Even as Laikipia continues to bleed from the latest attacks by pastoralists, the huge plateau is still a haven for those who want a quiet holiday. One ranch in particular has made a name for hosting world-class lodges that attract an equally high-end clientele.
Borana Conservancy, named after the indigenous cattle that dot the ranch, is among the oldest in the region, having been in the hands of the Dyer family for several generations.
Like the rest of the conservancies, Borana’s landscape looks forlorn and desolate. However, its beauty lies in this rugged scenery. But what exactly makes Borana tick? It must be the state-of-the-art lodges that it hosts.
From its website, Arijiju terms itself as an anomaly — a beautiful, private home in the game-rich, malaria-free, Kenyan Highlands with rare, truly wild luxuries. For the newest kid in Borana’s block, that might be an understatement. Arijiju is a design masterpiece that took ten years to piece together. It borrows heavily from the rock-hewn churches of Ethiopia and ancient Lamu architecture. It makes good use of Meru stone and Lamu style doors. Then there are the intricate works of iron and copper. From a distance, the house appears to grow out of the ground.
Arijiju is all the rave currently. International news outlets are outdoing each other with their incessant reviews. At the end of last year, Bloomberg analysed four luxury travel destinations in Africa – and Arijiju was one of them.
As much as the house is in one of Kenya’s nearly barren landscapes, Arijiju combines some unique interior elegance that can be found anywhere else on the planet’s luxury hotspots. So vast is Arijiju’s beauty repertoire that The Telegraph in its March 1 issue asked the question: “Is this Africa’s most beautiful, new holiday home?”
Here is how to find out: Get five other friends who wish to stay for at least three nights and have the house exclusively to you for $7,500 or Sh769,875 per night. Any extra person who wants to tag along must cough up Sh61,590.
Arijiju is in good company with yet another exclusive home in Borana: Sirai House. This is arguably one of Kenya’s most expensive luxury accommodations. Completed in 2012, Sirai might be in the bush as well, but don’t let this deceive you. So exclusive is Sirai that bookings are made not just in terms of the money one has, but the extent of your character. In short, you might as well keep your millions if your personality traits are not in tandem with the generally acceptable rules of behaviour.
Should your name be written in Sirai’s “Book of Life”, your group of six should be ready to part with $12,470 or Sh1,280,000 a night. Among other things, the amount will let the gang enjoy from a selection of 3,000 bottles of wine carefully selected from around the world.
This is the “anchor” lodge in Borana Conservancy. It comprises eight cottages overlooking the Samangua Valley and Lewa Plains. It is an ideal family holiday destination, having raised several generations of the Dyer family. Horse riding safaris – some lasting up to ten days – are arranged from the lodge.
The eight-bedroom exclusive house was originally built as a country retreat by Lords Valentine and Michael Cecil. Currently owned by George and Lucilla Stephenson, Laragai is only booked on an exclusive-use basis with residents paying Sh207,000 a night for a group of six.