My biggest travel reminder this year has been that there is so much beauty and plenty of amazing sights and experiences in Nairobi and its outskirts that I have overlooked in my travel pursuits over the years. Driving past the sprawling, green, tea fields in Kiambu recently, and being blown away by the beauty of that serene, neat-to-a-fault setting, awakened in me the desire to discover the experiences available in the neighbouring counties. Just what marvelous treasures do Thika, Machakos, Naivasha hold? Roadtrip anyone?
The Aberdare Ranges in Nyeri County comprise one of Kenya’s most beautiful open forests and moorlands. Lying just a short two hours from Nairobi, visitors can explore the Aberdares National Park on game drives and other activities offered at the park. But where can visitors overnight during their trip, should they choose to? Some time back, I toured several properties in the Aberdares region and here are my recommendations.
Built and named after the Biblical Noah’s Ark, this iconic property has been welcoming guests for decades. The Ark was built in front of a waterhole and a saltlick where wildlife come to get much needed nourishment making for easy wildlife viewing from the rooms and any of the hotel lounges. I found the rooms small but can accommodate a double bed or twin beds. I loved the art done by local artists that hang on the walls of each room. The hotel has a buzzer that rings to alert guests when certain rare animals are spotted such as leopard or rhino. There is an underground bunker that ends just meters away from the water hole where guests can go to get an up-close “encounter” with the wildlife. Kids would totally love this!
The Ark Walkway
The Ark Room
It is at Treetops Lodge that in 1952, Princess Elizabeth ascended to the throne to become Queen Elizabeth II after the death of her father, King George VI. This tree lodge that stands on stilts has a rich history that dates back to November 1932 when is was opened with just 2 rooms. Today, after extensive renovations in 2012, Treetops offers 36 rooms that include 3 suites. The lodge was built around an ancient tree which was not cut down during renovations but rather forms part of the hotel. Just like The Ark, Treetops was built in front of a water hole; guests can watch wildlife from the viewing deck or through any of the large, numerous windows found throughout the lodge.
Aberdare Country Club
The first thing I noticed about the Aberdare Country Club was the wall paper. The Club has varied unique wall paper in different spaces that gave me plenty of interior decor ideas! ACC stands on Mweiga Hill in a sprawling 1,300 acre wildlife sanctuary in the Aberdares Highlands. The views of the highlands as you look down from the Club is captivating. It has a well manicured green lawn that tempts you to lie down and soak in the sun. Accommodation at ACC features cottages of different sizes that would suit singles, honeymooners and families. The rooms are bright and cheerful. There is a swimming pool and a spa with a gym and sauna. Horse riding, biking, tennis, golf are just some of the activities that you can engage in during your stay.
Aberdare Country Club main house
Serena Mountain Lodge
Serena Mountain Lodge is located on the slopes of Mount Kenya, not the Aberdares but because I visited it too, I decided to include it in this list. The lodge is a tree house raised on stilts facing a waterhole and a salt lick, much like Treetops and The Ark. (I wonder why a tree house was the architectural design of choice for the hoteliers in the area). A winding stair case leads to 41 non-smoking rooms. In June 2017, the lodge started accepting children over the age of 3 who can now play and have kiddie fun at the Serena Kid’s Club. Guests can go trout fishing in the mountain streams or for the adventurous, go on a Mount Kenya climb. Serena Mountain Lodge offers a tranquil resting spot but it can get pretty cold so remember to dress warmly.
Serena Mountain Lodge facade
Serena Mountain Lodge room
Waterhole at Serena Mountain Lodge
I have been to Tafari Castle twice and each time I am impressed by what I see and how much passion the owners have for the property. Tafari Castle is unique. It is a themed property that revolves around medieval times. It is owned and named after George Tafaria Waititu who was once a hotshot at a leading research firm in Kenya and quit to start and run Tafaria Castle and Country Lodge together with his wife in 2012. If you are in luck, you will find one of the owners on site and they will give you a personal tour and history of the place.
Everything about the property depicts the Roman times – from the the main house known as The Castle, to its rooms – Lord’s Room, Vikings Quarters, Lost Knights Quarters, Damsels, to its decor. The property sprawls over several acres with its 72 rooms ideally positioned over the grounds. With archery, horse back rides, a heated swimming pool and indoor games, there is little chance of tedium at Tafaria.
Tafaria main house
Lost Knight Quarters
Ever been to any of the above lodges? What did you think? Please let me know!