The rapid rise of Airbnb over the past decade has transformed the way we travel. There are now over six million rooms, flats and houses listed on the Airbnb website, in 100,000 cities and towns across the globe. The affordability of these rentals, relative to the cost of staying in a hotel, is central to the concept’s popularity. Many travellers also prefer the homely atmosphere of a lived-in house or apartment, over the soulless rooms of some chain hotels.
Airbnb has its critics – and with good reason in some urban areas around the world – but I’ve only ever had positive experiences when booking holidays or weekend excursions through their website. And I can appreciate the draw of a comfortable, budget-friendly house with a homely touch. One such place is The Butterfly, an attractive property set up high on a ridge with long views down to Lake Naivasha.
I spent a night there last weekend for a birthday retreat with a group of friends. Naivasha was an obvious choice for our trip, especially now that the dual carriageway from Nairobi has been tidied up. Half the group left Nairobi at dawn, and had enough time to fit in a morning hike up Mount Longonot.
To get to the house, we drove beyond Naivasha and turned off onto the Moi North Lake Road. We then turned into the Great Rift Valley Lodge, headed across the golf course and through the back gate, and found The Butterfly within a neat network of narrow dirt tracks and spacious properties.
The house is at the heart of a well-maintained five-acre parcel of land. It’s a newly built and very smartly finished structure with large windows and a sand-coloured stone exterior that suits its natural surroundings.
The interior is grand and airy, with very earthy and African-inspired design influences. Mounted on the deep red, orange and lime green walls are all manner of African artefacts, paintings and pictures. A tall, central stone fireplace separates a well-equipped, open-plan kitchen and dining space from a cosy living room. There are little nooks to relax in all over the house: a room with a 60-inch smart TV, a basement with a table tennis table, an archery set and other outdoor games, a shaded patio leading to an open terrace, and a landscaped courtyard-cum-shamba at the front.
There are three en suite rooms on the first floor of the main house, and an adjoining self-contained unit with a separate entrance called The Butterfly Loft. Together, the house and the loft sleep eight guests comfortably.
Towards the bottom of the garden, there is also The Butterfly Cottage – a snug one-bedroom space with a sauna and a rooftop terrace. The view from up here is breathtaking, down towards Lake Naivasha, Mount Longonot and the Aberdares to the east. The views are great from the rooms of the main house, too. At night, the stars and the Naivasha Town lights shimmered through the hessian curtains by my bed, and at dawn I woke up as the sun rose behind the Aberdares.
The Butterfly is self-catered, but we were well looked after by the housekeepers, Irene and Wilson. We often had two portly pooches by our feet, too – Shaba and Kiwi.
If we had more time, we would have explored more of the surrounding area. There are plenty of options for activities nearby: a guided nature walk, a round of golf at the Great Rift Valley Lodge, hikes up Longonot, Elephant Hill or Mount Eburu, cycling through Hell’s Gate National Park, a boat ride on Lake Naivasha, a visit to the Elsamere Conservation Centre, and many more.
Published in Kenya’s Sunday Nation