Posts filed under ‘Tembea Kenya Series’

Out of Town: Marsabit – Lake Turkana Cultural Festival 2019 Edition, Apr. 18-20 2019 @ Loiyangalani

Dates: April 18-20, 2019
Venue: Loiyangalani, Marsabit County

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January 10, 2019 at 2:16 pm Leave a comment

Out of Town: Kilifi New Year Festival ft. 62 Local and International Acts, Dec. 30 2018 – Jan. 2 2019 @ Beneath the Baobabs – Kilifi


Dates: December 30, 2018 – January 2, 2019
Venue: Beneath the Baobabs – Kilifi
Tickets: Final Advance Tickets at KSh 8,000 for the entire 4-day duration. Tickets at the gate will cost KSh 9,000

Advance tickets available, here

About
Located in Kenya on the East coast of Africa, Kilifi is where we chose to call home. This was not only because of its stunning natural beauty, but because of the future that we envisioned for it. In 2014, the founders decided to host a gathering that would act as a melting pot of global cultures and a haven for freedom of expression. It was going to be a place where they could fiercely advocate what they themselves believed in: conscious living and sustainability.

Our festival – with secret nooks, majestic spaces and art dotted all across the site – is intended to encourage renewal. It culminates with the burning of a large wooden sculpture, symbolising new beginnings and a shared optimism for a brighter future, bringing together the community of Kilifi and all festival goers for a moving spectacle.

The Music
This year’s festival will offer three stages with over 40 artists from different genres: House and Techno Music, Dub Reggae and Bass Music with both Kenyan and international acts

Here’s a sample of all the DJ lineup in store for 2019. First Wave Lineup:

Nickodemus (US), Gato Preto (D/AO/GH), Yaadcore (JM), Cian Finn (IRE), DJ invIZable (SA), Yeti (SA), Jinku (K), Kerby (K), Seth Schwarz (D), Pete on the Corner (UK), Makadem (K), Marcus WI (K), Tash LC (UK), Enchan (K), Chucky (K), Belville (D), Dreadsteppa (K), Umojah Sound System (K), Commoner (UK), Sadhu Sensi (SA), Abaki Simba (K), Brian Kadawa (K), Shishi (K) et al.

Mind, Body, Soul
We are excited to announce a newly created area dedicated to feeding the senses and educating the mind; away from the exciting and intense music and energy of the dance floors beneath the baobabs.

Here, we will hold workshops, talks and have different therapies and therapists on hand to enhance the festivals values of holistic living and conscious education. Our attendees feed both mind & body with yoga and other activities which all have an emphasis on improving quality of life.

Our Ethos
We stand for diversity in race, religion, sex, origin and humanity. The basic principle behind this is that the more diverse we are the richer we are! We judge people by who they are inside, not by the colour of their skin, sex, sexual orientation or anything else skin deep.

We want to act as a platform for growing the wellness and alternative education movement in Kenya. For it to be a bigger part of lives of everyone who comes through our gates.

Kilifi New Year commits to protect and conserve the local environment and as act as an example and inspiration to live consciously on the planet. We focus on ecological awareness, e.g. gardening/ cultivation of land, water harvesting and conservation education.

Creativity: The dream is to showcase and develop talents and potential in music and art from all over Kenya.

The Magic Maker. We want Kilifi New Year acts as a beacon to attract international and homegrown creativity & talent in order to bring in the skills and knowledge which will to amplify all of the above goals.

The Venue: Beneath the Baobabs
This is the unique jungle site populated by ancient trees is set beside the stunning Takaungu Creek on the Indian Ocean. It is surrounded by pristine lush plateau, and is home to secret wild orange and lemon orchards, bamboo forests and thousand year-old baobabs that make for a magical setting for any experience.

Over the next 12 months is hosting two main public festivals, Kilifi New Year Beneath the Baobabs, and Kilifi Roots Festival – Beneath the Baobabs.

December 19, 2018 at 12:59 pm Leave a comment

Out of Town: 18th Lamu Cultural Festival, Nov. 22-25 2018 @ Lamu Island


Dates: November 22-25, 2018
Venue: Lamu Island, Lamu Archipelago

Travel: Seven Days in Lamu Archipelago, Lamu County

November 14, 2018 at 3:21 pm Leave a comment

The Sarit Centre’s Getaway Tourism Fair, Nov. 3-5 2017 @ Sarit Centre – Westlands


Dates: November 3-5, 2017
Venue: Sarit Centre – Westlands

November 2, 2017 at 4:59 pm Leave a comment

Travel: Seven Days in Lamu Archipelago, Lamu County


Lamu Archipelago which consists of Lamu, Manda and Pate Islands is perhaps one of the best destinations, if not the best tourist destination, to visit in Kenya. Late last year, end of November and beginning of December 2015, NairobiNow had the chance of visiting Lamu Island to cover the 15th Lamu Cultural Festival. The county has been positioning itself as a destination for festivals under the new county dispensation, partly to prop up with the limited number of tourists who have been flowing to the archipelago due to travel advisories, and also to introduce and possibly increase the number of domestic tourists. During the set of seven days NairobiNow was in the county, we took some time to discover the Lamu archipelago and what it has to offer.

Getting there
There are two ways of getting to Lamu Island; one is by road which should take you approximately 24 hours or more from Nairobi to Lamu, using public means. This mode might also involve taking a stop in Mombasa or Malindi since vehicles connecting to Lamu from either Mombasa or Malindi leave at specific times. The journey by road also has a fair share of roadblocks and the route from Malindi to Lamu involves waiting for Police escort, which you might have to wait at some point. If you choose to use this means, make sure you carry a form of identification, either your national identification card or passport. If you decide to drive yourself, note that you will leave your car at Kikoni, as no cars are allowed at the Island.

A more detailed account of getting there by road has been penned by Safari254.

However, an easier and no frills method of getting to Lamu is by taking a flight which will see you land at Manda Island. There are a number of operators which ply this route with the latest entry being the low cost carrier, JamboJet flying to and from Lamu at least once a day from JKIA. If you book really early you will enjoy competitive prices. Other carriers, which operate from Wilson Airport, are Fly540 and Safari link. The latter usually cater for charted flights and might be ideal if you wish to fly directly to Manda Bay, a private resort within Manda Bay.

The View: Lamu Town from Manda Island

The View: Lamu Town from Manda Island


Once you land in Manda Island, you will take a boat that should take you across the strait to Lamu Island that is if you are staying in Lamu town. Alternatively, if you are staying in Shela village, which is still on Lamu Island but a little further away, in an area that has got private villas and is opposite the famous Majlis Hotel.

Lamu Island

Lamu Sunset

Lamu Sunset


If you are travelling to the archipelago and you need to really immense yourself into the culture and traditions of the island, Lamu Island is the place you need to stay. However, during the festivities, as was our case, it can get a little noisy especially if you are staying near Mkunguni Square – the space in front of the Lamu Fort where all the action happens.
View of Lamu Town from the jetty in the morning

View of Lamu Town from the jetty in the morning

Where to Stay within the Island
There are a number of establishments within the Island, where one can stay and with exquisite views of the ocean such as the well-priced Petleys Inn to the more cost friendly establishments such as Jambo House.

Subira House
However, for an unforgettable stay within Lamu town, Subira House is a highly recommended home away from home. The house used to be a Liwali House. Liwali is equivalent to a present day Governor, used to be the representative of the Sultan of Zanzibar, when the island used to fall within the ambit of Sultanate of Zanzibar. The house is behind the Lamu Fort and the current owners Christina and Paul Aarts, from Sweden and Netherlands respectively, have owned the house from 1991 and have renovated the joint, adding a few floors as well, but retaining the essence and soul of the initial structure.

Subira House Lounge

Subira House Lounge


Christina and Paul Aarts, who met in Pate Island in 1975 and later resettled permanently to the Island in the early 1990’s are also extremely well acquainted with the local Swahili Culture and are deeply involved in efforts to preserve and maintain the Archipelago’s unique ecosystem, through initiatives such as Save Lamu.
 Subira House Plants

Subira House Plants


Subira House has an excellent garden and nice lounges, outside the rooms, where one can read from and also boasts of a number of books, although most of them are Swedish. The rooftop also provides an excellent vantage point to catch the sunrise – instead of walking all the way to the jetty.

What to do while in Lamu Town

Lamu is more than the Old Town, the Museum and Swahili House

A few residents who are lived within the archipelago will indicate to you that Lamu is more than the Old Town, the Museum and Swahili House.

Old Town
Lamu was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2001 because of the Old Town. Therefore, it is quintessential to have a guided tour around the Old Town, if you are staying in Lamu. The Old Town has unique architectural designs and narrow streets that one can easily get lost and as such one ought to have someone who knows the place. However, should you wish to take a walk, you will find the locals are more than eager to assist you, should you get lost in the puzzle that are the narrow alleys that form patterns similar to a maze.

18 Century Swahili House Museum

18th Century Swahili House

18th Century Swahili House


Near the Old Town is a typical 18th Century Swahili House, which was refurbished by proceeds from Museum Society and funds from the Swedish government, currently it is operated by the National Museums.

The Swahili House showcases how typical well off Swahili family lived and the resident curator and guide offer’s visitors with an elaborate account and explanation to boot.

Entry to this house is KES 100 and the money is paid at the Lamu Museum.

Lamu Museum

Lamu Museum

Lamu Museum


Without a doubt, Lamu Museum is one of the places worth visiting in Lamu town; the museum is very well maintained and features Swahili artefacts excavated from the early coastal settlements found within the archipelago dating back as early as the 9th Century to items that might have been found in a Swahili home.

There is also an exhibition currently running at Lamu Museum on Muhamadi Kijuma, a poet, writer, scholar and interpreter. Kijuma, who was born in Lamu around 1855, worked closely with the Germans in the late 18th Century/early 19th Century as an interpreter. This fascinating exhibition, which among other things features poetry frontispiece to the edition, ‘The Advice of Mwana Kupona upon the Wifely Duty’ published in 1934.

This exhibition was been running from the year 2007, when it was officially opened by the then German Ambassador Walter J. Lindner and Suleiman Shakombo, then Minister for State and National Heritage.

Marine Section in Lamu Museum

Marine Section in Lamu Museum


The Museum also showcases the Indian Ocean Trade routes and how Lamu featured in that equation, mainly the supply of Ivory and Rhino horns. The first floor also a well curated section on the Marine Industry of Lamu over the centuries, from the designs and replicas of Dhows that once plied to Arabia and Indian but now operate along the East African Coast.

Others
Other equally important and fascinating places to visit in Lamu town are;
a. The German Post Office Museum,
b. The American Corner,
c. Lamu Fort,
d. Donkey Sanctuary

There is nothing to write home about the German Post Office, however, if you are a German then perhaps the one room on the alleys of Lamu might prove to be sentimental. An entry of KES 100 is charged to see this room.

Surprisingly enough, within Lamu, there is an American Corner! The Library and well stocked resource centre has materials on the good old US of A. This is an ideal place to read from and possibly read your mails from. They have some functional WiFi.

Entrance to Lamu Fort

Entrance to Lamu Fort


The Lamu Fort presents the perhaps the vestiges of yesterday years, from the canons that sit outside the fort and present the superior firepower of yesterday years to the Fort that used to be the seat of the Governor who was a representative of the Sultan of Zanzibar in the Archipelago. The Fort does not have a lot running but it is usually the venue for most of the official functions carried out by the county government with the area in front of the Fort, Mkunguni Square, serving as the Town’s Public Square.
Mkunguni Square

Mkunguni Square


Since the mode of transport on the Island is donkeys, it only makes sense to have a donkey sanctuary. The town has a donkey sanctuary near the American Corner facing the Seafront where old and rescued donkeys are brought. The centre also serves to encourage good treatment of ‘man’s best friend’ in the Island!
Donkey Sanctuary in Lamu

Donkey Sanctuary in Lamu

What NOT to do while in Lamu Town
Lamu town is inhabited by people from all walks of life but it is predominantly a Muslim town and as such one is expected to maintain good etiquette, dressing modestly and not drinking beer in public.

Shela Village
Shela Village, which is still located on Lamu Island, unlike Lamu town, is dotted by villas and vacation homes owned by the rich and famous. It is reported that one of the private residencies along the Shela beachfront is owned by an aristocrat from Monaco. As such, the conservative traditions which might apply in Lamu town, do not necessarily apply here especially on the private properties and villas.

Where to Stay in Shela

 Forodhani House

Forodhani House


There are a number of establishments to choose from in Shela, from the villas which dot the beachfront to Forodhani House. Also, across Shela Village on Manda Island is Maljis Hotel.

What to do in Shela

Shela Beach

Shela Beach


There is a lot to do in Shela Village from swimming and/or walking on the immaculately clean and clear beach to viewing the sand dunes that have formed near Shela Village.

During the morning and the evening, one can take a dhow cruise to watch the sunrise and sunset in the evening you can enjoy a drink either at Peponi Hotel and/or club hop across the channel to Majlis Hotel on Manda Island. There is also the much talked about Floating Bar near Shela Village, which practically there is nothing to write home about apart from catching up on the latest gossip in town – most of the boat captains unwind there as well as they wait for their late night passengers!

Sunset Cruise on Shela Channel

Sunset Cruise on Shela Channel


Other things one can indulge in are taking a cruise to Takwa, on Manda Island, and visiting the Takwa ruins, one of the early Swahili settlements along the archipelago and probably hiking and picnicking on the Sand dunes.

Manda Island

Majlis Hotel

Majlis Hotel


Manda Island has a few high end hotels on the beach opposite Shela Village with Majlis Hotel getting has high as they come. It is reputed that when the political class comes calling in Lamu, they stay at Majlis Hotel.

Manda Bay

Manda Bay

Manda Bay


However, should you prefer a more exquisite high end address while in Lamu archipelago, then Manda Bay is highly recommended. Manda Bay, which is around 20-30 minutes from Lamu town, can be described as a hidden gem within the archipelago.

Manda Bay not only provides one with a unique private beach for one to indulge oneself with, it also has Buffaloes a short distant from the resort. The population of Buffaloes, estimated to be around 50, are said to have crossed to the Bay, when the water levels permitted them to cross to the Bay. Fuzz, the proprietor, takes care of the Buffaloes by providing them with water, Manda Bay has problems with fresh water, and in drier times he provides them with hay.

Manda Bay Buffaloes

Manda Bay Buffaloes


Fuzz Dyer, also serves as the chair of Lamu Tourist Association, and has a private airstrip on the bay. The resort can also organize flights in and around the archipelago for its guests.

What to do in Manda Bay
Apart from viewing the Buffaloes, which like clockwork come to take water around 5.30 pm, one can also visit the 9th Century Ruins on the Bay, Manda Ruins which were occupied by people before they moved in to current Lamu town due to lack of fresh water.

Birds at Shaka la Paa

Birds at Shaka la Paa


For the more adventurous folks, they can organize to visit Pate Islands from the resort and visit Shaka la Paa at around 6.30 to view birds which come to rest in evenings in that particular area.

Notes
1. The ride from Manda Island to Lamu Island and/or Shela Village will cost you roughly KES 500-1000 (if travelling alone in a boat). If you are boarding a boat with many people, this cost reduces drastically. The best thing is to ask beforehand or to ask the hotel to make arrangements for you.
2. Accommodations range from as low as KES 1,500 to KES 10,000 for Bed and Breakfast. Also, depending on the season, in this case, if there is a festival in town or not with prices being more affordable when there is no festival in town.
3. For more information on Subira House, download the guide to Subira House (pdf).
4. Entry to the 18th Century Swahili House is KES 100 and the monies are paid at the Lamu Museum before proceeding to the Swahili House. The same cost applies for residents to enter the Lamu Museum and the German Post Office Museum.
5. There are motorboats that operate from Lamu town to Shela village/beach. They charge KES 100 per person sharing with other persons and can also be hired starting from KES 500-1000.
6. View complete list of festivals and their dates

January 2, 2016 at 4:04 pm 3 comments

Travel: 72 Hours in Tanzania at Lake Manyara Serena Safari Lodge and Lake Duluti Serena Hotel


Located over 400 kilometers from Nairobi by road, Lake Manyara Serena Safari Lodge is between five to six hours’ drive from Nairobi. The amount of time you will spend on the road will depend on a few factors such as; the time spent on the Namanga border crossing, this is the Kenya–Tanzania border point, the vehicle you are using to ply from Nairobi to Lake Manyara and the traffic along the Nairobi-Arusha road.

Getting there – Different Options
If you intend to use public means, there are a number of options to choose from, but the shuttles which operate between Nairobi and Arusha are the safest bet of getting you to Arusha. These shuttles can be accessed on Monrovia Street, opposite Jevanjee Gardens and for our trip we used Riverside Car Hire and Shuttle Services.

Most of these shuttles leave Nairobi at 8 am in the morning or 2 pm in the afternoon. It might be a little difficult to get a public service vehicle past 2 pm because on the Tanzania side, they do not allow PSV’s to operate at night.

The other option to get you to Lake Manyara would be through air, for this you would have to connect via Kilimanjaro International airport from either Wilson, through charter flights, and/or Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. Once you are in Kilimanjaro you can either connect by road or through a connection charter flight. Lake Manyara Serena Safari Lodge has an airstrip which operates only during the day time.

If this is your first time in Tanzania, you will need to have a yellow fever certificate and your travel documents, either a passport or temporary permit for Kenyan’s. No visas are required for Kenyans to enter Tanzania.

Welcome to Tanzania | Photo by Njathika

Welcome to Tanzania | Photo by Njathika

Once you cross the border, it will take you almost one and a half hours to reach Arusha town. Arusha is a diplomatic hub since it hosts the secretariat of the East African Community and as such there are a number of nice places to visit. However, in our case we had a scheduled entourage to Lake Manyara, which is 124 KM’s from Arusha City.

The journey to Lake Manyara Serena Safari Lodge by road is quite fascinating, this is because you get to see, feel and experience the different landscapes. The road is quite impressive and as such, if you have some time, this mode is highly recommended.

Lake Manyara Serena Safari Lodge, Mto wa Mbu, Tanzania

Lake Manyara Serena Safari Lodge | Photo by Njathika

Lake Manyara Serena Safari Lodge | Photo by Njathika


Lake Manyara Serena Safari Lodge is located on the edge of a towering terracotta escarpment which gives it, spectacular if not, panoramic views over the glittering alkaline waters of Lake Manyara.

Entry into the reception area | Photo by Njathika

Entry into the reception area | Photo by Njathika


The Lodge is grouped around a central ‘vanishing horizon’ pool, this highly unusual lodge features a simple timbered reception area, built in traditional African style, which is accessed via a bridge over a small stream. Beyond reception, lies the central dining room, bar and veranda, below which lies the pool. Perched on the very edge of the cliffs, with stunning views of Lake Manyara National Park is the pool bar and observation point. Dotted around the grounds, all with views over the lake, are a series of circular two-storey ‘rondavels’, which house the rooms.

Designed, by PTA – Peter Thomas Associates, to reflect the brilliance of Lake Manyara’s unique birdlife, the architectural motif melds swooping avian curves with the gentle concentric patterns of traditional Maasai ‘Bomas’ , while the vibrantly coloured wall frescoes depict the colourful intricacy of bird migratory patterns.

Dining, Bar and Hospitality areas have these interesting chandeliers | Photo by   Njathika

Dining, Bar and Hospitality areas have these interesting chandeliers | Photo by Njathika

Activities and Cultural Interaction
Lake Manyara Serena Safari Lodge offers a unique blend of safari opportunities, peace and tranquillity, wildlife discovery, and ornithological richness. There is an unprecedented range of high-adventure sports, which include mountain biking – arranged/indicated in advance, archery and high altitude nature walks, while cultural activities include tours of the neighbouring villages and dance displays by the local Iraqw and sukuma people.

There is also a dance troupe that comes to the lodge every day in the evening to entertain guests from 6 – 7.30 pm

a) Guided Nature Walks / Bird Watching

Yotham explaining something during the nature walk | Photo by Njathika

Yotham explaining something during the nature walk | Photo by Njathika


If you love nature, then a nature walk with Yotham – the resident naturalist should be something on your cards if you are visiting Lake Manyara Serena Safari Lodge. These walks normally take place early in the morning from 9.30 am after breakfast and usually take two hours. During this nature walk, you will see unique flora and fauna found in that part of the world and Yotham will keep you engaged by asking you questions before sharing the facts. You will learn the history of the rift valley among other things.

Airstrip at the edge of the escarpment | Photo by Njathika

Airstrip at the edge of the escarpment | Photo by Njathika


The nature walk transverses around the Lodge and you will be able to see the airstrip, the escarpment and the lake from the edge of the escarpment.
Birds along the stretch of the nature walk. | Photo by Njathika

Birds along the stretch of the nature walk. | Photo by Njathika

b) Viewing the Lake / animals from the Swimming Pool Lounge
The swimming pool is the central and unique feature of the Safari Lodge and from the lounge pool you can view the landscape below, where you can view the Lake using the string binoculars available at the lounge area.

Mwirigi looking into the binoculars at the pool lounge. | Photo by Njathika

Mwirigi looking into the binoculars at the pool lounge. | Photo by Njathika


The pool also attracts a wide range of birds, which come to quench their thirst there and as such if you are a bird watcher, this is a unique place to view birds from.
Sunrise from the pool area. | Photo by Njathika

Sunrise from the pool area. | Photo by Njathika

c) Visit to the Lake Manyara National Park
A visit to Lake Manyara Serena Safari Lodge would not be complete without a visit to Lake Manyara National Park. The Park is synonymous with tree climbing lions, something that the lions adapted to due to the terrain over time. However, apart from the tree climbing lions there are other animals to view as well from a manmade viewing point, the hippo pool.

Birds at the Hippo Pool inside Lake Manyara National Park. | Photo by Njathika

Birds at the Hippo Pool inside Lake Manyara National Park. | Photo by Njathika

d) Visit to Ngorongoro Crater and Tarangire National Park
Lake Manyara Serena Safari Lodge sits on the northern tourist corridor and one of the top destinations by tourists from across the world is usually the Ngorongoro Crater. This is primarily because it has been listed as one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

If you visit Lake Manyara Serena Safari Lodge, and wish to visit Ngororo crater, a day trip can be organised for you by Mustafa – the Lodge Manager and his team, and Tarangire National Park.

Mustafa the Lodge Manager Lake Manyara Safari Lodge. | Photo by Njathika

Mustafa the Lodge Manager Lake Manyara Safari Lodge. | Photo by Njathika

Lake Duluti Serena Hotel, Arusha


On our way back to Kenya, we passed by Lake Duluti Serena Hotel for Lunch. The Hotel is 20 kilometers from Arusha and 60 kilometers from Kilimanjaro International Airport.
Lake Duluti | Photo by Njathika

Lake Duluti | Photo by Njathika


The Hotel currently stands in what used to be coffee plantation and very impressive landscaping with a magnificent view of Lake Duluti which can be viewed from the main hotel and cottage-styled rooms.
Cottages overlooking Lake Duluti. | Photo by NJathika

Cottages overlooking Lake Duluti. | Photo by NJathika

If you are flying into Arusha through Kilimanjaro International airport, this is a perfect destination to cool off as you wait to transact business in Arusha and/or if you are on a layover.

The main attractions/activities one can indulge in, while at the hotel include; walking, mountain biking, canoeing on the lake, and trips to the nearby Arusha and Mount Meru national parks.

The Details
1. Information on the issuance of temporary pass, for those without passports to travel to Tanzania, from the directorate of immigration’s, Kenya.
2. Location of shuttles to Arusha, on Monrovia Street opposite Jevanjee Gardens.
3. Download Tanzania Road and Air Packages.

Disclosure: This trip was facilitated by TPS Serena Kenya and Tanzania

November 15, 2015 at 6:12 pm Leave a comment

Out of Nairobi/Travel: 24 Hours in Sweetwaters Serena Tented Camp and Ol Pejeta House in Ol Pejeta Conservancy, Laikipia County


Located 227 Kilometers from Nairobi and 57 Kilometers from Serena Mountain Lodge, Ol Pejeta Conservancy is the home to two Serena Hotel properties, namely, Sweetwaters Serena Tented Camp and Ol Pejeta House.

The two properties can be accessed by both air and road. By road, the drive will take you approximately three to four hours from Nairobi. Alternatively, if you are accessing the conservancy by air, it should take you less than one and half hours to be at either of the two Serena properties. The air route will first take you to Nanyuki airstrip ostensibly from Wilson airport where light aircraft carriers can be chartered. The flight from Wilson airport in Nairobi to Nanyuki airstrip is a 30-45 minutes flight, then you can have a transfer to the conservancy organised by either Serena Tented Camp or Serena Ol Pejeta House depending on your destination in advance. This is ideally what is recommended however you can also make your own transfer arrangements from the airstrip. The distance from the airstrip to the conservancy is roughly 15-17 kilometres.

Entrance to the Ol Pejeta Conservancy. Photo by Robert

Entrance to the Ol Pejeta Conservancy. Photo by Robert

The only point of concern to make at this time is that the stretch of road to the conservancy from the Naro Moru – Nanyuki main road is currently under renovation and as such it is advisable to have a car that can handle that stretch of road that is if you are driving yourself from Nairobi. Also, due to the road maintenance the stretch of road can be very dusty especially at this time of the year.

The Conservancy
The Ol Pejeta Conservancy is a private conservancy affiliated to the UK Charity, Flora and Fauna International, but managed and owned by a local subsidiary, the Ol Pejeta Conservancy, which is incorporated in Kenya.

The history of the conservancy is very rich and getting acquainted to the origins and getting to know some of the famous previous owners of the current conservancy/previous ranch was one of the highlights of the trip to both Serena Sweetwaters tented camp and Ol Pejeta House. As I later came to comprehend, the present day conservancy was a cattle ranching area which at one time was owned by Lord Dalamere. However, over the span of years, after independence, the land has changed ownership from Marcus Wickham Boynton to Adnan Khashoggi and then to Lonrho Africa (which at the time of ownership, Tiny Rowland was the head of the group and had the ears of African heads of state’s) to the present day owners, the Flora and Fauna International.

All previous owners of the present day Ol Pejeta Conservancy are interesting in their own right however it is Adnan Khashoggi who built the lavish Ol Pejeta House that is the most interesting of all the previous owners of Ol Pejeja Conservancy as we now know it. To fully understand the magnanimity of his impact in the place, a visit to the Ol Pejeta House is highly recommended. The only downturn to this is, there is no fully fledged museum of the history of the previous owners of the conservancy. However, if you interact with the staff of the Ol Pejeta House, esp. Zainabu you will get a firsthand account of the rich history of Ol Pejeta House.

Over the years, the 110,000 acres of prime land originally used as a ranch area has been turned into a conservancy esp. after the property was acquired by the present day owners, the Flora and Fauna International, who had a deep desire to conserve Flora and Fauna biodiversity of the area. This private conservancy, partly due to the efforts of the present day owners, now boasts one of the highest wildlife-to-area ratios. This wildlife-to-area ratio is far better than even any of the Kenyan national parks!

Ol Pejeta Map. | By Ol Pejeta Conservancy

Ol Pejeta Map. | By Ol Pejeta Conservancy


The conservancy plays host to all the members of the ‘Big Five’ (namely; elephant, rhino, lion, buffalo and leopard).
Baraka a blind Rhino at the Rhino Conservancy. | Photo by Maneno

Baraka a blind Rhino at the Rhino Conservancy. | Photo by Maneno


A warden looks at the horizon with his binoculars at the conservancy. | Photo by Maneno

A warden looks at the horizon with his binoculars at the conservancy. | Photo by Maneno

The conservancy is also synonymous with Rhino’s this is because they have been on the forefront of conserving both black and white rhino with the latter being an endangered species. The other sanctuary found in the facility is a chimpanzee sanctuary, which is the only chimpanzee sanctuary in Kenya that shelters a large numbers of the rare and endangered species. This sanctuary is run by Jane Gondall Foundation.

The conservancy boasts itself a role model for conservation, which it is.

Sweetwaters Serena Tented Camp

Sweetwaters Tented Camp. | Photo by Robert

Sweetwaters Tented Camp. | Photo by Robert


The Sweetwaters Serena Tented Camp is a sheltered oasis, clustered around a water hole and set in the pristine calm of the private Ol Pejeta Conservancy. This tented camp offers a charming blend of under-canvas ambiance and superb Kenyan safari luxury.

Located on the plains of Mount Kenya, the camp features fifty six* luxury tents, each with its own private veranda overlooking the water hole. The central Rhino Restaurant is housed in the former manager’s house of this once colonial farm, and offers both regional and international cuisine. Also within the house is the Kashoggi Bar and lounge, which centers on a blazing log fire. The Waterhole Bar, built in the style of a game-viewing hide, overlooks the waterhole and offers unrivaled wildlife-watching.

Central Restaurant and former Managers House. Photo by Maneno

Central Restaurant and former Managers House. Photo by Maneno


Outside looking Inside. | Photo by Maneno

Outside looking Inside. | Photo by Maneno

* Serena hotel chain has recently put up sixteen new luxury tents in the area adjacent to the watering hole in what is now called the Morani wing, from an initial thirty nine tents, despite the downturn in tourism, to bring the total number of tents to fifty six tents.

Activities and Cultural Interaction
a) Luxury tented camp accommodation

Tented City overlooking the watering hole. | Picture by Maneno

Tented City overlooking the watering hole. | Picture by Maneno


Interior of the recently added tents which are adjacent to the watering hole.  | Photo by Maneno

Interior of the recently added tents which are adjacent to the watering hole. | Photo by Maneno


The tented camp accommodation offers a unique experience from your normal accommodation that one is used at home. The tents are spacious and come with all the facilities that one has come to expect in a Serena Hotel.

Due to the extreme fluctuation in weather temperatures, during the day it can be very hot and at night very cold. The hotel provides hot water bottles to help you keep warm at night!

b) Colonial-styled lounge and bar | Water Hole

Unwind the Day at the Bar overlooking the watering hole. | Photo via Serena Hotels

Unwind the Day at the Bar overlooking the watering hole. | Photo via Serena Hotels


Unwind you day at the well-stocked Kashoggi Bar and lounge which has a vantage view to the water hole. As you quench your thirst, the animals as well will be coming to the water hole to quench their thirst and you will be able to have walk to the water hole, if you need to, for an up close with the animals that frequent the water hole during the day.
Rhinoceros Couple at the Watering Hole. | Photo by  Maneno

Rhinoceros Couple at the Watering Hole. | Photo by Maneno

During our stay there, we witnessed elephants at night which came to drink water and graze near the tented camp. Also in the morning, we got to see this rhinoceros couple whom we were told had made the watering hole their spot. They sleep there every night.

Sunrise overlooking the Water Hole. | Photo by Njathika

Sunrise overlooking the Water Hole. | Photo by Njathika


Sunrise overlooking the watering hole. | Photo by Maneno

Sunrise overlooking the watering hole. | Photo by Maneno

Also, if you wake up early you can get to view the sunrise either from the verandah of your tent or near the watering hole.

c) Camel treks, guided nature walks and/or bird spotting
The Serena Sweetwaters Tented Camp has extensive grounds in which one can indulge on a camel ride. This is ideal activity, especially if one is accompanied by their family, for the young ones and young at heart. The Camel treks usually go around the fenced Serena Sweetwaters property and during the camel ride, the guides get to share with you interesting tit-bits and facts.

Camels resting at Serena Sweetwaters. | Photo by Maneno

Camels resting at Serena Sweetwaters. | Photo by Maneno


Robert and Eric enjoying a camel ride. | Photo by Maneno

Robert and Eric enjoying a camel ride. | Photo by Maneno

If you are not a camel type of person, during designated times usually in the morning, there are guided nature walks around the facility. This way, you get to do your morning exercise while learning a thing or two.

Other activities one can indulge into while still at the Sweetwater Tented Camp is bird watching.

Bird Watching at Sweetwaters. | Photo by Njathika

Bird Watching at Sweetwaters. | Photo by Njathika

d) Other activities
At an extra cost one can undertake the following activities while at either Serena Tented Camp or at the Ol Pejeta House;
i) Day and night game drives daily
The Serena drivers who have a great understanding of the sanctuary will give you a two hours game drive. Due to the high wildlife to area ratio you are bound to see most of the big five in the span of the two hours game drive. However, if you want to increase your odds of viewing the lions, you can arrange for the lion tracking option (under this option, you pay an extra fee which goes towards the conservation efforts). This option is available between 0630-0930 Hrs and 1530-1830 Hrs.

Inside of the new Serena Hotel Game Drive Vehicles. | Photo by Maneno

Inside the new Serena Hotel Game Drive Vehicles. | Photo by Maneno

ii) Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary and Rhino Sanctuary
During the day visit the Sweetwaters Chimpanzees sanctuary which is run by Jane Gondall Foundation. Learn about the foundations work and how they are going about saving Chimpanzees which come from Burundi.

The other sanctuary to visit obviously while at Ol Pejeta Conservancy is the Rhino Sanctuary. Get a chance to interact with Baraka, the blind Rhinoceros.

The Ol Pejeta House

Exterior of Ol Pejeta House. | Photo via Serena Hotels

Exterior of Ol Pejeta House. | Photo via Serena Hotels


Entry to Ol Pejeta House. Photo by Robert

Entry to Ol Pejeta House. Photo by Robert


A short drive from the Serena Sweetwaters Tented Camp is the once grand ranch house of multi-millionaire Adnan Kashoggi, now the Ol Pejeta House, which is a facility run by Serena Hotels.

This imposing and magnificent house stands at the centre of the private Ol Pejeta Conservancy very near to Nanyuki. Set in extensive grounds, with glorious views of Mount Kenya, this opulent mansion features a series of reception rooms, including an elegant drawing room with baronial fireplace and a series of scenic verandas, which extend right around the house.

The Ol Pejeta house was a house built by the then owner, Saudi Arabian born and Western educated Adnan Kashoggi. The house was built in the late seventies/early eighties and it served as a vacation home to the then richest man in the world, who is reported, built the house for his wife. The house also served as a party central of sorts since Mr. Adnan was as Gatsby as it gets and it is reported that the high and mighty in the early eighties at some point in time, they might have visited the house for a little party in the ranch!

Mr. Adnan fell out with the powers be in the aftermath of the 82 coup and was unwelcome to the country thereafter. Lonrho Africa took over running Mr. Adnan’s ranch after he was kicked out of the country.

The current house does not have anything that would tell you of its unique historical past apart from the interior décor esp. in the living room and the exquisite paintings that hang on the walls, which show a widely travelled and cultured man, Mr. Kashoggi was. And perhaps all arm dealers are, as it is purported he was! There is nothing else that indicates or showcases of this treasure trove apart from the occasional staff that are well acquainted with the stories of the houses past.

Dining Room with a ship interior decor. | Photo by Maneno

Dining Room with a ship interior decor. | Photo by Maneno

Activities and Cultural Interaction
The Ol Pejeta offers almost similar activities and interactions as the Serena Sweetwaters Tented Camp. However, the house is most ideal destination for small delegation that wishes to have their privacy from the high turnover Sweetwaters Camp. Also, weddings which could make use of the extensive Ol Pejeta House grounds and afterwards a honeymoon for the newlyweds!

Resources
1. Download Serena Sweetwaters Tented Camp and Ol Pejeta House Fact Sheet (pdf) which is available on Serena Sweetwaters Tented Camp website and Ol Pejeta House website
2. Download the Ol Pejeta map which can be accessed also from the Ol Pejeta Conservancy website.
3. Photographs by Niazaro Kala

Disclosure: This trip was facilitated by Serena Hotel (accommodation).

September 15, 2015 at 9:40 am 2 comments

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