If you're going on a Kenya safari, consider making The Emakoko safari lodge your first stop after arriving in Nairobi. It's close to the airport, so you'll be able to settle in after your flight quickly, and there are lots to see and do.
The proximity to the city, the vast number of animals, and the excellence of the lodge make it the best choice for your first stop on a Kenya safari.
Read on for my review of the Emakoko and practical tips for your trip.
Getting to the Emakoko lodge in Nairobi
After 22 hours, two flights from Bali to Nairobi in Kenya and a 3 hours delay, I felt drained after arriving. But not for long...
I got picked up from the airport in an Emokoko branded safari car. In only 15 minutes, we were in the Nairobi National Park, and the adventure began. I'd forgotten how it feels on day one of a safari. Invigorated and excited, looking for animals in their natural environment.
We first came across a group of antelopes, zebras, and even rhinoceros! What an excellent airport transfer.
The "airport transfer" lasted 3 hours as it merged into a sunset game drive. The sunset was awe-inspiring!
TIP: If you are transferring from Nairobi International Airport to Wilson Airport, where most of the small safari planes depart, you might save time by going through the park. It can sometimes take 3 hours to transfer between those two airports due to traffic.
TIP: Be sure to time your trip to Nairobi carefully. There is usually less traffic on the weekend. The worst day for traffic is Friday, so avoid traveling through Nairobi on that day if you can.
Review of the resort and the food at Emakoko lodge
The resort has a great safari vibe. There is a large lounge at the center of the resort that looks very cozy, with plush sofas and cushions. The dining room is adjacent to the bar, and all the food is made fresh for every meal. Breakfast is served hot and crispy, and it was a great start to the day. According to some locals, the food served at Emakoko is some of the best found in the whole of Nairobi. Based on my experience, I would agree. We ate very well, and the chef was also very attentive to my dietary requirements, providing alternate meals when needed.
The lodge encourages its guests to come for sundowner drinks before dinner. That was great because some wild cats and bushbabies would come over to get food near the bar at that time. Sitting with a cocktail at sunset was an immense opportunity to watch these animals up close.
Review of the rooms at Emakoko lodge
There are 10 rooms in total at the lodge. Five bedrooms are on the lower part of the resort, and the other five are higher on the hill, with the most amazing scenic views. You access those rooms via a custom lift that is an adventure in itself. The rooms provide complete privacy for guests and have a beautiful view of the nearby savannah and river. Every room has its own personal veranda space, which is the perfect spot to relax and enjoy the spectacular scenery. The rooms have a beautiful open layout. They each have a double-sized bed and beautiful curtains on every window.
The rooms have built-in fireplaces that can keep the room warm and cozy in the winter. Unfortunately, it was too warm when we were there, so we didn’t get to try the open fire... The rooms have soft rugs, a coffee table, and a couch.
The bathrooms are big and incredibly lavish, and the rooms all have little extras like comfortable white cotton robes, slippers, a hairdryer, and torch.
All the rooms are also equipped with a safe. They are very comfortable, and amazingly, I found very few insects. No spiders at all, and just a small mosquito during my second night.
The game drives in the Nairobi National Park
Most people will agree that game drives are the most essential element of a safari, and the Emakoko didn't disappoint. The Nairobi National Park might not have as many animals as the Masai Mara, or the beautiful vistas that you can see at Lewa Conservancy, but it is definitively a great park with plenty to see.
The Emakoko has direct access to Nairobi National Park, which allows the guests to enjoy a wildlife experience during their stay at the resort. The resort has four Land Cruisers and professional guides, for a great safari experience. The Land Cruisers are comfortable, with only 2 rows of seats and an open roof. This gave us an excellent view of whatever animals were passing by all around us.
TIP: The car was equipped with charging sockets: always useful if you need to recharge your camera mid-drive. Emakoko also provides binoculars in the car.
The park has a massive population of healthy rhinoceros and hippos. We saw eight rhinos, black and white, and we even spent some time with rhinos that were mating right next to the road! It was breathtaking.
It is mindblowing to encounter so many animals so close to the city. You can see large groups of buffalo, zebras, and antelopes, with Nairobi’s skyscrapers in the background. This is truly unique, and it's an excellent example of cohabitation between humans and wildlife. The park has plenty of animals but has no elephants, and we didn’t see any lions or other big cats.
We found a few crocodiles by a lake with hundreds of birds. One of the birds was a bit cheeky as he took a bite from the crocodile's tail.
The sunset on day two was again wonderful and the day appeared too short. We saw a few jackals and buffalo's on the way back to the Emakoko lodge. Hard to believe that all this happened so close to the center of Nairobi.
Visiting the Elephant Sanctuary and the Giraffe Center in Nairobi
We also went to the Elephant Sanctuary and the Giraffe center.
The Elephant sanctuary was not a pleasant experience and I wished I had stayed in the Nairobi national park instead. There must have been over 300 people there and we could not see anything. The organization has a good mission and the baby elephants are cute but it was an unpleasant experience. It was so hot and crowded that we left after 10 minutes.
TIP: You can see plenty of baby elephants in the Masai Mara without the crowd so if you go there, you might want to skip the elephant center and maybe just make a donation if you want to support their mission.
The giraffe center was fun. It was busy but a lot less crowded. We could feed giraffes. One of them tried to give me a kiss!
The Emakoko price and booking
A night at the Emakoko costs about 550 USD per person. This price includes all food, drinks. It includes the game drives ( with a fully stocked minibar :-) ) and the airport transfer. It also included the transport to the Giraffe center and elephant sanctuary but not the entrance fees.
To book, you can contact Emakoko directly or you can book via Bush and Beyond. Bush and Beyond is a safari organizer in Kenya that specializes in Luxury boutique lodges. Most of them are family-owned and provide an authentic experience of Kenya. They booked our Kenya trip and the whole organization was flawless so I highly recommend them for your safari in Kenya. You can find more info on their website.
The Emakoko Lodge is a great first stop on a Kenya safari. Depending on your flight times, I recommend spending one or two nights at the lodge. It is the best way to start your safari because you'll be experiencing the unique wildlife and landscape within 15 minutes of leaving the airport. The accommodation is super comfortable, the food is excellent and the service friendly. Happy Safari!