ol Donyo Lodge: About

Located in Chyulu Hills, Kenya

Near Kenya's southeastern border, the rippling Chyulu Hills give way to wide-open plains, and mighty Mount Kilimanjaro towers on the horizon. On a hillside that rises above this arresting scene is ol Donyo, a collection of thatched bungalows perfectly positioned to take in stunning natural displays. While the views from ol Donyo are grand, the lodge's seclusion amid the Chyulu foothills presents guests with a rare opportunity to be immersed in the Kenyan wilderness. On game drives, bush walks, and horseback safaris, you’ll have the land and its creatures to yourself. And when you're not out exploring—whether you're perched on your veranda watching elephant bulls drink at the nearby watering hole or gazing at the night sky from your open-air “star bed”—the magic of East Africa is always in the air.

Highlights

  • Go on safari in a variety of ways—by vehicle, on foot, riding horseback, or after dark.
  • Bike alongside giraffes and other wildlife, pedaling across the savanna to Seduction Rock for sundowner cocktails with views of Mount Kilimanjaro.
  • Watch large-tusked elephants drink from the lodge watering hole, getting up-close views from the nearby “log-pile hide” viewing perch.
  • Descend into the volcanic caverns of the Chyulu Hills to explore the world’s second longest underground lava tube.
  • Fall asleep under the twinkling night sky in the comfort of your rooftop star bed.

Why We Love This Lodge

When safari legend and conservationist Richard Bonham hiked to this ridge with Maasai friends in the mid-1980s, he knew he would build a cottage here. Soon Bonham was deeply involved in the welfare of the local Maasai communities and the wildlife that share their space. Enter National Geographic Explorers-at-Large Beverly and Dereck Joubert, the conservationists and filmmakers behind Great Plains Conservation. In 2008, they replaced Bonham's basic buildings with exquisite bungalows designed to celebrate every part of this place, from the stars to the savanna below.

Great Plains Conservation specializes in “conservation tourism,” an economic model in which local people have a stake in protecting the lands they inhabit—and protecting wildlife from poachers. Ol Donyo is located within a community "ranch" owned by 4,000 Maasai, who lease the land to the lodge owners. The Chyulu Hills present an ideal ecosystem for conservation tourism, as the surrounding savanna is home to some of Africa’s largest herds of free-roaming, large-tusked elephants. With programs in place to protect these herds, ol Donyo provides guests with an amazing opportunity to observe elephants in their natural habitat while contributing to the preservation of these magnificent animals.

Lodge Features

  • Eight thatch-roof suites with sweeping views over the African savanna to Mount Kilimanjaro
  • Lounge areas surrounding a large stone fireplace and open-air bar
  • Expansive veranda at the main lodge and private verandas in each suite
  • Stunning indoor and outdoor dining areas
  • Log-pile hide viewing perch alongside animal watering hole
  • Outdoor campfire
  • Large infinity pool at the main lodge and private plunge pools at each bungalow
  • Library and adjoining office with computer
  • Curio shop with a selection of local arts and crafts
  • In-room massage services
  • Free Wi-fi in the library
  • A range of activities designed for families traveling with children

National Geographic Exclusive

Each of our lodges has created a special complimentary experience offered exclusively to guests who visit through a National Geographic Expedition. At ol Donyo Lodge, National Geographic guests are invited to set out with a guide on an exclusive morning horseback ride into the bush. Observe wildlife and take in magnificent views on the way to a picturesque acacia tree, where a delicious breakfast awaits.

Awards and Recognitions

  • The Safari Awards, Best Ecologically Responsible Property, Finalist, 2015
  • Travel + Leisure, World’s Best for Service, Africa and the Middle East, 4th Place, 2012
  • Travel + Leisure, Reader’s Choice Top Hotels, World’s Top Hotel, 2nd Place, 2012
  • Robb Report, Top 100 Resorts, 2012

Photos From Our Lodges and Travelers

A Note About Travel to Kenya

Please note that there is a US Department of State Level 2 advisory currently in effect for Nairobi, Kenya. See travel.state.gov for more information.

Go with Nat Geo

  • Customize a Trip

    Want to plan the trip of your dreams? Create a custom trip around this lodge.

    LEARN MORE
  • Private Expeditions

    See a specially crafted National Geographic itinerary featuring this lodge.

    VIEW PRIVATE EXPEDITIONS

SHARE THIS WITH FRIENDS AND FAMILY