When you pass elephants, cheetahs, and colobus monkeys before you’ve even arrived to the safari lodge, you know you’ve picked the right place. The Ark is tucked deep into Kenya’s Aberdare National Park, a wildlife reserve spanning 300-square miles and three ecosystems. Starting in a tropical forest, ascending to the bamboo groves, then misty moorlands, we reached The Ark. Inspired by Noah’s legendary boatful of animals, its built like a ship with the liveliest watering hole at the helm. From full-service game drives to elephant watching from the sun-deck, The Ark knows how to Glamp.
Instead of just driving the main road and dashing past the gorgeous scenery, The Ark has a few creative ways to approach their lodge. We choose to meet at their sister property, The Aberdare Country Club, and set out on a safari and waterfall excursion for the most unforgettable commute.
98% of Aberdare National Park is covered by trees and bushes making for lush scenery and intense animal sightings. Just when you think all is calm in the woods, a leopard will dash across the road or a massive elephant like this will pop its head out of the trees a few feet from your vehicle. There are 2,000 Forest Elephants in the park each eating 250-300 kilos a day…good thing there are enough trees to go around!
Resembling something out of Jim Henson’s Labyrinth, the Giant Forest Hog is as ugly as it is adorable. Everyone wants a piece of this big bacon but this 250+kilo beast will never run away from its predators–it charges! We were incredible lucky to spot this rare and threatened species and admire its quirky ways.
The park is said to have some of the best waterfalls in Kenya. The towering Chania falls was the first fabulous stop on our three-cascade excursion.
Next we went to the top of the three-tiered Karoo Falls for views that will make your stomach-drop and heart soar. Trees dripping in moss added to the surreal beauty.
For the Queen of England to go on safari, the park better be top-notch–which is precisely why Elizabeth II headed to Aberdare. (Little known fact: She was a princess when she arrived in 1952 but her father passed away during her stay in the park, so she technically became Queen of England in Aberdare National Park). While here she stopped to picnic at Magura Falls and to take a peek at its mystical cave, now aptly called Queen Cave.
In our final stretch to The Ark, our expert guide spotted this beautiful young leopard crouched in the bushes (see opening photo). What a find! As if one cat sighting wasn’t enough for the day, ten minutes later we came across this beautiful beast. This leopard was like no other we (or even our guide) had ever seen. Its bright orange coat, piercing blue eyes, and enormous size had us frozen in our tracks. (For Napoleon Dynamite fans out there, it was definitely a Liger).
After one incredible day, we finally reached The Ark. Perched above the forest floor, the rustic and self-admittedly quirky lodge seems to float over the trees.
With expansive balconies and floor-to-ceiling windows, the hotel design is all about connecting guests with the great African outdoors. The watering hole that sits at the helm of the hotel attracts countless elephants, warthogs, zebra, buffalo, leopards and much more to its shores. Staring out the window from these cozy sofas was like being on the comfiest safari possible.
To get a glimpse at the kind of animal action and fun we had from the comforts of The Ark, watch this unbelievable elephant bath-time video.
Spotting wildlife from the hotel balconies, sun room, or ground-level observation bunker, you feel as if you are watching a National Geographic special play out right in front of you. The Ark was one of our most engaging hotel stays, with the journey to get there being half the fun.
Anne and Mike Howard are creators of the around-the-world honeymoon blog HoneyTrek.com and Long Term Travel Coaches for anyone looking to travel the world safely, affordably and off the beaten path. You can follow @HoneyTrek on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
Mike and Anne Howard left on their honeymoon in 2012 and have been traveling the world ever since. HoneyTrek.com chronicles their adventures across 7 continents, 44 countries, and counting! Their writing, photography, and the story of the “World’s Longest Honeymoon” can also be found on Condé Nast Traveler, BBC Travel, The Knot, Los Angeles Times, CBS, and dozens of other international publications. Connect with @HoneyTrek on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.