On Safari Again, to Sarova Salt Lick Game Lodge, Tsavo West
If our experience at the Masai Mara made us wonder why we’d left it so long to go to Kenya and go on safari, our stay at Sarova Salt Lick Game Lodge had us wondering when we’d be able to schedule a trip back.
Terence was already planning for us to return to volunteer at the Colobus Trust, so here was another incentive for us to return to Kenya.
The Sarova Salt Lick Game Lodge isn’t easy to get to from Diani Beach. It was a five-hour journey from door to door – from the time our terrific driver, Paul, picked us up at 7am to drive us to the dusty, scorching-hot town of Voi, where a driver from Salt Lick collected us for the bumpy ride to our accommodation, to the time we entered Sarova Taita Hills Game Lodge – just in time for lunch!
The drive from Diani Beach to Voi and then on to Taita Hills is fascinating, but it’s also heartbreaking. The poverty of the country and many of its people becomes all too apparent, particularly after leaving Mombasa, and then on the long drive from Voi to Taita Hills.
Sarova’s Taita Hills and Salt Like game lodges are both located in the Taita Hills Wildlife Sanctuary, a 28,000-acre conservation park adjacent to Tsavo West National Park, which is home to 50 species of mammals and 300 species of birds. You have to pass through Taita Hills to reach Salt Lick.
Taita Hills, while lovely, is more like a boutique hotel, with its lush gardens, swimming pool, hotel-style rooms, and big lobby, than a lodge. Salt Lick… well, Salt Lick is like no other property we’ve stayed at.
I don’t like to think in terms of “once-in-a-lifetime” experiences. It’s an over-used phrase that for some is an excuse to do 30 countries in 20 days or to only visit a place once and while they’re there to race around and tick off a dozen sights. For some travellers though, it’s an experience that is so special it’s like no other, one that perhaps they may never get to experience again, and they’re going to savour it while they can.
For us, Salt Lick falls into the latter category. However, we’d like to think that it was so special that we will return again – and we have a reason to, which we’ll tell you about later.
As lovely as the Sarova Mara was, while we were there we were always hankering to get out on the next game drive, whereas while we were at Salt Lick we would have been quite happy to stay in. Why? Well, at Salt Lick you can enjoy the wildlife from a comfy chair in the lobby, from your dining table at the restaurant, from your seat on the veranda of the bar, and even from your bed!
Cleverly-designed, Salt Lick consists of a main building (the lobby, restaurant and bar) and a row of round two-storey towers on stilts (the accommodation), connected by suspended walkways, offering unparalleled wildlife spotting opportunities no matter where you are.
Elephants, zebras, gazelles, buffaloes, warthogs, monkeys, baboons, and a whole array of birds come to drink, round-the-clock, from either the small moat that separates the lobby from their territory, or a larger waterhole that the property overlooks, which was a little dry during our stay due to the recent drought. Either way, it means you’re going to see animals from some place at the property.
You see the wildlife so often that if you spend a few days here, as we did, you actually become familiar with the animals and their habits, and you even start to recognise some of them, such as the big angry elephant who seemed to think he was the boss of the whole reserve, or the cheeky baboon who climbed through the rails and into the lobby a couple of times.
When you go out on a game drive at Salt Lick you actually wish you didn’t have to leave the property, and when you return you’re glad to see the animals that have become your friends again. When you don’t see the grumpy elephant you start to worry and wonder where he is.
The rooms are comfortable – with quality mosquito nets on rails that easily slip right around the beds, in case you want to leave the window open – with strong fans, tea and coffee-making facilities, and nice bathrooms. At a property like this, we certainly didn’t need a television, but we wondered why there wasn’t a mini-bar so it would have been possible to have a drink in our room with the window open watching the extraordinary entertainment down below.
The bar, on the upper level of the main building, is special, and once you’re there with a glass of white and the phenomenal vistas of the surrounding landscape and wildlife down below, it’s actually hard to leave. It’s also a great place to meet other travellers and swap safari tales – everyone is sociable because they’re excited about being here. And there’s lots of talk of “once in a lifetime” experiences.
The views from the restaurant are also terrific if you’re lucky to snag a table by the window. If you’re intent on enjoying some wildlife watching over dinner, it’s best to book your spot in advance. The staff at the restaurant and bar, like elsewhere on the property, are excellent.
Our only (slight) disappointment was the food, and it wasn’t the quality, which was very good, but more so the variety. At Sarova Mara we enjoyed African, Swahili, Indian, and even Masai specialties. There were too few of these at Salt Lick, with a greater emphasis on European classics. We can appreciate the challenges of pleasing people, especially such diverse groups, but, hey, coming to Salt Lick is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, why not round off a wonderful day of wildlife watching with a local specialty or two? And then a nightcap at the bar?
All of the logistical arrangements for our safaris in Kenya (i.e. flights, transfers, accommodation, safari details, etc) were expertly booked by Agnes of Africa Safari Holidays. If you’re contacting Agnes, let her know that we sent you.
Africa Safari Holidays
+254 (20) 252 6489
Paul Mwai (our driver)
+254 720 55 7821
Sarova Salt Lick Game Lodge
Taita Hills, Tsavo West