Eating with the elephants!

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Wickedinrock on February 27, 2011

As part of our two day safari at Tsavo East National Park in Kenya in January we were lucky enough to stay at Voi Wildlife Lodge.

On arrival

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.

The room

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! 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 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.

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!

The food

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! 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.

Later than evening we returned to the restaurant for our evening meal. We decided to grab a bowl of soup and a few rolls to keep us going in hope that the queue would die down for the mains. The soup was mushroom and was really tasty. While queuing for the main course 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. 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!

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. 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!

The facilities

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.

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.

The bars

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. 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. 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!

Overall experience

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!
Voi Wildlife Lodge
Savannah grasslands
Tsavo East, Kenya

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