Wandering around the beautiful, now-renovated four rooms of Kimana House, it is hard to believe that at the turn of 2018, it was still a dark and dreary space with ghastly tinted windows and a questionable choice of paint.
Photography: Brian Siambi
I begrudgingly yank myself from the cozy embrace of the four poster bed and pad barefoot across the spacious room towards the large glass windows through which the soft morning light has washed into the space. Taking in the view for the first time given our late arrival the previous night, I am met with a startlingly green, well kempt lawn, and…wait, is that a herd of zebras grazing further afield?
There is a river a few feet away and its soothing rushing sound had lulled me to sleep the previous night. I walk out for a closer inspection and discover a rock pool which must have been manually marked out from the rest of the river by several rocks, and for a moment, seriously contemplate belly-flopping in for a quick dip. It is however cold enough to deter even the most determined of swimmers, and I am also, quite frankly, starving.
Being a self-catering spot, there is a chef for hire at Kimana House, but I am stubborn about doing our own cooking. If coming from Nairobi, I would suggest doing all of your shopping in the city as you might not find all desired items at Kimana town. I am quite content to potter around this very functional kitchen, peering into neatly organised cupboards and drawers to get familiar with this new space, and pretty soon, my beef Burgundy is simmering on the stove.
Wandering around the four beautiful rooms of Kimana House, it is hard to believe that at the turn of 2018, it was still a dark and dreary space with ghastly tinted windows, a questionable choice of paint complete with an overgrown bush covering the entire front yard. When Big Life Foundation backed by Sheldrick Wildlife Trust signed a lease until 2046 from the local maasai who communally own the land, one of the first orders of business was to completely overhaul this house.
With a limited budget, tight deadline and unexpected rains which went on for three months, renovations were in high gear; shiny tiles were replaced with mazeras stone and the work done on the bathrooms was nothing short of a miracle, turning what was once a pastor’s house into a stylish homey space that can comfortably sleep eight. My favourite spot would have to be the outdoor dining area which proved the perfect spot for long overdue catch ups that spilled late into the balmy Amboseli evenings.
Kimana Sanctuary is said to be the first community conservancy in Kenya, presently owned by 480 local maasai who depend on tourism for most of their income. It sits at the very center of a crucial corridor linking the nearby Amboseli National Park to the Chyulu Hills and Tsavo, and being a true elephant lover, our game drive certainly did not disappoint.
It is a self-drive property, although car hires can also be arranged with a third party through the house. We set off just before sunset with house manager Joshua acting as our guide; our saloon car surprisingly handled the terrain quite well, although I highly suspect that it would be an altogether different story during the rainy season. Having been on innumerable game drives, the wildlife somewhat start blending into one another, but elephants always stop me right in my tracks, even if this time it was simply because we were caught up in a sea of these curious giants who flanked us all round showing no signs of budging. As a few more posed in the shadow of a snowcapped Mt Kilimanjaro in whose direction the sun was setting, I had to blink back cathartic tears brought on by the visual overload from the sheer beauty all round. It was simply overwhelming.
Kimana Sanctuary is open to everyone for game drives and camping. There are two campsites with a long-drop toilet and bucket shower facilities so carry your own food, water and tents and stay for the awesome location.
Game drives: Ksh 1,000 per person per day for residents/citizens, and Ksh 2,500 for non-residents.
Camping: Ksh 2,000 per person per day for residents and Ksh 3,500 for non-residents (includes the entry fee).
Kimana House: Ksh 18,000 per night for four guests or less, and Ksh 24,000 per night for 5-8 guests (inclusive of children).
Children between 10-18 years pay 50% and children under 10 years go free for camping and game drives.