Of late, I have been fascinated by eco lodges and how they manage to offer luxury while saving energy and looking after their surroundings. This curiosity drove me to spend a weekend at Tawi Lodge, an eco lodge situated next to Amboseli National Park, 250km to the south east of Nairobi. The lodge has received gold ratings from Eco Tourism Kenya twice in a row. It takes four hours to get there by road but only 45 minutes by air from Wilson Airport, Nairobi.
I arrived by road at the conservancy gate late at night to be picked up and driven to the lodge where Barack Manono, the assistant manager and Catherine Nduta, the training manager gave me a warm welcome. I was taken straight to my cottage to freshen up before dinner. Catherine gave me a small orientation in the cottage and the dos and don’ts. I noted a polite note on top of a desk, imploring guests to save energy and water since this is an eco lodge.
Tawi has 13 stand-alone cottages, each with a private verandah, decorated with modern double or twin beds. Each cottage has a lovely ensuite bathroom with a Victorian bath and a shower, a fireplace and a mini bar. The design borrows heavily from African traditional styles, with touches of modernity, which I found clever. Their aim is not to disrupt the Amboseli ecosystem, so they use solar power. Even the colour of Tawi Lodge resembles the red soils of Amboseli.
Catherine said the cottages are named according to Maasai, Spanish and even foreign gods. My room was named after ganesh, the elephant-headed god of the Hindu culture. The deity is linked to success and so, Mr Good Luck, please follow me! I was advised to wake up early if I wanted to enjoy the magnificent views of Kilimanjaro. All doors must be closed as mischievous monkeys live near the camp.
I was told not to dare walk without a ‘body’ guard at night because of the wildlife. Heeding the call, I switched on my flashlight and a guard came hastily to attend to me. The dining room is centrally located and offers views of the mountains as well as a waterhole where animals converge. I sat down with Barack and Kate for dinner, chatting about life in general as well as about the lodge.
I learnt that in the year 2006, Alex Lowasser, a bird lover and the present MD of the lodge, used to come here and watch the elephants and the birds at the waterhole. He loved photography and got the idea of starting a lodge that could maintain harmony between the Maasai and the wildlife.
“The conservancy is a migratory corridor of wildlife from Chyulu Hills to Tsavo, making it an area of biological importance,” said Barack as we tossed to a glass of wine. “Together with Africa Wildlife Foundation (AFW), Tawi Lodge organised the community to donate 6,000 acres of land to create the Tawi-Kilitome conservancy,” he added. The tasty cuisine was made from ingredients grown in Amboseli as part of the eco tourism project.
Post-dinner drinks can be enjoyed around a blazing campfire at a bush bar while you absorb the darkening horizon, but I was fatigued and retired to bed… Early the next morning I managed to catch a glimpse of Kilimanjaro. I sat on the verandah, enjoying a warm cup of coffee and admiring the view. After a quick shower and sumptuous breakfast, Barack showed me around.
He kept explaining why they win awards. Later, I enjoyed a short game drive around where I got to view zebras, elephants, impala, kudus, gerenuk and the local wildlife. The conservancy offers camel rides to cut down on the carbon emissions and pollution. Other activities include indulging in massage and beauty treatments as you view the wildlife, birdwatching, mountain climbing, the list is endless. Why don’t you go and see it yourself?