Lodge Review: Staying At The Rondo Retreat Lodge
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The name Rondo originates from Kavirondo the area around Lake Victoria formerly known as the Kavirondo Gulf. Rondo means all round which means a place of wholeness for body soul and spirit. The first house a guest cottage was built in 1948 by Bob Turton a saw miller from South Africa. He built the cottage for his wife.
He later donated the house to the NCCK (National Christian Council of Kenya.). This was after he got an accident while driving home. And he decided to start a new life in the USA with this wife and two children.
The NCCK were unable to maintain it and it was in shambles until it was taken over by the Founder of Trinity Fellowship. He converted it into a Youth camp. It was later converted into an orphanage between 1975 and 1986.
It came into the possession of Trinity Fellowship again with the purpose of running a youth retreat. At the time of the transfer Kitchen, Toto Movie was being filmed at Rondo. The film is a depiction of Kenya’s fight for independence. Since then Rondo has slowly grown into the beautiful retreat lodge that it is today.
1950’s Interior Design
The Rondo Retreat has several cottages, some are 5 bedroomed (the one we stayed at) while others are two bedroomed. The 1950s interior décor comes alive in the cottages. With bright colours, rich textures and vintage details in the form of furniture and accessories. Portraits of birds found in the Kakamega Forest hang above the beds in the room we slept. In another room, there was the first emperor of Ethiopia’s portraits and the history of the Queen of Sheba’s trip to Ethiopia.
The first encounter at Rondo Retreat would be the reception with a beautiful parking lot and one cottage to your left. A beautiful bench overlooks the reception area. The retreat is set in a large expanse of land within the southern part of Kakamega Forest in western Kenya.
Each room in the 5 bedroom cottage has a private patio like the one below. The one above is the shared patio for all the rooms in the cottage.
Our cottage was a five bedroomed cottage named Turaco, had a patio, with a living room and each bedroom is ensuite. My room had a twin bed, that I shared with a colleague we were travelling with. The patio had several sitting areas with makuti furniture (bamboo reef furniture). A place to sit and relax, one of my favourite hangout areas while I stayed here.
The living room too has 50s theme furniture, with a fireplace. Each cottage has a different style still maintaining the same theme.
Each room in our cottage had a name with a specific theme to it. For instance, our room had crocheted bedding covers with portraits of crane birds found in Kakamega Forest. Another room still had crocheted bedding covers with the Ethiopian emperor photos and the Queen of Sheba.
The rooms have character. Each room has its own design, its unique interior decor. There are some rooms that have twin beds while others have a double bed.
The bathroom is very minimal, in terms of offerings. There is only a bar of soap offered for guests. Which in my view should be more considering the amount of money a guest is paying for accommodation? There should be a shampoo, conditioner and lotion for guest. The hotel is one of the best in the area and should live up to its standards.
I loved that the bathrooms give special considerations for people who are physically challenged. There is stool so if you cannot stand in the shower you also have support all around you. I loved that the hotel does not encourage the use of plastics. Special care to the environment. There is a thermos with hot and room temperature available with glasses for water. This is offered instead of plastic bottled water.
Rondo retreat has a communal dining area that comes with rules. These rules fascinated me. One of them was no mobile phones. This rule was not taken seriously though as my colleagues and I had phones in the dining area as we waited for dinner.
Dinner is also served the British style where you wait for everyone to settle down at the table and then food is served at one go for all. The menu is standard and not a buffet or a la carte. If it is chicken and beef then everyone has chicken and beef. However, the hotel manager gives the brief just before check-in for anyone who has special considerations to let the lodge know in advance so that the chef can make special arrangements for you.
The lodge has the chapel within the premise. In my view, this is a perfect wedding venue for any couple who would love a small intimate wedding that just has close friends and family. The place has a chapel, a beautiful lawn that can be used for the reception party and the surrounding areas and the cottages are beautiful sets for a photoshoot.
Speaking of sets, the Rondo retreat was a set for The Kitchen Toto that was filmed in 1987. The Kitchen Toto is the story of the son of a priest who was killed by the Mau Mau during the emergency period in Kenya. The boy moves in with a British Police Officer to work as their house boy. It depicts the life of a 14-year-old boy during the emergency period in Kenya.
I loved the food, it felt home-cooked and certainly fresh. For breakfast, the orders were made after dinner the previous night. While dinner was a three-course meal that started with soups, the main course then dessert. The drinks are charged separately from the boarding rate. If you take a soda, juice or wine then you pay on check out day. The total of all the drinks taken during your stay is compiled and issued to you.
The lawn area has seats you can spend time relaxing. I especially loved the bench that was in front of the lodge reception. The lawn is also a good place to just sit on the grass and relax. I didn’t get to do this though as the grass was wet and the time we visited the weather was rainy throughout. In addition, there are gates that lead to walking treks to Kakamega Forest.
The Curio Shop
The Rondo Retreat Lodge also has a gift shop where all proceeds help support their community activities at Rondo Retreat Center.
This is one of the establishments where I really enjoyed my stay. The service was great and the place is so serene, quiet and refreshing. I noticed a lot of elderly visitors love to come here. This is not to say that the place is not for people of other ages. It’s a great place if you want to have some alone time, the place has no television, in the cottages and in the lounges. This gives you a lot of quiet time to reflect and if you love reading a good place to come and finish your book. It is also the best place for nature lovers as there are so many opportunities to see different kinds of bird species, flowers and trees. More of this is told in detail on my guide to Kakamega Forest.
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