Last weekend my fiancée and I fancied a few days in the bush, so we decided to head to Lake Nakuru. On paper, it ticked all the boxes for a brief escape from the city: the drive was relatively short, there were plenty of places to stay, and it was the closest option – outside of Nairobi National Park – with a high density of wildlife.
What we didn’t take into account was the fact that the road to Nakuru is now an excavated and congested mess. With long stretches of thick fog in the mix, and an especially high number of kamikaze drivers weaving in and out of trundling lorries, it took us four hours to get to the main gate. The road is definitely due for an upgrade, but I hope the 25km stretch from the James Gichuru junction to Rironi can be completed within the anticipated three years.
Once we were through the gate, our nightmare journey was quickly forgotten. We often camp by the Makalia Waterfall, but on this occasion we treated ourselves to a night at the Lake Nakuru Sopa Lodge. Skirting the fence line, the lodge sits high up on the western ridge of the park, not far from the Out of Africa Viewpoint. It’s about 17km from the main gate, through the dense forest at the top of the ridge.
The 200 acre property now forms part of the park, but before it was purchased by Sopa Lodges it was outside the boundary. A large clearing still separates the lodge from the mature forest, and it’s a space that seemed to be appreciated by the park’s many buffaloes. Sopa constructed a waterhole, too, which I’m sure attracts a lot of wildlife in the dry season.
Once we had settled in, I had a long chat with the Assistant Manager, James Mwema. I asked him what distinguished the lodge from the others in the park, and he said it was the fact it had been built at the highest point of the ridge. The views are incredible, of the whole lake and most of the acacia forests and grasslands of the southern circuit. It’s particularly breathtaking at dusk, when the scattered lights of Nakuru town shimmer on the still surface of the lake.
The architects did well to ensure that every part of the lodge made the most of the view. The upper level Lekwane Restaurant and Oldonyo Bar each have wide open terraces, and the edge of the hour glass infinity pool appears to merge with the lake in the distance.
The lodge’s 62 rooms are laid out in rows on two levels: an upper level in line with the restaurant, and a lower level looking out towards the waterhole. All of them have huge curved glass windows, and an outside seating area. Inside, there are attractive stone walls, and a large bathroom. The curtains are a bit garish and old fashioned, but the rooms are otherwise spacious and simply furnished.
After a successful evening game drive along the lake shore, we joined the rest of the guests in the Lekwane Restaurant for dinner. It’s still the low season but there was a healthy mix of guests staying at the lodge that night – Kenyans, Americans and Australians. There was lots of variety on the à la carte menu, including a few vegan options for my fiancée. More guests arrived the following day, so for lunch they laid out a generous buffet spread.
For bookings and more information about the lodge, head to www.sopalodges.com, or email [email protected] Double rooms are Sh19,800 up until the end of June, before they jump up to Sh24,000 for the high season. So it’s certainly worth considering for your next weekend retreat – just be prepared to sit in traffic for a while on the way there.
Jan Fox is a Director at iDC.