Kenya’s ‘Big Five’ in 2017

The lobby area at Hemingways Nairobi. [photo: Peter Muiruri/standard]

If you are a regular traveller, you probably have heard of TripAdvisor, the American travel website company that provides reviews of travel and hospitality-related establishments.

It also includes interactive travel forums, being one of the first adopters of user-generated content. So popular is the website that negative user comments have been known to bring a well-known hospitality brand to its knees.

Globetrotters have voted in the best hospitality establishments that take the 2017 Travellers’ Choice Awards. For kenya, this saw some of the usual names and a few new ones. Masai Mara was, however, a clear favourite for travellers with facilities in the area dominating the list. We bring you Kenya’s Big Five and tell you what makes them tick:

1. Hemingways Nairobi

Situated on Marula Lane in the quiet suburb of Karen, Nairobi, the boutique hotel enjoys splendid views of the Ngong Hills.

Built along the lines of Southern Georgia plantation homes, Hemingways is a top hotel in the city that has hosted a number of world-renowned celebrities. The décor resonates with African themes.


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In each of the rooms — aptly named after famous Kenyan and settler figures that influenced Kenya’s modern history — is a collection of historical images that form a single theme for the room. For instance, Sheldrick Suite is full of images of the famous conservationists feeding and walking among young elephants in their sanctuary.

“We opened the hotel four years ago at position 21. It is a huge accolade to be on top in just a few years. The review was done based on actual visitor’s experience. It tells others what to expect. The challenge is to keep it at number one as others will be working to garner the same position,” says Simon Hodson, the general manager.

2. Fairmont Mara Safari Club

The club is part of the Fairmont collection that includes Fairmont the Norfolk in the city and the exclusive Fairmont Mount Kenya Safari Club in Nanyuki.

Fairmont Mara Safari Club is located at the foot of Aitong Hills in the Ol-Choro Oiroua Conservation Area just outside Masai Mara National Reserve. It re-opened in 2009 after undergoing renovations.

The famous Mara River forms an ox-bow giving all en-suite tents a perfect view of the hippo-filled river. The river provides stunning views of the surrounding savannah during the wildebeest migration season.

3. Medina Palms, Watamu

“First time to Kenya and this place provided a very good first impression. Right on the beach and with spotless rooms and staff only too happy to help,” said a guest by the name Mazpazi in January.

Set in Watamu, one the world’s most acclaimed beaches, Medina Palms is one of the most luxurious destinations along the East African Coast. It combines not just ordinary hotel rooms but suites and villas as well. The Sakina Ocean Spa and the Long Bar are some of the well reviewed facilities.

4. Mara West Camp

Mara West Camp is an American owned and operated private safari camp perched on the edge of the Oloololo Escarpment, the western edge of Masai Mara.

Containing eight luxury chalets, Mara West is off the beaten path, thus offering visitors uninterrupted wildlife viewing opportunities.

A wide front verandah overlooks Masai Mara’s vast plains below, providing spectacular views of the sunrise and glimpses at animals roaming the plains.

The bedroom area consists of canvas panels with zippered windows and roll-up panels that increase natural lighting during the day.

The more adventurous can sleep in the traditional safari tents where a canvas is the only “wall” that separates one from the African wild.

5. Sarova Mara Game Camp

Well, now you know the script of the campsites in the Mara. Sarova Mara is one of the few camps located near the centre of the wildebeest migration route.

It is among the most decorated luxury camps in the country, having been voted as Kenya’s Leading Tented Safari Camp 2016 at the World Travel Awards.

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