When Sarova Hotels ended their long-standing affiliation with Taita Hills and Salt Lick Lodges on the 01st of July this year, did the owners, Taita Hills and Salt Lick Wildlife Resort Limited, waste no time and began to immediately inject a new lease on life into not just the two prime safari properties but also into the 28.000 acres large Taita Hills Wildlife Sanctuary. This exercise did not stop at a rebranding but included refurbishments of the lodges as well as the sanctuary itself.
New interactive websites have been created and launched and are now available on the web.
The owners have already regraded some 200 kilometres of sanctuary roads and tracks and more work is ongoing, to allow guests staying at the two lodges exciting game drives and encounters with up to one thousands buffaloes presently on the sanctuary, hundreds of elephants, plains game and of course predators like lions, leopards, hyenas and others.
A large scale reforestation project has been launched with the aim to support the biodiversity of the sanctuary, which is also renowned for a superb bird watching experience. Visitors staying at either of the two lodges can take advantage of night game drives, escorted nature walks and other activities such as sundowners, bush breakfasts and bush dinners, available at prime locations in the sanctuary. Entrance fees into the sanctuary have on a broad basis been reduced and are valid until the end of the low season 2021, i.e. until the 30th of June next year.
Kenya’s tourism industry has been hard hit by the #COVID19 pandemic but domestic tourism has picked up already since lockdown restrictions on Nairobi and Mombasa counties have been lifted and domestic air travel resumed on the 15th of July. Visitors to the two lodges can also take advantage of the SGR trains which stop at Voi station, coming from both Nairobi and Mombasa, and from there arrange for a pick up by the Taita Hills Safari Resort & Spa. International scheduled passenger flights are resuming on the 01st of August and besides national airline, Kenya Airways has British Airways, KLM, Air France and Qatar Airways already announced a return to Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.
It is in the light of these developments that it is all the more remarkable that the owning company has decided to invest big time into the two lodges and the sanctuary in preparation of tourists returning to the country and offer an all-new experience, instead of subjecting guests to the same old same old which many others do.
The location, now accessible from both Nairobi and Mombasa by all tarmac highway – the new Voi to Taveta road passes very close to the sanctuary entrance – has never been as easy to reach and an entirely new driving experience awaits guests who in the past had to battle with the bad road between Voi and the sanctuary and between the sanctuary towards Taveta.
Of course are the two lodges now operating under the ‘New Normal‘ regime and have been cleared by Kenyan authorities after implementing the new health and safety guidelines.
Notably, does a small museum exist at Taita Hills, displaying maps, pictures and artefacts found in the wider area between the lodge and the town of Taveta, established by General Manager Willy Mwadilo a few years ago.
During World War I, was this part of the then Kenyan colony a hotbed of activity between the German troops out of then Tanganyika led by General von Lettow Vorbeck and the allied troops assembled on the Kenyan side. ATCNews had between 2012 and 2018 published a series of articles under the heading ‘Battlefield East Africa‘, paying tribute to the fallen and sharing the history of this part of Kenya with readers.
Tours to some of the sites can be arranged on request for visitors who come to this part of Kenya not just to enjoy great hospitality and superb game viewing but who also want to delve a little deeper into the history and see the sites where German and Allied troops fought over 100 years ago.
A former General Manager of the two lodges, when they still belonged to Hilton Hotels in the 1970s and into the 1980s, James G. Willson Esq. in fact around the same time ATCNews published the article series, went a step further and wrote an entire book about the involvement of East Africa in World War I which provides an immense collection of information and details about the campaign, titled ‘Guerillas of Tsavo‘.
Bwana James, in fact, proved to be the driving force behind the commemorations of the start and end of the war in 2014 and 2018 respectively and for bringing together at the time the former foes that stood together when the memorial services were held.
Dr Prof Wolfgang the writer is now retired after over 40 years of hands-on work in the tourism, aviation and conservation fields in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, covering all aspects of safari operations, hotel operations and air operations.