“At the end of the journey the most memorable moments are the ones you take home. From the people you’ve met, the animals you’ve seen, the places you’ve stayed, are all the reasons why you will be back to visit us again.”
I am a sucker for quotes, especially those that touch on wanderlust. And these beautiful words were handed to me on our departure from a beautiful property set in the midst of a cattle ranch and wildlife conservancy in the heart of Laikipia.
Every year, my family makes a pilgrimage to Nanyuki and this has become a great time for Wanderlustmate M and I to spend quality time with our loved ones and have a staycation at some of Kenya’s hidden gems scattered around Central Kenya. Solio Lodge, set on a private cattle ranch and wildlife conservancy is a bespoke property that fit the bill for one of our staycations and our experience here warmed the cockles of my heart and left me wishing that we could stay for a while longer…
Lush, green plains stretch out endlessly before me, and in the distance, the snow dusted peak of Mt. Kenya pops out shyly behind thick cloud cover. It is a perfect summer’s day and I’m sat on the deck at Solio, wearing my favourite yellow sun dress, sipping on a glass of perfectly chilled Sauvignon Blanc and doing what I do best: wanderlusting. Simply letting the romance and magic of these plains sweep me away and steep my soul in wanderlust. Letting my mind be quiet and free of endless chatter, allowing the beauty of what I see before me to simply soak in, waiting for me to explore the boundless treasures this place has in store the next couple of days. This is what staycations are all about. Simply taking a moment and slowing down enough to appreciate the beauty that exists in your own backyard.
I am looking forward to soaking in a warm bubble bath, with a glass of wine and watching the sun go down over the plains, bathing in the wilderness yet in complete privacy and then curling up under the covers in the king size bed and staring out of the floor to ceiling windows at the vast expanse of Laikipia before me, snug as a bug.
But for now, there are more important things to be concerned about, as I notice Ole, our Masai Shuka clad guide wandering towards the deck, his presence gently shaking me out of my reverie and bringing my mind back to the now. He has come to ask our preferences for our sundowner drinks, reminding me that there is more to Solio than just the beautiful property that I am sat in.
Yes, we are going on a game drive! And this is no ordinary game drive because this is the first time in my life that I am viewing the game from the TOP of a safari land cruiser and not from inside it, and I am simply loving the feeling of quite literally being one with the wild. Being a private conservancy, there are no park-imposed rules and the wildlife is a plenty: Solio is home to all kinds of game from the common grazers and browsers, to big cats and home to one of the largest populations of Rhino in Kenya. Sundowners are for later. For now, we are all sat atop the land cruiser, like proper explorers, binoculars in hand, scouting for game and sipping ice cold water from our own personalised canteens: ours for the trip and then as a gift to take home with us and transport us back to this time when we use them again!
We are in luck: there is a whole pride of lions lazing around in the sun. No matter how many times I have seen animals in Kenya and believe me when I say there have been plenty of times, I am always as excited as a kid in a candy store on Christmas day when I see certain animals in the wild. Lions, Elephants and Rhinos top this list for me, as I am sure I have rambled on about this before. The icing on the cake as concerns these lions is that they soon saunter off towards a tree with low hanging branches, leap on and climb it! I have heard of tree climbing lions in Africa but believe it or not, this is the first time I have ever seen this myself and my eyes are agog with wonder! We are almost at eye level with these wild big cats and I cannot help but shiver with excitement and nervousness at the same time because…they are just THAT close! One of the lionesses releases a large yawn, exposing her canines and Ole reassures us that she will do no more than make herself comfortable on a warm branch and have a snooze, which is exactly what she does! Only her cub has different ideas. He has spotted a lone dik-dik in the distance and is gearing up for a hunt: waking mama lion from her reverie so she can keep an eye on him! We are excited to see this thrilling yet equal parts sad occurrence and wait with bated breath as the “mtoto simba” as Ole calls him, stalks his prey. But alas, the dik-dik outsmarts him and runs away to see another day, and we amble on.
It is almost time for our sundowners, but not before Ole has shown us the jewels in Solio’s crown: the white rhino. Being an endangered species, Solio has made a special effort to conserve rhinos, and these magnificent creatures are heavily guarded which thankfully deters the distasteful poachers that insist on making a nuisance of themselves everywhere. Ole tells us that they are actually known as “wide” rhinos, thanks to their wide mouths however the term “White Rhino” has stuck and because they are partially blind, it is relatively easy to get close to them without spooking them, though they do run away as soon as they smell you. Unlike their smaller brothers, the Black Rhino, they aren’t dangerous or skittish owing to their disposition in life. And because of this, we are comfortable enough to wander around but within safe distance because, after all they are animals and we are in their space and need to respect that!
While we are busy taking selfies and pictures with these creatures, Ole muddles up a mean Dawa, pouring Vodka over ice and limes and mixing this with honey dripping from a fresh honeycomb that his ranger friends have just swung by to give him. It is almost surreal to watch the sunset, sipping on this typically Kenyan drink, munching on cassava crisps and surrounded by a crush of rhinos barely 100 meters away from us! A unique experience out here, if ever there was one!
As if sundowners weren’t surreal enough, the icing on the cake of our time out in Solio Lodge has to be hands down, THE most adventurous breakfast that I have ever had. A beautiful table is set up in the middle of nowhere, and we are surrounded by rhinos, buffalo and giraffe, all peacefully grazing away. This is something that my mind takes a while to adjust to because it is one thing to be holed up in the safety of a car, and a completely different thing to be sat in the middle of the wild, about to tuck into a three-course breakfast! And three courses it is, starting off with freshly cut fruit, followed by home-made museli (so good that we had to take the recipe from the Chef) and topped off with a hot cooked breakfast with all the trimmings. The rhino are curious creatures: they wander close to us to almost peek in on what we are doing and then get spooked and run away equally fast. After a while, they seem to sense that we don’t mean any harm and get on with their grazing, allowing us to get some pretty beautiful close up shots of them.
I must admit that I have spent a lot of time at Solio with my head stuck in the clouds, topped off by what I like to call “my wanderlust moment”. Out in the wilderness after breakfast, I am feeling as stuffed as a turkey and mention that I could do with a snooze. Ole, hearing this, spreads a shuka on the grass and tells me to lay on it and have my catnap. Only, when I do lie down, for a few seconds I stare at the sky above and can’t help feeling vulnerable because I keep imagining a rhino crushing me but then, I just close off all the chatter and let the magic of the moment take over and I spend some time simply staring into the vast cornflower blue expanse of the sky above. Few moments in life can top this feeling of utter freedom and bliss. I am feeling totally rejuvenated. Nature has a way of rejuvenating even the most tried of souls, and I am so glad to have spent time out here in Laikipia, being swept away by nature’s magic. Until next time, Happy Wanderlusting! Xoxo.
Solio Lodge is part of The Safari Collection. It is a bespoke property set out on the private Solio Ranch and Conservancy in Laikipia, Kenya. It only has 6 rooms and so is incredibly intimate.
-On how much it costs
Solio’s prices vary from season to season, so do check out their website for details. However, these prices are all inclusive (full board plus drinks and sundowners) and so you don’t spend on extras except if you want champagne. All wines and spirits served are high end.
-On the culinary side
The food is simple but delicious. You do get cooked breakfast in addition to delicious fruit and homemade muesli, and my mark of a good breakfast is whether the place serves Eggs Benedict, which they do. Fresh salads, breads, simple but comforting pasta dishes grace al fresco lunch tables, and dinner is an intimate affair in the dining room, with a three-course meal. The Chef and Manager are extremely accommodating and will go out of their way to make your stay wonderful and cook you whatever you want to eat if what is on the menu doesn’t take your fancy.
-The Fine Print
This isn’t a sponsored post. The opinion expressed in this post is entirely my own and not influenced in any way.