The sun peaks over the Aberdares, and light spills through the gauze at the front of our tent. A lone pelican drifts in the orange glow of the lake, and a hyena whoops by the shoreline below us. Not your typical wake-up call. We emerge from the tent, still bleary-eyed, and walk across the lawn of The Cliff, the new luxury camp in Lake Nakuru National Park. As it’s name suggests, the camp sits on the edge of the high western ridge of the park, in between the Baboon Cliff and Out of Africa viewpoints.
The temperature gauge on the dashboard of my car reads eight degrees, and the mist still hangs heavy in the olive forest behind the camp. We’re in no rush to descend to the swollen lake, and explore a few circuits at the top of the ridge. Buffaloes lie behind screens of dense foliage, visible only by their curved horns and the condensation rising off their backs. The track leads to a glade where a giraffe feeds, its brown jigsaw coat camouflaged in the dappled light.
Heading down towards the lake the vegetation thins, and trunks of drowned acacias stick out of the shallows like skeletal hands from the underworld. A long-crested eagle lands on one of the branches. A gust of wind blows his floppy crest over his face, and he glares at us like a moody teenager.
We follow muddy tracks away from the lake, startling nervous herds of impalas. As we emerge from the forest, I spot a very distinctive shape under an acacia tree in the distance. ‘Vichwa’ – in Kenyan guide speak. A subadult male lion sits imperiously in the golden light. He stretches, and nuzzles his brother lying flat in the grass. They suddenly stand and stride purposefully towards a rocky outcrop near our car, where they slump down again to resume their naps.
In envy of their lethargy, we climb the top road back up to camp for breakfast. At reception we’re welcomed by a warming rooibos and camomile infusion, and then amble over to the restaurant. Spread out in front of us is an inviting selection of freshly baked breads, pastries and biscuits, and in the corner I spy grapes and a cheeseboard. There’s a menu, too, offering poached eggs on potato waffles and salmon, or on a creamy bed of spinach with mushrooms and an English muffin. I’m tempted by ‘The Grand Breakfast’, but fear I’ll have no room left for the pastries.
We chat to the Camp Manager, George, in the lounge over coffee. The food, he says, is continental, but with East and South-East Asian influences. It’s refreshing, too, that the vegetarian options aren’t limited to Indian curries, as is so often the case in Kenya’s camps and lodges. Head Chef, Gideon, is internationally trained, and the excellent presentation of food completes a real fine-dining experience.
I notice the attention to detail with the décor in the lounge, too. ‘A perfect blend of rustic and contemporary design’, is how George puts it – which I find to be a suitable description. The rectangular chandeliers that hang from the ceiling, for example, encase rows of vintage Edison bulbs, and one of the tables is fashioned from a huge ship propeller.
A mustard couch and a deep red carpet add splashes of colour against the grey stone floor. The artwork – all over the camp – is notably vibrant, too. Giant pink flamingos and multi-coloured zebras hang above the reception and in the conference room, and a huge amber leopard stares steely-eyed into the lounge.
The tents are more modest in design, but there’s an elegance in their simplicity. George tells me that they’ve been designed to ‘let nature in’, and they certainly make the best use of the incredible view. The interior is open-plan and very spacious, and the king size bed faces out towards the lake. As does the shower and the freestanding bathtub, which are separated from the rest of the room by a wooden screen. In the opposite corner there’s a leather chair and a nautically-themed tripod floor lamp.
The mid-morning sun is a welcome change from the cold of Nairobi. My fiancée decides to spend her last few hours at the camp relaxing by the pool. As a fitness enthusiast, she’s tempted by the gym, but quickly comes to her senses and orders a cocktail instead. There’s a spa by the gym, too, offering a wide range of treatments.
I choose to go back to the room after breakfast, excited by the prospect of sitting on the terrace and writing. We usually spend most of our time on these trips on gamedrives, searching for wildlife. But as I admire the view of the lake from the terrace, I find it very difficult to leave.