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Just Back From... Kenya

Travel Planner Sam Kelly Shaer returns from Kenya to reveal her favourite places to stay from buzzy Nairobi, secluded safari spots, tree top camps to the exotic bliss of Kenya’s coastline.

Sam's view

“On this trip I was able to see huge variety of properties alongside enjoying Kenya’s famed wildlife and exceptional natural spaces. Read on to see which properties are my favourites and then call me to start planning your holiday to Kenya.”

    Manzili House, Nairobi

    Once the home of the owners, Manzili House is located in the leafy, flower-filled suburb of Karen, an up-and-coming neighbourhood that has a lively scene made up of clean-living restaurants, the Karen Blixen Museum, artisan workshops, farmer’s markets and Nairobi National Park. Manzili House now stands as a beautifully appointed guesthouse with a surprisingly stylish feel, merging traditional Swahili architecture with a minimalist interior design. The chic pool, shaded by acacia trees is the perfect place to cool off, and drinks on the roof terrace with views over the verdant vicinity close out the day nicely. On cooler nights, the cosy living room with fireplace and book-filled shelves is the place to be. With just six, white-on-white styled bedrooms, set around two low-rise buildings, Manzili House has a refreshingly intimate feel and its welcoming owners will settle you into Kenya in no time.

    Sam Says

    “This is definitely my favourite property in Nairobi: super stylish without being too over the top. I loved the swimming pool and courtyard. This would be a great option for a large family to hire the whole place and it’s also good for couples. You could quite easily spend three nights here before heading off on safari.”



    Sarara Camp and House, Northern Frontier District

    The day starts at Sarara Camp with tea and cookies brought to you in bed, so you can slowly wake up to the sounds and sights of the African bush. Your tent is a beautiful vision of comfort, locally handcrafted pieces, wooden furniture, a thatched roof and pebbled outdoor bathroom with views that span far into the distance. Located in Kenya’s Northern Frontier District on the 850,000-acre Namunyak Conservancy, Sarara is a lodge powered by solar panels and this thoughtful ethos and care for the surroundings is rewarded by a plenitude of animal sightings. The watering hole set in front of the main restaurant is frequented by elephant, reticulated giraffe, buffalo, kudu, impala, leopard, wild dog and a wide range of bird species. On unrestricted game drives, discover this conservancy’s success stories: it is home to the second largest population of elephant in Kenya, the critically endangered Grévy zebra and the lesser-seen fabled gerenuk, spotted by knowledgeable Samburu guides dressed in their vivid attire and beaded jewellery. Nearby is also the Reteti Elephant Sanctuary plus limitless spots for a bush breakfast or evocative sundowner in this vast untamed wilderness.

    Sam Says

    “A beautiful lodge with just six luxurious tents. For me, the outstanding feature was the pool overlooking the watering hole where elephants often visited. The accommodation was so welcoming with lots of small touches that made a big impact.”


    Great Plains Mara Toto Tree Camp, Masai Mara

    Scheduled to reopen on July 1st 2024 after a substantial refurbishment, Sam stayed at this exceptional lodge, clasped in an ebony forest in Kenya’s Masai Mara. With minute attention to detail, Great Plains Mara Toto Tree Camp is found in a secluded part of the reserve, wrapped around a riverine landscape where raised tents look over the water where hippos splash and elephants come to drink. With just four tents richly decorated with Persian rugs, writing desks, copper bathtubs and extras such as dressing gowns, journals and water bottles, Mara Toto Tree Camp often gets booked up with families and groups and the high levels of service mean everyone is very well looked after. Food is a particular highlight here, with dinner served under the glow of lanterns where three-course meals come paired with wine, presented by the chef to talk you though each dish. In the early morning, game drives take priority in open-sided jeeps with knowledgeable guides to track lion, leopard, elephant and hyena. At the end of each day, special care is taken to source unsurpassed sundowner spots, accompanied by a cold glass of fizz.

    Sam Says

    “I really liked this camp, with its stylish and elegant ‘Out of Africa’ ambience. Staff were amazing: attentive without intrusion. The tents were beautifully appointed and special touches included a journal and personalised water bottle.”

    Serian Kimya Kimya, Mara North Conservancy

    Set by the gushing Mara River in Kenya’s Mara North Conservancy, Serian Kimya Kimya’s dramatic location is fused into the riverside nature, enhanced by the procession of animals who come to the river. Watch as elephant and giraffe wade across the water and see the resident hippos wallow in their riverine home. Kimya Kimya is made up of three stylish tents which all have verandahs that overlook the Mara and a wide decked balcony with fire pit which stretches around the property allowing you to see the river at all angles. Secluded and private, Kimya Kimya feels very remote and off-grid, the perfect riverine hideaway for families and small groups to feel immersed in African wilderness. For such a small property, the guiding at Kimya Kimya is of an exceptional standard, and as part of Alex Walker Camps, you’ll benefit from expert and knowledgeable trackers and guides, meaning you’re likely to see more than expected.

    Sam Says

    “Possibly the most beautiful spot on the whole trip. Watching the giraffes, zebras and elephants crossing the river was serene. I loved the tents, especially watching the animals from bed early in the morning with a cuppa.”


    Kinondo Kwetu, Diani Beach

    When the beach calls, Kinondo Kwetu answers. Set on the white sands and turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean Kenyan coastline at Diani Beach, the warm welcome and sea breezes of Kinondo Kweto is the ideal tonic for safari-goers who’ve been hopping between Kenya’s wild places. With a low-key atmosphere, leave your shoes off and enjoy the sandy seascape, watching dhows flit past and stopping by the bar for a fresh fruit cocktail. Take life at your own pace, doing very little in a hammock, lying by one of the two pools or perhaps morning yoga, horse riding on the beach or a sunset dhow trip. Kinondo Kwetu has a selection of cottages and rooms, all furnished in a driftwood-chic style with thatched roofs and billowing linen curtains, dotted with colour from Kenyan coastal fabrics and local artifacts. Enjoy dining on the beach savouring freshly caught seafood, aromatic salads and spicy curries.

    Sam Says

    A chic, laidback beach resort. Plenty of space for everyone, even though it was fully booked when I visited. The rooms are beautifully furnished in a simple comfortable style.  The food was a highlight – fresh and delicious.”