Ol Malo Lodge is the ultimate private safari camp. With only four rooms sharing 5000 acres of private conservancy, you are unlikely to see another car while on a game drive. Get ready for a sophisticated and bespoke experience. Unlike other camps, there is no schedule for visiting the park. You do what you want when you want to. Each luxurious bungalow has its own full-time guide and private vehicle, so every guest can tailor their own adventure.
Getting to Ol Malo Lodge
Ol Malo is located north of Mount Kenya. It is a very remote area occupied by nomadic tribes. Ol Malo has their own landing strip, but you'll need to book your own private plane to fly in, as they don't have regularly-scheduled flights. We were staying at Lewa House before heading to Ol Malo, and we were easily able to get a private plane. It is a very short plane ride, so those two lodges are an excellent combination for your safari itinerary. Here's a review of our stay at Lewa House. It took us about 20 minutes to arrive. The plane was tiny, with space for three people plus the pilot. I got to sit next to the pilot and felt as if I were piloting the plane myself. It was a fun and very scenic ride!
Once you land, it's only a five-minute drive to the Ol Malo Lodge.
Alternately, if you don’t want to ride in a small private plane, you can fly to Loisoba airstrip. They have a direct flight from Wilson Airport in Nairobi. The Loisoba airstrip is a 40-minute scenic drive from Ol Malo lodge, and the flight time is approximately one hour.
Bush & Beyond, the travel agent that books Ol Malo, can help you organize all your plane transfers.
Review of the rooms at Ol Malo lodge
Ol Malo Lodge has only four bedrooms, making it a very intimate camp. The rooms are super impressive and would put most luxury hotels to shame.
I was staying in room number 3, near the swimming pool. It is a massive suite with two floors. There is a personal veranda near the entrance.
The bedroom is located upstairs and has large windows facing the cliff. The view is breathtaking!
There is a watering hole down below, where we saw many animals like elephants or zebra going for a drink. The room is designed with a lot of natural materials like stone and wood. The attention to details is astonishing.
Tip: A leopard can often be seen in the early morning in the tree near the watering hole, so be sure to look as soon as you wake up. We saw it on our third day!
The bed is enormous and comfortable.
The bathroom is remarkable, with a stone bathtub and another huge glass window opening up to the cliff view.
But if you like baths, you will be enchanted by the outdoor heart-shaped tub!
There is electricity and hot water 24 hours a day thanks to solar panels. There's nothing better than a relaxing bath after a safari trip.
Tip: Taking a bubble bath while watching all the animals down below is an unforgettable moment. I felt like I could have stayed in that bathtub forever!
Activities at Ol Malo Lodge
Ol Malo is such a bespoke experience that there is no schedule here.
You can do what you want when you want it. The Lodge has 70 people on staff for only their four rooms, so you'll feel totally pampered.
If you want to relax, there is a beautiful infinity pool overlooking the cliff. They also have a small spa with massage therapists available.
If you feel like doing something active, you can choose from game rides in their comfortable land rovers, guided walks through the savannah, horseback riding, camel riding, mountain biking, visiting the nearby villages, and more.
We arrived at Ol Malo in our small private plane. Meg, the host, came to welcome us at the landing strip. She drove us to the lodge, offered us a relaxing and refreshing drink, and outlined all the activities that we could do.
Tip: don’t miss the Ol Malo shop. They have a craft program supporting local villagers, and you can find many of their exquisite objects there. I bought a few decorative items.
Morning hike through the savannah
After almost a week of safari drives, this was our first chance to walk through the savannah. We met our guide, Laban, who is from the area. You do see things very differently when walking. it is your chance to see the smaller things. You can also fully hear the sounds of nature.
Our guide was great at explaining the behaviors of ants and termites and how they live in symbiosis with their host trees. We did the hike just before lunch, and it was hot. I was happy to jump into the pool to refresh upon our return to Ol Malo.
We even saw two crowned cranes while walking
Evening game drive
Before sunset on our first day at Ol Malo, we went for a game drive. We could see a massive group of elephants from our veranda, so we went looking for it.
The Ol Malo car is super comfortable. It only has two rows of seats, so it offers plenty of legroom for tall people. I loved sitting on the roof. It is not for the faint-hearted, but you can see the fantastic landscape of the Ol Malo conservancy in the best possible way.
A Hike and a Camel Ride
This was our big adventure day, combining a hike, a camel ride, and a game drive. We started early, by walking down the cliff to the water hole. The drop off just below the camp looks impressive, but Ol Malo has built steps, so it is a relatively easy walk down.
We walked through the beautiful landscape, a mix of savannah, sharp cliffs, and river. At one point, we came face-to-face with an elephant and some buffalo. I was happy to have our two guides with us, one of them carrying a machine gun.
We tend to be the most afraid of lions and leopards, but the animals that kill the most humans in Africa are actually hippopotamus and buffalo. Needless to say, we took a short detour when we came across the buffalo.
They brought some camels to meet us on the way, and we rode them for about 30 minutes. Riding a camel offers a totally different perspective. It is tranquil and provides a high viewpoint. I also think animals might be less afraid of camels than cars, so they don’t move away as fast. The path going down was quite an adrenaline rush, as the camel could sometimes go down quickly.
TIP: when riding a camel, try to be as loose and relaxed as possible. I was quite tense, and I made it harder than it should have been.
Ol Malo Bush breakfast
After enjoying the fantastic view from our camels, we started walking again. We were surprised to see that Ol Malo had set up a camp in the bush where they prepared a fantastic breakfast. There were fruits and cereals, along with a full English breakfast.
It was unexpected but very welcomed as we had left for the hike early. Andrew, the owner of Ol Malo, came to join us and shared incredible local stories.
We ate, talked and ate some more, watching the beautiful view, and realized it was almost lunchtime!
What an incredible morning! We felt very much alive.
Visiting a Sumburu tribe
Ol Malo does a lot to support the local population. Ol Malo has an ONG that operates a local school and provides employment opportunities to the nomadic Sumburu woman.
As a result, Ol Malo guests often get invited to local ceremonies. Those are very different from the touristic village visits that you can find in other parts of Kenya.
We were lucky to be invited to a dancing celebration by a Sumburu tribe. The villagers were celebrating some of the boys coming of age.
Don't miss the celebration if there is one happening while you are there. It was humbling to witness how simply they live. There is no water or electricity in the village. The village was super clean. We have a lot to learn from them about how to use less plastic and produce less trash.
Watching a leopard at the water hole
As we headed out to breakfast on our last day, our guide Laban showed us a leopard in a tree near the water hole. We could see it with binoculars from the Lodge's dining area, but we decided to get closer. We walked down the path as silently as we could to avoid scaring the leopard away. (Walking up and down this cliff is a great way to get your morning work-out!) It was amazing to witness this incredible animal eating an antelope up in his tree. Such a priceless moment.
We then walked back up the cliff for breakfast. (Up is much harder than down, and Ol Malo is located at the top of a plateau almost 2000 meters high. If you are not used to the altitude, you will get out of breath very quickly.)
The Food at Ol Malo Lodge
The food at Ol Malo Lodge is incredibly tasty. They have a fantastic cook. Most of the food is home-grown. They even grow and roast their own coffee and have hives for honey.
All the meals are taken family-style. There were two other guests during our stay. We were also often joined by Andrew and Tulia, who own Ol Malo lodge, as well as Meg and Rob, our hosts. This made for fascinating discussions, sharing the tales of the day, talking about Africa, or world politics.
Perhaps one of the most distinct experiences at the lodge is the Boma aperitif, an ancient African tradition. When we came back from the local village, they had set up a campfire. The chef prepared a buffet of barbecued meats and local delicacies. The fresh meat was so delicious. Waygu beef should watch out! It was a candlelit affair, where we even got to try the local cocktail made of lime and honey.
Internet at Ol Malo Lodge
Ol Malo has an internet connection. The router is set up in a small dark room at the back of the lodge and using it almost felt like being punished. There was no internet in the bedroom or the rest of the lodge.
My Airtel sim card was not working at Ol Malo, but people on Safaricom had a bit of network. So if you are visiting Ol Malo and want connection, get a Safaricom sim card.
Preparing for Your Trip
How much money should you bring on a Kenya safari?
If you stay in a luxury camp, you don’t need much cash at all, as everything is included. Ol Malo includes all meals and activities (except for the helicopter ride). Laundry is also included. Local and standard drinks are included, but if you want premium wines or alcohol, you will need to pay extra.
You should also bring some cash to shop at the boutique. This supports local women, and they had beautiful crafts objects.
The currency of Kenya is the Kenya shilling, but we found that the US dollars were widely accepted everywhere, so Kenya shillings are not really necessary.
How much should you tip on a Kenya Safari?
It is customary to leave 10-15 USD per day per person for your guides.
Lodges often have a community jar for their staff. Leaving 10-20 USD per day per person who assists you will also be appreciated, especially at lodges like Ol Malo that have over 70 employees.
What to pack on a Kenya Safari?
Beware that the weight of luggage is limit is 15 kg per person on most small planes, so you need to pack light. Most camps (including Ol Malo) offer free 24-hour laundry service, so you don’t need that many clothes.
Warm clothes: the weather can be surprisingly cold during the early morning or sunset drives, so bring warm clothes. I had brought shorts but ended up not using them because it was too cold. Bring layers so that you can adjust throughout the day.
Suncream: Most of the cars are open, and you will get some sun during the day. You might also want to bring a hat.
Mosquito repellent: There are not too many mosquitoes, but when you have one buzzing around you in the middle of the night, you will be happy to have that bottle of mosquito repellent.
Binoculars: Binoculars are handy for observing animals from far away, whether you're on foot or in a car.
Camera: There will be so many incredible moments that you will want to capture them. I ended up using my 200mm zoom lens most of the time.
TIP: be careful about changing your camera lens during a game drive. It can be very dusty, so protect your camera so that no dust can find its way inside your camera body or lenses.
When is the best time to visit Old Malo Lodge?
The high season is June to September. June to September is usually the dry season in Ol Malo and most of Kenya’s safaris. There are typically clear skies during the dry season, and the weather is a bit more cold, allowing you to hike more comfortably for most of the stay.
The sky was clear during our trip, and we could see Mount Kenya in the distance.
As the land begins to dry up, it is also easier to see the animals. Not only do they congregate around the water sources, but the grasses are shorter, so they are easier to spot.
January and February are also decent months to travel as it is often dry then as well. Those months also see a high number of migratory birds.
There are two wet seasons in Kenya: A shorter one from October-November and the big one, which is February-June. Thunderstorms are frequent. The sky is overcast, and you can be trapped in consecutive days of rain. The animals are harder to spot. On the plus side, rates are often lower during the rainy seasons.
This is the ultimate bespoke safari experience. You might not see as many animals as in the Masai Mara, but you won't see another tourist either. The unique activities like hikes, camel rides, or helicopter rides, combined with the fantastic accommodation, food, and service, will leave you awestruck and pampered. You can rest assured that your tourism dollars will go to locals who are passionate about preserving their heritage and sustaining the natural habitat of their land. This is a unique experience. Don’t miss it.
To book your trip at Ol Malo Lodge, contact Bush and Beyond, a travel agent specializing in bespoke luxury safaris in Kenya.