Dr. Wolfgang Thome is is quite the traveler and has been to most parts of Kenya and greater East African region. However,despite his many travels, he is pleasantly surprised to discover lake Elmenteita Serena Camp. Read on as he share his very first stay at the Camp
When I conclude at the end of a visit that three nights is not enough, by any standards it is clear that this particular property ticked all the right boxes in my mind.Already the approach, off the main highway from Nairobi to Nakuru, takes one into a different landscape and triggers a different mindset.
It is away from it all as one drives deeper and deeper into the Soysambu Conservancy and Lake Elementaita comes into view as it is a little further into the camp. Game is seen along the track, which, a little rough, gives the impression of being on a proper safari. Lions and leopard are regularly seen on game drives, as are zebras, buffalos, giraffes, hippos, waterbuck, gazelles, hyenas, foxes and of course birds by the hundreds of species.
Well, the word camp is perhaps a shade misleading as the accommodation units are a mix of canvas and brick walls cleverly covered with canvas, allowing for the unique structure of the rooms. With just 25 of them, plus the Flamingo Suite where I stayed, is the Elementaita Serena small and intimate, precisely the sort of getaway from the city many are craving for and yet just two hour’s drive from the capital Nairobi.
I had a look at the standard tents / rooms / cabins as one might call them and by any standard they were spacious, all with a large bathroom and most important, a private terrace opening the view to the lake and beyond.
The Soysambu Conservancy is a viable option for the more distant Lake Nakuru National Park, as game is seen aplenty and flamingos paint the lakeshores pink too. Yet, being a conservancy and Serena the only camp on the sprawling estate for some distance, this makes all the difference for those seeking seclusion, privacy and ‘owning’ a piece of prime African real estate for as long as they stay there. Set on a hidden bay, not visible from other parts of the lake, is the view of guests across the water open and yet no one else can see into the property.
But back to my latest experience with Serena!
On check in are guests offered a glass of bubbly, and for those like me who do not drink, tea or coffee or juice is offered instead.
While the baggage is taken to the tent does the reception staff give an extensive briefing on the do’s and don’ts of this particular place. While secured with an electric fence is it always possible to encounter game and staying alert is paramount while on safari in Africa.
A range of activities are explained to newly arrived guests, some for free and some at a nominal cost like night game drives, day game drives and extended guided bird walks. The lodge offers horse back riding, painting classes, archery and of course a Spa among many other options to stay busy when not out searching for game or birds. Notably are cooking classes on offer too, free of charge that is and watching the chefs conjure up their culinary creations surely must be a thrill for food aficionados.
Breakfast is prepared to order as is otherwise only found in top ranked hotels, supporting the claim to pedigree of the Elementaita Serena. Most impressive are the choices of starters and main courses for lunch and dinner, with as many as FIVE main courses to choose from.
And the chefs go beyond that. I had Egg Benedict for breakfast on my first morning and when the dining room supervisor saw my critical face and raised eyebrows as I studied what had been put in front of me, she promptly brought the breakfast chef to my table.
We discussed what many friends of mine know as my ‘Egg Benedict Challenge’, in length in fact and lo and behold, the next morning did my ranking go from the previous day’s nondescript to 9 out of 10. It was soon clear that the Chef did read up on Egg Benedict, how to make it and how NOT to ever put it under a Salamander and his creations over the next two days hit all the right taste buds.
I rarely order lamb chops, for most of the times they come out on the hard and chewy side but not at the Elementaita Serena. Prepared to perfection did the meat literally melt in my mouth, as did all other meals I ate, soups included. From lake fish and seafood dishes to perfectly prepared steaks, vegetables as I liked them crisp and al dente, to the rice, croquette potatoes or pasta, it was culinary heaven. A choice of desserts rounds up lunch and dinner and a cheeseboard selection is thrown in for good measure as is coffee, tea and after dinner pralines.
The Flamingo Suite, with its own large terrace overlooking the lake, equally impressed. From a large lobby to a larger sitting and dining room, a huge walk in wardrobe, probably bigger than in many apartments or houses and a massive sized bathroom with a Jacuzzi – set next to the open window for those unrivaled views – to finally the bedroom with a huge four poster bed, there was not a thing lacking.
Fruit basket, flowers and a bottle of wine rounded up the welcome impression and manageress Elizabeth ‘Liz’ Njeri pulled out all the stops, and as witnessed not just for me but for all guests.
We were all treated like visiting royalty by her, perhaps befitting given the history of the sprawling estate, once upon a time called the Delamare Estate after founder Lord Delamere who no doubt had royalty visit in his days.
If I found myself pondering it was over the question why I had passed Elementaita Serena for so long and so often, en route Nakuru, Bogoria, Baringo or even stopping earlier along the route at Lake Naivasha. All these lakes were declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites some years ago and I had been to them all and stayed in literally all the lodges, except for the Elementaita Serena.
Well, the omission was my mistake and mine alone! I will for sure be back to spend some added time at this exceptionally well situated and managed place. Thumbs up to the entire Elementaita Serena team who made this visit an extraordinary experience!