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“Set sail on the Ark as soon as possible!” 4 of 5 stars
Review of The Ark

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The Ark
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P O Box 499, Aberdare National Park, Kenya   |  
Hotel amenities
Certificate of Excellence 2014
Windhoek, Namibia
Contributor
12 reviews 12 reviews
7 hotel reviews
Reviews in 11 cities Reviews in 11 cities
14 helpful votes 14 helpful votes
“Set sail on the Ark as soon as possible!”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed August 16, 2009

We just returned from a wonderful stay at The Ark! From the minute you arrive at Aberdare Country Club to check in, you are treated like royalty. We self-drove as we live in Nairobi. When we parked our car, we were met outside reception by a staff member with hot towels to wipe away the grime of the travel. Then we were given glasses of wonderful mango juice, and all before we made it to the reception desk. The staff checked us quickly, explaining how the rest of the visit would go. As it was Children's Night (I believe this is a quarterly event where children of all ages are welcome, normally their age requirement is 7 years) our children were given a small gift. We were then shown to the beautiful lawn of the Country Club to wait for lunch, and drinks were available (drinks are not included in the total package rate). Lunch was very nice, a soup course, and then buffet lunch with many choices. After lunch there are a couple of options to travel to the Ark itself. The normal bus ride is about 40 minutes directly to the Ark. There is also a Game Drive option which takes about 3 hours and goes through the Aberdare Salient. We actually self-drove. (Do not even think about this option unless you are familiar with the inner-workings of your 4WD!) The same staff that greeted you and served lunch at the CC, travel with you up to the Ark, and provide wonderful service throughout your entire experience. As it was Children's Night, Simon, one of the great employees, took the kids on a tour of the Ark to prepare them for a quiz that was given before dinner. Of course, the main reason to visit the Ark is the game...as many others have mentioned, you are never sure what you will see when you visit. We had 3 elephants, several buffalo, warthogs, bush buck, and many other small animals and birds. No buzz worthy events, but a good show all in all. Dinner was equally as lovely as lunch. The Creme Caramel for dessert was fantastic! Following dinner they put hot water bottles in the beds to keep you warm and toasty despite the chill. My daughter was very disappointed that I do not intend to keep this practice up at home! In the morning the chimes wake you for a lovely breakfast. We left promising ourselves another visit in the near future. Next time we will stay more than one night. The rooms are small, and the hot water in the shower is slow in coming, but as many others have mentioned, that is not why you go to the Ark. Visit for the animals, the experience and the superb service - and of course, the hot water bottles!

  • Stayed August 2009, traveled with family
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 3 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
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293 reviews from our community

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Rating summary
  • Location
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Sleep Quality
    4 of 5 stars
  • Rooms
    3.5 of 5 stars
  • Service
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Value
    4 of 5 stars
  • Cleanliness
    4 of 5 stars
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Canada
Senior Contributor
36 reviews 36 reviews
18 hotel reviews
Reviews in 27 cities Reviews in 27 cities
68 helpful votes 68 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed July 1, 2009

People have to understand that The Ark is an extremely unique place. People have to understand that it is in the middle of the Aberdare rain forest and it is in the middle of nowhere really. The Ark doesn't proclaim itself to be a 5 star accommodation. It is more about the experience and the history of The Ark and where you are and what animals you are seeing than it is about your bed, room or bathroom. The Ark was built in 1969 and the truth is that it has not been renovated. People have to understand that with renovation comes change and change is not always good. There is a distinct sense of character at The Ark and it is all about the animals. You don't go to The Ark for a 5 star experience. You go for The Ark Experience. Don't people know this going in? Don't people research what The Ark is all about? It is dated and worn and simple, but it is charming and full of stories and it gives one a very rare experience that really only The Ark can give. Everything is clean. Old, but clean. You do pay a lot to stay there, but imagine the cost of running it! The food is very good and the common rooms have a very cozy and comfy feel. Sitting by the fire sipping tea and swaping stories is what The Ark is all about. The Norfolk Hotel in Nairobi has been "updated" and it lost all its original charm. It is now a Fairmont and that is good in many ways, but for those who knew it prior - we miss the historic character it held for so many decades. It now looks just like any other lovely Fairmont really and is that better? Be careful what you wish for because The Ark has a delicate balance not only within its walls but outside as well and often with drastic change comes drastic disappointment. It doesn't matter if you are Oprah or The President - The Ark remains true to its history and you can't help but get a kick out of it. The 70's motif is obvious but that I feel makes The Ark one of a kind and something rare. You usually only stay one night and I think the fact that it has held onto its original features is very adorable in a way. Nothing is unhygenic or dirty. It is just worn, dated and small. Yes the walls are thin and you feel almost like you are at camp, but that is all part of it and if you can step off the high horse for one second - you can embrace it for what it is and its purpose - to see animals up close and personal. It is okay to rough it now and then and I think this is a very comfortable roughing it experience. Nothing scary, nothing creepy. Just simple old fashioned charm that used to be seen as luxurious. The Ark is far more comfortable than Treetops and it is something rare and cool to be able to say - "I have been there!" The Ark never professes to be something that it isn't and if you go in open minded you will not be disappointed. Rock Stars to Presidents have stayed there and it is what it is. Maybe smile that something has held on to its originality this long and maybe hope that it doesn't change because when it does - the price will go way up and the charm will go way down and it will never be the same as it was. The morning wake up call is wonderful and the buzzer system for night time viewing is fantastic and wonderful if you think about it. We took the 3 hour jungle safari to The Ark from the Aberdare Country Club and it was so worth it. We saw all sorts of wildlife and to see a leopard sitting by a creek - hunting a water buck who starts barking at the leopard and ultimately chases the leopard back into the jungle - is extremely rare. We saw elephants as close as 10 ft away. Buffalo and water buck and colobus monkeys and giant forest hogs and the list goes on. Those that opted for the "free" 45 min trip straight to The Ark - saw almost nothing that night because animals are unpredictable and no one really showed at the salt lick/water hole that night. We highly suggest you spend the $20 p/p and take the safari to The Ark. George was great and has almost 30 years of experience in The Aberdares. Seek out Rosemary and Philip who basically run The Ark and have a chat with them. Their stories will give you wonder and amazement. They have been there for decades. Go in with a positive mind and you will come out rewarded. It is okay to not have pure luxury for a night. That's the way it goes there. That is what makes life and your safari interesting. If you don't want to stay there - don't. There is no where else really to stay so you'll have to forgo the Aberdares then - which would be a shame. The Ark is purposely simple and simply full of purpose. You can have a blast if you want or you can complain and be miserable. Totally up to you. The Ark doesn't care if you don't like her - she remains constant and if you are truly honest with yourself - you have to agree she's cool. The Bongo is really no longer around as it has moved off to a different location, but the other wildlife is plenty and the almost myth of the Bongo is enchanting and you can't help but hope to still see one - come back to where it used to call home. Don't miss The Ark. You will regret it. Don't listen to the negative reviews. Do your homework, know what The Ark is all about and go and enjoy it. Sit, sip a Kenyan tea and watch the animals come. And then think about the fact that you are in Kenya and most people would give their left arm to be sitting where you are. I lived in Kenya as a child and coming back this month was a thrilling and amazing experience. We had the best time and enjoyed ourselves to the core. The Ark was well worth a visit and I think it is cool to come back and tell my parents that it is still the same as when they stayed there way back - can't say that about hardly anything anymore. Enjoy it for what it is and you will enjoy it completely.

  • Stayed June 2009, traveled as a couple
    • 3 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 2 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 3 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 3
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Mumbai
Senior Contributor
26 reviews 26 reviews
13 hotel reviews
Reviews in 15 cities Reviews in 15 cities
21 helpful votes 21 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed June 16, 2009

As part of our holiday in Kenya, we were booked into The Ark. Apart from the beautiful sight the hotel looks when being approached, there is also somehow very warm feeling we got when we entered this place. The Fireplace makes you feel at home, and you can even pose with the rhino head that stands over the fireplace! The bonus for us was that we visited during the internal riots in Kenya, and hence we were the only ones at The Ark at the time and so were treated almost like royalty.

The staff made us feel completely welcome and since we stayed there two nights it was so nice to see that the staff that served us actually remembered each of our preferences and this was exactly what we were served each time. Meals were excellent, hot and homely, perfect for the cold weather at the time.

The hotel offers guests a "closest to nature" atmosphere, and the viewing room in the basement makes one feel closest to nature and to the animals that make it to the salt lick each night. We actually stayed up all night watching the lone rogue elephant, the mother and baby rhino, and the antics of the hyenas among several others.

The rooms are completely befitting of such a hotel and entering into one of these gives you the feeling of being totally one with nature. There is even a buzzer in each room, that sounds off each time there is an animal at the salt lick. This way even if you are asleep, you hear this buzzer, and hence cannot miss viewing the animals. We thought this was really nice.

Although the prices for this were within our entire package, we cheked out the room prices there and think this is a totally value for money hotel. Would recommend this to anyone visiting Kenya, and would love to go back there myself someday.

  • Liked — The Location
  • Disliked — nothing really
  • Stayed January 2008, traveled as a couple
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Check in / front desk
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
    • 3 of 5 stars Business service (e.g., internet access)
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Ann Arbor, Michigan
Top Contributor
128 reviews 128 reviews
45 hotel reviews
Reviews in 57 cities Reviews in 57 cities
89 helpful votes 89 helpful votes
2 of 5 stars Reviewed March 2, 2009

We liked the funky, rustic ambiance. . .it reminded me of summers in the mountains. . .and the facilities for viewing wildlife were excellent. alas! it was pouring and no animals appeared at the watering hole except for one bedraggled elephant and a few warthogs. we were traveling in the dry season when it wasn't supposed to rain - so given the unpredictable nature of the weather and the appearance of wildlife, i'd skip the ark and go to sweetwater's tented camp which is just fabulous. . sweetwater's also has a very large waterhole, much nicer acomodations, better food, and an abundance of animals to watch and photograph.

  • Stayed February 2009
    • 2 of 5 stars Value
    • 1 of 5 stars Location
    • 2 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 3 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 2 of 5 stars Service
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Leeds
Contributor
11 reviews 11 reviews
11 hotel reviews
Reviews in 10 cities Reviews in 10 cities
11 helpful votes 11 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed September 30, 2008

Was a while since we went but I felt that I had to say my piece. If you go on safari then you (hopefully!) are amazed and bewildered by the animal kingdom. It disheartens me to hear people moan about the facilities etc. The whole point of going there IS to be woken up at 2 in the morning because a white rhino has turned up or a bunch of hyenas! It's amazing to see them in the flesh and you really appreciate them more. Even the stealth bomber moths (if you've been you'll know what I'm on about!) are amazing, although you wouldn't venture out onto the viewing platform at night!.
It was a great experience in my book and the staff are wonderful. So what if there's no power shower or feather duvets, what's wrong with hot water bottles anyway?

  • Stayed June 2006
    • 3 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Check in / front desk
    • 3 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 3 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about The Ark

Address: P O Box 499, Aberdare National Park, Kenya
Location: Kenya > Central Province > Aberdare National Park
Amenities:
Restaurant
Hotel Style:
Ranked #2 of 4 Hotels in Aberdare National Park
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $$
Number of rooms: 60
Also Known As:
The Ark Hotel Aberdare National Park
Ark Aberdare National Park
Ark Hotel Aberdare National Park
The Ark Kenya/Aberdare National Park

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