Six local intimate spaces to explore this year

1. The Brandy Bus, Karen

You read right. This is an old, double-decker bus that has been revamped into a cozy guesthouse. Tucked away in the serene Karen suburb, it is the perfect place to escape the bustling city. The bus sat unused in an old garden for more than 30 years. It could have easily found its way into a scrap yard when the owner died. But then Karen Fraser thought of turning it into a rental living space. Despite its limited space, the bus has two double beds in the upper deck and two single beds downstairs. It has everything one needs but bring your own food, cooking utensils are provided. The bus, once operated by Kenya Bus Service in the 1950s took the name Brandy Bus from the brandy adverts once painted on its sides. It is ‘parked’ in one corner of the property with verdant vegetation that offers seclusion to the few guests looking for privacy. Good news is, Brandy is not leaving anytime soon.

2. Ololo Safari Lodge, off Nairobi National Park

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Craig and Joanna Chapman love farming, and that is what they do back home in Australia. They have tried their hands in farming here too, though on a small scale – just enough to feed guests in their little paradise they called Ololo Safari Lodge. Ololo sits on a hillside overlooking Nairobi National Park. Access is through a wooden bridge over Mbagathi River. Nothing wrong with this route if you intend to do a game drive before your rendezvous at Ololo. The more adventurous can drive towards Ongata Rongai, then past Nazarene University, under a railway bridge and some more meanderings in Masai country. Here, the love bug bites at the ‘honeymooners’ suite’, a gorgeous room located at the stone-clad tower. The more adventurous can try the horse stables turned into rooms for that wild experience.

3. Mfangano Island Lodge, Homa Bay

Mfangano island is a long way from home. But that is exactly the idea of a getaway. The drive from Nairobi to Mbita should put you in the right holiday mood before taking either a water bus or speedboat to Mfangano. However, we are in the era of low cost domestic flights. Hop on those carriers that do Wilson-Homa Bay route via Kabunde Airstrip, then repeat the steps above to get to Mfangano. Rigours of the journey aside, Mfangano is one place where the idea of owning an island is not far-fetched. Two might be a crowd in this secluded outpost where former US president Jimmy Carter called home for a few nights. Just think of a dinner under the stars on the platform next to a wooden jetty, lake waters lapping under your feet, before retiring to the honeymooners’ suite. Those are the magical nights in Mfangano.

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 4. Nairobi Tented Camp, Nairobi

When you thought you knew Nairobi like the back of your hand, the city under the sun throws yet another surprise at you. Perhaps you have been to the only national park in a capital city, but did you check out Nairobi Tented Camp? Probably not, and for good reason. The camp lies off the beaten path, deep in the park’s woodlands and away from the ever-prying eyes of tourists. Crotons and other indigenous trees act as the perfect cover for the nine tents that have been crafted with creature comforts in mind. Do not worry if you miss a game drive, you might just be fortunate and wake up to the sight of a lion at your doorstep!

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5. Mutara Camp, Laikipia

Mutara is a 20,000-acre conservancy nestled between the Aberdare Forest and Mount Kenya. Sitting just above the equator, Mutara Camp is the only accommodation within this vast conservation area. Adding some wild escapades to your love story will not hurt in this part of Africa that abounds with wildlife. But if Mutara evokes feelings of untamed Africa, such are well-balanced by the true luxury, personalised service and chic décor that echo an Africa from a bygone era. The 15 kingly tents are furnished to the highest degree possible and come with a separate sitting area that can be converted into an additional sleeping quarter. At Mutara, just dip yourself in the infinity pool, a glass of wine at hand while watching the setting sun. Kenya hakuna matata.

6. Delta Dunes, Tana River

Forget the horror stories you may have heard about Tana River being a country of bandits. At the Tana delta, where Kenya’s largest river meets the ocean lies one of the country’s best hidden gems. Who knew that Delta Dunes has existed for 30 years in the seemingly inhospitable landscape? As the name suggests, Delta Dunes is built on sand dunes with the ocean on one side and the delta on the other. Then there is what they call rooms. The ‘rooms’ are nothing more than partly open spaces made of rusty logs, old canoes and drift wood collected from the area. Take Anasa room and sleep under the stars with a mosquito net separating you from the elements. Hope you don’t mind taking a shower as monkeys watch!

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