September News – ol Donyo Lodge, Kenya

Beautiful cheetah discovered on the ol Donyo plains.

As September rolls into an end, the summer sun slowly starts to part the decreasing cloud cover left over from the winter.

A record of 15 elephants at ol Donyo’s waterhole!

Its been an amazing amazing and revealing month here at ol Donyo. As far as animals go, this month has been the best this year. The dry and golden plains seem to draw more and more animals and the pace of life is just a little bit slower for them as they shade themselves under the canopy of our beautiful Acacia trees.

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A once in a lifetime glimpse of a caracal. Extraordinary! Picture by Frank Civille.
Night drives this month have been extremely popular and we had the most amazing sighting a couple of weeks ago. Our guests, Frank and Gail Civille were extremely lucky to catch more than a glimpse of a caracal!! The caracal is most famous for his skill in the catching of birds, sometimes more than one bird in one jump! They resemble lynxes, but are more related to servals. They are named after the Turkish “karakulak”, which means “black ear”. Their range is from Africa to Asia. Caracals are almost impossible to see in the wild, not because there are very few of them, but because they hide extremely well. More amazing than seeing the caracal were the fact that it posed quite happily for some pictures and she had two babies with her. Truly the sighting of the year for us.

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All eyes right! An adventure of spotting Cheetah’s enfold…. Picture by Alex Walters
The breeding herd of elephants which were first sighted last month have happily made the amazing kopjes here their go-to spot en route to Amboseli. Many of our guests have had a lot of fun watching the behaviour of the herd and some have had the adrenalin rush of being mock charged, not just by the matriarch but also by the babies. On one expedition to see the breeding herd we were shocked and elated to hear from our guide Konee that there were not one but 5 cheetahs hanging out in the same area as the breeding herd! This is the most we have seen as a group all year and as you can imagine we are so excited to see the cats coming back into the area. We thought that we were lucky to have seen them once but the next day we thought that we would take a chance and try to find them again; amazingly, we found them and then shuffled off with all of the guests at the lodge to see.

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The cheetahs majestically posing for our guests.

The cheetahs were so relaxed and seemed to relish the attention of all the guests. We watched as they yawned and relaxed under the tree and then slowly strolled across the plains sometimes majestically perching and lounging on the rocks surveying their land beyond them.

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Baby cubs caught on the camera trap! Picture caught by Richard Bonham.

We haven’t heard the lions at night for a while now and most of the night’s noises which seem to bounce off the Chyulu Hills, are the sounds of jackals and hyenas. Two nights ago however, Richard Bonham who runs the Big Life Conservation here, sent us an amazing shot from his night camera by his house of two female lions and four cubs, just 10 kilometres up the road from the lodge. It is great evidence that the efforts of Big Life and Great Plains Conservation truly are making a difference.

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Our brave maintenance guys fixing the broken piping by the waterhole recently pulled out by our cheeky resident elephants!
The day to day operations at the lodge are never dull and we always have and exciting story to tell. The elephants are always keeping us on our toes and this month was no exception. Not content with all of the water we recycle from the lodge to the water holes, they thought it might be fun to see if there was any water inside the pipes as well, so they ripped them up on a mission of water discovery but of course it was a fruitless mission and they soon discovered they may have done more damage than good. Our amazing maintenance team wasted no time in repairing the pipes, all the while most of the elephants watched on patiently waiting, Torn Ear, one of our resident bulls however was not planning on waiting any longer and tried testing the guys by getting closer and closer. It perhaps wasn’t the best for our maintenance guys but the guests who safely watched from the hide had a great show!

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Our head chef Timothy and sous chef Kimani showing off their harissa sauce skills in ol Donyo’s ‘Green Gate Garden.’
With the sun now shining through the clouds more and more, the gardens seem to be flourishing and growing at an unbelievable rate. The Green Gate Garden is now on its second growing season and this time we have planted mixed lettuce, tri-coloured peppers, red onions and more tomatoes. After only a few weeks the lettuces are ready and the lunch buffet is bright and fresh every day. Our back gate garden has almost finished its first growing season and the cayenne peppers have flourished in the sun, we have been getting creative and the chefs have made the most amazing harissa to go with grilled fish and Chicken, if you feel like giving it a try and adding a little spice to your meals, the recipe is below.

An avocado and pistachio pate, one of our many delicious creation by our talented chefs.
The food here is ever evolving and this month we have had three tapas nights, the guests have been really enjoying the likes of kachumbari gazpacho, curried chicken empanadas, shrimp totillitas with cucumber salsa, queso fundido with homemade tortillas and many more tasty small plates.
October looks to be another adventure filled month and we are hoping to see a little rain which transforms the plains into an emerald ocean and the bird life explodes almost in joyous chorus, relishing everything the rains brings. But until then, the elephants raise their trunks to a gorgeous September at ol Donyo!

Image 10ol Donyo Harissa Recipe

Now that the gardens at ol Donyo have started to yield cayenne peppers in abundance, we cannot help but make this fabulous harissa recipe. Traditionally, a spicy North African condiment, it goes with so many dishes. We like to serve it with grilled fish or pork chops. We make large quantities but the recipe below will be enough for one small jar. It keeps well so feel free to make a lot!


1 red pepper
1/2 tsp coriander seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp caraway seeds
1 ½ tbsp olive oil
1 small red onion, coarsely chopped (scant 2/4cup/90g in total)
3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
5 hot red chilies, seeded and coarsely chopped (seeds in if you like it extra spicy!)
1 1/2 tsp tomato paste
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 tsp salt

Place the pepper under a very hot broiler, turning occasionally for about 25 minute until
blackened on the outside and completely soft. Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap,
and allow to cool. Peel the pepper and discard its skin and seeds.

Place a frying pan over low heat and lightly toast the coriander, cumin and the caraway
seeds for 2 minutes. Remove them in a mortar and use the pestle to grind to a powder.
Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heat, and fry the onion, garlic, and
Chilies for 10 to 12 minutes, until a dark smoky color and almost caramelized.

Now use a blender or a food processor to blitz together all of the paste ingredients until
smooth, adding a little more oil if needed.
Check lemon, salt and spice balance and adjust accordingly.
Store in a sterilized jar in the fridge for up to 2 weeks or even longer.

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