05 SEP 2014: One of the biggest gripes with travellers is where to rest their weary heads on vacation. Some might get antsy sleeping in the wilds or turn up their noses at urban retreats but Kenya offers accommodations that are out of this wild world.

I plunked down in posh pads in the bush and in the capital of Nairobi.

Here’s my take on what’s new:


The bustling capital once a dusty colonial train depot still has some of its old hotel beauties such as The Norfolk but recently a new boutique hotel has been added to the product mix.

Hemingways Nairobi

Big sales point: Nairobi’s latest luxury boutique hotel is located on the former farm of renowned author Karen Blixen and her old homestead is now a museum located down the street.

One insider describes this 45-room hotel which is part of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World as the new Norfolk, a modern Africa. Located in the tony Karen enclave on the outskirts of Nairobi’s hullaballoo, lies this new build. A closer look reveals the posh accommodations resemble the famous Saxon Hotel in Johannesburg.

“Nelson Mandela wrote his Long Walk to Freedom while staying at the Saxon Hotel,” says Alistair Addison, CEO of the Hemingways Collection, a Kenyan luxury hotel company, explaining the design concept.

Geared for the affluent guest and those who want to steer clear away from the bustling capital, there is a lavish restaurant, a championship golf course at the nearby Karen Country and Golf Club, a world class spa, and shopping at the hotel’s demure boutique rife with top Kenyan designers and artists. There’s also a swimming pool and don’t forget to hit the second floor of the main building for a perfect sundowner by the terrace balcony.

The property’s posh suites are individually named after significant Kenyan icons and are furnished in modern luxurious amenities fit for a 21st century guest. Find a massive full ensuite bathroom with him and her sinks at opposite ends, a deep soaker tub, and a separate shower with a massive rain head. The entire room has touch technology for lights, climate control and you can call Jeeves anytime. The hotel is the only one of its kind offering butler service in Kenya.

Tip: Order morning coffee room service. Your personal butler finds a fab nook for the morning wake-up cup. He left me to savour the Out of Africa moment on my private porch fuelled by the sounds of birds and grazing cattle.


Sleeping Warrior Lodge and Camp

Big Sales point: Close enough to Nairobi (140 km north) this luxury eco lodge located in the secluded Soysambu Conservancy along the Rift Valley makes a nice compliment to a city and countryside package.

The lodge is named after the geological feature, a crater that looks similar to Ontario’s own Sleeping Giant in Thunder Bay. Some locals also refer to the Sleeping Warrior as “Delamere’s nose,” after the legendary British Lord who had a ranch there.

While you won’t find the Big Five, the Soysambu Conservancy presents spectacular opportunities for viewing game up close. Plus you won’t be bothered by other safari game drivers either. Sleeping Warrior Lodge and Camp is the only one located on the southern side of Lake Elmenteita, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The animals seem to be wilder and so too does the experience.

The property which opened three years ago is a dream-come-true for a husband and wife team. Find two experiences in one. For the rugged outdoorsy type who doesn’t mind camping there are eco sustainable tents with indoor plumbing i.e. hot showers, sinks and toilets, and for the rest who enjoy sleeping inside walls there are fabulous locally quarried stone cottages furnished with handcrafted recycled wood furniture that overlooks breathtaking scenery.

Find mega activities.

Birders will get a thrill.

The lodge is situated by a cool, natural phenomenon that attracts thousands of flamingos to munch out on the algae laden soda lake. While neighbouring Lake Nakuru is considered the bigger flamingo viewing area the smaller Lake Elmenteita isn’t shy from receiving a bevy of long-legged pink birds either.  

Hikers enjoy several routes.

Take a guided bird walk, a shoreline walk and then there’s a hike to the Sleeping Warrior.

Game drives and sundowners.

There are animal rich viewing opportunities to see the endangered Rothschild giraffes, zebra, gazelle, buffalo, and if you’re extra lucky the elusive leopard.

Tip: Situated near Lord Delamere’s ranch the Sleeping Warrior Lodge and Camp is a fabulous spot for clients interested in reliving the Karen Blixen dream. Lots of her pals like Berkeley Cole and even lover Denys Finch Hatton had ties to this area now known as the Soysambu Conservancy.

Ol Malo House

Big Sales point: Here is the magic of Kenya all rolled into one luxury lodge, a fabulous nod to a family ranch home.

As soon as we crossed the equator and touched down on a dirt air strip I knew Ol Malo ‘meaning the place of the greater kudu’ was different. A hot dry African breeze skims by. I plant my feet on the now familiar ochre terra firma and am greeted by a local Samburu kitted up in his warrior uniform, a radiant green shuka he wears with pride.

At the family-run lodge it’s more Out of Africa. Entirely built from local rock, olive wood, and recycled materials, the owners the Francombe’s have created a paradise amid a private game sanctuary. The main house (12 person capacity) is situated on the edge of an escarpment that faces the Laikipia plateau with Mount Kenya and other hills dotting the horizon. The house has another area with separate cottages that are equally breathtaking.

In the house’s den find family framed pix of the kids, special mementoes, dog-eared tomes on birding and nature while outside on the terrace find delicious perches where one could linger for hours to watch nature unfold.

No suite is the same. My temporary abode was the Kudu room dedicated to the Francombe’s family pet (now deceased) Tandala, a female Greater Kudu orphaned after its mom was killed by a lion.  A two floor spacious suite with a signature portrait of Tandala greets guests.  The cozy canvas-covered sofa is ideal for lounging. The massive king sized bed is fit for royalty and the bathroom décor, like the rest of the room is definitely unusual. The rustic design reminiscent of a cave has a custom-made stone tub and foliage that felt like Tandala might arrive and poke her nose in at any second. For mornings it was sipping Kenyan coffee on my private balcony while below on the endless plateau a spectacular animal show played out.  

With the natural rhythms of animal movement game regularly pass through this massive stretch of land. Several species call Ol Malo home. The lodge is a working farm, self-sustainable and the Francombe’s are passionate about two things: the natural wilderness and the local tribes. Enquire about the Ol Malo Trust (www.olmalo.org) for more details.

Also find mega activities.

Guests can have a camel trek or horseback or drop by the corral where you never know what you will see. There are safari drives, sundowners, bush breakfasts and if so inclined, inquire about the fabulous safari chopper ride. Son Andrew, a professional pilot, offers helicopter excursions that are out of this world.

Tip: Swim the infinity pool with a spectacular view of Mount Kenya.


Ol Seki Hemingways Mara

Big Sales point: A new silver eco-rated luxe camp secluded in an animal-rich viewing private conservancy located on the edge of the world famous Masai Mara Game Reserve.

Luxe travelers and those who don’t mind spending extra for that authentic experience will need to put this camp on their to-do list. The Ol Seki which can host 20 guests is part of the exclusive Hemingways Collection, a luxury Kenyan hotel company with properties in Watamu, the capital, and now The Mara.  

Safari destinations like the overdone places in Botswana and heavily publicized South African ones can get expensive. Thankfully this remote safari camp with its own private air strip situated in a brand new private conservancy isn’t going to be a deal breaker. Depending on the season and special packages, clients can expect to pay $550-$750 per night, for everything (price includes meals, drinks, accommodation, park fees, and conservation fees for the ultimate game viewing). With the exception of the rhino see four of the Big Five inside the Mara Naboisho Conservancy. No bump-ins with other safari jeeps either.

Tip: Ask for a morning wake-up and prepare for local Masai staff to approach singing “Hodi, Hodi” meaning “I am here” leaving you with a fresh pot of coffee and biscuits.  Then before the big early morning game drive head to the library tent and lounge amid furnishings that epitomize grand African safaris in soothing neutral tones and natural woods. Aim the huge telescope at the game grazing in the Koyaki plains ahead.



The Hemingways Collection has an exclusive tour company, Hemingways Expedition http://www.hemingways-expeditions.com that literally makes trip planning a cinch. From airport transfers to domestic air bookings for visits to their sister properties in Nairobi and Watamu Marine National Park, its beach, bush and boutique.

Inquire about Kenya land excursions, internal transfers and itineraries with Maniago Safaris http://www.maniagosafaris.com

Kenya Tourist Board http://www.magicalkenya.com/
Twitter #whyilovekenya



Ilona Kauremszky

A regular contributor to Travel Industry Today, Ilona is a prize winning journalist whose writing pursuits have taken her around the globe.

Read more from Ilona Kauremszky

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