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A Letter From Africa: Kenya

Sleeping Under the Stars

I landed in Kenya with a safari bucket list. I returned with adrenaline still pulsing through my veins. But it wasn’t due to the close proximity to wild animals or the resonating beat during a local Maasai dance…  I fell in love with the solitude of sleeping under the stars.

After exploring the capital, Nairobi for two full days, my first step on this solo safari was in the Laikipia region, north of Nairobi and right on the equator (cue sunscreen).

A safari vehicle waited to gather me and my luggage, its driver swiftly inundating me with factoids: Kenya is about the size of Texas; a group of young, social giraffe is called a nursery; the drive on bumpy, off-tarmac ground is called the “African massage…” and other information relevant during my time in Kenya.

kenyaMy first night in the bush I learned about the magic of the “Star Beds.” The staff of Loisaba Tented Camp greeted me with a warm cloth to wash my hands and a cold pineapple to sip while listening to the general manager brief us on the property. I can be easily distracted, which was the case as I took in the beauty of the region and the monkeys scampering by me. However, my ears perked up at a suggestion to sleep on raised beds under the sky.

Absolutely going to spend the night in a Star Bed.

They saddled up a camel – yes, there are camels in Kenya! – and treated me to an alternative, albeit bumpier, safari trek to the Koija Star Beds. I scanned the area while it was still daylight to see what I was getting myself into.

Upon arrival, my eyes swept down the pathway on my left, discovering a series of perfectly spaced, wooden platforms dotting the Ewaso Nyiro – a running river snaking through the region. Each held a sheltered area in the back with necessary facilities (e.g. shower) and a wide open space in the front for the beds to be wheeled out at night.

The platform, bed and river won me over. The homemade “Mukokoteni” (uniquely designed) bed with a blue-and red-checkered blanket tucked around see-through mosquito netting, resting on a mattress supported by a beautiful array of vertical wooden tree posts embellished with side “tables.” This was to be my sanctuary for the night, with glasses, flashlight and camera my company on the side table.

Seated on my towering Kenyan platform, I sipped wine before dinner. The drink and introspection complemented the warm afternoon. Fast forward to dinner in the main area, entertaining stories from the manager and the onset of night. As the sky darkened, a member of the security staff guided me back to my platform before continuing with his nightly patrol. Thank you, kerosene lamp and kind fellow for your comforting presence down the pitch-black pathway.

It wasn’t until I was settled under the covers with mosquito nets drawn closed that I fully appreciated where I was. Open air all around me, the taunting sound of the Goway bird nearby and of hyenas in the distance and finally… the stars above me. I didn’t want to fall asleep, just gaze at the twinkling lights far from civilization and listen to the sounds of the bush.

I didn’t pull an all-nighter, but the benefit from sleeping under the stars means waking up to the sunrise. The sky started with a lighter blue, then a tinge of pink and a line of yellow before the sunlight greeted me.

An interesting fact about the Koija Star Beds is that they’re community-owned in joint partnership with Loisaba Tented Camp, the proceeds for staying at this location going to the community trust.

From then on, I went out of my way to sleep under the stars while in Kenya, and jumped on an opportunity do so within walking distance from the Indian Ocean. While on Diani Beach, I traded the sound of cackling hyenas and rumblings of lions for the lapping of the Indian Ocean and calls of the Colobus monkeys.

The managers of the family-owned hotel, Kinondo Kwetu, read my mind when they suggested a night on the palm-fringed beach. A wooden bed was set up on the sand with the ocean at my feet. A member of the security staff was nearby and a kerosene lamp on the table next to me, should I want to get out of bed while it was still dark. The stars and the calm movement of the ocean engendered a warm inner-peace and electric energy from being on my own. Instead of hills at my feet, I woke up to the golden hues of the skies reflected on the blue water. Two Star Bed experiences could never be so different in landscape… or so similar in feeling.

My advice is to find those starry night options to embrace the clear equatorial skies while in the middle of nowhere. loisaba.com

See you in September!

The Swank Team




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