24-Hour Room Service: Elsamere Lake Naivasha, Kenya

Hilary Macaskill
Wednesday 01 April 2009 17:34

Soon after arrival at the tranquil retreat of Elsamere, you are invited to "see the video". Elsamere was the home of Joy Adamson, who wrote about her relationship with Elsa the lioness in several books, starting with Born Free, so, after dinner, we were shown a faded interview with her and her husband George. It was at Elsamere that she nurtured orphan cubs and reintroduced them into the wild. Now, the Elsamere Trust carries on the conservation work, and her home has become a comfortable, if idiosyncratic, guest house.

The long, low house that she had built, where her own paintings still hang on the walls, is the social focal point of Elsamere. Guests sleep in one of eight small villas dotted about the grounds among the acacia trees, each with a veranda facing Lake Naivasha, the highest in Kenya's Rift Valley. At night, hippos roam the lawn, alongside zebras. Fortunately, Maasai watchmen escort guests to their rooms after dinner.

Early in the morning, the strange cries of colobus monkeys act as a wake-up call. They were introduced by Joy, and their antics at the feeding tray in the afternoon entertain the guests being served tea. Superb starlings with turquoise wings wait for crumbs from the scones and five sorts of cake. They've heard that this is considered the best afternoon tea in Kenya.


On the southern shore of Lake Naivasha, Moi South Lake Road, Naivasha, Kenya (00 24 254 0311 21055; www.elsatrust.org; elsamere@africaonline.co.ke). Has its own boats for bird-watching trips, and is within easy reach of the volcanic Crater Lake and rock formations of Hell's Gate National Park, as well as the colonial-style Lake Naivasha Country Club, with its sacred ibis.

Time from international airport: visitors can be collected from Jomo Kenyatta Airport, Nairobi, 60 miles and a couple of hours' drive through stunning scenery.


Villas have a large bedroom, bathroom and veranda with comfy chairs. The hot-water tank is shared between two villas, so you could draw the short straw at bathtime. Joy's sitting room and conservatory are open to guests, with books, games and wildlife videos. There's also a fascinating museum on her. The food is very good, and although the guest house is unlicensed, guests can bring their own alcohol.

Freebies: Appropriately old-fashioned bath salts. Coffee (instant, shockingly, even though coffee is a major Kenyan product), Kenyan tea, biscuits.

Keeping in touch: Not easy. No phones in bedrooms - but on the bedside table is a hooter to alert watchmen in the night, in case the hippos get too familiar.


Doubles are $140 (£80), including full board and tea.

I'm not paying that: in Naivasha Town, La Belle Inn (00 24 254 0311 20116) on Moi Avenue has doubles for Ksh1,500 (£12) - and an internet café.

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