Living in a busy social hub like Nairobi often requires a break from the city to recharge; so when Dad suggested a little weekend getaway to the Lake Elmenteita Serena Camp, it was just the perfect break we needed from the hectic Nairobi life. So three weeks ago, we loaded our bags into the car, strapped up and drove down to Elmenteita on a sunny Saturday afternoon with my uncle and his family.
Lake Elmentaita, just an hour and half away from Nairobi, is located between the more popular Lake Naivasha and Lake Nakuru in the Rift Valley. The alkaline soda lake with its rocky islands is known for nesting great white pelicans and its algae and plankton attract flamingoes and other water birds. Like Lake Nakuru, Elmenteita has no outflow, and so its accumulated alkaline salts make it uninhabitable for all fish. However, you will find the invincible Tilapia grahami.
The small and exclusive Lake Elmenteita Serena Camp opened in July 2011. Located on the shores of the sapphire-blue Lake Elmenteita, it quickly became a luxurious haven for safari lovers looking for breathtaking beauty, not far from Nairobi. The safari camp, a blend of aristocratic sophistication and modern comfort, is located in the Soysambu Wildlife Conservancy. The 48,000-acre conversancy is home to hundreds and thousands of bird and animal species.
The camp offers both day and game drives where various wild game, including the big cats, can be spotted. Other activities such as jogging, yoga, swimming and badminton lessons and watercolor painting were on offer to all guests.
Because it was a weekend, it took us about two hours due to the heavy car volume on the roads. We left home at 2pm and reached the camp at around 4pm in the evening.
Upon reaching the camp, we went down to the lobby after unloading the car. At first, the porters told us that they had steps at every entrance, but then one porter kindly showed me a route through the back by the kitchen. Once I got in, we all got a welcome drink – a glass of bubbly. And because it was four in the evening, so we also had some tea and cookies (and cake) because why not!
The lounge area itself was a huge roofed area with an outdoor deck overviewing Lake Elmenteita. As we sat on the sofas, I looked around the lounge to see antiques neatly placed around. There was a glass-cased shelf holding several candelabras and other vintage artifacts. There was a grand piano at the corner that looked ready to be played. Around the several sets of sofas were tables toped with antique and vintage relics such as typewriters and an old metal globe. Some sofas were replaced with stuffed classic vintage suitcases that were also placed around the lounge next to the deck. The walls were covered with old-fashioned black and white photographs of the surrounding locales that invoked a sense of historic culture in my eyes.
The lounge and the deck faced the green gardens and the crystal-blue lake. I could see the serene and calm lake with the alkaline “Sleeping Warrior” rock behind the lake. The rock was popularly called the Sleeping Warrior because it resembled a Maasai warrior.
Adjoining the lounge was the dining area. It felt like an extension to the lounge.
We wanted to go to the rooms to freshen up. Since they were stairs on the route to the rooms, I had to use the same way I had come into the lounge by the kitchen and straight to the rooms. They had placed a wooden ramp over the few steps leading to the entrance of my room. Oh my! I gasped as I saw how freaking massive the room was. Right at the front was a foyer with the wardrobe and a long mirror with a dresser table. Next to the bedroom area, was a gigantic bathroom that could easily fit two of my electronic wheelchairs. The bedroom itself had an enormous four-post bed at the center with another dresser table and a sofa. Each room had an outdoor veranda to relax in the privacy of your own room while still enjoying the gorgeous lake views. And since all our rooms were in the same row, we all could just walk over through the back.
And the best part was the whole camp had free wi-fi. Oh … what would I do without wi-fi?
Once I freshened up, I had to wait for the others, so I sat out on the deck and spotted a few monkeys playing on the trees by the lake shoreline. Then we went back to the outer deck. My cousin had brought along the game, Taboo, and so we quickly divided into two groups: Kids vs. Adults and started playing. I was in the Kids group and obviously we won! 😉
The weather was lovely. Usually, by the evening it’s quite chilly in the Rift Valley but it was just warm enough to be sitting out wearing just in one layer. We played as the sun set on the deck. We even managed to spot a few waterbucks that were feeding by the lake. Unfortunately it was too dark to get clear photographs.
Around 7pm, we went back to the rooms to get ready for dinner. It was a special day because it was my mom’s birthday.
We all met at the dinner table at 8pm. Of course, a bottle of wine was ordered to celebrate. We then proceeded to order dinner.
I got mushroom and sweet corn crepes with the blue cheese sauce for my appetizer. It was lovely – well seasoned and probably something I’d order again. I then proceeded to order the creamy courgette risotto as my entrée but it just didn’t meet my expectations. It was bland and the dish seemed to be clumpy rather than creamy. And so I ended up filling up on the extra French fries that we had ordered. Those were delicious, crunchy and perfectly salted!
We enjoyed the food over great conversation and soon the table was cleared and I thought we were just waiting for dessert. In the distance, I could hear some singing so I assumed that we were having some dinner entertainment. Soon the entire kitchen staff in one line were dancing around the dining room singing and using forks as percussion instruments. And the leader had a birthday cake in hand. The waiter cleared our table and they danced around till the cake landed in front of me as they sang “Happy Birthday”. WAIT WHAT?!? Wasn’t it Mom’s birthday?
It turned out that my aunt had got me a birthday cake from Nairobi (White Chocolate and Passion Fruit cake from my favorite bakery) that they had transported to Elmenteita in a cooler box. The cake was so moist and delicious. We all had some and cut some slices for the other guests at dinner. Elated, I had two huge ones!
But obviously, I had to order dessert after. We got some sticky toffee pudding and the orange crème brûlée to share. Both were absolutely amazing. Then to top off the remarkable evening, they placed a platter of homemade chocolate on the table. At this point, I was happily stuffed and could not just try the chocolates, though I dare say they looked delicious. With my stomach full and wine-happy, we went to bed.
The next day, Diva, my dad and my cousin went for a guided nature walk by the lake at 7am. I stayed behind and slept in. At around 8am, I got up and freshened up. My mom and I spotted Diva and the group walking back.
We all met at the breakfast table, which was outdoors on the deck. We got some fresh fruit, toast, several pastries and fresh juices, and waffles and eggs were available on order. As we ate, Diva showed me snippets of what they saw on their walk – zebra, waterbucks, impalas and flamingoes by the lake. Such picturesque serenity!
After a luxurious breakfast, we went to chill by the pool, as it was quite sunny. Soon, we had to move away from the pool by the tables on the grass because I could not access the shaded sunbeds because they were above a two-step pedestal from the pool.
At around noon, Diva and I went back to the lounge to paint, while Dad read the local history books available in the lounge. Diva and I, soon joined by my cousin, sat for an hour painting the lake view (or attempting to). The clouds had cleared up and we had a perfect view of the stunning lake in front of us with the sleeping warrior rock behind clearly visible too. As we painted, we enjoyed a glass of sparkling grape juice – keeping it #classy!
Then we sat around for a bit, sipping on some Pimms and Sprite, reminiscing on how fast the weekend was flying by. When we went for a late lunch, the Chef informed us that every Sunday at the Lake Elmenteita Serena Camp is curry Sunday, so we all had a curry dish for lunch. I had a vegetable curry that was quite nice.
Once we had passed by Naivasha, the rain cleared up and it was sunny again. As expected, the road to Nairobi was full of cars so we got back at 6pm.
What an exhilarating weekend spent unwinding in our superb backyard. Nothing beats the juxtaposition of luxurious living and the raw serenity of the ever-alluring Kenyan wild!
TL;DR – Lake Elmenteita is a wonderful spot to get away for a luxurious weekend away from the busy Nairobi life. So, what are you waiting for? Pack up, pick me up and let’s get going 😉
All the pictures for this blog post are provided by Diva Shah Photography.