Kilaguni Serena Lodge in West Tsavo

Kilaguni Serena Lodge in West Tsavo

Ahistorical site for over 100 years, the whole of Tsavo West was once a savanna that turned into woodland over time. It endured extensive alteration in its first 30 years, but after enough rains and new flushes of growth, by 1980, it had changed itself into grassland. When the authorities earmarked Tsavo for wildlife, there was no outcry from any of the stakeholders concerned because there was no gain in it for the communities due to it being a tsetse fly region. Although that was a good beginning, its elephant population had thinned down by comparison with the 1940s when herds of them had unimpeded access to these lands.

Global brand recognition

Interestingly, the movie Ghost and Darkness, displaying the abundance of lions, was what brought Tsavo its brand recognition. The movie is about two lions that killed workers at Tsavo in 1898 during the construction of the railway. Two lions dragged thirty men while they were asleep more than a century ago. The beasts could have been into human flesh because the slave routes cut through this park once. Fascinatingly, Hollywood shot the movie featuring Michael Douglas and Val Kilmer in South Africa, and not in Kenya. However, the Maasais depicted in the film were real Maasai warriors who went to South Africa for the shooting the movie. But the National Park has much more exciting things than that to offer.

Curious political tidbits

Tsavo Park, which is nine times bigger than Mara played its role in the Kenyan political arena too. After the independence of Kenya, Kilaguni was the only site with a telephone number outside Nairobi. It was called the red phone, which was the direct line between the State House and any other place. Jomo Kenyatta would be driven down to Kilaguni every once in a while for a presidential break. There is even a picture of him looking towards the waterhole from the Kilaguni lodge. History repeats itself and a presidency later Kilaguni hosted the country’s third president. Miguna’s first book describes a disastrous meeting between the parties in the 2007 presidential campaign and a mention of a conversation that took place in January 2008. That was in the lounge at Kilaguni Lodge overlooking the Chyulu Hills and watering hole beyond.

First permanent accommodation

The most famous thing about West Tsavo Park is the Kilaguni Lodge, now part of the famous Serena chain, which is central to the park. Kilaguni is a Kamba word, a vernacular language in Kenya, and meaning “the place of the young rhino.” This lodge was the very first and the only permanent accommodation for a long time in a wildlife reserve or a national park of Kenya. His Royal Highness, the Duke of Gloucester, officially opened this world-class establishment in West Tsavo in 1962 and is now a flying blue programme member.

One with nature

Being the very first lodge, Kilaguni Lodge is in the shadows of Kilimanjaro. Therefore it is not only hushed for game viewing but also have unobstructed sights of Kilimanjaro. Kilaguni Lodge has been designed to merge into the savannah landscape. The elegantly renovated rooms have been styled to provide luxury accommodation in an African aura drawing colors from the Savannah palette such as blueness of the sky above, golden hue of the rising sun and the lush green of the bush.

Lofty veranda garden

The lodge boasts of private verandas of volcanic stone and rocky outcrops of the valley. Directly in front of the grand porch is a garden that is cool and manicured in contrast to the unkempt, hot plains outside. It is here where the visitor can relax and sip iced drinks in comfort and enjoy the views of eternity.

Layout of facilities

Other facilities at Kilaguni Safari Lodge include massage and beauty treatments and a swimming pool that makes one fall in love with the lodge. The room layout and the area with the verandah and dining room are out of this world. The open-air restaurant, the rock-built bar, and the timbered game-viewing decks exude tranquility and coolness. The lodge uses traditional sepia-hued paintings and olivewood carvings of elephant and tail-erect warthog. Besides, the place is in proximity to the main attractions namely Mzima Springs, Shetani and Chaima Lava Sites, Rhino Sanctuary and Roaring Rocks.

Wildlife at Kilaguni

The most prominent attraction at Kilaguni Safari Lodge is the wildlife, thanks to the waterhole. The lodge is central to miles of elephant-studded plains, lion-stalked grasslands, and wildlife-teeming bush. The waterhole surrounded by volcanic splendor attracts vast herds of zebra, monkeys, giraffe, buffalo, elephant and other wildlife game that can get quite noisy. West Tsavo’s wild animals parade themselves here day and night. Semi-tame hyrax, dwarf mongoose, and other species scamper among the guests searching for leftovers of food.

Birds at Kilaguni

From a distance the grotesque thoraxes bobbing their coral pink, obscene gullets look like funeral shrouds. Numerous marabou storks strut around proudly without any care around the waterhole. Their scabby beak and poker face and the bright scarlet bubble on its neck warn people to keep away. These birds have the hunched look of the undertaker and stroll around with the attitude of the moneylender.

Situated 280kms from Nairobi, Kilaguni Safari Lodge, is an ideal holiday getaway. The lodge overlooking the Chyulu hills with the majestic allure of Kilimanjaro flirting over the horizon, the volcanic lava creating a dark hue and the waterhole in the distance beckons all nature lovers. The first lodge ever in Kenya, Kilaguni Safari Lodge indeed has a flavorful history and makes for a pleasant walk down memory lane as it teleports one back to the romanticized era of Hemingway and Karen Blixen.

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