Up close with wildlife at Taita

Saturday November 4 2017

A herd of elephants pass underneath the raised rooms at Sarova Salt Lick.

A herd of elephants pass underneath the raised rooms at Sarova Salt Lick. PHOTO | MARYANNE GICOBI | NMG 

By MARYANNE GICOBI
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Having heard that Kenya’s Madaraka Express train had launched county stops between Nairobi and Mombasa, I decided to explore a game lodge near the Voi train station about 300km from Nairobi. I was accompanied by a photographer and a hotel guide.

We left Nairobi on the 9am train for a two-night stay at the Sarova Salt Lick and Sarova Taita Hills Game Lodge. The establishments are part of the Sarova Hotels, Resorts and Game Lodges, which was crowned Africa’s leading hotel brand at the World Travel Awards held in Kigali last month.

In just over three hours, we arrived at Voi town, a journey which would have taken five to six hours by bus. The hotel had arranged to pick us up from the terminus. Other stops like Kibwezi also have pick-ups organised by game lodges located near the towns.

Voi is serene; it is surrounded by several hills and even though it was sunny, there was a cool breeze.

The drive from the train terminus to the lodge is smooth as the road is newly constructed. There are extensive sisal plantations and some shrubs.

As we got near Sarova Taita Hills, we were warmly welcomed by a herd of zebras and impalas.

The game lodge is situated between Tsavo East and Tsavo West National Parks, and thus has many animals especially during the dry season.

At the reception we were handed a refreshing towel and a glass of fresh cocktail juice. Next to the reception is a swimming pool with a view of Taita Hills on one side and a restaurant on the other, where we had our lunch.

We then drove to Sarova Salt Lick, which is approximately five kilometres from Sarova Taita Hills Lodge.

The Salt Lick Lodge is rows of huts on stilts, which the game lodge general manager Willie Mwadilo said was modelled after the traditional Taita granary.

From my raised room, I could see many wild animals, from elephants, warthogs and buffaloes, to zebras, gazelles and waterbucks as they walked to a man-made watering hole at the lodge.

Later that evening we went for a game drive to see if we could spot some large cats. The ride was in an open Landcruiser, which provided a great view. We drove around the expansive 28,000 acres and spotted a leopard and a pride of lions.

The hut shaped room was well furnished, with a large four-poster bed in the centre, which took most of the space.

The rooms have no television, so I could not catch up on a Liverpool versus Manchester United football game that I had very much anticipated. I decided to spend my time watching the animals that came to the watering hole.

The watering hole at Sarova Salt Lick.

The watering hole at Sarova Salt Lick. PHOTO | MARYANNE GICOBI | NMG

The water at the lodge is salty and therefore the soap in the shower would not lather easily. I also spent a considerable amount of time trying to get the shower temperature just right. My sleep was deep, although often interrupted by elephants trumpeting.

Sarova Taita Hills Game Lodge also has a museum of the British Army training grounds during World War I.