Il Ngwesi – The People of Wildlife

I am always bugging Kamal about visiting any new place I hear of and so when he said that we will be going to Il Ngwesi in Laikipia as part of his birthday week celebrations, I was pretty amazed – this was a place I had mentioned to him about 2 years prior after some friends said that it was their favourite place in Kenya.  I was further intrigued to visit when I learned about how the conservancy model had helped bring wildlife back to the area and also how the lodge was the only one of it’s type fully owned and managed by the community.
But I am still intrigued to know how Kamal had remembered that I wanted to visit?  I guess I must give him some credit for listening when I speak.
Il Ngwesi means People of Wildlife in the Maa Language (spoken between the Maasai, Samburu and Rendille communities in Northern Kenya).

Look for the signs at ground level

The Lodge
Il Ngwesi is an eco lodge, superbly designed by Simon du Fresne, with six spacious rooms, each designed to have great views of the surrounding hills and valleys.  It was constructed using only local materials and has won a number of national and international awards.  It also features in the publication ‘Authentic Eco lodges’ (2010) where it is described as ‘one of the most exemplary examples of deadwood architecture in the world’.

One of the meal spots at the lodge!!  Loving the rustic feel

Our Experience
We arrived at the lodge in time for lunch and were warmly welcomed by the lodge manager – James, and his great team.  They briefed us on the details of the lodge and the activities they offered.  It was only at this point that we realised that amongst the great number of activities, we would be able to experience two of our bucket list items on this trip – rhino trekking and sleeping under the stars.  Yup, the conservancy has a fenced area where there are two white rhinos and the lodge has two rooms with open large verandahs for the ultimate star bed experience.
After the briefing, we were shown  our rooms.  We also check out the different areas of the lodge before having lunch by the poolside, which has views to die for – the perfect place to cool down during the heat of the day.

We spent the better part of the afternoon in the main lounge, fascinated by the bird life coming to the beautiful bird bath.

At 4 pm, James the guide (yes, there were two James there), briefed us that we would go for a short walking safari on the dry river bed ending a nice sundowner spot.  The walk was easy and on mostly on flat ground and along the way, James took the time to show us different medicinal plants, explain the fauna and flora and various footprints we found in the lugga.  One of the most interesting parts for me (and this can only come from local knowledge) was when we came across a pile of rocks, now overgrown with plants, and James explained how this represented warriors who had not returned from battles years ago.  We saw footprints of the elusive caracal, leopard and lions along the lugga.  After about 45 minutes we came across a nursery of young reticulated giraffes.  It was pretty spectacular walking amonst them – at one point, I thought there were only about 3 giraffes, slowly to see other emerging.  The walk provided many great photography opportunities for us and it was made even better with James advising us on how to use the fading light to get the best pictures of the area.




Photos from the walking safari!!  Loving the double giraffes!!

The walk ended with a very small uphill climb to the sundowner spot and we relaxed and watched the sun fade away behind the Il Ngwesi Hills.


Dinner was a feast that night, with the chef exceeding our expectations.  We then excitedly walked to our open-air room and got ready to sleep under the stars.  I was worried that it would be cold, but the duvet was warm and the bed super-comfortable making for the most magical experience, with the stars providing the show.

The view of the ‘starbed’ in the morning – still as stunning

Early in the morning, we were woken up by the soothing sounds of the forests.  We enjoyed the open-air shower and after breakfast went to trek the rhinos on foot with the rangers.  This was such an exhilarating experience – at one point, we could both feel our hearts pounding.  After a little trekking and guidance from the rangers who monitor the rhinos, we finally found ourselves approximately 10 meters away from the two white rhinos in the sanctuary.  It was fascinating to see these beautiful creatures at such close range, while on foot.

Up, close and personal with one of the most magnificent creatures on this Earth

After this beautiful experience, we went back to the lodge, sad as always that we had to return to Nairobi, but thoroughly refreshed after the night away.  We had been able to unwind completely and being in this beautiful place provided that much needed rejuvenation for the soul.
Although we were only able to get away for one night, due to the distance to get to Il Ngwesi and to experience the range of activities that are offered at the lodge, we advise that a minimum of 3 nights is required to fully unwind and experience the range of activities that are offered at the lodge.
If you are interested in having this experience, get in touch with us at to book your next trip.

When you travel with us, part of the proceeds go to furthering education for children in Northern Kenya.

“I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery—air, mountains, trees, people. I thought, “This is what it is to be happy.”
Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

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