March 1, 2011 – More than 60 years after his death in 1932, Finch Hatton, an adventurous British aristocrat came back to life at the Tsavo West National Park.
He came in the form of 35 acres and 35 cottages, with his trademark character of luxury and safari strewn all over the place.
Jonathan Mutisya, who oversees the 35 acre establishment, says: “Finch first came on safari, and soon became the go-to guy when someone needed an expert tour guide. Because of his aristocratic background, Finch always had everything one could ever think of in the wild, like crystal and china. His clientele were usually royalty or presidents.”
Finch Hatton’s resurrection as a lodge was the brainchild of a Mr Peter Frank, a German who had a eureka moment while planning to retire from the Hilton group of hotels.
“Mr Frank had been to all the lodges and seen all the luxury that there was to offer. He felt that there was a need to cater for people who have been there and done that. And that is what Finch Hattons was all about. Old, quality, luxury,” says Jonathan.
FH is built right beside a water spring which constantly keeps the area green. It’s so close that it has signs like “crocodile crossing” or “do not go beyond this point” around over the lodge. The spring meanwhile feeds into a swampy marsh, which is home to about 20+ hippos and 9 crocodiles.
“We don’t have a fence here, so movement at night between the rooms and the main lodge area is strictly prohibited, unless you are escorted by a guide. The hippos usually graze between 7-8pm and since we are the intruders in their home, we have to make sure the co-existence is peaceful. Our guides are experienced and can protect the guests should they stumble upon any wild animal.”
In the 1920s, Finch Hatton had an affair with Karen Blixen. That aspect of his life is shown clearly on the doors at the FH lodge, which are identical to those at what used to be Blixen’s house in Karen, Nairobi.
His taste for good things is evident in the furniture: seats of beaten leather, old chest drawers, delicate hand painted lamp shades, heavy china, chandeliers, hand woven rugs, pictures and paintings and for added value Mozart playing over a 7-course meal.
The cottages are permanent tents, built into wood and stone, with luxury amenities such as a dressing table flanked by flower-shaped lights and even a mini bar.
Each cottage has a patio with at least one part of the swamp under it. Spotting a hippo, crocodile or bird from any part of the lodge is as easy as shrugging your shoulders with a smirk on your face.
The challenge though is spotting “Idi Amin”, the oldest and meanest looking croc in the place. When it comes out to play, all the hippos move to the other side of the marsh.
FH is about 70 kilometres from Mtito Andei by road, and for Kenyan residents, you can cough up to Sh20,000 for a double tent during the high season. If you don’t want the heat and grit, there is a package that includes flights, airport transfers and game drives. Since there are no kiosks around there, all the packages are full-board.
Ideal for an adventurer and lover of nature, Finch Hattons is also meant for those who appreciate impeccable service – quick and with a smile. As for the idyllic scenery, it’s always good for the language of love. Honeymoon anyone?