Small touches often make the biggest impact. Miles from the bustle of daily life, travel specialist Lindsey reconnected with nature and was coaxed into relaxation and indulgence at both these retreats. Here, she highlights the exceptional tailored service at a unique oasis in Kenya followed by a secluded sanctuary in the Seychelles.
Lush landings |
At 50,000 acres, Segera Retreat consists of high-altitude acacia grasslands and is centrally located in the highlands of Laikipia, with views of Mount Kenya. A light aircraft took us directly to the lodge and the flourishing gardens and surroundings were visible from the air.
One for art aficionados
It was clear to see that art makes up a huge part of Segera with artefacts from the original cattle farm displayed around the retreat. The owner is also Founder of the Zeitz Foundation and the hotel can be seen as an extension of the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (MOCAA) in Cape Town, with an impressive personal collection presented throughout. Bronze, stone and steel works are skilfully placed so as not to overwhelm guests.
The old stables have been renovated to house a gallery, which has a bar area and is an enjoyable place to spend time around the fireplace. The sculpture garden is also worth exploring to discover the intriguing cultures of Africa. A short drive away, a small aircraft hangar houses the original Gipsy Moth bi-plane used in some of the best-known scenes by Denys Finch Hatton and Karen Blixen in iconic film 'Out of Africa', starring Meryl Streep and Robert Redford.
Room with a view |
There are just eight villas here, but they can accommodate whatever the makeup of your group - there's a two bedroom villa for families, a twin room for friends and even a honeymoon villa complete with an outdoor bath on the decking. There are two signature accommodations: Segera Villa is set out in a large private garden, with two wooden buildings connected by a swing bridge and uninterrupted views over the bush to a water hole and the river. It's decorated with fine arts and antiques, including an exclusive Michael Poliza gallery. With Mount Kenya as the backdrop, Segera House offers spectacular views onto the wild African savannah from its private deck with thatch-fringed roof.
Room tip: Villas 1 and 2 over the river are the best for game-viewing.
Where to clear your mind and simmer
There is a great spa where Rosana works her magic. Her massage was amazing and afterwards there was a steam tower where I was able to relax a little longer. Later, I loved resting by the main salt water pool, but my favourite thing to do was spend my time in the Paddock House. It's a beautiful two-storey farm-style house, which overlooks the river bed so there are plenty of chances for animal sightings (the area is a sanctuary for elephant, lion, leopard, buffalo, eland and a wealth of plains game, including Grevvy's zebra and beisa oryx). There's a cosy lounge upstairs which has a large wrap-around terrace. This is also where breakfast is served.
Gourmet glee |
Dining here was a delight. Chef Elizabeth made us the most wonderful dishes, from a delicious pineapple and nut soup, to an amazing banana terrine. There isn't a set menu and all the dishes are inspired by what is available in the garden - so you can expect lots of fresh organic fruit and vegetables. Each party, whether they're made up of two or a few, are free to decide where they would like to dine in various areas around the retreat - from the Paddock House, wine tower, in-villa or out in the bush. Chef Elizabeth is also able to cater for any dietary requests from lactose or gluten-free and there are plenty of no-carb options such as cauliflower and spinach risotto and carb/gluten-free bread.
Wake up in the wilderness
Segera Retreat is a great place that combines the game experience with relaxation - perfect for the seasoned safari-goer looking for a more laid-back stay. This is a camp with a difference as the focus is not solely on game drives and you're encouraged to do as little or as much as you like. All activities are flexible so you can feel free to have a lazy morning enjoying your lush surrounds, and there's no pressure to set out early on a bush walk at dawn for example.
On my game drives, I saw zebra, elephants, reticulated giraffes (native to northern Kenya, Somalia and southern Ethiopia), buffalo and also a couple of ostrich. We were very lucky to see the elusive Patas monkeys - the low number of Patas in East Africa makes them particularly prone to local extinction.
This would be a great camp to introduce children to safari, as there is no age limit and the rangers are happy to cater the drives to them and their interests. Segera also has a sustainability programme called the 4Cs (Conservation, Community, Culture and Commerce) - as part of this, older children can help plant indigenous trees, learn about the solar farms that power the resort, and visit local villages to discover Samburu, Turkana and Borana tribe culture.
approved stopover: Hemingways
Hemingways is based in the Karen district, which is very low-rise and surrounded by lots of greenery. As it's not located in the centre of Nairobi, it has a more relaxed feel to it and offered me a chance to unwind and have a lovely spa treatment whilst I waited for my next flight. The bar on the first floor has a balcony that overlooks the gardens - a great spot for watching the sun set.
Barefoot luxury |
Next stop on my bush and beach adventure was North Island. Having been chosen as the honeymoon destination of choice for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, I knew this place was going to be pretty special. Having experienced it for myself, I now know what all the buzz is about - this place is just wow! Definitely the ultimate island getaway and offering barefoot luxury at its best. When privacy is paramount, you won't be disappointed with a stay here. This tiny outpost feels like yours alone and you could quite easily spend a whole holiday on the island and never see anyone else (other than your butler).
Supercharged service |
There are just 11 villas here - each with their own private plunge pool and made up of four salas. Each are set in huge gardens and extremely private. I loved the massive open air bathroom with its enormous sunken bathtub. Similar to Segera Retreat, guests can choose to dine anywhere on the island, with chefs on hand to cater for whatever you want, whenever you want it. I personally loved our beach barbeque with lots of fresh seafood. A lovely treat one morning was also having a breakfast picnic on a private beach, set up with loungers, big pillows and rugs by our butler.
Beachside get-togethers and poolside
There are four separate beaches. One of my favourite spots was tucked away on the western side of the island, the ideal location to watch the sun go down in the evenings. On the eastern side, you'll find the social hub with a piazza complete with restaurant, bar, lounge, library and activities centre - apart from the library this is all open air. More shaded areas can be found around the main pool as it's surrounded by palm trees.
Health haven |
The two treatment rooms at the spa are also open air and set up on the hillside overlooking the main beach. Every guest is spoiled with a 30 minute complimentary foot ritual which I thoroughly enjoyed. I was quite content with gentle walks on the beach, however for the more active, paddle boarding, diving, snorkelling, fishing, boating and biking are all also available.
Explore Segera Retreat, Kenya or North Island, Seychelles