The thing about Champagne Ridge is that you don’t come here to actually do anything. It’s all about taking in the glorious views with a sundowner, and relaxing with friends and family. But the area around Champagne Ridge, a roughly 90-minute drive out of Nairobi on the way to Lake Magadi, offers plenty for the more active, whether it is a visit to the archaeological dig at Olorgesailie or a hike in the Ngong Hills.
This is perhaps the best-known nyama choma joint in all of Kenya. It’s a short drive along the Magadi road, and the kind of place you’ll while away more than an hour or two. Meat sizzles on barbeques in front of your eyes. After an hour or so (good food takes time), the chef brings it to your table, expertly cutting what seems at first glance to be an inedible joint into bite-size succulent chunks. Dab it in the salt, add a bit of kachumbari (using your fingers, of course), and, mmm…
Yes, you can enter from this side too – from Kona Baridi to be precise. It used to be the spot where you could sneak up the Ngong Hills with paying, but they’re now erecting a spanking-new rangers hut. On the plus side, you’ll be able to pick up a ranger guide for added peace of mind.
Within a few moments of walking, you get breathtaking views of the surrounding Champagne Ridge, and Nairobi in the distance. The entire length of the Ngong HIlls comprises seven peaks, and will take three to four hours. Grab a taxi, or arrange transport the other end, if you don’t fancy walking back.
This archaeological dig is a little further down towards Lake Magadi, but an easy enough trip from Champagne Ridge. It’s a fairly low-key dig, but interesting for the number of handaxes found here, some dating back 1.2 million years, offering insight into how early human toolmaking evolved.
Among the finds is an elephant butchery site, where fossilised bones showed cut marks, and were surrounded by 2,300 stone tools. First discovered in 1919 by British geologist John Gregory, excavation only really got underway with Mary and Louis Leakey, helped by Italian prisoners of war, in 1943.
This charming, rustic cottage is a weekend favourite. Small and cosy, this property is ideal for a small group, and affords great views over Champagne Ridge, with a good sundowner spot to boot. Its selling point is probably its large verandah, where you’ll probably spend most of your time. Inside, its bedrooms are attractively decorated – cheery and simple, like any self-respecting cottage should be. This is Champagne Ridge living as it used to be before more luxurious properties started popping up. Sleeps 6. Ksh17,000 per night. www.holidayhomeskenya.com
This quirky property is magnificently located on a cliff top, with the master bedroom perfectly positioned to catch those views. There are four main bedrooms, one a twin, with overflow for kids in the more cramped loft above. Guests can enjoy the built-in barbeque area and even a squash court.There’s an outdoor one-up, one-down tree house for kids, and a small cottage nearby for overflow. Ideal for three or four couples, but the whole property sleeps up to 12. For those looking for a writing retreat, a modern office overlooks the ridge. Try working, though, with those views. $170 a night. Contact the owners via Airbnb.
For those who know Champagne Ridge well, this house has a bit of the ‘wow’ factor. It’s smarter, and sleeker than anything else we’ve seen. Balconies and seating areas overlook a stunning bit of ridge. There are two cottages, a larger three-bedroomed one with a kitchen and living area, and sunken outdoor seating area. A smaller property with two bedrooms and its own outdoor bath is a short walk away.
Although often rented on its own, we think it’s better when combined with the larger one as it lacks a sitting room or kitchen, although it has a small kitchenette in one bedroom. Self-catering from Ksh19,800 per night, or Ksh12,500 for the smaller cottage. www.eastafricanretreats.com
Ol Talet doesn’t have the views of Champagne Ridge, but it’s in the area (behind Olepolos), and the views are pretty cool all the same. A small cottage faces out over the valley in the direction of Lake Magadi, with arguably the best place for viewing being the shower with its 180 degree view.This little property has two bedrooms, a sitting room with TV, and a well-equipped but small kitchen. Ol Talet cottage is the far nicer of the two cottages on offer here: a second tented cottage nearby is cute and quirky, but lacks the views. Both cottages sleep four. Self-catering from Ksh19,000 a night. www.oltaletcottages.com
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