All-in-one Swara Acacia Lodge is a must-visit outdoors

Friday January 08 2021

An impala at Swara Acacia Lodge. PHOTO | COURTESY


An hour from Nairobi, we drive into Swara Plains Conservancy next to Lukenya, where the plains are wide open.

Being a ‘new’ wildlife conservancy that morphed from a ranch, it is adding precious space for the wild animals that wander out of Nairobi National Park in search of fresh pasture and water.

Freshly brewed coffee is served with a chocolate and coconut slice, a Serbian dessert. Proprietor Danijela Panic, is an economist, and worked in several African countries for 12 years before turning her eye to Kenya with her husband.

Tanked up on coffee, we find the plains busy with gnus, gazelle and zebra that once boasted the largest wildebeest migration before the roads were built. It rivalled today’s famous wildebeest migration of the Serengeti-Mara.

We are with Jan van Duinen who introduces us to all the Masai giraffes he has been monitoring for four years. He talks of them like he would of a person browsing on the healthy balanites.

“That is Julia and her foal,” he tells the group. The thirsty foal makes to the mother to suckle. This area holds 10 percent of the Masai giraffes in Kenya, a once common animal now listed ‘endangered’. Hence the conservancy is a welcome nirvana for them and all other wildlife.


At lunch, everything is served freshly cooked… the soup of the day with hints of herbs, grilled chicken and vegetables followed by a hefty wedge of black forest cake. “That’s why we send the menu before you arrive. That way, we don’t keep anything in stock,” Danijela says.

Bush gym

I love the space and simplicity of it. The foyer with a few easy chairs cushioned in white and original artwork by African artists leads to the dining area under the marquee opening to the central garden.

A children’s play area full of toys sits by the dining room and the children run into the green space with swings and bikes to ride. “I am a mother, so l want it to be child friendly,” she adds.

There is a ‘bush gym’ and a few courts for ball games.

Past the sunken bonfire, the wooden bridge leads to the thatched chalets.

“The lodge is tucked into nature,” says Ms Panic. “Nothing is above the tree tops.

Each airy banda boasts a private veranda with a small garden with easy lounges to doze al-fresco. Inside, stunning portraits feature of the animal your chalet is named after.

‘African kangaroos’

At 5pm it’s yoga on the lawn before archery with Shehzana Anwar, Kenya’s national archery champ and her mother tutor for those interested on aiming for bull’s eye. They make it look so simple and the novices practice a newfound sport.

By now the night sky shows the great conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn, the ‘Christmas kiss’, the next one scheduled in 80 years.

Out in the dark wilderness that looks devoid of life, it’s full of wildlife that reveals itself when the spotlight falls on sparkling eyes. Honey badgers scuttle to their underground burrow, a Silver-backed jackal stares even while the majestic giraffes stand silent, but on the ground, miniature ‘African kangaroos’ aka the nocturnal spring hares hop about on their hind legs in some unabashed exuberance.

The following morning after a leisurely breakfast bikers ride out bringing back reports of cycling past gnus and giraffes with White-backed vultures riding the thermals to fly as far as the Mara and return to roost on their trees for the night.