When we first met owner John Elias and learned that he was originally from the UK, we asked him what he thought about living in Laikipia. His answer has remained with us ever since. "When I go back [to Europe], I go out to nice restaurants, go see shows, get my fill of that kind of civilization," he said. "But this is actually more civilized."
His response had nothing to do with the hotel - he was talking about the surrounding Maasai villages, a community that he supports with the proceeds of his property. When John and his wife Gill came to the area, they funded and built the lodge, then donated it to the community. Now, when a guest spends the night, a portion of the rate goes directly into a community fund. In each of the last four years, Elias has raised over $400,000.
And the good-hearted nature goes beyond money. While he understands guests come for a safari and some relaxation, he organizes and encourages them to visit the local schools and hospitals that their bed fees are supporting. Typically, guests are overwhelmed by the experience and the awareness that they gain, and often make additional donations, he said. In this, the team at Ol Lentille attempts to balance a three-legged approach of conservation, economic development, and community development along with its aspects of leisure travel.
The property has 14 beds across four houses, a pool, library, and spa. Each house is fully staffed with its own team, and features common rooms with dining areas, hot/cold tubs, outside seating, and fireplaces.
The interior of the rooms differs slighty as each is unique, but the common amenities include a door-less shower, private bath tubs (some inside, some outside), high ceilings, and large windows. There's a lot of detail put into the design, from the towel racks made of spears to the tribal decor and paintings that grace the walls.
We liked this camp for its beauty and luxury, but it was the community and charitable aspects of the property that made us fall in love. Often times, tourism ends up sucking money and resources away form local communities, so when you find one that is truly giving back, it's a special experience. If you're going to spend your money in Laikipia, a stay at Ol Lentille ensures that your dollar goes well beyond a safari and essentially doubles as a donation to charity. When it comes to the reasons people visit Kenya, the two most common are safaris and mission work. The beauty of a stay at Ol Lentille is that is accomplishes both.
Rates start at $925/night and include accommodations, food, wines, beers, game drives, bush picnics, sundowners, bush dinners, star walks, camel treks, mountain and quad biking, conservation and community work, and spa treatments.
[Photos: Will McGough]