“Within minutes of landing at the Lewa north of Mt. Kenya, I was astonished to see a family of rare white rhino. That alone would be worth the airfare from Nairobi, but this heavenly place has drawn royalty for a reason. Herds of elephants amble along ancient migration paths, a canopy walkway invites you to explore the tree tops, and firewood is already chopped at the remote cabin where William proposed to Kate. Did I mention trout fishing and Africa’s most glorious garden?
Let’s start at Sirikoi, a luxurious lodge named after the swamp. An outdoor wooden patio allows you to enjoy wild visitors taking a drink while you are served one. There might be a tame cheetah around to pet, as when I was here. Lodge owners Willy and Sue Roberts tap the best sustainable concepts, including solar power, and farm to table. Sue Roberts designed a huge vegetable and flower garden that benefits from the rich soil. The harvest not only appears fresh on your table but goes into jars of preserves and pies. Flavors smack of rich Italian depth, especially the berries and snap peas. To work off your indulgences, there is horseback riding across this majestic landscape, or you might climb Mt. Kenya.
With my friend Alan Root as pilot, I took the easy route up Mt. Kenya, arriving by copter. So did Prince William in 2010 when he proposed to Kate Middleton, in a sweet cabin perched just above a trout lake. Surrounded by giant heather, rustic, modest Rutundu Log Cabin can be reserved for your own romantic retreat. There is no electricity, but a clever cool box at the window keeps bubbly chilled. Colorful wool blankets drape around the sitting room, warmed by an open wooden fire. There’s even a spare cabin for your security detail, or your teenagers.
Alan and his wife Fran bring their teenage boys here to trout fish on school breaks, but this evening we return by copter to their home on the edge of Lewa. On the fireplace mantel is an Oscar for Serengeti Shall Not Die, his first film. Capturing wildlife footage was a “slow, arduous process,” Root wrote in Ivory, Apes & Peacocks. ”The animals were far shyer then than they are today, now that several generations have grown up with tourist vehicles as part of their world.”
He proves his point at Lewa, driving to within ten feet of a white rhino mother with her calf. Another crash of rhino enticed us to drive into black cotton soil, where we promptly got stuck. As dots of mud spotted my shirt, I felt at home, decorated by the earth itself, blessed by surrounding beauty. We saw no other visitors. That’s the way it seems at Lewa, as if you have Africa all to yourself. The next morning I relished a private parade of elephants passing by my guest cottage, on their way to the watering hole at Sirikoi. I felt like a princess.”