My Sarova Experience (Taita Hills Edition)

You know that saying, “if something is meant to be, it will be”? Oh don’t I know it too well. Even I couldn’t sabotage it despite coming really close to doing so.

So Friday morning at 8.05 a.m. to be exact, I get a phone call from a friend and fellow photographer, Lyra, asking me to check my spam folder for an email I had been expecting for the past 3 days. You see, Lyra was meant to go on a trip to Taita Hills to experience one of the many Sarova hotels around the country. Unfortunately, she had another commitment during the same period and so she passed the offer down to me. Who am I to say no to an out-of-town-all-expenses-paid-3-day trip?

And may I add that it came at just the right time as I had been meaning to get away for thee longest, because sometimes in life you just need to.

Let me tell you, spam folders are the devil’s doing. That is where the email I had been waiting for all this time was hiding. Smh!

According to the email, the bus was scheduled to depart at 6.30 a.m. God really wanted me on that trip because we ended up leaving at 9 a.m. instead.

Can you believe that I showered, dressed, packed and took a boda-boda to the meeting point, all in a record 20 minutes? Yes, I am ninja like that.

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Directions of Sarova Taita Hills Lodge from Nairobi.

 

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A Nakumatt branch in Emali town. The perfect stopover point if you want to grab some personal effects and even food.

There was so much amazing scenery to see along the way. From the Mua Hills in Machakos County to the 609-km ongoing Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) construction spanning across the country to the sisal farms in Kibwezi, up to the Taita Hills in Taita-Taveta County. Kenya is truly blessed.

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Sisal farms in Kibwezi.

After numerous stops along the way we were finally at the end of our 400 km journey.

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The sign board from the main road directing you to the Sarova Taita Hills Lodge and Sarova Salt Lick which is within the Sanctuary.
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Sarova Taita Hills Lodge. This is where one checks in first upon arrival, if you are staying either at the lodge, or at Sarova Salt Lick.

After checking in at Sarova Taita Hills Lodge, we made our way to Sarova Salt Lick where we would be staying for 1 night. The latter is located within the Taita Hills Wildlife Sanctuary, and is about 7 kms from the lodge.

When I tell that I have never been to or seen such a splendorous place, I really mean it. I had checked out the place on the Sarova website and was in awe but seeing it in person just made my mouth drop even further. GAH!!

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A side view of Sarova Salt Lick. Wild animals such as elephants frequent the hotel for water, every evening and early morning. Quite the sight to behold.

By the way, not to brag but this was my view during dinner *pure bliss* :-D.

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An elephant goes in for some water at the foot of Sarova Salt Lick hotel. Elephants drink up to 200 litres of water every day.

I thought I had seen it all… until we accessed the underground tunnel, still within Sarova Salt Lick. Goodness gracious!

There are windows at the end of the tunnel where you can get really close to the wild animals and see them drinking water a stone-throw away. Also, because you are literally on ground level, you can spot snakes slithering by. How cool is that?

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An underground tunnel within Sarova Salt Lick. Here one gets a different perspective of the wild animals while they drink water from the watering holes surrounding the hotel, and even spot a few snakes slithering by.

That was so much to experience in one evening, I could not wait to see what more they had to offer during our stay there.

A trip to a wildlife sanctuary is incomplete if you do not go on several game drives. The best times to go on game drive would have to be early morning and evening hours. That is when the animals are on the move and the light… ooooohh the golden light… is just right.

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A game drive is A MUST when you visit any wildlife sanctuary. And if you do it with one those land rovers mostly driven by the rangers at the parks or sanctuaries the better.

This must have made my top 10 highlights of the entire trip. We had just come from a visit to some of the World War I sites within the sanctuary, i.e. Mile 27 and Mwashoti, and were headed to our evening game drive, which was to be our final game drive *sobs*, when we came across numerous herds of cape buffaloes.

They were slowly making their way across the sanctuary when we appeared. I think they got spooked by the land-rover and bus engines because what was once an orderly movement turned chaotic within seconds, to the point where we witnessed two calves get trampled down by the bigger buffaloes, in an attempt to “run for their lives”. Nonetheless that made for a sight to behold because the clouds of dust that filled the air mixed with the golden light, in turn made the buffaloes appear as silhouettes. I know the photographers can relate :-D.

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Mile 27 is one of the sites within the Taita Hills Wildlife Sanctuary, where World War I took place, from 1914 to 1918.

 

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Herds of cape buffaloes crossing to the other side of the sanctuary.
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Rothschild’s giraffes munching away on some leaves from acacia trees near Sarova Salt Lick.

We also managed to spot a couple of lions and lionesses, but they were too lazy to get closer to us. Even the 18-135 mm lens could not come to my rescue.

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A lion relaxes in the distance on a giant ant-hill, behind the fallen massive dried up tree in the foreground.

Can you believe that the only thing separating us and the zebras at the watering hole was a hedge? Mind you the hedge did not go all the way round. No sir! So if they wanted to come say hello they would do it with so much ease.

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Harems of zebras at a watering hole near Sarova Taita Hills Lodge.

I got to experience both Sarova Salt Lick and Sarova Taita Hills Lodge and boy weren’t both places just AMAZING!!

I especially loved the nitty-grity details in  my room at the Sarova Taita Hills Lodge. From the African-mask portraits on the bedding and the curtains to the general ambience. It felt like home because of the personal touch that went into decorating the place.

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Beauty in the details. The colours, the arrangement, the creative thought process behind it all… Simply brilliant.
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For the book lovers, this little corner comes in handy when you just want to get lost in another world altogether.

On the last day, a few of us had planned to go for an early morning swim. I was very much exhausted since I had not gotten much sleep since we arrived. (There was no time for sleep with all those things to experience anyway :-D.)

My alarm rang at exactly 6.30 a.m. I wasn’t feeling like getting up but something told me to step outside my room.

LO AND BEHOLD! The mother of all sunrises awaited me. You should have seen how fast I ran for my camera. There was no way I was not going to capture that beauty. Another one of my highlights right there.

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The golden light as the sun rises makes everything extra beautiful.

After being blessed with all that magnificence, we hit the water.

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Morning time, afternoon time or evening time, every time is swimming time.

As I come to the end of reminiscing on those last amazing 3 days of my life, I am back to reality in Nairobi, wishing I was in the Taita Hills Wildlife Sanctuary right now. *Somebody take me back please?*

PS, there is a great offer running at the moment, up until 21st December, kshs. 5,500 per person sharing. Did I mention that that is full-board?? Yup! You better believe it.

Anybody going down I would be more than happy to accompany you :-).

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