Makena's Hill Camp

Ol Ari Nyiro Ranch, Kenya: Private Africa

THE PROP PLANE LANDED on a grass airstrip at the edge of Africa's Great Rift Valley 175 miles northwest of Nairobi, and a driver took me on an abbreviated tour of author Kuki Gallmann's private 100,000-acre Kenyan reserve. After 20 minutes on a dirt road we arrived at the Makena's Hill Camp, a luxury retreat completed last March.
The camp consists of a stone common building with three walls and a roof (allowing views of the Great Rift Valley to pour in where a fourth wall would stand), as well as six canvas-walled tents, each with a veranda. In front, an assembly of employees stood at attention: a gardener, a masseuse, a night watchman, a cook, two maids, and a wildlife guide. Only 12 guests can stay here at a time. Colonial? A bit. Seductive? Completely.
Kuki, an Italian expat who wrote the best-selling 1991 memoir I Dreamed of Africa, opened the Makena's Hill Camp because she wanted to share this land that she says healed her after she lost her husband to a car crash in 1980 and, a few years later, her son to a poisonous-snake bite.
Over the next couple of days, I stayed out after dusk spotting game from an open-topped Land Rover. A hippo floated in a shallow mud pond. Herds of zebra grazed roadside meadows. I could have taken a horseback ride or gone on a camelback picnic but opted to lounge on Nigerian pillows and talk to Kuki. "I hope staying here feels like a return to the healing comfort of home," she said one afternoon. Yes, it felt healing. No, it felt nothing like home.

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