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ith the holiday season upon us, it already feels as if the traffic is lighter. I wonder if soon Nairobi will be more or less deserted, as the city dwellers flock to the coast and upcountry for what is a Kenyan tradition. Actually, last year I was mildly disappointed. As Christmas day drew year, I relished the prospect of empty streets, driving from my home in Kilimani to central Nairobi in just 15 minutes; heading to Karen for lunch without encountering the hour-long traffic drudgery. I thought I might even go to see the elephants at the David Sheldrick Wildlfe Trust, because surely there’d be nobody there. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Everyone else seemed to have the same idea about the elephants - and then of course, many had a tribe of relatives in tow - and far from the streets being completely empty, there was actually some not inconsiderable traffic. The other option, of course, is to get away completely, whether it’s upcountry to shagz, or to the coast. In case you failed to book that magical coastal villa eight months ago, fear not, there’s plenty to do in and around the city. We’ve stuck close to home for our Weekend Away piece this month, exploring some of the gems that are a mere 45-minute drive from the centre. Among our picks are a little cottage tucked away on the corner of the Nairobi National Park, and an otherworldly treehouse in the midst of Karen. For the adventurers, head out to The Forest, Kenya’s premier adrenalinefuelled getaway. In our main feature, we head to the Chyulu Hills, a dramatically beautiful slice of Kenya. We talk to Richard Bonham, adventurer and the legendary big-game hunter, about what drew him to this patch of unspoiled country, and about how he discovered a hidden herd of rhino, decades after colonial culls and heavy poaching were thought to have wiped them out. Meanwhile, Adrian Blomfield takes us on a tour around Kikuyu and the surrounding area, and discovers a culinary sensation, where the people in the know go for their gourmet fare. Or follow his lead, and brave the quaking bog, an experience that’s sure to make you giddy. Wanja Wohoro talks to the incredibly well-travelled Michael Soi about his work and passions, while Tamara catches up with Keith Hellyer of Wildlife Works to hear about how a passion for gyrocopters became more than just a hobby. Meanwhile, Nomad has reached the end of its first tumultuous year, and we remain indebted to all those who have helped us so much along the way, whether it’s by advertising with us, contributing to editorial content, or simply giving us muchwelcomed advice. We’ll be back in January with our Body and Soul issue, and some new ideas for a new year.

Tamara Britten A man and his plane, Page 36 This year – for the first time ever – my mother, sister and nieces are coming for Christmas. They’ve been several times, and know Kenya well, but have never celebrated Christmas here. I tend to let the festive season pass me by, but this year I was forced to plan a holiday for a three-generational family who wanted to celebrate the season in style. We opted to do a safari for Christmas and will stay at Porini Rhino Camp on the game-rich Ol Pejeta Conservancy. Then we’ll head for lovely Lantana Galu Beach – as who can resist spending New Year dancing with the sand between their toes? Wanja Wohoro, Interview with Michael Soi, Page 15 The Christmas season has always been the highlight of my year ever since I was a child. Every year, my family (namely me) executes a series of festive traditions over the December period, from pudding making to snowflake stencilling. The empty streets and the piercing blue skies make this time of year, in Nairobi in particular, easily the most relaxing and cheerful. Whereas many families travel up country or to the coast over the Christmas period, it has been the custom in my household to bunker down with mince pies and Bing Crosby; filling our household with music, classic 90s Christmas films and food. Frances Woodhams The Last Word, Page 48 We are travelling back to the UK for Christmas this year for the first time in 18 years. Up until now, we’ve had queues of UK visitors dying to come out to Kenya to escape the English cold, so we’re normally hosting but this year, we’ll foist ourselves on family, outstay our welcome and stretch their generosity. When I see Facebook updates of friends on the beach later this month, I may well feel a pang of envy but for now, we’re dusting off wool jumpers and bracing ourselves for the cold.

Happy Holidays!

Catrina Stewart









2017 19

6. TOP SHOTS Daniel Msirikale captures a breathtaking shot off the spice island of Zanzibar, while Karan Khalsa gives us some tips on how to capture that perfect wildlife shot. 10. NEWS Djibouti, the tiny state on the Gulf of Aden, makes it into Lonely Planet’s top 10 countries to visit this year, marking it as an exciting adventure destination, while Jambojet makes its first foray outside of Kenya early next year, launching routes to Tanzania and Uganda. 12. WHAT’S ON If you’re an adrenaline junkie, look no further than the Nile Festival in Jinja, where top kayakers plunge into the frothy waters of the Nile with just a little bit of fibreglass to protect them. The 10to4 mountain biking challenge on Mt Kenya is back, while we reckon it’s time to head to Ethiopia for its most colourful festival.

10 GLOBETROTTERS 15. INTERVIEW WITH MICHAEL SOI The Kenyan artist gives us an insight into his world of satirical social commentary, and tells us he’ll probably have visited every country in the world by the time he is 50. 42. WHAT I PACK … FOR MY TRAVELS Creative photographer Mutua Matheka lets us in on what makes it into his suitcase. The main thing, he says, is to keep his beard looking good.





CHYULU SPECIAL FEATURES 24-31 CHYULU HILLS SPECIAL American author Ernest Hemingway described them as the Green Hills of Africa, and the Chyulu Hills live up to that name. We travel to the volcanic range, wedged in between Tsavo West and Amboseli, and discover a nature wilderness and a sanctuary for the area’s last remaining rhinos. Stuck for where to stay? Mid-range options are lacking, but we check out a few places.



36. A MAN AND HIS PLANE Keith Hellyer of Wildlife Works talks to Nomad about his gyrocopter, and how what started out as a hobby has become a vital tool in the battle against poachers in the vast Tsavo national parks. 34. A WALK THROUGH THIGOTO AND KIKUYU We go a little further afield for our walk through this month to the area around Kikuyu. Adrian Blomfield meets a chef, who once worked in a Michelin-starred London restaurant, serving up gourmet fare, and explores a wobbly swamp and one of the oldest churches in the region. 38. WEEKEND AWAY IN NAIROBI & ENVIRONS You may think you have to get well out of the city to be among nature, but we hunt down some surprising little hideaways that, if you can’t make it further afield, will give you that feeling of escape this holiday seasons. Stuck for some things to do? We find the best horse-riding place for miles, or perhaps you prefer the zipline for your adrenaline rush.


COLUMNS 16. THICK AS THIEVES Morris Kiruga is still haunted by a trip to Western Kenya that quickly turned nightmareish. But if it didn’t go wrong once in a while, then what would there be to talk about? 29. WHAT’S IN A NAME Samantha du Toit recalls her daughter’s Maasai naming ceremony, where they encountered a little more than they bargained for. 44. BUDGET PICK Every fancied spending a night in a double-decker bus? Well, now you have your chance. We’re off to the Brandy Bus in Karen, perhaps the city’s hippest, and certainly the most unusual, place to stay. 46. RETROSPECTIVE It’s the late 1960s, and the Nairobi of that era is a quite different place. Mo Amin, the late photographer, captures a moment in time with an iconic street shot from the centre of town. 48. THE LAST WORD A yoga retreat sounded like just the thing for a reboot, but soon our heroine is dreaming of illicit goods: chocolate and alcohol. Will she stay the course?








DANIEL MSIRIKALE Instagram @that_tanzanianguy I took this shot of a friend at noon in Zanzibar. I had initially just wanted to take a video of the waves crashing against the boat but I saw him playing with the water and the shot just composed itself in my mind. I used a GoPro Hero 5, an exposure of 1/2800 seconds at f2.8. The ISO was 100. Fight the urge to shoot from the ‘go to’ perspective, which is eye level. Challenge yourself. Get down and dirty, get high, switch up the angles, look for leading lines and frames and you’ll be sure to have an eye-catching image.



KARAN KHALSA Instagram @karankhalsa The ‘golden hour’ kicked in as the sun was setting. This mighty herd of elephants was walking along the scenic Mara plains and I wanted to capture something different from the other side profiles I’ve seen. So we positioned the car and waited for them to get into a unique formation. I used a Nikon D5, and a Nikkor 200-400mm lens. My settings were an ISO of 800, f/4.0, and speed of 1/250 seconds. Understanding animal behaviour or characteristics is a great help to get you ready for the shot. That way, you’re not caught off guard. Also, using a white-balance setting in a DSLR is a great way to get the right colours when it comes to wildlife. Don’t just shoot on auto and expect a miracle. Know your camera, learn your settings.





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12/5/17 5:50 PM


DJIBOUTI, HERE I COME Lonely Planet, publisher of the hugely successful guide books, has selected Djibouti as one of its top 10 countries to travel to in 2018. It cites “intoxicating culture, beckoning beaches and incredible whale shark diving” as reasons to visit, to which we’d add sumptuous Yemeni food, increasingly available in the capital with the back and forth of Yemeni refugees across the Gulf of Aden. There’s a wealth of adventure activities on offer, whether it is floating in Lac Assal, the lowest point in Africa, walking up the dormant Ardoukoba volcano or enjoying the otherworldly landscape that inspired filmmakers to shoot the Planet of the Apes here.

JAMBOJET TO FLY TO TANZANIA, UGANDA Jambojet, the low-budget subsidiary of Kenya Airways, expects to launch flights from Nairobi to Tanzania and Uganda in February, adding some much-needed competition to these popular, but underserved, routes. At the same time, the airline is to start flights to Wajir in northeastern Kenya. Last May, the airline received regulatory approval to add 16 new regional routes to its network, including Rwanda, Burundi, Ethiopia, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The airline had previously signalled its intention to begin international flights by the end of this year, but was delayed by the late delivery of two additional aircraft.





A HEAVENLY RETREAT IN KIGALI Alissa and Josh Ruxin, the American couple behind Heaven, Kigali’s first gourmet restaurant, have opened up a new Italian-designed boutique hotel called the Retreat in an exciting new offering for the Rwandan capital. The 11 rooms come with indoor and outdoor showers, and patio areas. There’s a focus on wellness at this hotel, with amenities including a heated pool, hot tub, sauna, spa and gym. The owners are also offering bespoke experiences, whether it’s learning to hoe on a nearby farm, or a culinary tour of the city. Doubles start from $625, inclusive of a complimentary welcome massage. 30 percent discount for East African residents. The owners are also running a special half-price offer until March 2018.

Introducing a new dimension in design concept and hospitality to the Kenyan Coast. Exclusive multi-starred beach boutique property on the award winning Diani Beach with 15 individually appointed suites including a private Jacuzzi suite, 118 m swimming pool meandering around the villa, water features, Maji Moto Bar, Shisha Corner, Coffee Lounge, Mini Gym, Jacuzzi, Moringa Wellbeing Cabin, Water Bar and a unique free style dining policy with an extensive a la carte menu, including a Vegetarian Menu and Speciality-diet options. No meal times‌.. eat what you want, when you want, where you want! Discreet quality personalized service. Just 10 minutes from Ukunda Airstrip with daily flights from Nairobi. Fly-in Packages available. Contact us for further details.

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Ethiopia’s most colourful festival, this Orthodox Christian ceremony celebrates the epiphany, or baptism of Jesus Christ. Although the festival is celebrated elsewhere in Ethiopia, the one at Gondar, a two-day bus ride, or a short flight, from Addis Ababa, is the most spectacular. It starts with an all-night vigil, with chanting, music and lots of incense. At sunrise, thousands of white-robed congregants gather at Fasiladas’ Bath for the highlight of the festival - when hundreds of devotees leap into the waters, representing a renewal of their faith.











Not one for the faint-hearted, this thrilling annual cycling event sends riders of all abilities plunging from an altitude of 10,000 ft to 4,000 ft, passing through alpine terrain, forests and the game-filled plains of Borana Conservancy. For the advanced riders, two extreme events - a 90 km hardcore up and down 2,000 metres, and a roller coaster - will get the heart pumping. The more cautious can take part in less challenging, shorter races, involving uphill stretches when you might least expect it. Kids as young as four years old can take part, too.

Perhaps the premier white-water festival in Africa, this four day fest of water-based fun draws fans from all over the world. There’s all sorts of stuff going on, from the main kayaking events, including endurance and free-style races, a mountain bike race and a big air ramp, which is kind of like ski jumping, but for kayaks. The festival finishes off with an extreme race down Grade 5 rapids, probably more fun for the spectators than for the participants! Party like you’re 18 at the end of it all, with a bit of jelly wrestling, whatever that is, thrown in.

February 9-11





January 25-28

Happy Holidays





Interview with


The Kenyan artist, best known for his iconic bags as well as his satirical take on society through his art, talks to Nomad about documenting issues that make people uncomfortable, surviving (or not) freezing temperatures in Austria, and travelling the rest of the world by the time he’s 50.


How did you get started? I’m a modest painter who, unlike many people, grew up knowing exactly what I wanted to do with my life. My father is a painter so I [was] exposed to art from a very early age. In places like Kenya, parents don’t take their children pursuing the arts very seriously, including parents who are artists themselves. I consider June 6, 1995, as the day I became a ‘professional’ artist. This was the time when I had completed my formal training in the arts and entered the artworld with a lot of confidence, thinking I was going to be the best thing since sliced bread. I quickly realised that nobody cares about your formal education, what matters is how hard you are willing to work. In that year I joined the newly-founded Kuona Trust, which was a free space for artists to do their work within an environment of people who take them seriously. What motivates your personal artform? I consider myself to be a documenting artist. I don’t walk around with cameras, I will go and sit in different spaces within Nairobi and observe people’s behaviour. Unfortunately, the subjects that I choose to focus on often [make people] uncomfortable. People tend to only talk about the nice or obvious things that a location is known for, but not some of the underlying issues that also exist in those spaces. One example is the sex tourism industry in Kenya. I am interested in the reasons behind both sides of the issue and in capturing the economic and social motivations that bring people into that specific industry. The paintings I have done depicting the ways African men treat women have also caused a backlash, with some people finding the art ... demeaning. However, this is not the case; the art is about documenting things I have observed in my surroundings - among the very wealthy and the very poor. How is your work understood abroad? Not very well for the simple fact that most of what I do focuses on Nairobi. In order to engage with the art and understand it, you need to have lived here and understand how this city operates. Within my work there’s

focus my work around a lot of the issues happening in America at the time such as gentrification, police brutality and the Black Lives Matter movement. As an art student, you hear and learn about different artists from a young age, and so some of my favourite trips have also been getting to go to different galleries such as the Louvre in Paris or to MoMa and the Guggenheim in New York and see the artworks about which I have heard and read for so long. What has been your worst trip? I had an art show in Vienna, Austria, and I went completely unprepared to deal with winter. I had to return to Nairobi three days later because I could not put up with the cold! People told me to just put on a sweater and a jacket, but what are those things going to do for you in minus 24 degree temperatures?

lots of references to things that are uniquely Kenyan, such as matatus, Tusker bottles or different locations within the country that have certain reputations. Therefore, whenever I have international exhibitions, I try to make the body of work more accessible to people outside of Kenya, and so I might focus more on work that has to do with lines and patterns. I also believe in letting the audience interpret what they want from the paintings. What have been your favourite trips? I choose my trips very carefully, I never go just for the sake of going. I have been to the US at least nine times, but I think this last trip was the most memorable for me. I did a residency that was made possible by Wangechi Mutu, the famous Brooklyn-based Kenyan artist. I stayed there for three months and got to

Has travel been an important part of your life? I can honestly say that by the age of 30, I had seen half the world. By the age of 50, I think the only places I won’t have been to will be New Zealand and Australia. The purest form of education you can ever get as a human is travel. You learn and experience things that you can never learn in a classroom or within your usual context. Some of the biggest learning moments I have had have been through encounters with people in the US. I did a road trip from California to New York right across the country, visiting many different states by bus. People get on and off the bus at different intervals, so by the time you reach your destination you have encountered and had conversations with six or seven different people. Something that stood out to me is how much ignorance there is out there about Africa. People only associate Africa with poverty and strife and were amazed that I, an African, could afford to travel and see as much of the world as I have. The thing that is most confusing to them is that I am a Kenyan visual artist who is capable of travelling and surviving entirely off my art. As told to Wanja Wohoro




THICK AS THIEVES A brazen robbery at his hotel gives Morris Kiruga a nasty jolt. For a while, that is. Soon he’s wondering if actually calamity maketh the trip.


he waiter was five feet away, hurrying towards us, when it happened. It had been a long day and a cold beer has never looked more attractive. But then my phone rang. I was of half a mind to ignore it, but decided to check the caller ID to know whom I was ignoring. I picked up. It wasn’t her voice that told me something was wrong. She speaks slowly, with a singsong voice that forces you to listen. At first I thought it was my fatigue speaking. I thought I heard her say “Come check your rooms, I have been robbed.” I asked her that useless reaction to such statements: “What?!” Just as the waiter arrived, I declared to the table that a crime was afoot. Or rather we were now in a crime scene. I might have been a bit dramatic, but then again I had just driven for an entire day to Rusinga Island on Lake Victoria, and then eaten a fish the size of my head. We hurried across the well-manicured lawns and into what would be a long night. True wanderlust can be a curse, and yet for those of us who write for a living, that’s one of the reasons why we travel. No one really wants to read about a perfect trip, one where everything goes as planned from start to end. The fun is in the unforeseen events, the ones that destabilise our plans, and you have to continually adapt and innovate, and sometimes, just accept your fate.





Like that time I was on a trip to Loiyangalani, on the lower shores of Lake Turkana, and we were hit by a stomach bug. The resort had curtains for doors to the toilet, and the trickle of water into the cistern meant at least one of us had to fetch water with jerry cans while one used the toilet and the other held on for dear life. I was on waterfetching duty because my bout was patient, but it hit me as I sat on a chair outside the room, and watched the starlit sky (in truth, I was running from the smell that was by now hanging around our room). Perhaps we could have chalked this event, too, to experience. But on reaching the first floor we found bags open and their contents strewn everywhere. While we ate dinner at the restaurant downstairs, someone had ransacked several rooms. The thief had gone from one room to the next, using a master key, and then moved to the second floor and tried to break down a door. They’d made away with phones, laptops, cameras, iPods, tablets, and money. We had arrived just two hours before, dusty and tired but ready to bring the island down. Now, here we were sitting on the firstfloor hallway, trading random stories as we waited for the cops, and our hosts. It’s funny how one of our first reactions to shocking events is dark humour. Like someone saying at least they didn’t steal her knickers. And another thanking the heavens he hadn’t

charged his electronics before they were stolen. We chuckled through parts of it, and laughed at each other. My room was on the third floor so I had been lucky. But most of my colleagues weren’t. And if that was the first part of the night we would hate, what came after would be worse. The cops were helpful at first, but other than hearing how this had never happened before, it was clear they were there for window dressing. Or rather recording the event for posterity, not to investigate. The hotel? Let’s just say it’s been a year, and we are still talking about it. We checked out the next morning and found another place to spend the next few days, a nice tented lakeside resort with errant monkeys. Then, in between runs to the festival which had brought us to Rusinga, we took detours to the CID office to see whether miracles could be performed. They couldn’t. But the night it happened, we still had some hope someone would let us search the entire place. The loot was too much to hide, and there hadn’t been enough time if the half-broken door was anything to go by. We wanted to go full CSI on the hotel, but that couldn’t happen. So instead I went back to the bar and got a bottle of vodka. Then we sat down in that hallway and finished it. Our trip had officially begun. Morris Kiruga blogs about travel, culture and more at


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Samantha du Toit and her daughter have a close shave at a traditional Maasai naming ceremony.

he Goliath heron has become a regular visitor. So regular we often don’t notice him standing still for hours on end opposite the cottage, feet in mud, patiently waiting to strike at an unsuspecting fish. The children are curious as to how he sees them, given how brown the river is. True to its name Ewaso Nyiro, meaning literally ‘brown river’ in the local Maa language, the river is a deep, rich reddy-brown colour, presumably indicative of the soils from where it starts, up in the Mau complex. The huge peaceful bird does not seem to mind life going on around him. He glances up at the resident baboon troop as they cavort around him, babies wrestling and hanging upside down from branches and the males coming to drink. The lone male Impala who is often with the baboons causes the heron only to walk a few steps away. Even our children, making mud slides into the river and shouting with delight as they catapult into the water, don’t disturb him. In the distance, I assume he can hear the Maasai women coming to the river to wash clothes, and to cut branches of Cordia bushes to take back to the boma to feed their livestock. The drought still has not broken to everyone’s disbelief. How long can they live without grass? How long can life go on this way we all wonder. Thank goodness for the brown river. At least there is water to drink. I think of the women washing, enjoying the

cool and tranquil air by the river. I think how stark a contrast it is to the life in the boma, a short walk away, particularly at ceremony time. Eyes on the heron, my mind takes me back to our daughter’s Maasai naming ceremony. The scene was hot, dusty and bustling with colour and life as we arrived early at the boma of my Maasai ‘mother,’ just as we had a few years before for our Maasai wedding. Graciously treating our family as one of their own, we were set to work. Seyia and I joined the women making chapatis over an open fire and brewing huge pots of sweet tea. Johann, my husband, joined the men slaughtering goats and sheep. Despite our being ‘outsiders,’ this naming ceremony was planned for a large attendance. Just as the temperatures were getting almost unbearable, we were ushered into a dark, cool hut. As our eyes adjusted to the darkness, we noticed we were not alone. The same elders who had presided over our wedding were there now to preside over blessing Seyia and officially endorsing her name. Traditionally this involves shaving all the hair from both the child and the mother’s heads, chanting blessings and painting milk on the child and the parents’ foreheads. In our case, they kindly allowed just a snip of hair to be removed from both myself and Seyia, but the rest of the ceremony remained according to Maasai custom. It was Seyia’s first haircut, and a significant moment for us all. The heron at long last moved, striking at

The naming ceremony involves shaving all the hair from both the child and the mother’s head. the water, bringing my consciousness back to the river. It made quick work of the small fish and turned and walked away to find another spot at which to settle down to wait. The river continues on its way, spreading into the swamp where the sedges, or ‘water grasses’ from which Seyia’s name is derived, thrive. Perhaps she will never know how special her name is, but I hope that one day she will. Samantha du Toit is a wildlife conservationist, working with SORALO, a Maasai land trust. She lives with her husband, Johann, and their two children at Shompole Wilderness, a tented camp in the Shompole Conservancy.





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Forget ‘his’ and ‘her’ - this holiday season, we think it should be all about you! So we’ve done some serious legwork around Nairobi, seeking out the ‘me’ presents that will make you a happier traveller in 2018! BONK NOTEBOOK You needn’t rely on your camera to record those memorable travel moments. Try journalling instead, an appealing experience with this sleek and classy notebook. Fill your journal with sketches, hand-drawn maps, restaurant reviews, memorable encounters or stick in your ticket stubs, and then look back at your year and reminisce. Bonk, Junction shopping mall. Ksh 1,500

BEACH BAG BY ELELECK Say hello to the beach bag luxe by Eleleck. A statement bag that was inspired by the change of seasons, the warmer days, the feeling of wanting the bottle of rose to never get warm or run out. If you want to look stylish on the beach, then this is the beach bag for you! Instagram @eleleck Ksh 3,000





GIFTS BOSE QC25 NOISE-CANCELLATION HEADPHONES These come in particularly handy when flying. Not only do they get rid of engine noise, but they block out other irritations, too, whether it’s the baby screaming in the row behind or a chatty neighbour. Sit back and enjoy the deep, crisp sound to something of your choosing. It’s just you and your music. Bose, Junction shopping mall. Ksh 35,000

NIKON ACULON BINOCULARS, 12 X 50 As serious bino gurus will know, a really good set of binoculars comes with a hefty price tag. But we like these Nikon-built binos, which are both hardy and good value for what they offer. This particular spec wins plaudits for picking out objects in low light, whether dawn or dusk. Carrefour stores, The Hub and Two Rivers Ksh 14,500

GARMIN GPS MAP 64S In our day of smartphones, are handheld GPS units old hat? We don’t think so. Apart from getting you out of a potentially tight spot - it doesn’t just tell you your position, but shows you how to get out of it by marking your spot on regional maps - it has lots of other functions, too. Share your routes and hikes with friends on compatible devices, plot your routes, and get in on the geocaching craze. Ksh 44,000

RIFT VALLEY LEATHER MEDIUM TRAVEL BAG A stylish, leather travel bag from Rift Valley Leather that is not only practical but also madly chic. You can also rest easy in the knowledge that this bag is made from exclusively East African materials, and stitched to the highest quality. Whether it’s safari or beach, your bag will be the envy of the carousel. $350

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC BRESSER 50/360 TELESCOPE For budding star gazers, this is a good starter telescope, giving you a magnification of up to 100 times, enough to look at the moon and distinguish different planets. It comes with a star map to help users identify the world above you. What’s more, it’s ideal for taking along on your travels, as it’s portable, and packs up small. Suitable for anyone over six years of age. Xtreme Outdoors, Yaya Centre. Ksh 9,900

NITECORE LA10 ULTRA PORTABLE CAMPING LIGHT Some people ‘do’ camping, others ‘don’t.’ But bring along this super small camping light, and you’ll be well on your way to joining the first group. With a lipstick-style retractor, and a magnetic base (handy when you need two hands to search for something), this little light is ideal for nighttime reading, or doubling up as a pendant light to hang in your tent. Ksh 2,950



GREEN HILLS OF AFRICA Wedged between Tsavo West and Amboseli is the voluptuous Chyulu Hills range. Catrina Stewart wonders if the country that Ernest Hemingway wrote about still exists. PHOTO BRIAN SIAMBI







t was the late 1940s, and Peter Jenkins, the warden charged with building a road over the Chyulu Hills, would sit on the hillside, idly counting rhinos. It was not unusual to count 20 in one sitting. They picked their way across the emerald hillside, browsing on euphorbia. There were thousands of them, and it was perhaps the most densely-packed area of rhinos in East Africa. Half a century later, the rhinos had disappeared. J A Hunter, a legendary biggame hunter, led colonial-era culls in the 1950s and 1960s - in one year, he was said to have killed 1,000 rhinos - and poaching in subsequent decades finished off the rest. Or so it was thought. Richard Bonham, a hunter turned conservationist, and married to Hunter’s granddaughter, had flown over the Chyulus dozens of times before setting down his roots here in the mid-1980s. He built a small lodge - Ol Donyo Wuas (“the Spotted Hill”) as it was in those days - and came to know the area, wedged between Tsavo West and Amboseli national parks, intimately. And so he was sceptical when a herder came to him in the late 1980s, carrying what he claimed was rhino dung after sighting one of the elusive animals. “We thought there were no rhinos left,” Bonham recalls. “But one of the herders told me he had seen a rhino, so we explored and found tracks.” Enthralled by the find, he offered Ksh 1,000 to anyone who could produce rhino dung. The thicket, however, was impenetrable. A rhino, even if it existed, might not be seen for years. And if you did happen to encounter one, then the chances were that you were dangerously close. After a lengthy search, Bonham was finally rewarded with his first rhino sighting. Despite all the evidence, he

could hardly believe what was in front of his eyes. At their peak, the rhinos numbered 14, a rump population at best. Now, following repeated droughts, they number a mere seven, and even the more than 60 rangers tasked with protecting them see one of the great, grey beasts only once every three months or so. The Chyulu Hills - blink and you miss them as you zip down the Mombasa highway are perhaps one of the most beautiful - and youngest - ranges on earth. In his fitting ode to the Chyulu hills, American author Ernest Hemingway wrote in his book, “Green Hills of Africa,” about his lengthy expeditions tracking (and killing) the huge herds of kudu antelope, recognisable by their telltale striped hide, that roamed these hills. As Brian, Nomad’s photographer, and I veer away from Amboseli into the hills to our left, we look in vain for kudu. Instead, we see eland, scrambling away in the distance at the approach of our vehicle. With miles and miles of verdant plain stretched out in front of us, we take our time in climbing slowly away towards Ol Donyo lodge, our home for the night. Ol Donyo started out as Bonham’s “bachelor’s pad,” where he threw up several bandas on the slopes in the mid-1980s. It took painstaking negotiations with suspicious Maasai herders to win their trust and secure a three-year lease for the land, gradually extended over the years. It was, says Bonham, the first community lodge in Kenya. Around the same time, he established the BigLife Foundation, which channelled money back into the community. “I realised very quickly that unless the Maasai started seeing revenue streams, we’d lose it pretty quickly,” he says. “So I started getting involved in the conservation.” It’s something of an irony that Bonham, who

has forged a reputation as one of Africa’s most fearless big-game hunters, should turn to saving the very animals that in another era he might have killed. In the 1990s, Bonham decided he could no longer both run a tourist lodge and the foundation, so he sold shares in Ol Donyo to Great Plains Conservation, which swiftly turned the lodge from rustic simplicity into something altogether much grander in the midst of a “forgotten paradise.” Within an hour of our arrival at Ol Donyo, we’re on horseback, picking our way through scrub towards the plains. Despite the recent rains, reminders of the preceding drought are everywhere. Dozens of cattle carcasses dot the rangelands, some simply starving to death, others, already weakened, thought to have succumbed to a poisonous grass that emerged in the wake of the rains. After an hour of gentle riding, our guide, James, steams up in a game vehicle, and says, “Want to see some lions?” There’s no time to waste, and we pile into the vehicle, and race towards a volcanic outcrop, a violent torrent of black rocks where predators hole up during the day. We’re in luck and come across two male lions resting, one of them attempting (unsuccessfully) to crack open a tortoise. Back at the lodge, we are shown to our rooms, mine an opulent suite with plunge pool overlooking the plains below. From the bath, sculpted to follow one’s contours, the view is equally sublime, and I regret that our visit is so fleeting. We later join our hosts and the other guests for dinner in front of a roaring log fire, where arrangements are made for airstrip drop-offs. Meanwhile, we have an 8.30 am assignation with a ranger positioned halfway up the hill, although we’re not quite sure where. As we wind our way up into the hills in the




early morning, past bomas and large herds of cattle, the wildlife thins out. Nevertheless, the Chyulus are a vital wildlife corridor for animals moving between Amboseli to the southwest, and Tsavo to the east. Herds of elephant roam here, along with a large population of lion and cheetah, and antelopes, such as lesser kudu and gerenuk. A decade or so ago, lions had all but been wiped out, often in retaliatory attacks. Elephants, in revenge for killing villagers, sometimes very young children, were also being slaughtered. BigLife stepped in, providing compensation to farmers instead. The effect has been staggering. Up until just a few years ago, some 30 elephant were being killed every year, now it’s less than three. And the Maasai, for whom lion slaying was once a rite of passage as they were adopted into their brethren of warriors, have instead embraced the Maasai Olympics, a biennial event that tests young Maasai in running, spear throwing, vertical jumping and other feats. As we near the hilltop pastures, the road in parts becomes virtually unnavigable. Recent rains have cleaved vast trenches in part of the road but our rangers guide us skilfully around them. I ignore the instructions to take the steeper bits in low ratio, and the tyres lose their grip on the smooth rock, and we slide back ignominiously. With low ratio finally engaged, we crest the hill. We make our goodbyes at the top of the hill, where the conservancy becomes the Chyulu Hills National Park, administered by the Kenya Wildlife Service. We weigh up the wisdom of continuing on to the Mist or Cloud Forests, a four to six-hour round trip, and said to be the place to find the most potent wild miraa grown in Kenya. Despite such temptations, we decide against it, and head down the steep, craggy





Bonham sank three boreholes here, and was stunned when the rhinos appeared to shun them. road that leads to Kibwezi and the KWS gate. As we pick our way down over the rocks, I try to imagine the hillside dotted with rhinos. In any park nowadays, that would be an impossibility, I realise. Across Africa, poachers have decimated rhino populations, hacking off their horns, and spiriting them to the Far East. The glory days of the Chyulus - when thousands of rhino roamed these lands - might be over, but Bonham is trying to ensure that the small population that has established the most tenuous of footholds can survive. He hopes by 2030 to have raised the numbers of these cantankerous beasts to 30, mainly by bringing them in from other areas. Then they might, just might, survive. Whether the newcomers would adapt to the harsh conditions of the Chyulus, where water is scarce, is anyone’s guess. The lush green of these hills is deceptive, for there is no water source. How, Bonham wondered, were the rhino surviving? He sank three boreholes here, and was stunned when the rhinos appeared to shun them. Over the years, speculates Bonham, the rhinos here have learnt to manage without

water, gaining nourishment instead from waterbearing plants such as euphorbia. Despite the draw of caves, lava tubes and beautiful hiking trails, the Chyulus get few visitors, overshadowed by their more famous neighbours, Amboseli and Tsavo West. But if the last free-ranging black rhino population in Kenya were to grow, it might just provide the impetus for visitors to come. I ask Bonham if he misses the old days when he used to lead hunting expeditions. “What I miss is the proper wilderness,” he says. “I don’t miss the actual hunting, I miss the adventure.” In a country that has changed so much, this is perhaps the closest Bonham will come to his patch of true wilderness. This is the wild and untouched land that perhaps more than anywhere else in Kenya still evokes the golden age of safari. PRACTICALITIES: There are two main access points into the Chyulu Hills. From Nairobi, head down the Mombasa Road until Emali, where you will turn right towards Tanzania. It’s another hour to Mbirikani, where a public road to the left will take you through the Chyulu Hills. It’s an hour’s drive to Ol Donyo Lodge, and another 90 minutes to the top of the hill where you’ll have the option of continuing to Tsavo West or heading down the hill at Satellite Camp towards Kibwezi, a 90-minute drive. If you wish to camp, picnic or do a game drive in the conservancy areas, you will be required to pay the conservancy fee of Ksh 5,155. If leaving via a KWS gate, you will need to pay the national park fee before exiting (Ksh 300 per citizen, Ksh 600 for residents). Alternatively, enter at the KWS gate off the Mombasa highway, four hours’ drive, or 211 kilometres, from central Nairobi.




This lodge was set up by Richard Bonham, hunter turned conservationist, and was transformed into a luxury retreat when Great Plains Conservation bought into the lodge. The property comprises six pool suites and one two-bedroom suite, and are designed with colonial-era trappings, but with all of the modern comforts. Enjoy the little touches, such as the tot of whisky left in your room as a nightcap. Ol Donyo is big on activities, and horse riding is a big draw here, as is the chance to go mountain biking, or hike down the lava tubes in the hills. Resident rates start from Ksh 27,000 pp, all-inclusive of board, house drinks and activities. Conservation fees cost Ksh 5,155 per resident or citizen.


Further across the Chyulus, in the direction of Tsavo West, is this lavish property, founded by Italian Luca and Antonella Belpietro, as part of a 280,000-acre nature reserve. Similar in price to Ol Donyo, it also offers a comparable level of luxury. Accommodation is in cottages or tented suites with four-poster beds, cowhide rugs, and private verandahs overlooking a waterhole. Guests dine together, and the Italian influence shines through with the food. There is also Kanzi House, a private villa available for exclusive use. The lodge charges residents $51 in conservation fees, which are fed back into a community trust. Resident rates start from $380 pp.





Accommodation in the Chyulu Hills tends to the pricier end of the spectrum, but it’s not all bad news for the budget traveller.


Reservations: 020 391 6000 Helicopters: 020 392 5000 Charter Flights: 020 392 5000






Three hours from Nairobi, on the main Mombasa highway, is this popular stopping-off point for travellers making their way to the coast. Little remains of the original riverside lodge, built in 1958 by legendary game hunter, JA Hunter, who oversaw the culling of many of the rhino that used to roam this area. The lodge had over the years fallen into a state of disrepair, but was taken over by Mada Hotels a couple of years ago, and given a radical facelift. It may have lost some of its charm, but the rooms have been nicely done with Lamu-style beds, and swing-door bathrooms, and the food has seen quite some improvement. Starts from Ksh 8,000 pp sharing.


The only budget option within the Chyulu Hills range is camping, run by the Kenya Wildlife Service, and the best of the three campsites is undoubtedly Satellite Camp, a hillside grassy plain overlooking the emerald-green hills. It takes about 90 minutes from the main gate up a rough road. This is a remote camp, and there are no ablutions, merely the charred remains of campsites made by other groups. Given how few people visit the Chyulus, chances are that you’ll have the campsite all to yourself. If not, don’t fear, you can easily move on to another nearby grassy plain. The KWS has two other campsites: a run-down affair next to the main gate and another next to Kisula caves. Although the latter has some facilities, it is not nearly as attractive nor as open as Satellite. Camping costs Ksh 200 per citizen, Ksh 350 for residents.



Enjoy Christmas at Gelian Hotel CHRISTMAS EVE Enjoy a 7 course dinner accompanied by soothing Christmas carols by AIC Bomani English Choir from 8pmm to 10om and a glass of Gelian wine to toast the festive season. CHRISTMAS DAY Celebrate and enjoy Christmas Day with a roasted goat with a selection of discount prices on whiskies and wines. Also party at club Euphoria and enjoy a variety of top mixes from local Djs. BOXING DAY Enjoy lunch at Paprika restaurant while kids engage in activities like swimming, face painting and bouncing castle. NEW YEAR’S EVE Usher the new year at Cloud 9 rooftop and enjoy performances from Kidum and his band.

Nairobi Reservation No: 020 2417170 Machakos Office No: +254 710 551611/ +254 736 180561 P.O. Box 2750 - 90100, Machakos, Kenya Mwatu Wa Ngoma Street | | 32 DISCOVER EXPLORE EXPERIENCE

Ranch House Bistro is a boutique restaurant with amazing views over a wildlife waterhole and Lake Oloidien.. We offer a variety of freshly prepared dishes sourced locally and from our farm.

Open 7 days a week Moi South Lake Road, Kongoni, Naivasha, P.O. Box 210, For reservations: 20117 Tel: 0700 488 475 Email:

Ras Kitau Bay, Manda Island For reservations contact us on +254 20 712 3300/1/2 Email


A walk through…



he church has a rather forbidding air about it. Maybe it is the mournfulness of its stone exterior, darkened by age, or the solemnity of the belfry with its dramatic tapering flèche that broods over the building like a brimless witch’s hat. Yet there is still something austerely magnificent about the Church of the Torch, the heart of the PCEA Kikuyu Mission Area that marks the start of this month’s walk. When we visit, we find every door bolted firmly shut, which seems strange for a place of worship. Perhaps a residual hangover of the Scottish siege mentality persists, as though the church elders fear that Clan MacTavish might loom over the hills at any moment, sgian-dubhs held aloft and kilts raised to terrorise the Kikuyu blue-stockings cowering within. For nowhere in Kenya bears the imprint of Scotland as much as here in Thogoto. Even the name is a bastardisation of the word (try saying Scotland in a rural Kikuyu accent and you might get a sense of its evolution). Eventually, however, we track down a charming elder who unlocks the church, built in 1928, and leads us on an excellent hourlong tour of the building and its environs. The interior with its imposing timber beams is simple, as befits a Presbyterian kirk, but also houses some of the most exquisite stainedglass windows in Kenya, many depicting an Africanised version of Christ’s mission. Initially, the church had no window panes or doors, the Scots finding the climate more clement than home despite the altitude. At independence, the shivering Kikuyu faithful put that right with Jomo Kenyatta donating the west door. Kenyatta’s youth is inextricably bound to the mission area. Arriving here as a nineyear-old boy, he was clothed and mentored by Minnie Watson, who reached Kikuyu with her husband Thomas in 1898. He died a year later, but for the next four decades





Minnie from Dundee shepherded the growing community through pestilence and famine. Our next stop is the Elders’ Graveyard, where the Watsons lie buried beneath the cemetery’s largest Celtic Cross, on which kites often perch. Two other graves are worth searching for. The first is of Musa Gitau, ordained in 1926 and one of the most important African clerics of the colonial era. The second is the resting place of David Steel, moderator of the Church of Scotland. His son, also David, the last leader of Britain’s Liberal Party, attended the Prince of Wales, now Nairobi School. Walk past the former dormitory where the young Kenyatta slept and the Musa Gitau School, where he began his education in the charming schoolhouse, built in 1910. Next door is the Watson Memorial Chapel, built in 1909 as the precursor of the Church of the Torch. Constructed with galvanised corrugated iron sheets, it was entirely prefabricated in Scotland, then shipped to Kenya and transported inland by ox cart. The interior, with more marvellous stained glass, is arguably one of the most atmospheric places in all of Kenya. It is also here that Kenyatta was baptised as Johnstone Kamau. It is worth wandering through the rest of the verdant and tree-lined 3,000-acre PCEA (Presbyterian Church of East Africa) mission area. The Kikuyu Mission Hospital, founded by Dr John Arthur in 1908, is one of the oldest in the country and is famous for its eye unit. There are nine schools in the mission area, which is where African education in Kenya really began. The most famous are the Alliance High School, established in 1926, and Alliance Girls’, Kenya’s first secondary school for African girls. Alliance is Kenya’s most storied school, providing 10 members of Kenya’s first post-independence cabinet. With houses named after Livingstone, Wilberforce, Grieve, Campbell and others, the school has melded its colonial heritage with top-class Kenyan education. Note the girls’ school crest, with a torch superimposed on the St. Andrew’s Cross,

Scotland’s national flag. Both schools can be visited on spec, but it is worth ringing ahead (020-2015026). Having explored the area, head for Kikuyu Town by boda and have lunch at Crave Kitchen, an unexpected delight. Rustic and simple, Crave’s red double doors open onto a barn-like interior with exposed rafters. It is filled with pot plants and blackboards while the walls display an ever-changing exhibition of local art. Crave is the brainchild of the dreadlocked Tom Kamuti, a graduate of Leith’s in London, the cookery school founded by Great British Bake Off judge Prue Leith. Kamuti, once an interior designer in Fulham, later worked as commis chef to Alex Floyd at his Michelin-starred restaurant in Notting Hill. The menu changes every day. Our pork marinated in soy, garlic and ginger served with sautéed vegetables, mash and crisped carrot was delicious — and a steal at Ksh 360. Suitably fortified, take the short walk towards the Ondiri Swamp (ask at Crave for directions), our final destination, to enjoy the bizarre sensation of walking on water. Forming the headwaters of the Nairobi River, it is Kenya’s only “quaking bog.” To understand what this means, walk across the logs precariously thrown across the swamp and then step off when you find a dry spot. Your are now standing on a floating mat of peat moss. The ground shifts and undulates beneath your feet, as though stepping across a trampoline. Although it feels like it will give way at any moment, the moss is half a metre thick and cattle often graze on it. Cross the logs and you can hike the footpaths that connect settlements around the swamp. Alternatively, hire a bicycle from David Kinjah, who mentored multiple Tour de France winner Chris Froome. Kinjah’s Safari Simbaz cycling centre (0722 620623) is located in Kikuyu town and can organise tours of Kikuyu, one of the most surprising and under-appreciated spots in the Nairobi region.


Adrian Blomfield explores an under-appreciated spot just outside Nairobi, where you’ll find one of the region’s oldest churches, a gourmet restaurant and a quaking bog.



Keith Hellyer, an anti-poaching pilot, flies daily over the vast tract of land between Tsavo East and Tsavo West National Parks. He talks to Nomad about his day-to-day life supporting the rangers in their battle against poaching. What brought you to Kenya? My family brought me on safari when I was 10. I saw my first lions and elephant, was immediately hooked, and that set me on my path to what I’m now doing. I returned to Kenya as soon as I could and started working in tourism. It was then that I saw first-hand the enormous challenges wildlife faces in Kenya – and that made me want to do my bit to help.

Tell me about the job. I’m a contract pilot for Wildlife Works, and my funding comes partly from Save the Elephants and partly from public fundraising through the Elephant Protection Trust. Wildlife Works is an incredible project. Mike Korchinsky founded it in 1997 on the principle that the needs of wildlife must be balanced with the needs of the people who share their environment. He developed a plan that would protect wildlife by providing people in wildlife-rich areas with jobs; and he chose an area with a high threat to wildlife – Rukinga Sanctuary in the Kasigau Corridor between Tsavo East and Tsavo West National Parks – in which to implement his plan. Now of the 11,000 elephants in the Tsavo ecosystem, about 2,000 rely on this corridor in their search for water and as a migration route. And they’re not the only species to live in or come through the area. My daily flights are always exciting: I see lions and elephants most days, and am often treated to a sighting of a rare species like honey badger or wild dog. It sound exciting, but aren’t there risks? Flying at low-altitude is risky, especially over the thick coniferous forest that covers much of the area. I flew into a flock of vultures once – that didn’t go well for the vultures or the gyrocopter. Landing on bush airstrips is a tricky experience every time; they can be full of buffaloes, or giraffes, or kudus. And dodging piles of elephant dung to take off is a challenge!





How did Wildlife Works encourage so many animals to return to the area? It’s their protection of the environmental habitat that makes this project special. We’re not just protecting one particular species, but protecting a massive belt of pristine wilderness outside the national parks. The REDD+ programme – Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation – is the world’s first REDD+ project to receive issuance of carbon credits, and was awarded Gold level status by the Climate, Community and Biodiversity Standard. It works through what’s called consumerdriven wildlife conservation – the creation of jobs for people who previously had little option but to destroy their environment just to survive. So where I live, there are not only over 100 rangers, but people in the T-shirt factory, in the soap factor, in the eco-charcoal project and more, all employed by the projects Wildlife Works has established. What’s an average day like for you? I usually wake up before sunrise to communicate with the Head of Security for

Wildlife Works. We make a plan based on what happened the previous day, and what happened during the night. Depending on that, I’ll either survey a random location, or I’ll head somewhere we suspect illegal activities have taken place. I fly with a ranger who records the numbers of elephants we see, as well as other species of interest such as Grevy zebra and lions. We also look for charcoal burning and other illegal activities. If we see a freshly-poached carcass, we relay the information to our team who [informs] the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS). If we’re lucky enough to have spotted the poached animal before its tusks were taken, I guide the KWS team to the area and watch to keep them safe while they confiscate the ivory. Otherwise, I work with them – guiding them and protecting them from above – to try to track the poachers. As told to Tamara Britten If you’d like to support the project, please see


So you became a gyrocopter pilot? Actually that was just by chance. I learned to fly the gyrocopter for fun. It was just a hobby. But I quickly realised the gyrocopter’s potential, and saw what a useful tool it could be for wildlife surveillance. It’s affordable – about a quarter of the price of other aircraft with similar capabilities – and its manoeuvrability makes it ideal for observing wildlife at low-level altitudes.

Weekend away in



If you’re stuck in Nairobi this festive season, you might think there’s not much to do in or around the city. But there is! Whether it’s a gallop through the forest that takes your fancy, or a sneaky night away near the city, but not quite in the city, then we’ve got a few ideas for you.


Walk into another world at the River House. A world away from conventional design, the River House - conceived and designed by owner Jonny Dwek - is made up of eclectic design, tiny nooks and crannies that conceal stairways, ladders, bathrooms, you name it. As Jonny says, “It’s the opposite of architecture.” This treehouse-style home was made with his kids in mind, to give them the kind of childhood he dreamed about. And it may well bring out the child in you too. Three doubles, plus a deck-style room for a child. House available only when the owners are away (which is usually over Christmas / summer). $129 per night on AirBnB.







Next door to the house is the River cottage, a quirky little one-bedroom Hansel & Gretelstyle house next to the river, and visited by animals from pigs to dogs to chickens. Vintage armchairs surround the hearth to one side of the small kitchen, but there’s a large outdoor sitting room - again, fitted with vintage pieces and antiques - for more space during the day. Take a picnic to the river’s edge, or go for long walks in the fields adjacent to the house. Hemingways, the five-star hotel next door, is just a shortish walk away for a sunset cocktail. $50 for the cabin, book via AirBnB.




Within Nairobi National Park is this boutique lodge, run by Emma and Anthony Childs. This lodge is pretty unique in that it’s a quick 45-minute whizz from the airport (via the park), and a host of celebrities have stayed here, among them Madonna. Out here - as regular visitors to the park will know - it’s hard to imagine that Nairobi is just on the other side. The hotel has 10 spacious rooms, a pool (into which a buffalo or two has plunged), and a pretty good restaurant. Thanks to its location on the edge of the park, guests can take walks through the nearby Kitengela conservation area, or benefit from their hosts’ knowledge to find the park’s elusive rhinos. Contact the lodge for resident rates.


Right up on the boundary of the Nairobi National Park (near the Maasai Gate beyond Ongata Rongai), this rustic self-catering little cottage in the tranquil Silole Sanctuary is a great weekend getaway for families. The cottage has two main bedrooms, although kids can be squeezed into two attic rooms - accessible via a steep set of stairs, so not for very young ones - a small sitting room, and an airy and well-equipped kitchen. The owner, Will, lives just a short walk away, and is usually on site to welcome you, and take you on tours of the park (and farther afield) if you wish. The drive to the park takes a few minutes, and although you’re allowed to enter via this gate, you’ll need to pay at one of the bigger gates within the park before exiting. Ksh 10,000 per night for the whole cottage.






There are two ways of getting here - by car, or by taking the terrifying walk across a hanging bridge, suspended above a gorge with the odd crocodile or two. This is the home of Nani Croze, who has over 40 years built up a glassworks, eclectic cottages, and a menagerie of creatures, including a pet vulture. We particularly liked the pool house, sleeping 6-8 people, which has bold, colourful designs, a combination of glass, mirrors, and flamboyant bedspreads. Glass house, which as its name suggests, is a colourful collage of glassworks, sleeping two. Cecilia’s Cottage, which involves a steep climb up some rickety stairs, is perhaps the most rustic of the cottages. A pool - of course, no ordinary pool is available. Cottages start from Ksh 6,000. Meals provided on request. Email


A 45-minute drive from Nairobi is the Forest, an adventure retreat that offers the longest series of ziplines in East Africa along with a wealth of other activities such as mountain biking, archery, paintballing and fly fishing. Open just over a year now, the Forest has become a hugely popular destination for those seeking a bit of adventure not too far from the city. It’s usually packed out at weekends, so head there during the week if looking for some peace. An Alpine-style cafe overlooks the Aberdares. The full zipline tour - speeding you across six ziplines - costs Ksh 2,500 per person. Open on public holidays during the festive season from 9 am to 5 pm.


For experienced riders, a hack in a new city can often be a disappointing experience upon broken-down, plodding horses, with a short canter thrown in. But at Malo, owner Anja du Toit has transformed the “hack” experience into something much more exciting, although you pay a hefty price for that pleasure. Anja, who also breeds warmbloods, has a collection of lively mounts, which you’ll meet at a nearby Dagoretti forest for an exhilarating ride, with enough speed for those who want it. Ksh 5,500 for an hour’s hack, and Ksh 11,000 for two hours (at weekends, minimum of two hours). Open during the holidays.


Less known than Karura on the other side of town, Oloolua, wedged on the edge of Karen, is nevertheless a pretty spot for a hearty walk, made more appealing by its waterfall and long caves. For the most part, the 4.5 km circular walk is under forest canopy, with the occasional glade. Run by Kenyan Museums, this forest is much quieter than Karura, and on weekdays you’re likely to be among a handful of walkers. There a couple of picnic spots, and it’s also possible to camp in the forest with prior arrangement. Ksh 200 for citizens, Ksh 400 for residents. Open on public holidays during the festive season from 9 am to 6 pm.





What I pack … for my travels Mutua Matheka is an explorer, a traveller, and someone who is happiest when on the road. He is also a leading Kenyan photographer. Instagram @truthslinger Twitter @truthslinger

Large Weekender bag Ksh21,900

Canon film camera It’s not the fastest or the easiest way to shoot, but it takes me back to the type of photography where you get to slow down and let the shot come to you. It makes me really think about what I’m shooting. With a digital camera, I’ll take up to 500 shots, which are unnecessary. With a film camera, I shoot one or two.

Sandstorm washbag I was given this at a ‘men-only’ function two or three years ago. Before that, I never knew I needed a bag like that. It has been with me on every single road trip. It’s also waterproof, so when my shower gel leaks, it doesn’t touch my luggage.

JBL bluetooth headphones I like them because they’re wireless. I’m an introvert so when I’m on a trip, I can listen to my own stuff, and I don’t need to talk to anybody.





Carl Oakes sunglasses I got them this year when I took a trip to Sweden. I was supposed to be a model for a shoot [but it was cancelled] and they gave me the shades instead. They are the only shades in my life that I’ve worn every day. They’re high-quality, and really good for driving, cutting out the glare.


ManDevu beard oil I have to keep my beard on point everywhere I am. I like this one because first of all, it has little to no scent, it’s a natural blend. I also like the way they package it together with a comb. And it being Kenyan helps.


NAIROBI: The Hub, Junction, Sarit Centre, Village Market, Yaya Centre, Westgate DAR ES SALAAM: Slipway





OVERVIEW The bus is a relatively new AirBnB guesthouse, converted from a 30-year-old double decker bus. Cool, right? It gets its distinct name from old Courvoisier brandy adverts that used to be plastered on the sides. Established within a shared compound in the heart of Karen, the bus is close enough to Nairobi for a quick spontaneous getaway, but far enough for some muchneeded fresh air and an escape from city life. AMENITIES The bus can technically sleep six. There are two queen-sized beds upstairs separated by a curtain, and two sofa beds downstairs in the common area. Each bedroom has its own wonderfully quirky look and feel, from vibrant throw pillows to stacks of books - there’s something about this place that makes you feel right at home. There is one bathroom with a hot running shower and a toilet. The bathroom is modern and resourceful and is everything you need for a short stay. If travelling at capacity, be ready for a queue to get to the bathroom. There is a fully-kitted kitchen with a microwave, gas cooker, utensils and even some cooking basics. You can request a





Cookswell Jiko to be set up outside for roasting and baking. The kitchen also features a French press, a charming coffee counter with bar stools and fresh flowers that delicately brighten up the room. For more extensive meals, there is a round table outside on the patio which you can set up with candles and a fire by the furnace for those chilly Karen nights.

Although it’s a compact space, the host has managed to fit everything you need into the bus. The charm of the bus comes from its global inspirations: from woven baskets originating in West Africa to Mexican tiles, it’s the little details that make it the unique and eccentric space that it is. WHERE You can find The Brandy Bus on Kibo Lane in Karen (approximately 45 minutes from Westlands, Nairobi). The host will share the exact location once you book. PROS • Distance - a quick getaway from Nairobi • Unique - will you ever get a chance to stay on a bus again? • Exclusivity - the bus is all yours whether two or six guests • Details, details, details - we loved the fresh flowers CONS • Space - it may feel cramped if there are six of you (there’s only one bathroom) • Privacy - it’s a small space so go with

people you are comfortable with! • The WiFi connection isn’t great

WHAT TO DO The Bus is somewhere to go when you want to do nothing but sip on black coffee, read novels and embrace the fresh crisp air. There are also tennis courts available on-site and Nairobi National Park is roughly a 20-minute drive away if you want to get in an early morning safari. HOW TO BOOK Find it on AirBnB by searching for “The Brandy Bus.” Facebook and Instagram @Thetraveldote This review is independent and unbiased. The authors of this piece pay for their own accommodation. COST The Bus can be booked from $80 a night. Prices vary on weekends and with the number of guests. RATING Accessibility: 5/5 Cleanliness: 4/5 Amenities: 3/5 Budget friendly: 4/5 Unique Factor: 5/5 Family friendly: 3/5


The Brandy Bus is a quaint guesthouse in the leafy neighbourhood of Karen. The space defines unique with its enchanting décor and eccentric little details. Ever thought you would say: “I spent the night in a double decker bus?” Us neither.

A Hidden Gem | Serenity | Privacy | Luxury | Spa Destination

Silver Palm Spa and Resort is a secluded beachfront luxury boutique hotel located in Kilifi, along the Kenyan coast. The property is ideally located with stunning turquoise blue ocean views, direct beach access and with only 38 rooms offers an ultimate privacy and luxury experience for all. ROOM AMENITIES

• 24 hour room service • Free wi-fi • Mini bar and coffee stations • Safe deposit box • Hair dryers . Iron boxes


• Luxurious Barizi spa with Theravine & Theranaka trained therapists, products and treatments • Health bar, Gym and Beauty Salon • Conference facility for 100 pax, with separate 30 pax meeting room and 10 pax boardroom • Tennis Court

Bofa Road, Kilifi P.O. Box 41247-80100, Mombasa Tel: +254-780745837 / +254-707745837, Email:


A fashionable young woman dressed for the time walks down a central Nairobi street in March, 1969. This photo forms part of a retrospective series celebrating the work of renowned Kenyan photographer Mohamed “Mo” Amin, who died in 1996 when his Ethiopian Airlines flight was hijacked and crashed into the Indian Ocean. Photograph courtesy of Salim Amin.





My world, My Kenya, My Home Be part of ’ Finest residences One of Nairobis

Jade Residency - Luxury living within the City Prime Location: Kindaruma Road, Kilimani, Nairobi Boutique Development comprising of 2, 3, and 4 bedrooms units Modern Design. High Quality Finishes Facilities - 4 Lifts. Solar Water Heater, Sky Gym Area, Sky Bridge, Roof Top Social Hall To find out more about this exciting opportunity please contact

Jade Homes Ltd

+254 718 632 128 +254 780 522 522

Happy Living

“Particulars Not Warranted” This material is condensed for general marketing purposes only and may not be complete or accurate. Jade Homes Limited (including its employees and agents) will not accept any liability suffered or incurred in any way whatsoever (directly or indirectly) by any person arising out of or in connection with any reliance on the content of or information contained herein. Taibjee & Bhalla Advocates, P O Box 10161-00100, Nairobi





tretch, balance, side plank. Lift those hips and reach up to the sky, ladies!” cries the lithe instructor, posing under the palms, a vision in purple lycra against a backdrop of gently lapping waves. Is she actually wearing lipstick at this time in the morning? Caro sighs, wobbles, then collapses down onto her bottom. Her stomach rumbles. She’s not feeling quite right after the beetroot and cucumber juice this morning. Caro’s friend, Helen, bullied her into coming along on this wellness retreat at the Indian Ocean View hotel. At first, Caro baulked at the cost but was persuaded when Helen said that it would be so worth it. “You’ll lose pounds, Caro! Think of the parties we have coming up. We’ll come back glowing and so thin!” Caro thought to herself, how hard could it be? But she hadn’t figured on the mighty Laban, muscle-bound instructor extraordinaire and party pooper-in-chief for their weekend getaway. “Let’s take a peek inside your bags,” said Laban, barely minutes after the ladies had arrived at the coastal eco hotel, a slick smile masking his evil intentions. They’d just taken one sip of their welcome drinks before Caro’s emergency stash of Snickers bars was unearthed and Helen’s bottle of vodka confiscated.





“Welcome to our wellness retreat. You’re going to love it here,” he said, placing the stash behind the reception desk. “I’m going to love it a lot less without my chocolate and your vodka,” Caro commented and Helen nodded, raising her glass of ginger and lime juice, then grimacing at the taste. Caro had just slipped into her swimming costume and a sarong, when Laban rapped on the door to say that the group would be heading out for a compulsory jog in 10 minutes at 1500 hours. Five kilometres later, Caro was sweating up a sand dune with her heart bursting out of her chest alongside Martin, an accountant and fellow straggler. “What brought you here?” Caro gasped at Martin. “My wife thought it was a good idea,” He replied, sweat dripping off his nose. “Time for a reset, you know?” “Good luck,” Caro said, referring to Martin’s marriage, not the wellness weekend. The following day, after poolside Pilates and an unsatisfying ‘cave man’ lunch comprising raw spinach leaves, nuts and boiled chicken, Caro and Helen head off to the spa for a well-earned massage. Oiled and lying side by side on massage beds, they hatch a plan. “I’m dreading paddle-board yoga. How am I ever going to balance on one of those surfboards?” asks Caro. “Let alone do a headstand?”

“That could be one activity too far for me for today,” agrees Helen, “All of my muscles are screaming.” She groans as the masseur leans in to focus on her calves. “Do you know of any ‘normal’ restaurants or clubs around here?” Caro asks the masseur. After all those raw greens, she’s craving a plate of chips and a burger. “Well, there’s not much around here, just the Simba Sports Lounge about twenty minutes up the road.” The masseur reaches for another hot towel and Helen and Caro exchange a meaningful glance. ** Much later, at around 11 pm, Helen, Caro and Martin are delivered back to the eco hotel by an Uber. Laban is at reception waiting for them, arms crossed as they pour out of the car and weave their way over to the front door. “We’d been wondering where you guys had got to,” Laban said. “Beachside run at ohseven-hundred hours is in order I think.” But Caro is no longer a child and won’t be spoken to like one. She plants a kiss on Laban’s cheek, reaches for the vodka bottle behind the front desk, and says, “Sorry sweetie but I’m checking out at oh-nine-thirty hours, so won’t be able to make it.” And with that, the group giggle off to their rooms for a well-earned rest. Frances blogs at


By Frances Woodhams



May this Christmas dazzle the moments with love, happiness and joy. Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year. Partners in better health Aetna International and Executive Healthcare Solutions (EHS) bring together local expertise and global strength to deliver health plans perfectly positioned to meet the needs of the Africa market. Members can choose to be covered in Africa plus the Indian sub-continent; Worldwide excluding USA or Worldwide. They can also choose from a range of plan options all aimed at keeping them healthy and well-protected.

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The Chyulus  

We head to the Chyulu Hills, a dramatically beautiful slice of Kenya. We talk to Richard Bonham, adventurer and the legendary big-game hunte...

The Chyulus  

We head to the Chyulu Hills, a dramatically beautiful slice of Kenya. We talk to Richard Bonham, adventurer and the legendary big-game hunte...