Voyager Ziwani: Delight in Taveta @HeritageKenya

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My favorite lookout spot

The destination was Voyager Ziwani, a gem in the heart of south Eastern Kenya, and part of the Heritage Hotels group.

Set in the midst of Gicheha Farm, Ziwani is about three hour’s drive from Nairobi, via Emali and Loitokitok, in the heart of Taveta country, and bordering Tsavo West National Park

My favorite lookout spot

Driving off on a clear morning in Nairobi, we enjoyed the smooth ride on the new Mombasa road, and branched off to the clear and wide Loitokitok road. If only all roads in Kenya were built this way (Vision 2030, huh?). We had spent a good hour looking for coffee and tea in the CBD – Oilibya Ngong’ road didn’t have any at that hour, and Capital Center was out of water. Thank God for my trusty old travel mug that I had loaded up with some tea before I left. Everyone else was looking groggy and still sleepy. In the car was Ndeithi (our host), Barbara the photographer, Evans the fellow blogger, Albie the South African photographer and safari guide, and I.

As we drove along, we were warned to be nice to the donkeys on the road as they had seemed to have ears in the wind. The last time a group took a trip down this road (read their story here), they ended up with a broken down car in the middle of the highway, and a day’s wait to fix it. So when we spotted some fine asses crossing the road, we promptly slowed down and let them pass at their own leisure.

Shop at Loitokitok

Driving through Loitokitok, the road seemed endless, but the sights of the farms and a distant Mt. Kilimanjaro kept us busy, and soon enough we drove into Gicheha Farm. The farm is a famed producer for seed maize (yaani mbegu za mahindi, si mahindi ya kula). In addition, they also rear some of the best Dorper goats this side of the world. If you want a goat the size of a calf, this is the place to buy one.

Nani mbuzi? Dorper goats at Gicheha Farm

The staff was exceptional, welcoming us just as the rain came down on us, and ushered us into our rooms, after which we checked into the restaurant for lunch. While it was raining, the sights were spectacular, with the dam just before us providing a soothing rush of water with hippo snorting in its depth, and crocs eyeing you from a far bank. As we took on an evening walk, I quickly established that Albie is an avid birder – little did I know that this was my introduction to birding! Quite fascinating too if you get to learn from someone who knows the birds, their look and sounds quite well. As we walked in to the bush to view hippo in a pool, I remember learning two things:

  • That dragon flies like following humans as we stir up little insects and creatures from the grass for them to eat.
  • And that hippos apparently can’t jump over logs. So if you see one, jump across the biggest log there is, and hope he doesn’t find a way around it before your spindly legs run you far from him.
Dragon fly...

Sitting by the bonfire after dinner, it was quite a pleasant evening swapping safari stories and watching as hippos drifted by. Later on at night, you could hear them as they fed on the shores of the dam and outside the tents.

Day two had us marooned. While we were out on our game drive the car gave up its four-wheeled ghost and had us stuck in what seemed like a baby’s puddle of mud. We tried navigating onto firmer ground, but with the previous night’s rain we were getting nowhere. But we didn’t get bored! We took another walk around the camp, where we went beyond the pool and onto the other side of the dam. There’s plenty of birdlife in this area, especially with a marsh nearby providing the nesting site and security the birds need. From wild Egyptian geese, to dark ducks that I had never seen before, it was quite thrilling.

White-Throated Kingfisher

We had missed taking a trip down to Lake Challa, and Grogan’s Castle. The area is popular for being the scene of some of the World War One’s battles where the Germans and British fought (being right on the border of Kenya and Tanzania). There’s the legend of a German sniper lady who hid in a giant baobab tree and took revenge on the British soldiers after they killed her husband, taking out more than 30 soldiers on her own. Ewan Grogan is the English settler who in a chance to prove his love to Gertrude, embarked on a tour from Cape to Cairo – and he did win her hand! Later on, they went on to set up the Gertrude’s Children’s Hospital.

I plan to be back though!

Sadly we had to leave on day three: the car had been fixed. We did drive through the maize fields of Gicheha farm – amazing how agriculture can be a major economy booster if well managed.

Voyager Ziwani is just one of the hidden gems in this country. With ample and luxurious accommodation, great service and lots of activities to keep you busy, the camp offers you a great choice to get out of town and explore Kenya.

Just remember to be nice to the donkeys.

 (Coming up soon: Trip to Samburu Country)

This guy snorted and had me running! I thought he was coming for me. o_o

How to get there

Drive down to Loitokitok, and continue where the tarmac road ends to Njukini.

From Nairobi, drive 100km to Emali on Nabi-Msa road and turn into Amboseli-Loitokikitok road. Drive 100km to Loitokotok, and 8km to Ilaset. Turn left into Taveta road. Drive 35km on all-weather to Njukini. 14kms from Njukini through Gicheha to the camp.

Accommodation:

Voyager Ziwani offers 25 beautiful earth-colored designer safari tents that have been furnished to provide the classic ambiance of a traditional African camping safari. Fitted with large windows and shade netting to keep the interiors cool and filled with natural light, each tent has a verandah for guests to relax and watch the wildlife against the backdrop of Africa’s tallest mountain – Kilimanjaro.

Activities.

The camp will keep you busy with bird watching, hikes, excursions to the World War II sites, Lake Challa, and more including:

  • Escorted game walks with our experienced naturalists
  • Astronomy with our knowledgeable naturalists
  • Night drives to view grazing hippos and nocturnal game
  • Ranch tour of Gicheha farm including the historic ‘Sniper Tree’
  • Trips to the mystical twin volcanic lakes of Chala and Jipe
  • Visits to the historical tower and tombs of Grogan’s CastleTours of the World War II battlefields on ‘Slaughter Hill’
  • Bush breakfasts and barbecue dinners in our sanctuary
  • Nightly entertainment by Maasai dancersInformative talks and slideshows on local wildlife and culture
  • Childrens’ games and activities with our Adventurers’ and Young Rangers’ Clubs.

Cross over into the Tsavo West National Park, and even drive on to Mombasa.

Voyager Ziwani Road Map. Click to Enlarge

Tips:

Make sure you manually set your phone and other gadgets to your local network, or you will be automatically switched to roaming, given the proximity to the Tanzanian border

 Read more on Voyager Ziwani

Visit the Heritage Hotels‘ Website for more

For amazing photographs, check out Barbara Minishi’s work, and Albie Venter’s work.

  • Pingback: Endless Ribbon of Time: Samburu with @HeritageKenya | | A Kenyan GirlA Kenyan Girl()

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    Oyindo

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  • Kindly we are preparing for mombasa international show and am just informing you as key stakeholder.

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    • Naomi Mutua

      Hi. I do not rear goats… so maybe you need to direct your info to Gicheha farm?

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  • Kindly notify me of the progress. show will be 28th august to 1st sept 2013

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