Serene Sweetwaters was my first introduction to the Ol Pejeta Conservancy. On arrival I was ordered to sit down and got served a welcome drink while I was filling out some papers. Sitting in the lobby, looking out of the big window I spotted a big waterhole right in front of the main building with some impala’s around.
"You can see rhinos here all day", said the assistant manager of the hotel who was checking me in! He clearly wasn’t lying because when I was assisted to my room we saw two rhinos in the distance. It was a warm welcome to the Serena Sweetwaters Tented Camp.
On my big Africa overland trip I stumbled upon some really cool places already like boat safaris on the Chobe River in Botswana, the Caprivi/Zambezi region in Namibia, Lupita Island in Tanzania, mountain gorilla trekking in Uganda. So before I got to Ol Pejeta in Kenya I was already spoiled with some incredible adventures. However, that didn't make me less excited to check out one of the biggest things on my bucketlist for Kenya: Ol Pejeta Conservancy, the biggest black rhino sanctuary in Eastern Africa.
The Serena Sweetwaters resort is located within the conservancy and from the West gate entrance it was only like a 5-10 min drive.
An absolute must do when staying within the Ol Pejeta Conservancy is visiting the last two Northern White Rhinos in the World. Click on the link to read my article and learn how it got this far, how the specie is functionally extinct and how there is still hope.
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Although the rooms look like chalets, it actually is a tented camp. When I entered I was in awe. The tent was very spacious and the double bed big and comfortable. The bathroom was huge too and the shower was sincerely the best I had during my whole Kenya trip. I am sorry I spilled so much water as I took a really long shower. But I didn't have a proper shower like this in weeks!
I stayed in one of the luxury tents, but on the other side of the waterhole there are more budget friendly tents. The budget tents also have amazing views over the waterhole. In all honesty I would say the budget tents have even better views over the waterhole than the luxury tents.
Safari from the comfort of your room
Almost all tents are located in such a way that they look out over de plains of the Ol Pejeta Conservancy. Animals will constantly be around. There was not a single moment it was quiet during my stay and of course the big waterhole right in front of the main restaurant stimulates the come and go of the wildlife even more.
One afternoon I just sat in my chair in my porch for a couple hours. Made some tea in my room and just watched what I called bush tv. Elephants, buffalos, rhinos, zebras, impala’s, waterbucks, warthogs, baboons, etc. constantly passed by in front of my room.
I would almost say there is no need to go on game drives! JK. What you won't see, or very rarely is that predators show up around the waterhole, because they don't like the human interaction. Which means that for herbivores it is a relatively safe place. At night many animals gather and rest around the waterhole and the waterhole is lit up by a floodlight.
Night game drive
Well, when I said there is no need to go on a game drive, that was said with a little wink of course! When I am in the bush bush I want to go on as many safaris as possible. Although all other activities at Serena Sweetwaters were super nice and I adored chilling in my room and looking at the wildlife, the ting I was most looking forward to was the night game drive.
I didn’t go on a night game drive in more than 12 years! Excited as a kid I left with two staff members around 8.30 pm, just after dinner!
As the Serena Sweetwaters Tented Camp is located within the Ol Pejeta Conservancy, the safari starts straight away when you leave the resort grounds through the guided gate.
This night game drive in Ol Pejeta will forever be remembered as the first safari that I saw a lion. It was gracefully laying in the grass catching the wind in his face.Only like 20 minutes later we saw another lion mating with his lioness. I guess this was my lucky day/night!
It sounds unbelievable but on all my safaris I never got to see a lion so far and I have had a bunch of incredible safaris in Chobe National Park in Botswana, Etosha in Namibia, boat safaris in Zambezi/Caprivi region in Namibia, etc.
That night we also saw buffalos and elephants and the icing on the cake was a leopard! It was unbelievable but we almost saw the big FIVE in just a night game drive. Unfortunately it was close to 11.00 pm already and we had to head back to the resort. But never mind, I saw like 6 rhinos already today from the comfort of my tent!
When I got back to Serena Sweetwaters there was a herd of elephants drinking at the waterhole!
On my Africa overland trip I had many massages, mostly in Zambia because they were pretty cheap there. When indulging myself with a massage at Serena Sweetwaters I chose a hot stone massage. Another experience I didn’t have in god knows how many years.
The skilful masseuse did an excellent job! Definitely recommended. After the massage I chilled at the pool with views of the animals drinking at the waterhole.
A fun thing to do when staying at Serena Sweetwaters is to try out archery. It is a free activity for guests. You can book it through reception and one of the staff members will explain you how it works and show you how it is done. After a little explanation and training you can try it out yourself, of course under supervision of the staff.
Together with the naturalist I took a walk around the resort grounds in the early morning. We met at 6:30am just after sunrise and we walked around the resort grounds looking for some cool birds. It was a very easy and chill activity and we saw some really colorful birds as well as some wildlife that was close to the resort. It was a great way waking up with the sounds of nature and seeing the sunrise over Mount Kenya was pretty damn cool too. After the bird walk I went straight to breakfast, a lovely way to start the day.
There are some resident owls in the trees in the resort. We heard them, but unfortunately couldn't see them this time. But here are some photos of other birds we saw. Don't ask me for their names.
The rates at Serena Sweetwaters include full board and you will be served all 3 meals in the main restaurant: breakfast, lunch, dinner. Luckily I had a table next to the window overlooking the grass field and the waterhole on the other side of the fence. While eating I got up a couple times when there were elephants or rhinos coming to the waterhole. I couldn’t resist, that is why I always brought my camera to the restaurant.
The coolest thing was when a herd of around 500 buffalos came running at the waterhole. An absolutely amazing sight!
Plant a tree
Before I said goodbye to Serena Sweetwaters I planted a tree. It was the first time in my life I actually planted a tree and totally unexpected it felt like a really cool experience. Giving back to nature never got this feasible. It is a direct act of kindness to nature and it did something to me. Planting a tree is free for all guests!
As you can understand I loved my stay at Serena Sweetwaters Tented Camp. The safari from comfort of my room was an incredible feeling I had never experienced before. Staying in the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in general was fantastic. In total I stayed a week in the conservancy. My highlight of visiting Ol Pejeta was of course meeting the last two Northern White Rhinos Najin and Fatu.