The flickering firelights peered through the bushes; darkness had already set in, yet the sky covered in a blanket of stars illuminated across the vast plains. Every rustling sound coming from the bush nearby sent a chill down my spine: “Was that a lion?” I shuddered to myself as memories of the movie The Ghost and The Darkness came to mind; after all, Tsavo West had a dramatic past.
Situated only 280kms away from Nairobi, Kilaguni Serena Safari lodge is centrally placed making it an ideal holiday getaway that teleports you back to the romanticized era of Karen Blixen and Hemingway, while the majestic allure of Mount Kilimanjaro flirts over the horizon. The classic-stone built lodge, rich with so much Kenyan history, overlooks the Chyulu hills, while the aftermath of the volcanic lava creates an intriguing dark hue, making it a picture perfect paradise for nature lovers!
With a public holiday falling on a Monday, the weekend was ideal for a getaway from the hustle and bustle of Nairobi. I hadn’t been on a long safari for a long while, which made it hard for me to contain the anticipation I had of being one with nature, out in the wild away from the daily pressures of life. All the exciting stories I had heard about Kilaguni Serena Safari Lodge kept playing in my head; from the sundowner, to the bush dinners and breakfast, I could barely wait to reach our destination!
The road-trip started off at 9am from Nairobi Serena Hotel after a lovely, sumptuous breakfast. A safari is never complete without companions who are able to make the long journey, much shorter with some laughter and banter; and I was fortunate enough to be among interesting friends, as well as a tour guide, who made the trip quite humorous. The Nairobi- Mombasa highway has always been quite interesting during the day; from the women selling vegetables sprinting towards your van every time it slows down, hoping to make a quick sale, to the men selling feyas (the CSI’s best weapon of choice for getting rid of crows) you will never miss something interesting to grab your attention along the way.
The gloomy clouds and a bit of rain did not deter our high spirits; after much laughter and interesting tales, we finally arrived at Mtito- Andei at around 1pm. Being the last one to clamber down the vehicle, at the main entrance of the park, I could already feel all my worries slowly ebbing away. I made sure my camera was ready to click away, just in case we spotted any animals along the 31kms ride to the lodge. The tranquil scenery along the way was quite breathtaking and I couldn’t help but absorb every intricate creation we came across, such as the 5 Sisters- a few of the many hills surrounding the lodge.
There’s really nothing like a Serena experience; the chilled welcoming glass of champagne and hot towels to wipe away the dust, upon arrival at Kilaguni Serena Lodge, was nothing short of the impeccable hospitality that Serena always has to offer. The scenic view the moment we arrived at the lodge, brought to mind one of my favorite quotes from Karen Blixen; “There’s something about safari life that makes you forget about all your sorrows and feel as if you had drunk half a bottle of champagne- bubbling over with heartfelt gratitude of being alive.” As soon as I glanced over the volcanic splendor of the Chyulu Hills in front of me, I could relate to each and every word of Karen Blixen’s statement.
After a hearty meal, we decided to take a tour along the lodge. Among the many things that caught my eye, was the stunning décor surrounding the lodge; the brown-stoned walls and wooden poles around the terrace area overlooking the waterhole, created a cozy, homely feeling, yet somehow managed to maintain a vintage, African-safari themed décor about it. The dining and bar area strewn with canvas images of the various species of wildlife surrounding the area, as well as beautiful paintings and elephant carvings, created a truly African- themed atmosphere.
What caught my eye at the reception lobby was the rich information and history regarding Kilaguni Serena Safari Lodge among it being one of the first ever safari lodges to be built in a park in Kenya. The photos on the walls showcased so much history regarding the construction of the railroad as well as the Man-eaters of Tsavo.
One could easily tell how much the lodge had complimented it’s surroundings and environment, by incorporating it in their beautifully decorated rooms, which had an artistic touch to them; from the local art paintings on the walls, to the African accessories all across the room, the unique decor managed to create a warm,cozy atmosphere, making one feel so at home. I managed to peek into one of the luxurious 5 suites the lodge had to offer, but was taken aback by the glorious view from the verandah overlooking Chyulu Hills and I couldn’t help but get stuck in the moment, just to take in the relaxing energy from the plains of the African Savannah.
There’s nothing like an African sunset; when you get to see one out in the wild, it makes you believe you have seen God’s painting at work. The orange hues across the clouds as the sun set over the horizon while the golden rays gently kissed the watering hole overlooking my veranda, while I marveled at the tripod of a giraffe bent to water, was nothing but awe-inspiring!
After contemplating over the fading embers of yet another outrageous sunset, we headed over for dinner out in the bush. Despite the night being chilly, a dinner out in the wild was a one-of-a kind experience which put a whole new meaning to the phrase; dining out (
I know that was lame). The night was perfect as the DJ played some African music, while the chef made it complete, with a vast array of African dishes that left us craving for more; from some Nyama Choma, Ugali and Boerwors, it was nice to get a taste of home out in the wild!
All satisfied and ready to enjoy what the chilly night had in store for us, we decided to warm up near the bonfire, enjoying every wicker and flame that brought some warmth our way. The night was set out like a scene from an old African village; wrapped in Maasai blankets and sharing interesting tales while enjoying perfectly chilled drinks, we slowly lost track of time while enjoying the stillness of the night. The moon was just perfect, as the stars blanketed the skies; but as far as our eyes would see, darkness still loomed over the plains. That’s when I noticed the flickering lights and the rustling sound coming from the bushes: “could that be one of the famous man eaters of Tsavo, resurrected back to life as a Hologram?” I shuddered to myself, and that’s when it hit me; the only reason we travel, is not to escape life, but for life not to escape us. At that point in time, I had never felt so alive.