Just a few hundred meters down the road from the home of Out of Africa author Karen Blixen (also known as Isak Dinesen), the House of Waine is an 11-room luxury boutique hotel that melds traditional English design with the spirit of modern Africa. It is located on 2.5 acres in a quiet residential area of Nairobi and is close to many art and craft galleries, two wildlife sanctuaries, and Nairobi National Park.
I recently received news from a Kenyan friend, Margaret Njuguna, about her progress starting a home for children with special needs. En-Gedi Children’s Home is in Athi River, a town just outside Nairobi, and will provide both residential and day care.
Poverty and societal prejudices often lead to very poor care for children with disabilities. Some Kenyans believe that it is a curse or bad omen when a child is born with a disability. Because of these prejudices or parents’ work responsibilities, a child with a disability may be kept inside all day and not allowed to play or interact with other children. Others live permanently in public hospitals.
Margaret returned to Kenya earlier this year to start the home, after 30 years of international experience in community development with the non-profit ministry World Renew. She and two other caregivers are caring for two boys who are seven years old, and one who is two years old. One has spina bifida, another has cerebral palsy, and another has a disorder affecting the use of his legs and one hand. By the end of the year, En-Gedi Children’s Home hopes to be caring for 10 children.
Currently, U.S. residents who would like to donate to the home can do so by making a check to Set Free Ministries and clearly indicating “En-Gedi” on the memo line and mailing it to Set Free Ministries, 700 36th S.E. Suite 108, Grand Rapids, MI 49548.
And if you are planning a safari to Kenya with Ujuzi, I would be happy to add a service visit to En-Gedi Children’s Home. Just let me know you’re interested.
We started our first full day in Kenya with a delicious breakfast at the Sarova Stanley with a nice variety of European and Kenyan dishes and a tour with Eva, our charming guest services ambassador. Founded in 1902, Sarova Stanley was Nairobi’s first luxury hotel and is the oldest hotel in the city. It’s an oasis of Victorian charm in the midst of bustling downtown Nairobi.
We spent the morning with baby elephants at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust’s Orphans’ Project. The orphanage fosters elephants and rhinos who have lost their mothers to poaching, abandonment or conflict with humans. It is currently caring for one rhino and about two dozen elephants 2 years old and younger. The elephants sleep at the orphanage, then spend the day with the human caretakers in Nairobi National Park learning to forage. Once they’re old enough, the orphans are released into wild herds in national parks and adopted by the adults there.
Close to the animal orphanage is Ngong House, a boutique wildlife lodge just outside Nairobi. Guests can stay in one of six luxury tree houses, a private cottage, a 2-bedroom log cabin, or a suite off of the main house. The accommodations sound rustic, but are anything but – each unit has a private bathroom, full electrical, and wifi. Ngong House was created by Paul Verleysen, a Belgian engineer and artist who retired from more than 20 years of diplomatic service in Africa to start the hotel. Guests experience the seclusion and serenity of being in the bush without sacrificing comfort or style.
We then headed to the former home of Karen Blixen, the Danish writer who also wrote under the pseudonym Isak Dinesen and was best known for her memoir Out of Africa, about her experience turning a section of the bush into a working coffee farm. We had lunch at the Karen Blixen Coffee Garden and, as one might expect, the coffee was excellent. The area is no longer in the wild; it is now the vibrant suburb of Karen and part of greater Nairobi.
Just a few hundred meters down the road from Blixen’s home is the House of Waine, an 11-room hotel that melds traditional Anglo-African design with a modern aesthetic.
We then went to the Giraffe Centre, where visitors can feed giraffes by hand. Watch out, or you might get slobbered on by one of those blue tongues! (One of the docents at the Giraffe Centre told us that getting licked by a giraffe is known locally as “the kiss of life,” because giraffe saliva has natural antiseptic and antibiotic properties. This helps their tongues heal quickly from scratches they may get while noshing on thorny acacia bushes, their favorite delicacy.)
After a long but enjoyable day, we checked into Tribe Hotel for some much needed rest and relaxation.
I have a pretty wonderful job that lets me jet off to Africa in search of awe-inspiring experiences for my clients, but it is work! In the 8 days that we’ll be in Kenya, I’ll be visiting two national parks, three national reserves, up to 23 hotels and lodges, the Daphne Sheldrick Animal Orphanage and the Giraffe Center! Phew! I’m tired just thinking about it. Not to mention hours of game drives and hopefully a visit with a local tribe. It should be pretty spectacular and am I excited about the places we’ll be visiting. I’ve been salivating reading about them in guide books and online.
I depart the U.S. April 19th and return April 29th and will be enjoying the company of Kathryn Kingsbury, my communications assistant, and my sister-in-law Tamara Wickland.
I hope you’ll join us in exploring Kenya!