July 30, 2010 – Walking into one of the eight Garden Suites at the Fairmont Mt Kenya Safari Club, you have to be impressed by the class.
It’s the kind of class that doesn’t need the couch to match with the armchair and the curtains; the kind of class that reeks across the room and you can’t shake it off of you. That sort of class…
It has a sort of neo-antique look; like old money has new roots and now they live together.
The suites have a fireplace shared between the bedroom and living space, which creates a feeling of warmth even before the logs have been put to fire. In more ways than one it’s like that little luxury house that cost a lot of money to build but which you have been hiding from all your friends, because you’re not ready to share it.
A Garden Suite goes for Sh29,000 (double).
At the main Tusks restaurant, the food is not the usual continental lay-out seen in most hotels. There are more varieties of rice and an array of sauces coupled with the most refreshing carrot juice I have ever tasted – in plenty.
After lunch, we set out to the William Holden Conservancy that sits within the compound of the club. In what looks like a big garden designed as a national park, there is an impressive population of Bongos – a very rare antelope.
It was the first time I ever saw one and I was told they are near extinction. Those living at William Holden were part of conservation and a breeding programme, which has won global recognition and reward.
At William Holden you can feed an ostrich, a baby buffalo, see the only llama family in Kenya and touch the smooth silky (and oily) coat of a female eland.
But those are not the only treasures.
The equator passes smack in the middle of one of the executive rooms at the Fairmont Mt Kenya, and the main bar that sits beneath it. It draws a line in the middle of the bed at the room, and it doesn’t have to be a good day for you to have a drink in the Southern Hemisphere and then dance in the Northern Hemisphere.
The Fairmont is one of a number of establishments in the Mt Kenya – Samburu – Shaba tourism circuit, as highlighted by the Kenya Tourist Board.
Simon Mureithi, a naturalist at the Fairmont, invited me back and promised to take me to the Mau Mau caves near the mountain…Can’t wait!
About 20 minutes drive from there is the Sweetwaters Tented Camp, at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy. This renowned conservancy has a Chimp Sanctuary, a blind black rhino called Baraka whose hide you can stroke, and four of the last eight surviving Northern White Rhinos in the world.
The chimps were most interesting. All 42 of them reside on 250 acres of forest (sanctuary), brought after being saved from the hands of poachers, smugglers and other very bad people.
The warden tells us that when the chimps are rescued they are brought to Ol Pejeta and make a new home. He calls out Max, a trouble maker who tries to throw stones, sticks and sand at us.
The chimps are fed on ugali and beans three times a day, and often suffer from illnesses like polio and pneumonia but never ever get malaria.
They have hammocks for their relaxation in the afternoons and retire to a dorm like structure to sleep at about 6pm every evening. The strangest thing about chimps is that they all look different, so the warden knows them by name.
“The chimps have been given a second chance here. It’s expensive. Each chimp needs at least 6,000 dollars for upkeep.”
They are like humans; the female chimps even use contraceptives to stem the population growth. One main difference though is that they are seven times as strong someone like Hulk Hogan.
I was sad to leave the place …
The next stop was the Sarova Shaba Game Lodge. About three hours away from Ol Pejeta by road. The resort is all stones, logs, thatch and stands on an oasis.
There is a constant rushing sound in the distance, because water flows through the lodge into the vast Ewaso Nyiro River (which has a beach by the way).
The 85 rooms all face the river, and in the middle, where the huge swimming pool is also situated, there is a point where you can feed the crocodiles that reside in the river at about 6.30pm.
It’s a secluded romantic area, where the only sounds are made by nature, and occasionally the monkeys that try and steal food from the buffet area. It’s a constant war between the animals and the Maasai men with catapults who are there to ensure that visitors get to eat their meals in peace, while looking at the winding river.
The terrain is dry, and I often felt like I was going to see a dinosaur coming round the next imposing hill. One side of the river has interesting gorges, where one would need to be a least a bit agile to pass through. If unfit, be ready to break into a sweat! But the site that greets you of a beach, in the wild, is worth the effort.
I would recommend it for a few days of peace and quiet.