Treetops Lodge, Kenya
Our first introduction was to be driven to a grand ex-colonial Governor’s house in a nearby village, where we were greeted with iced tea and asked to wait in a drawing room filled with old photos of the Lodge throughout its history. Here we checked in and received a small talk on what to expect. It was explained that the all-wooden Lodge is built up on stilts, it is not actually a treehouse, and the structure has been in place longer than any local animals have been alive, and so they are completely accustomed and unperturbed by its towering presence on the landscape beside a large watering hole. We were excited to see it and boarded a bus.
Following a short journey, we arrived at the Lodge and were ushered quickly and quietly inside. This is not a luxury Hotel. Everything is basic and it feels like possibly nothing has changed here in 100 years. Our cabin, one of around 30, was really no larger than an average Irish box room but the view from the window was incredible. When we arrived through a secret passage at the back of the Lodge, there were about 20 elephants out the front and we now had a great view from our window. Each room has a buzzer too, so that at night if there is any exciting activity at the watering hole, the buzzer sounds and flashes red to alert you to go to the viewing area on the roof. Of course you can turn this off, but we didn’t and it was so exciting at 3 a.m. to awake and then, wrapped in blankets and clutching hot chocolate, we watched a group of hyenas skulking around the watering hole. Stephen, the guide on night duty told us that he thought there might be a rhino around, and sure enough, after a little while our patience was rewarded with a fantastic full view of a wonderful black rhino, cautiously drinking and looking around for danger. It really was like watching your own live David Attenborough documentary.
The highlight for me though was having a real up close and personal viewing of the elephant family. Although the lodge is on stilts, there is a little windowless ground level bunker and at the front of this room they have cut ta few letterbox-size viewing holes at various heights. This meant that we got to be just centimetres away from the elephants! It was really fun to spy on them without bothering them at all, and I must have stayed there for hours because we arrived just after lunch and I remember them calling us to get ready for dinner. It was absolutely fascinating to see how the generations of elephants interacted with one another, in a way very similar to humans.
Treetops Lodge has a very special atmosphere and the animals seem to live in such tranquillity, it is a very inspiring place.