Saturday, June 15

Lake Elmenteita Serena Camp

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lake-elmenteita-serena-campThis camp has all the luxurious trimmings, including first class food and highly-trained staff, that you’d expect of the Serena lodges and hotels, but it is also unique. It is smaller, with a classy ambiance that casts you back into Soysambu’s colourful colonial history. The whole camp is cleverly created out of light coloured canvas, which craftily covers and hides concrete walls, is beautifully furnished to create modern comfort set in an atmosphere of the past. Old photographs, an unchanged view, and genuine antiques in the mess and dining area, cast your mind back a century to the arrival of the 3rd Baron Delamere, whose history is told in photographs beside the well-stocked bar.

The 24 large guest tents (one a suite), all with a view of Lake Elmenteita and screened from one another by vegetation, further reflect the past with old-fashioned writing desks, futons, and delightful touches such as tissue boxes decorated with a historic photograph and leather-bound guest information books, which explain the many activities available and offer a temptingly elaborate treatment menu from the spa. But when it comes to luxury we jump forward to the present: no bucket showers under the stars or long-drop toilets: here it’s his and hers basins and showers in tiled bathrooms with wooden floors, solar-powered tents and wireless internet.

We arrived after the rain in the chill of early evening, the iron-grey lake mirroring the sky, to be welcomed with a glass of champagne, which warmed our spirits. The weather wasn’t conducive to a swim in the pool, which overlooked the waterhole where impala and waterbuck were grazing before the magnetic backdrop of the lake, its shores lined with many species of birds. The camp is protected by an electric fence concealed in a ditch, which gives you the impression you are closer to the wild than you really are.

We watched the sunset from the mess verandah, sipping generous portions of expensive but excellent house wine, serenaded by the lodge’s highly versatile resident musician, who played all our requests and made us late for our excellent dinner, served by friendly staff. On retiring, after enjoying more songs from the minstrel, we slept to background grunts of flamingos and pelicans and the gentle pattering of rain on the canvas roof.

Walking to breakfast in a misty dawn, I caught my breath at the surreal sight of many flamingos seemingly floating in grey space, as the lake and sky merged. A sumptuous breakfast was served, washed down with a delicious detox juice, then champagne to herald the sun – which slowly dispersed the mist, separating blue lake from bluer sky. It would be the perfect time to walk with an armed ranger and Richard, the naturalist, who I enjoyed a quick chat with. He told me of his exciting crowned eagle sighting the previous year, as well as frequent leopard sightings. Later that evening, he called me to tell me he’d just seen two leopards. The visitor’s book confirmed that many leopards are seen – one lucky guest even saw a leopard on their way in. Richard also takes guests horse riding along the lake shore. Even if you are not a bird enthusiast, after luxuriating in this lakeside paradise for birds and humans alike, you’ll be twitching along with the rest and scanning the camp’s impressive bird list to make additions of your own.

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