The lights are up, Christmas decorations are mounted and we are busy buying last minute gifts as we plan on what to do this festive season. That is if we have not already done so yet.
This season marks a time when we want to travel upcountry for the annual holiday tradition and catch up with family and relatives, go the coastal beaches or look for new ways to celebrate within the city and its environs. It is a period of spending on travel, gifts, parties, events and enjoyment.
The tradition for most Kenyans has been travelling to the coastal regions for the holiday festivities. But, this time round if you have plans to travel to any destination in the Coast from Nairobi using the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR), woe unto you! A statement given by Kenya Railways on 16 November 2021, confirmed that the trains are fully booked up to 24 December. So, you will have to resort to other means of transport i.e. by road or air which if you haven’t booked by now, you will have to pay an arm and a leg for. But, why go through all that to go for a holiday in the crowded beaches when you can get alternative airy and, affordable places with beautiful scenery to enjoy your holiday? Go where others aren’t.
To shed some light on hidden gems you can visit apart from the usual Coastal region, here are a few recommendations suitable for family holidays, solo trips, group of friends and couples.
Northern Kenya circuit
One of the least explored of places is the Northern Kenya which includes Turkana, Garissa, Isiolo, Samburu, Mandera, Tana River, Wajir, West Pokot and Marsabit. Little do people know about the beauty and tranquility in these places. Start with a trip to Lake Turkana which is the world’s largest permanent desert lake and alkaline lake then proceed to Lake Turkana National Parks. The parks comprise of Sibiloi National Park, the South Island and the Central Island National Park which are breeding habitats for the Nile crocodiles and hippos.
Did you know that Turkana has some of the best, most beautiful, uninhabited beaches in the country with several camps along the shores? Eliye Springs resort, an oasis in the dessert just by the shores of Eliye beach will leave you thunderstruck with its laid back atmosphere, sand dunes and panoramic view of the lake. It has different types of accommodation ranging from the brand new and luxury Rondavels, the Boma, self-contained rooms and a campsite with Manyattas and tents. The rates range from Sh1,000 for camping to Sh15,000 for the Manyattas. Apart from the beaches, a dessert safari through Lake Turkana National Park to Chalbi desert is highly recommended. A hike up Mt. Ololokwe and rock sliding at Ngurunit should be in your bucket list. The rock sliding will bring back your childhood memories. Finish your trip with a visit to Buffalo Springs National Reserve for a swim in the natural springs.
Tandala and Little Tandala
A two hours’ drive from Nairobi through Kiserian to Il Bisil will get you to two of the most spectacular Airbnb homes you have ever seen. At Tandala which is the bigger house and suitable for families or large groups, you will get seven beds and four baths with an adjacent swimming pool overlooking Maparasha Hills. Little Tandala house as the name suggest is smaller but can comfortably accommodate six adults. The swimming pool is like four steps from your bed. Though both houses are on a self-catering basis and are fully furnished with modern kitchen equipment, spices and toiletries, you can get a chef on request at a price. The rates are Sh28,000 per night with a minimum booking of two nights.
The Emakoko and Ololo Safari Lodge
These two properties sit at the edge of the Nairobi National park – the only National Park in the world within a city. The Emakoko is a 10 roomed boutique lodge with a two-bedroomed family cottage that offers exclusive and personal services to their guests. Each room is fitted with a walk-in shower and a verandah with striking views of the park. Some of their rooms are built into the cliff which can be accessed through the outstanding funicular lift.
At Ololo Safari lodge, be prepared for a safari adventure with a relaxing session at the swimming pool while sipping your favourite sundowner plugged with a view of the park and Ngong Hills. Their 16 luxurious rooms range from tented cottages, stables and the main house. Guests can also enjoy the park’s picnic sites, campsites and walking trails for hikers.
Che’s Bay Resort –Jewel of Lake Victoria
This is one of the hottest destinations to visit in Kenya right now especially from the buzz it has created on social media for the past few months. Che’s bay is located on the shores of Africa’s largest fresh water lake – Lake Victoria. The resort is tucked between Singwe and Mwita Fubu Hills with a view of Sugulu island on the Ugandan side. It is known for the beautiful beaches, jet skiing, kayaking, boat rides and lakeside volleyball. It is a unique exotic blend of beach and mountain merged into one. Travelers visiting the resort this December will have the opportunity to attend the annual Isambo international beach carnival to celebrate the cultural fusion and nature tourism. Camping options are also available. They charge between Sh4,900 to Sh10,000 depending on the package you choose.
Mfangano Island Resort
There are so many places in Kenya with beach sensations and Mfangano Island Resort is one of them. Located in the Northern part of Mfangano Island in Kisumu, this picturesque luxury six double-bedded resort among ancient fig trees and huge boulders exudes a natural romantic charm. The first view you get as you enter the resort is of the beautiful tropical gardens set in a private bay. It is an oasis of tranquility and a peaceful retreat. The turquoise horizon swimming pool overlooking the lake is a perfect chill spot while in the lodge. The bathroom in the honeymoon suite is on the same level as the lake making you feel like you are on a boat! They serve freshly caught Tilapia or Nile perch from the lake and have their own permaculture produce. During the high season, the rates go as high as Sh 20,000* per person sharing per night.
Ecofarm in Murang’a
Set in the stunning Makuyu in Murang’a on an expansive 500-acre fruit farm, lies this breathtaking farm with two incredible properties. One is a charming 3 bedroom restored 1960 farmhouse (Ostrich House) and the other is an exclusive treehouse nested on a mango tree orchard with stunning views of Mt Kenya, the farm and the Aberdare Ranges. The Ostrich house has open plan living with lots of natural light and the ostriches peek in on you from time to time. Guests can eat whatever fruits are in season to their fill. The rustic eco experience coupled with a visit to the orchard, feeding and dining with ostriches is one of a kind family retreat destination for travelers who love the farm feel. It is a perfect place to indulge, wind down and relax for the whole family. Kids below 6 years are not allowed in the treehouse. The treehouse is Sh30,000 per night and can fit 6 adults and 2 kids while the ostrich house is Sh35,000.
Little Amanya Camp
Located next to Amboseli National Park at the foot of Mt. Kilimanjaro, this intimate luxury camp combines the indulgences of home with the freedom of outdoor views. Accommodation in any of their five eco-friendly, dome-shaped tents comes with an en-suite toilet, washing sink, shower, a bathtub and unobstructed views of the park. In the elephant suite, the bathtub is at the balcony with open views of the giraffes, zebras and gazelles roaming near the camp. The electric fence guarantees safety. The camp makes private sundown dinners under the stars or a sunrise breakfast under the open skies. I would highly recommend it for a romantic getaway. The rates range between Sh8,500 to Sh23,000 depending on the season and the rooms you book.
Naivasha hidden gems
Naivasha is known for the numerous tourist attraction sites, lodges, camping sites, game reserves and the unadulterated thriving party life. It is the perfect mini-road trip destination with friends and even family. With places such as Olkaria Geothermal Spa, Hell’s gate National Park, Crescent Island, Lake Naivasha Resort, Crayfish camp, Kongoni lodge and the rest, you will be spoilt for choice. Be sure to enjoy a boat ride at Lake Naivasha and try the freshly caught fish with ugali at Hippo Point. Its close proximity to lake Elementaita and Lake Oloiden makes it an even more diverse place to visit. A stay at the secluded Oasis Eco Camp will have you waking up to the pink flamingoes a stone throw away from your tented camp. Book a stay at the exquisite Lake Elementaita Mountain lodge to experience the joys of an infinity pool with the elevated spectacular views of Lake Elementaita.
This one of a kind tiny house with a twist is creatively built on an old military truck in Makuyu, Machakos. The one-bedroom truck house is ideal for a romantic getaway or a surreal unorthodox experience not too far from the city. Don’t let the tiny concept fool you. This is a fully functional two-storey house with an open plan living area, loft, dining room, kitchen, an office and a rooftop perfect for stargazing and great views of Kyumbi Hills. This house is on a self-catering basis and can only accommodate two people at a cost of Sh8,000 per night.
Nay palad Bird’s Nest
Kenya does not fall short of spectacular architectural designs to attract travelers. Part of the Segera Retreat in Laikipia, this lodge in the form of an open bird’s nest is the epitome of luxury in the wilderness. It is a raised two-storey lodge with a 360 degrees’ panoramic view of the Laikipia plateau down below and can comfortably host two adults and two children. Everything in this lodge is luxurious starting from the champagne welcome on the deck to the furnishings and amenities inside the nest. Guests can choose to sleep in the open air deck under the stars.
La Maison Royale
What better way to spend your holiday than have a safari at Africa’s greatest game reserve – Maasai Mara? The wildebeest migration is over meaning there won’t be a lot of tourists flocking in the place which in turn makes it affordable and more enjoyable. Take advantage of the low season. A stay in one of the 22 luxury tents at La Maison Royale in Olare Motorogi Conservatory will complete your trip. This tented camp offers a shared lounge, restaurant, swimming pool, a garden as well as a terrace. All the tents are self-contained and go for Sh15,000 per might for double occupancy.
In the City
Safari Park Hotel and Casino
For anyone not planning to travel out of the city, Safari Park Hotel and Casino got the perfect plan for you. This 203 roomed 5-star hotel with elegant African architecture and lush gardens has introduced an all-inclusive package this festive season perfect for the whole family. The aim is to make you enjoy all your home away from home comforts by not only staying in the luxurious and spacious rooms with spectacular views, but also experience mouthwatering international cuisines, barbeque feasts, thrilling children activities and all you can eat gourmet safari on Christmas day. Bed and breakfast for singles is Sh11,000 while for family of four it’s Sh16,500. The package also gives you free access to the swimming pool, safari cat dancers & acrobats show, karaoke, cultural night and entrance to the children shows and activities. To top it all, the best female Kenyan artist, Nadia Mukami will be performing on New Year’s Eve. What else do you need?
How to make the best of the festive season
- Don’t over spend. This month is filled up with expenses such as gifts, hosting, and travelling which can cause some financial constraints. Have a budget and stick to it. Spend only on what you can afford. Avoid keeping up with the Joneses.
- Go where others aren’t. If it is crowded be sure that the price might double and the quality of services might be comprised.
- Start a new tradition or do something new. If you hosted a dinner last year in your house, this time try something else like a restaurant, a mini road trip, or attend a concert.
- Don’t overbook yourself. With so many activities and parties being held, prioritise on the one you would not want to miss.
- Be ready for anything. This is that month where you go to buy bread in the morning and you find yourself in Naivasha in crocs! Have some money on your phone.
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