Go Back  Fodor's Travel Talk Forums > Destinations > Africa & the Middle East
Reload this Page >

Hot Valentines Weekend at Little Shompole – Magadi, Kenya

Hot Valentines Weekend at Little Shompole – Magadi, Kenya

Feb 18th, 2010, 05:32 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 290
Hot Valentines Weekend at Little Shompole – Magadi, Kenya

Hot Valentines Weekend at Little Shompole – Magadi, Kenya

Hot is an understatement. What a weekend it was. The daytime temperature was around 38 degree’s Celsius and the evenings did not get cooler then 25 degree’s Celsius. And what a hot lodge they have built.

On the Shompole Community Conservancy, designer Anthony Russell has created 4 little pieces of heaven. The original lodge was Shompole which has 6 rooms. Then he built Little Shompole which is a private retreat with two suites. Then Shompole House and eventually 360 House.

We left Nairobi by private charter (Cesena 206) with East African Air Charters at around 10:15 am (there was a lot of traffic at Nairobi’s Wilson Airport, so it took a while to get clearance). After a scenic 40 minute flight over the suburbs of Nairobi, past the Ngong Hills, over the rift valley, over Lake Magadi, we started our decent into Shompole airstrip and landed on a flood plain. We were met at the strip by our guide for the weekend – Sammy.

Sammy gave us a brief about the game drives, and drove us up to Little Shompole in ten minutes. Here we were greeted by Bena, Zakaia and Evelyn, who were going to look after the two of us for the next 3 days. They met us with cold towels, and as we walked up to the common area, we met the Manager – Alphonse. He quickly checked us in, and we were shown to our suite.

The suite is huge. Down some steps is a raised dining platform with a table and two chairs all made out of dead wood. Then down some curved steps to a seating area with two huge days beds dressed in pure white. Further along, there is a bridge over some water, and to the bed area. The whole room is open at the front to the stunning views of Mt. Shompole and the conservancy. The bed is huge – 9ft x 9ft and is the only part of the whole suite that is enclosed in a tent like zip up net. Behind the bed is a water feature that cascades over the head board, and then down the side of the bed into the plunge pool. There is a plunge pool located below the seat area, and this had 3 levels inside it with the most incredible views. In front of the bed area was a deck (no rails, just a magnificent drop) with two sun beds. Further along was the toiler area with its own wash basin. This again is open to the elements and the view, so you could have your constitutional with a view. Between the lounge and the bed area was a shower with a huge rain head, open at the top with views at the front, and behind there were two wash basins.


The whole concept of the room is amazing. It measured around 30 meters by 15 meters, and was on multi levels, using natural materials, and lots of white wash. There was water everywhere and the plunge pools brought welcome relief to such hot days. Above the bed was a fan which was great at night.

There is no door, just a white linen curtain. There is no glass, plastic or other materials used that would not blend into the surrounding environment. We spent our days in the room, lazing, reading, sleeping and plunging. There is a cooler box that is stocked with any drinks of your choice. The room also had a two way radio that you could use to ask for anything you so desired.

Service was amazing. Between Bena and Zakaia, they looked after us in the room and dining area. Peter cooked all the food, and Evelyn kept our room clean. Every time we left the room, Evelyn would pop in, and freshen the room up. Clear up towels, fold clothes back, collect laundry, sweep the floors, re-stock the cooler box, and so on. Such service is so special and dedicated.

The common area at Little Shompole is shared by the two suites. It consists of a dining table for 6, two huge day beds, some bean bags and sun beds, all of course dressed in pure white. There is a 25 meter lap pool, and water everywhere. The kitchen is under the dining area. All food is prepared fresh for the two suites and served at your convenience.

Our day started off with Bena coming into the room saying “hodi” carrying a tray with coffee and cookies at 5:30 am. It was still dark and we got ready for the morning game drive. At 6:00 am we would meet Sammy at the car (they use open sided Land cruisers with two sets of 3 seats in the back. They were very spacious and comfortable). And we would be off.

There is one large pride of lion, that has split in two at the moment. One has two females and 7 cubs. The other one male, one female and four cubs. There are also several nomad males around. There are several cheetah, many with cubs (we did not get to see any, as the lions were around). Rarely do they see Leopard. There are also Aardwolf, Hyena, civet cats, African Wild Cat (we saw one) and Porcupines.

It has been 4 years since we last visited, and it is great to see the animal numbers really grow. There are lots of zebra, wildebeest and giraffe (we saw a herd of around 40). We also got to see two Lesser Kudu.


The birdlife is prolific, with so many raptors around. We were amazed at the variety of wildlife for such an arid area. The scenery is stunning.

We would return to camp between 9 am and 10 am to be welcomed with cold towels. Then off to the dining area, which was already laid out with cold juice, milk, cereal, preserves and yoghurt. Bena would bring us fresh fruit, and take our order for a cooked breakfast. Then she would bring hot beverages and toast. Out of all the meals, the hot breakfast was a let down. They could not get the eggs right, and the sausage/bacon was greasy.

After breakfast we would head to our Suite and chill out. If we needed cool drinks, etc., we just had to use the radio and ask for some to be delivered to the room. During the day it got very hot. The plunge pool was a welcome relief.

At breakfast we would be asked what time we wanted lunch. Lunch always consisted of around 4-5 salads – they were stunningly presented, very tasty and fresh, as well as a pasta dish or quiche. With a few glasses of a cold wine, it was a sumptuous light feast. There was always desert – usually tangy and cold, such as a lemon meringue pie, lime tart, etc.

After lunch it was back to the suite for a dip and a siesta. Around 4:30 pm we would meet Sammy at the vehicle, and head off for our evening game drive. They would always pack a cooler box with sundowners. At 4:30 pm it was very hot. We would head off into the conservancy, stopping for birds all the time. Then we would look for the lions and cheetahs. Around 6:30 pm we would stop somewhere in the middle of nowhere and have our sundowners. Sammy is such a knowledgeable guide. He is studying for his Silver Guiding certificate. We had such great conversations about wildlife, conservation, people we all knew, growing up and life in general. At around 7:30 pm we started to head back to the lodge, but usually took 1 – 2 hours as we would be tracking lions or looking at the night sky or spotting nocturnal birds and animals.

Back at the lodge by 8:30 – 9:00 pm, and off for dinner. By this time we were knackered. Dinner was always a three course affair, or fabulous food that was well presented and extremely tasty. Food was fresh, well made and not pretentious at all, but would do well in good restaurants around the world.

Then we would head back to the Suite, have a shower under the night sky, and into one of the most comfortable beds under the fan, listening to the lions calling one another, ad the hyena’s cackling, dreaming of a wonderful day and waiting to hear the birds in the morning and the “hodi” from Bena.

What made Little Shompole such a special place were the people. We hardly saw the manager, as he was busy with the three other properties, and the staff made our stay so special and welcoming. There was nothing that they could not get done. From service around meals, to the way the room was kept clean and maintained to the guiding, all was done with genuine smiles and warmth.

All of the rooms at all 4 lodges are stunning. Anthony Russell has captured the raw beauty of the area, and incorporated it into huge open spaces that cover sleeping, bathing, plunging and sitting. All about relaxation and peace. Many guests do not venture out of their space.

I did get to go and see 360 House, and have stayed at main Shompole before, and my vote goes without any doubt to Little Shompole.


I always like to be constructive about any place that I stay at, and I would note the following about Little Shompole. For a lodge of this caliber, there was no wine list. The wines served were good, but I would have expected more. The toiletries used are very mediocre, with Cussons soap bars and a glass bottle with shampoo or lotion. I would want to see more eco friendly, luxury toiletries. The glassware is very average. While I can understand that we are in a remote location, I would want to see better quality glassware to match the crockery, cutlery and service. At some lodges in southern Africa, guests are given plastic sippy bottles (to take home), but they fill up water from water dispensers. This means there is less plastic being used. We would have used in 3 days, over 30 water bottles.

We have decided that Little Shompole will be a once a year visit, but next time for at least 4 nights.
roadwarriorafrica is offline  
Feb 18th, 2010, 10:20 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 5,995
Thanks for the excellent report, roadwarriorafrica.

In my view, Shompole deserves mo0re attention that it gets, at least on this board (and others). It's an architectural wonder, ingeniously in tune with its environment, giving guests an opportunity to live for a few days as if they were birds. (Except that you don't need to hunt for your own bugs and seeds.)

Shompole is not for people who are looking for the most game-dense experience, although plenty of creatures are to be seen. But it is a very special experience, one that made me feel very, very close to the Earth.
DonTopaz is online now  
Feb 18th, 2010, 01:17 PM
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 8,675
Another thanks for the details of this hidden gem and do agree with rizzuto.

Shompole is one of my favorite "off-the-beaten-path" properties... the other being Desert Rose south of Lake Turkana. Besides the architecture (the same architect built the relatively new Kilindi on Zanzibar... another beauty), the environment is wonderful, few other vehicles/people. Even if less game, after having been on safari, that's fine.

Shompole is ideal for wedddings, honeymooners, anniversaries... in other words "romantic" though singles, friends and families will also enjoy.

It's also a great alternative to a "beach" stay at conclusion of safari. Though you might not have the Indian Ocean to cool off in, you have your own private plunge pool or the main infinity pool and there's plenty of sand to run your toes thru. Perfect anytime of year as there's very little rain down this way.
sandi is offline  
Feb 19th, 2010, 07:15 PM
Join Date: Sep 2008
Posts: 624
Roadwarriorafrica, thanks for the report and photos. The bed looked like a mattress on a bed of rock, was it comfortable?

I love the look of the architecture and if I had no interest in seeing wildlife I'm sure it would be relaxing bliss, however, I still have reservations about the level of water use.

I have read that they have access to a spring but I still ask myself what it does long term to relations between a tourist with enough buying power to be surrounded by water for pleasure, and a local tribesman who hasn't enough water for his family and livestock for survival purposes.

In such an arid, hot landscape is it the best way to promote sustainable use of resources for tourism.

I wonder how much effort is put in by the Shompole management and staff to educate visitors about sustainable water usage and various other projects carried out by them to enhance local people. I'm pretty sure they do much to help the area, I just wonder how much is explained to tourists.

As a romantic getaway, honeymoon etc., Shompole would be beautiful but now I'm older and look more at the consequences of what I do, I have more questions about this type of development and would love to be reassured.
twaffle is offline  
Feb 20th, 2010, 04:48 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 5,995
Very interesting and worthwhile questions, twaffle. I hadn't given much thought to where Shompole gets its water, or whose water resources might be diminished by Shompole's water use.

As for the architecture, my first thought on seeing my room/tree house at Shompole was Heilege Scheisse!, this is an African Fallingwater -- a living space that is seamlessly conjoined with its environment. A major difference, of course, is that Fallingwater is built into a natural water source, and Shompole is, to my knowledge, not.
DonTopaz is online now  
Mar 3rd, 2010, 06:07 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 290
Hello. Been lost.

The water at Shompole is sourced from underground wells. The area sits on huge artisan wells. The area has always been occupied by pastrolist Maasai who are very much used to little or no water. Shompole IMHO has brought in additional facilities for the local community including education, medical, etc. It is possible to see the projects, which the staff do encourage you to do so.

While there may be a perceived excessive use of water at Shompole, all of the pool water is recycled back into the underground wells.

The increase in wildlife in the area in the last 4 years has been amazing. More predators, and herbivores, The conservation side of the Shompole conservancy has big kudos from me.

I have seen the back room operations of many camps in Kenya, and unfortunately most of them while claiming to be eco friendly are using copious amounts of water, wood, charcoal, etc.
roadwarriorafrica is offline  
Mar 3rd, 2010, 02:34 PM
Join Date: Sep 2008
Posts: 624
Thanks roadwarriorafrica, I'm glad to hear that the perceived excesses in water are in fact recycled and balanced. More importantly though, is that they make sure visitors realise this and that the surrounding inhabitants also realise this and get some benefit … which it appears that they do. Good to know that wildlife is increasing

Perception is reality for many people so it is not enough for lodges like this to be eco-friendly, they also need to get the message out far and wide. Likewise, the message needs to be heard clearly about the places purporting to be eco-friendly that are obviously not. By your admission, there are many camps in Kenya amongst this second group.

My wish is that tourists would at least think about the ramifications about where they visit as they can either prop up ecologically damaging places or support the ones aiming to help the environment and it can be pretty difficult to determine which is which when planning from a foreign country.
twaffle is offline  
Mar 3rd, 2010, 07:00 PM
Join Date: Nov 2004
Posts: 14,440
Lesser Kudu, hey hey! The photos of the accommodations looked fantastic. Nice giraffe and the chicken legs were served very symmetrically.

Can you comment on the recent drought and its effects on the nearby surroundings?

Thank for the report and photos.
atravelynn is offline  
Mar 4th, 2010, 01:52 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 9,220
Looks stunning and relaxing. Would anyone be willing to give an approximate idea of price per night for high, mid and low season?
Kavey is offline  
Mar 4th, 2010, 03:08 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 5,995
Any of us who have been to sub-saharan Africa know how special a place it is, and Shompole is an unusually special place within that locus. Pictures of Shompole are unlike pictures of any other camp, but I find it n impossible task to find word expressing the experience of Shompole. I tried to do so in a report from a couple of years ago:

If you're looking for a camp with the best guides, trackers in all the vehicles, the greatest density of predators, and being on the primary migration route, then you may well be disappointed in Shompole. If you're open to a place where you can spend hours sitting on a day bed in a tree house, minute-by-minute sensing an extraordinary connection to the land, then you ought to strongly think about Shompole.

(Now that I've got myself in a mood, I'm off to Botswana this afternoon.)
DonTopaz is online now  
Mar 4th, 2010, 06:13 AM
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 8,675
Kavey -

Shompole doesn't come cheap. Their "rack" rates run in the $600+/person/nt range or for Little Shompole at $700+/person/nt during peak seasons. About $100/person/nt less during the low season. No mid-season.
sandi is offline  
Mar 4th, 2010, 02:17 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 9,220
I didn't expect it to be cheap but, for what it is, from the feedback, and given the prices of other top camps in the region, the prices are lower than I expected.
Kavey is offline  
Mar 4th, 2010, 04:42 PM
Join Date: Nov 2004
Posts: 14,440
This will be a very helpful thread for those considering Shampole in the future.
atravelynn is offline  

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are On

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy -


All times are GMT -8. The time now is 05:14 PM.