Have you ever thought about holidaying in untouched gems that lie in remote locations unheralded by the average traveller as great safari lands? In most cases, such underrated havens sit in rough terrain that needs a four-wheel drive and a GPS.
Machakos County does not appear on any marketing brochure in Kenya. If it does, the advertiser will undoubtedly highlight Machakos Peoples’ Park only. However, in the heart of this county, on the harsh plains of Yatta Plateau, you will find a serene retreat for anyone yearning for countryside charm wrapped in some luxury.
This retreat is Kipwa Conservancy, a 90-acre conservancy sweltering in the sun, surrounded by the hills of Yatta Plateau. Within this family-run sanctuary are two sets of cottages, forlorn in thickets and bushes as far the eye can see. Thika River trickles beside one set of cottages, attracting birds looking for fish in the shallow waters during the dry season.
One set of cottages is known as Ndulumo Cottages while the other set is called Kipwa Cottages. Ndulumo Cottages enjoy lush greenery and a perimeter that runs to the river banks while Kipwa Cottages flaunt an outdoor pool for guests to bask, tan and swim under the sun. The sanctuary has some wild animals too albeit not one of the main attractions. There is an ostrich, crocodiles and a tortoise.
I stayed in Ndulumo for a weekend with friends. Ndulumo Cottages are two cottages with three bedrooms each. The pair of sisters who run Ndulumo cottages are cheerful hosts who will keep you company throughout your stay, and make you feel like you just came back home after a long stay in the city. One of the sisters, I learnt, has vast experience in Kenya’s tourism industry. They decided to preserve the family’s legacy by constructing a hide-away in a region that lived for years.
At Ndulumo, when the sun hides behind the hills adventure never stops because at dusk, another range of experiences start. Highlights of my trip to Ndulumo were star-lit dinners, bonfire parties, and drinks by a natural bar beside the river. Though it is a self-catering property, an on-site chef is available at a fee. After laughing the night away around a bonfire and collapsing on a bed tired from the day’s adventures, waking up to breakfast by the river was exceptional.
How to Get to Kipwa Conservancy
The drive from Nairobi to Yatta prepares you for the sun-scorched plains as the setting changes from skyscrapers to expansive shrubs. Branch off the main road at Yatta, into a countryside that seems stuck in the 80s while doing a time travel to the present.
The most decent development you will see along the way is a set of one room shops that mark a market’s circumference, and a church. However, the charming smiles of the children you meet along the way compensates for the region’s lack of basic infrastructure.
Ndulumo Cottages charm is the serenity of the location. Hopefully, this conservancy will outlive the desire to turn every safari destination into a lavish neighbourhood of skyscrapers sitting on cobblestones.