pool as Alex sunbathed and occasionally threw a ball to me. They had a staff member on duty to hand out towels and he also offered to do drinks runs for anyone who wanted to order something. The other pool was situated at the back of restaurant where there was more space to sunbathe on beds and where we had a great view of a watering hole where there were about 20 elephants. Some of them actually came right up to the fence which was a metre away from us which was very exciting!
There was a gym on site which we didn't know about in advance and it wasn't in use any of the times we passed it. When people go on safari I'm quite sure they don't think about exercise and even if we'd have fancied it we wouldn't have had trainers or the right clothes with us. It did look good though with glass doors that looked out over the pool and watering hole. It was spacious and air conditioned with modern equipment and space for doing free weights and floor work. There was also a small beauty salon which provided massages, facials and mani/pedicures for higher prices than we had previously seen in Kenya. They also had a sauna and Jacuzzi which were available to use at a cost.
After the afternoon safari we decided to explore the lodge and its grounds further. The sun was just setting and we thought it would be nice to sit out and have a drink. Behind the restaurant you could walk out over a wooden bridge to the 'game watch terrace' which stuck out into the middle of the savannah grasslands and overlooked the watering hole. It was lovely to sit out with a drink watching the elephants at the hole and see the sun going down. It was still lovely and warm out and there weren't many other people around which was nice. We spotted a hippo drinking at the hole even though it was getting darker and it was interesting to see a range of different animals all together just ignoring each other.
There was also another bar which was attached to the restaurant where many people had a drink after dinner. It was very relaxing with no music, no glass in the windows so that we felt as though we were still outside and the chairs were very comfortable - I wanted to stay there all night just looking out! There were free coffee and tea making facilities in the bar which most people there were helping themselves to. Sadly they only provided the UHT mini cartons for milk so I stuck to water! The drink prices were quite expensive at around £2 a drink (whether beer, water, Diet Coke etc) and this was the same throughout the lodge.
How much did it cost?
We booked the lodge as most people do as a package along with the safari. We paid approximately £150 each for the two day trip which included the accommodation, park entrance fees and car and driver for two days and booked it through WT Safaris out at Diani Beach. We thought this was excellent value considering the prices we had been quoted by similar companies before we left ranged from £250 to £350 each! The room itself is priced on various UK websites at £160 a night so we feel we got ourselves a bargain. So a tip for all - don't book any part of a safari until you get out there!
The Voi Wildlife Lodge was everything we could have possibly wanted from our two day safari trip. We knew that this was one of the nicer lodges in the park but we hadn't expected the wonderful, varied food or such a fantastic setting. We would have loved to stay a few more days and if we'd have known how comfortable it was or how great the safari itself was going to be we would have definitely stayed a couple more nights. The only negative for me was the wake up call which they had more or less forced us to have. When it came, it was a man knocking on the door 25 minutes late leaving us only 10 minutes to change, eat and get to the jeep! Arrghh! Luckily our driver turned up late so I had chance to finish breakfast! With that one exception we had a wonderful time, we want to return and would recommend it to anyone!
Summary: Eating with the elephants!