Getaways in the locked down zone

Kimana House

The lawn and terrace of Kimana House.

Photo credit: Pool

I have had a few emails from readers of this column over the last few weeks asking for travel advice within the Zoned Area – the isolated counties of Nairobi, Kiambu, Nakuru, Machakos and Kajiado. Most were looking for good value self-catering options outside of Nairobi, so I thought it would be useful this week to briefly profile some of my recommendations.

As it was for many of you, I am sure, my first reaction to the lockdown news was to Google the boundaries of the Zoned Area. I was pleasantly surprised by the size of Kajiado County, stretching southeast past Amboseli to the edge of Tsavo West. Three of the four destinations I will be profiling here are in Kajiado, starting with the excellent Kimana House.

This elegant four-bedroom home is on the bank of a river within the 5,700 acre Kimana Sanctuary along the Emali-Oloitokitok road. The sanctuary is a vital parcel of land linking up the Greater Amboseli ecosystem with Chyulu Hills and Tsavo West.

Its lush fever tree forests are fed by a stream replenished by rain and meltwater from Mount Kilimanjaro. As a reliable water source, the sanctuary is a popular spot for lots of wildlife, including some of the largest elephants left on the planet.

Acacia forest

The house is within an acacia forest in the west of the sanctuary, facing out across a lawn towards the river. Its four bright bedrooms surround a living-cum-dining area, leading to a fully-equipped kitchen. The views of Kilimanjaro from the sanctuary’s open plains are incredible, and it’s just a short drive away from Amboseli National Park. Because access to Emali from Nairobi is restricted, the way to get to Kimana is along the Mashuru Road from Kajiado.

Still in Kajiado County, there are some fantastic self-catering properties around Bisil, along the Namanga Road. Tandala and Little Tandala are creatively designed homes in the Maparasha Hills, available to rent exclusively on Airbnb. Tandala is the larger of the two properties, with five bedrooms, a large pool and a rooftop terrace with sweeping views towards Pelewa Hills. Its rustic stone wall architecture is in keeping with its straggly bush surroundings.

The three-bedroom Little Tandala has a much more modern design, with a striking pool that runs along the front of the house, and that is accessible from two of the bedrooms. The third room is separate within a walled garden.

Five rooms

Also in Maparasha Hills, and available to rent on Airbnb, is the Olomayiana Private Bush Camp – a self-catering camp with five rooms, a pool, a dining area and a well-equipped kitchen. Three of the rooms are safari tents, and two are more permanent cottages. The 80-acre property is within the wildlife dispersal area from Amboseli, so there is usually plenty of plains game around the hills.

Moving on from Kajiado into Nakuru County is Naishi Guesthouse within the Lake Nakuru National Park. There are lots of great self-catering options across the county – particularly on the shores of Lake Naivasha – but I’ve chosen to feature Naishi Guesthouse for its unique location.

This four-bedroom bungalow sits at the heart of the park alongside a rangers post and is surrounded by wildlife. It enables guests to be the first out on gamedrives at dawn, when the animals are most active. When I last stayed there, we found 16 lions lounging on the airstrip, just a few hundred metres from the guesthouse. The interior of the house is cosy, with a log-cabin-style living area with a fireplace, a large veranda and wood-fired hot showers.

For prices and more information about Naishi Guesthouse, head to www.kws.go.ke. For Kimana House, head to www.kimanasanctuary.com, and for the properties in Bisil, go to www.airbnb.com.

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