Sarova Group Hotels: How Ex-MP and Indian Tycoon Established Multi-Billion Hospitality Empire

Ezra Manyibe | 2 weeks ago
Collage image of John Ngata Kariuki and Gurcharan Singh Vohra, and the Sarova Stanley Hotel. |Photo| Courtesy|

The Sarova Group of Hotels is a mainstay in Kenya's hospitality industry - among Africa's most awarded and recognised hotels. The multi-billion empire comprises facilities in prime locations across the country; including major urban centres and national reserves.

Sarova Group was birthed in 1974 by late billionaire businessman Gurcharan Singh Vohra and former Kirinyaga Central Member of Parliament John Ngata Kariuki - brother to late former spymaster James Kanyotu.

A publication by Business Daily in 2014 revealed that the two businessmen partnered in 1974, and raised funds to establish Sarova Group. The money included a loan from a local bank.

Ngata and G.S. Vohra acquired the 22-acre Sarova Whitesands two years later. They used another loan facility to buy Sarova Stanley in 1978, and also renovate both hotels. 

In 1986, the duo added to their hospitality empire through the acquisition of Sarova Lion Hill at the Lake Nakuru National Park and later the Sarova Shaba at the Shaba National Park in 1989.

Ngata ventured into politics in 2007 and was elected Kirinyaga Central MP in 2007. His win was nullified in 2011 after a successful petition by his fierce rival Daniel Karaba.

The former lawmaker also served as the chairman of multiple boards including Kenya Airways, The Automobile Association of Kenya, The Kenya Post and Telecommunications Corporation (Telkom Kenya) and as a member of the Advisory Committee of the Bank of India.

Vohra passed away in 2014 and was succeeded by Ngata as Group Chairman. Vohra's son Pravir Singh Vohra serves as the Group Executive Director.

The Sarova Group of Hotels currently boasts eight franchises spread across the country. 

Sarova Mara

The Sarova Mara Game Camp is ideally located in the heart of Kenya’s Masai Mara Game Reserve and offers an authentic African safari experience amid the stunning savannah landscape.

The luxury safari camp offers a selection of 20 Club Tents, 52 Deluxe Tents and 3 spacious 2-bedroom Family Tents, all thoughtfully designed with en-suite facilities. Some Club Tents offer a spectacular view of the game park.

Sarova Mara won 3 outstanding categories in the 2023 World Luxury Hotel Awards - voted best Luxury Tented Safari Camp in Africa, Luxury Tented Camp, and Global & Luxury Safari Retreat in East Africa.

Sarova Shaba

Sarova Shaba Game Lodge is a luxury lodge located in a natural oasis within the Shaba National Reserve, a protected area in Isiolo County - east of the Samburu. The lodge offers complete serenity amidst wild and beautiful surroundings; an elevated Safari experience in one of Kenya's most untamed locations.

Shaba National Reserve offers breathtaking scenery and a rich diversity of wildlife and enjoys its fame as the land of "Born Free" thanks to the heritage of Joy and George Adamson, who nurtured Elsa the lioness on the grounds of Shaba in the 50s before setting the lioness free on the plains beyond.

The lodge provides comfortable accommodation in 85 rustic & spacious rooms all facing the banks of the majestic Ewaso Nyiro River. The Lodge's architecture stands out for its pioneering spirit and innovative design.

Sarova Lion Hill

Sarova Lion Hill Game Lodge is set along "The Lion Hill" in Lake Nakuru National Park. Concealed amidst lush vegetation, the safari lodge features a classic aesthetic and timeless design with a sense of calm and relaxation.

It offers spectacular views of the Lake and the Park from 67 chalet-style rooms, each with its terrace. The lodge offers world-class cuisine, a panoramic bar terrace, an organic garden, a swimming pool, an outdoor spa and several activities ideal for the family.

Sarova Lion Hill Game Lodge was appointed as a winner in 3 outstanding categories in the 2023 World Luxury Hotel Awards.It was voted Luxury Safari Lodge & Luxury Game Lodge in East Africa as well as Luxury Family Hotel, Africa.

Sarova Stanley

The award-winning hotel is located along University Way in Nairobi's Central Business District (CBD).

The Sarova Stanely offers 210 stylish rooms and suites, indoor and outdoor restaurants serving global cuisine, an elegant bar & lounge, a rooftop swimming pool and health club, a courtyard, and conferencing and banqueting rooms kitted with top-notch audio-visual technology. 

The hotel was voted as a winner in 3 outstanding categories in the 2023 World Luxury Hotel Award; Best Luxury Heritage Hotel in Africa, Best Luxury, Conference & Events Hotel and Best Luxury City Hotel in Kenya.

Sarova Panafric

It is located about 5 – 10 minutes from Nairobi CBD. The four-star facility offers top-notch conferencing and banqueting facilities, a renowned classic restaurant, a lounge bar by the pool and exceptional wellness facilities.

Sarova Woodlands

The hotel is located in Nakuru’s upscale Milimani area, adjacent to the State House and a short drive from the Nakuru CBD. Its strategic location provides easy access by road to scenic locations such as Lake Nakuru National Park, Hell’s Gate National Park, Hyrax Pre-historic Site and Mount Longonot.

The hotel consists of 147 lavish and spacious air-conditioned rooms, a magnificent courtyard, a Cinnamon Restaurant, the Leather Bar, and a wonderful poolside area with beautifully manicured lawns. 

Sarova Imperial

Sarova Imperial Hotel in Kisumu is strategically located in Kisumu’s CBD, off the Jomo Kenyatta Highway along the picturesque shores of Lake Victoria. It is a 10-minute drive from the Kisumu International Airport and offers easy access by road to the famous Kisumu Impala Sanctuary, Dunga Hill Camp & Hippo Point, Kisumu National Museum and several shopping malls.

Rated amongst the top luxury hotels in Kisumu, Sarova Imperial Kisumu boasts a rich heritage spanning over 30 years. The hotel features 95 tastefully furnished rooms, including 3 signature suites, all with access to a well-equipped fitness room for an enriching experience.

Sarova Whitesands

Sarova Whitesands Beach Resort & Spa is an award-winning luxury beach hotel and an adventure beach resort located on the pristine beach shore of the Indian Ocean, nestled among towering palms, just half an hour's drive from Mombasa's City Centre and 21 Kilometers from Moi International Airport.

Sarova Whitesands Beach Resort & Spa was appointed as a winner in 2 outstanding categories in the 2023 World Luxury Hotel Awards; voted Best Luxury Family Beach Resort in Africa and Best Luxury Beachfront Resort in East Africa.

The resort's 340 rooms sit on one of the longest, lush beach fronts on the Kenyan coast. The rooms offer panoramic views of the ocean, pools and tropical gardens from spacious terraces accessible through sliding glass doors.