As the latest Conde Nast Traveller’s Awards will reveal, there is no shortage of luxury accommodation in Kenya, and some of the properties mentioned in the coveted list certainly are drool worthy.
After all, once you have revelled in the excitement of a dusty safari, where better to reminisce about your experience than the cosy annals of a luxurious property in the middle of nowhere? One such property that I think is really Citizen Femme worthy is the uber chic tented camp situated in the heart of the Tsavo National Park in Kenya: Finch Hattons.
Those of you familiar with the love story of Karen Blixen and Denys Finch Hatton in the famous movie “Out of Africa” may be nodding in agreement, when I say that Africa gets under your skin and is almost addictive. Once you have been bitten by the safari bug, you will be happily infected for life. Spending time at Finch Hattons will transport you back to the aristocratic era in which the movie is set and give you a taste of what it was like to live in that time albeit experiencing modern day luxury.
The camp is built with the chic safari traveller in mind. Every little detail has been thought of and I wouldn’t say it is just “nice”: but rather quirky yet elegant: from the chandelier made entirely out of recycled coca cola bottles, to the memorabilia that has been strategically placed about which gives the camp that feeling of a lived-in home away from home, with these little touches lending a cosy yet sophisticated ambience, and making Finch stand out from any other tented camp that I have visited in Africa.
Finch Hattons is set amidst a lush, green ecosystem, its structures built around naturally occurring springs and has 17 tented luxury suites. One of my favourite places to relax in is the main lounge area which faces the biggest pond, inhabited by some of the largest crocodiles you will ever see! They send a shiver down your spine as they navigate the waters but you are safe in the knowledge that you are on the bank, far away from any danger. This is especially consoling at night when you can see their eyes lit up like lamps, gliding along the still waters: but you are all enveloped in the cosy warmth of the large bonfire, perfectly safe underneath a twinkling night sky!
So, why do I think that this camp is worthy of being on the pages of Citizen Femme? Quite apart from all the facilities that Finch has to offer, the tents themselves are something right out of the pages of a glossy interiors magazine. Decked up in neutral khakhi colours, the canvas structures blend right into the environment and would be akin to “glamping”. I was smitten with the large wooden deck before I even ventured into the tent! This raised deck is adorned with a sofa, strewn with soft cushions and I spent a lot of time just sat out here, connecting with nature: listening to the twittering of the birds, watching monkeys bound from tree to tree and turtles bathe in the sunshine, all whilst enjoying a chilled glass of bubbles.
Inside the tent the décor is safari-esque: luxurious armchairs, a beautiful writing desk and a maxi bar. I say maxi because it didn’t have those tiny bottles of alcohol that are gone in one sip and one can enjoy a decent drink or two. For me: the holy grail of in room bars: unlimited snacks, from freshly baked chocolate lava cakes, to perfectly salted arrowroot crisps to accompany said drinks. The pièce de résistance is the large king size bed facing the greenery of the Tsavo, the views being totally uninterrupted and enjoyed without having to leave the cosy sheets. But often the downfall of properties are the bathrooms, did these live up to the rest of the property? It didn’t disappoint. From the lush Africology products, to the large copper tub, yes, a real copper tub (which was conveniently filled up so guests can promptly jump in for a soak after a dusty game drive), to the outlets to power strong hairdryers, to the twin outdoor rain showers which meant bathing under the stars: the bathroom is a recipe for romance….
For those in between safari moments, Finch has a choice of relaxing areas to while away time in. I lounged around the glorious pool area one afternoon, enjoying the sweeping vistas of the plains of the surrounding game park. When it got too warm (as it can tend to), I cooled off with a dip in the deliciously cold waters of the pool, and when I felt I was “pooled and sunbathed out” and yet hadn’t had enough of the area itself, retreated to the lounge area and curled up with a good book under the misters that sprayed a “barely there” fine mist, a subtle touch that didn’t go unnoticed and a lovely reprise from the Kenyan heat. The next day, I chose to spend time around the spa pool and its environs, and was blown away with the proper Turkish hammam where I could spend more time than I ordinarily can in an enclosed heated area, thanks to the ingenious idea of having towels soaked in ice to help cool down whilst still enjoying the heat of the hammam! Such level of luxury usually exists in destinations like Dubai and bali, but I am so proud to say that seven-star experiences exist in Kenya too.
So, if the tent and the common areas haven’t convinced you yet then there are lots of other nooks at Finch. A gentle reminder is the view from the observation deck where you can gape at the sweeping expanse of the park and one of its crowning glories: majestic Mount Kilimanjaro when she decides to unveil and share herself with the world. Another is the view from the star gazing deck, and I cannot think of a more romantic place where you can spend an evening.
And onto the food: three course lunches and seven course dinners, made even more exquisite and palatable by the ambience and the crockery the food is served in: right out of the era of Denys Finch Hatton himself. Starting meals with an elegant amuse-bouche, ending with petits fours, this is a gourmand’s paradise.
Taking the Finch experience several notches up: breakfast fit for a king in the bush, and sundowners on the slopes of the Chyulu Hills where the ENTIRE bar is brought into the wilderness and liveried waiters serve you canapés with your choice of drink, as you watch the sun set over Kilimanjaro. A place that I would not hesitate to recommend or return to time and time again, with charming service, beautiful views and full of pizzazz worthy of capturing even the most discerning traveller’s imagination…