Guided by only a flickering oil lantern, I followed closely behind one of El Karama’s staff, along a winding path only meters away from the banks of Ewaso Nyiro River, where hippos and crocodiles frequently call home. Into an unknown blanket of darkness, surprisingly, I had never felt as safe and at peace in the wilderness than now. The sky was magnificent – my path illuminated by the twinkling Milky Way and Venus above me – I walked to my tranquil rustic-chic cottage wondering what adventures this charming land would bring.
Room enough for six, my spacious family cottage with a pair of whimsical wooden staircases leading up to individual lofty spaces, ideal for capturing a child’s imagination, flanked a massive bed in the center of the room. A circular window above the bed perfectly framed the ravishing moon, which dramatically rose above the wooden bed. The door to a separate bedroom with its own entrance swung open invitingly to the left of the space. The large communal bathroom featured a glassless sweeping view of the wilderness and the charming sounds of singing birds kept me company as I stepped into an inviting shower, which beckoned with its rustic stonework – its hot water warmed by solar power. Country-chic painted dressers adorned with vibrant fresh wild flowers added a touch of colour.
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The organic soap – sourced from a community business – revitalized and calmed my tired skin from a day of travel. Warmed by the crackling fire in the lounge, I snuggled into the hand-spun wool throw – another item sourced from a worthy community project. I was content. A steaming cup of hot cocoa warmed me and the glittering sky kept me company as I waited for dinner.
El Karama is a private escape in its truest sense. The eco-lodge offers accommodation for up to 20 guests and is situated on a private 14,000 acre ranch in Central Laikipia District – formerly a patchwork of massive ranches, the district is now home to some of Kenya’s most encouraging conservation stories. Home to Murray and Sophie Grant, the ranch boasts gentle hills and primarily a flat playground for Kenya’s flora and fauna.
The Grants have worked hard to preserve the integrity of the Laikipia ecosystem by creatively managing the natural resources to improve the livelihood of its community. An eco-friendly lodge where every detail reflects the founders’ passions for wildlife and living a sustainable outdoor lifestyle; El Karama has virtually remained the same as when the cattle ranch was first started in 1963.
“My husband built this lodge from the ground up,” Sophie says.
The staff, many of whom were instrumental during the initial building process and the ongoing development, emote warmth and attentiveness – an overwhelming sense of care and hospitality that only one feels when welcomed into someone’s home.
“The swimming pool, which will be completely be powered by solar energy, should be finished in a month’s time,” Sophie excitedly shares. “It’s not the cheapest or easiest option, but it’s the most sustainable.”
The cuisine is hearty rather than haute, El Karama’s emphasis is on the finest local seasonal ingredients cooked simply. Our meal is delicious. The succulent roast beef sirloin, generously coasted with sea salt and herbs, served with gravy, left our palates watering. Fresh local produce, fruit and vegetables grown in their own organic garden, milk from their own herd of cattle, and premium beef – what more could one ask for?
During our game drive, to the north-east of the Great Rift Valley, and north-west of Mont Kenya, the high plains of Laikipia served as the perfect backdrop for a wonderful safari experience. With stunning views of snow-capped Mount Kenya in almost every direction, handsome giraffes and elephants dotted the landscape. As dusk settled and the expansive sky painted hues of lavender, we watched the elephants graze – bliss.
Every experience at El Karama is like an exceptional moment, extending beyond the expectation of what most would imagine. Thank you Murray and Sophie Grant for unselfishly sharing a chunk of your heavenly oasis with the rest of us.
El Karama is certainly a place where it will leave you steeped in the mystery and magic of the wilderness, while cosseted with all your modern conveniences powered in an eco-friendly way. My stay was painfully too short.