In 2010, Tamara Britten decided to combine her experience working in Kenya’s tourism industry with her MA in Creative Writing and produce a guidebook to the country. Little did she know that the project would take over 2 years, and would lead her to the most remote and little-visited parts of this diverse country.
Taking off around Kenya in a borrowed land cruiser, accompanied by her trusty laptop, Tamara visited mountains, deserts, beaches, towns and game reserves searching out accommodation facilities, from boutique resorts to exotic safari camps to budget cottages to quirky bandas.
Getting directions from locals, following rickety signs and driving down tracks little used, she found places unmapped and undocumented.
Interested not only in the rooms, facilities and activities of a hotel, Tamara spoke to locals about the place’s history, folk tales and legends. She discussed eco-policies, rating awards and staff training with the managers; she inspected the rooms, the grounds and even the kitchen of each place; and she checked out the activities, events and adventure sports at each.
The result of this is Karibu Kenya Accommodation Guide. The book documents not only the essentials – each hotel’s website, email, telephone number, location, rates, number of rooms, style of restaurant, nearest airstrip and payment options – it also features a photo, a detailed description and quirky anecdotes about every place.
Here are a few of the highlights you will get from the guidebook:
- Nandi Bears Club, Nandi Hills: named for the legend of the Nandi Bear who stood one meter high, had a heavy mane of hair and skulked from the forest to decapitate villages, the club has a golf course, rugby pitch, lawn tennis court, snooker table and squash court.
- Oasis Lodge, Loyangalani: located between the bleak Chalbi Desert and the vivid Lake Turkana, the lodge – which featured in The Constant Gardener – uses fresh lake water for its two interlinked swimming pools.
- Samburu Sports Centre and Guest Lodges, South Horr: aiming to bring warring tribes together in peace through the medium of sport, this remote lodge offers basketball, volleyball, football, hiking, rock climbing and camel rides.
- Kerio View, Iten: glass-fronted to maximise spectacular views over the Kerio Valley, the lodge has a Belgian chef and mouth-watering menu, and offers paragliding from the cliffs and high-altitude training for marathon runners.
- Pig and Whistle, Meru: having started life as the office of the first District Commissioner of Meru, this historic hotel came to inglorious fame when lion-fosterers George and Joy Adamson stayed here while Joy was married to her first husband, precipitating her divorce.
- Porini Amboseli: managed by the Maasai community, this award-winning camp is rated gold by the Ecotourism Society of Kenya for its estimable eco-policies; the only camp in Selenkay Conservancy, it gives its guests sole access to this enormous, game-rich area.
- Bateleur Camp, Maasai Mara: in the classic style of the ’20s and ’30s, the camp evokes the glamour of vintage African safaris while offering all the game-viewing opportunities of the famous Maasai Mara.
- Kijiji Cottages, Diani: a collection of attractive cottages on a coral outcrop overlooking the beach, these self-catering cottages are individually designed; local vendors bring fresh fish and vegetables daily, and cooks are available to be hired.
- Baytil Ajab, Lamu: this traditional Lamu house has been lovingly restored and embellished with genuine antiques; the rooftop terrace has sweeping views across the island whose history tells of besieged forts, treacherous trade routes, perfidious slave traders and mysteriously abandoned settlements.
Karibu Kenya Accommodation Guide, launched in February 2013, is the only comprehensive guidebook to Kenya. Endorsed by the Kenya Tourist Board (KTB), Kenya Tourism Federation (KTF) and Kenya Professional Safari Guide Association (KPSGA).
Divided into regions illustrated by maps and photographs, the guidebook is colour-coded and indexed for ease of use. It comes with a canvas travel case, to protect it while on the road.
As well as listing accommodation facilities of every budget, the guidebook covers the history, geography, climate, peoples, attractions, national parks and annual cultural festivals of Kenya, and gives information on the country’s infrastructure, banking, communications, transport and medical facilities. It highlights responsible tourism and the wildlife code, and provides links to the Kenyan associations that regulate and certify tourist facilities.
Karibu Kenya Accommodation Guide is available in all good bookshops in Nairobi, Naivasha, Nanyuki and at the Coast. You can also order a copy from the TravelShoppe in Kenya and from Amazon.