LEAVING SEGERA – THE LAST THING YOU WANT TO DO
(Posted 03rd July 2018)
Segera – Kenya’s only five star safari property North of the Equator
The Segera Retreat, located in the central highlands of Kenya on a sprawling 50.000 acres conservancy, perfectly fits the description ‘When only the best will do‘ because that is what you get, from the moment you arrive to the moment your hosts wave ‘Kwaheri Ya Kuonana‘ to you.
Some level of mystery always surrounds such places, like the Singita Camps in the Serengeti’s Grumeti area or similar styled properties in Southern Africa or North Island on well, North Island in the Seychelles. Perhaps it is because so little is known about what to expect when entering these properties, which, given their high profile VVIP clientele, is perfectly understandable.
North Island on the Seychelles does only admit guests booked and confirmed, unless in a very rare case a visiting travel writer is given access, made possible by the Seychelles Tourism Board and very likely even the Ministry of Tourism and Culture vouching for him or her.
In Kenya Segera falls into that category, visited by Captains of Industry, the movers and shakers of the world’s financial markets and of the global economy, film stars, music celebrities and of course Royalty, the latter giving such places the stamp of Royal approval and drawing in their own friends and acquaintances for yet more high profile visits.
This property is simply something extraordinary, spectacular in its garden settings, the sprawling gardens littered with art pieces – I say that in a positive way, paying tribute to the owner’s collection of sculptures and fancy creations – and superbly tuned to attending to their guests’ every wish with staff at their beck and call around the clock.
I think one should coin the phrase, and in fact I just did, that one has been ‘Segerad’ … meaning submerged in luxury, having to ‘endure’ and ‘languish’ in what amounts to royal quarters, tastebuds bombarded with exquisite food, not Michelin rated (yet) but not far from such honours either and staying in an open air art gallery, given the sculptures found all over the place.
When visiting was I accommodated in one of the six villas and a writing on the chalk board on the bottom of the stairs to my upstairs suite bid me a warm welcome, as did a handwritten letter from the General Manager Jens, a most unusual and yet most appealing way to say Jambo, old style.
The time between my stay and now seems both distant as well as ever present in my mind, perhaps a contradiction in terms but nevertheless giving an insight how intense the experience was, and mind you, it was only two days which however felt both like two weeks and two minutes.
The accommodation convinced at first sight, the private deck outside invited to laze around or even have the open air tub filled with hot water – no task seems too much for the staff – and looking across the plains below showed game galore, lion roars at night included.
The phrase ‘out of this world’ is misused too often for me to use it in such reviews but here, nothing short of these four words can describe my impressions.
From the night guards to the gardeners and guides, from the guest relations staff to the waiters – I still remember the attention lavished on me by Thomas and Joseph, of course the chefs and then from the Spa manageress to the General Manager, there was not one moment I was not engaged, had my questions answered and my every wish read from my face, or so it seemed.
The accommodation one has to discover in person to appreciate, so I will just say that there is probably nothing which matches Segera’s villa interior in the whole of Kenya, and I have seen it all, well, 99 percent of it for sure.
Move to the food. Try not look for a dining room, as there is none. There are however a number of venues used to provide breakfast, a la carte only of course and prepared to order, lunch and dinner, and guests culinary wishes, temptations and even dares are fully answered by the Segera Chef team.
I had not one meal at the same venue twice while there during which I ‘celebrated’ six meals in total plus High Tea sessions, not to forget those.
Food for lunch, the first day with a bias towards Italian cuisine, was, freshly prepared of course, served at the pool patio, where suggestions were already made for dinner with input warmly welcomed. Organic produce from Segera’s own garden and the best of available seafood, fish and meat only was served expertly by my waiters. The wine selection, also second to none, caught my eye though not my palate as I stuck to water and tea, in this case a glorious waste of an opportunity given the vintages Segera stores in its wine cellars.
On my second day I ended up under shade trees in the bush along a little river and a herd of elephants walked by not 100 metres from my table, foraging as I tucked into the delicacies prepared by the chef. Let me end here by saying that her soups were worth breaking and entering the chef’s office to get hold of the recipe, which in the end she willingly shared however. Chef Elizabeth Kavenzi and Chef de Partie Violet Walusaka proved to be on top of their game and, being a Professor after all has its privileges, I bestowed upon them a M.TMTB, short for being Masters in Tickling My Taste Buds.
Enter the game drives and outdoor activities and again does Segera excel and the guides answered all my questions and then some. Top notch guides like David Nandio and Elvis Omae make sure they give the wagenis’ insight after insight, explain the spoors in the sand and mud, mimic sounds of nature and go to great lengths to explain what the ‘Whistling Thorns‘ are all about. They show game from a respectful distance, guests able to see it all through powerful binoculars carried in the car but also get you close up and personal with lions lazing in the sun, their bellies swollen from the feast of the previous night.
Of course it is in a 4×4, custom build, that one sets out for a game drive, and those are always good for a surprise, like an unexpected bush lunch or tea and pastries suddenly appearing at a scenic site while out of the vehicle stretching one’s legs. Walking safaris too are possible and I can only say encouraged, given the way Segera feeds their guests. Bsides, there is no better way to learn about the wilderness than walking right through it, shepherded along by what must be some of Kenya’s most knowledgeable guides.
Not far from the retreat does one find the gardens, where much from flowers to herbs and vegetables galore are grown, giving the kitchen team the freshest of ingredients day in and day out, and all organic of course.
Enter the art scene and that alone could fill the centre spread of a travel magazine, so elaborate it is and so carefully selected that it become part of the environment and does not stick out like a sore thumb as seen in other places where the wrong sculptures ended up in the wrong place. Good taste, a sense for discreet yet impressive art pieces and style went together here to create a harmonious and holistic environment across the resort, again not found in any other place I have visited in Kenya.
I missed sampling the Spa, ably managed by Rosanna Wambui who took time out from her busy schedule to educate me on the treatments available, but it is definitely something I will remedy when I return.
I however explored every other corner nook and cranny across the property, not only unhindered but encouraged by Jens and his team, to explore, discover and enjoy.
The Spa and Rasul Tower are renowned for alternative treatments for the body and the Wine Tower is renowned for its curative bottled content brightening up both day and night, when a bottle or two of a super vintage are celebrated with family and friends.
Notably does Segera produce a kind of newspaper – printed on recycled paper of course – for their guests which contains plenty of information about the location, about the Zeitz Foundation, about the Long Run and much much more. On the first page is a detailed map found of the sprawling property before the focus shifts to recommendations of what to try. Camel’s milk anyone? Or how about a ‘Wonderbag Dinner‘ which can be taken at the Wine Tower, the Explorer Lounge, the Monkey Bar – no monkey business please – at the pool side under starlight or the full moon or next to the Sugeroi River on a sunny afternoon.
The centre piece is dedicated to the Four C’s Segera subscribes to, being Conservation, Community, Culture and Commerce, elaborated over the following pages to give readers and guests a better understanding of what Segera and the Long Run stand for.
My time at Segera was up all too soon and I concluded, sitting in the back of the 4×4, that leaving this place should be prohibited by law.
The one and a half hour return journey to the Nanyuki airstrip once more allowed to meet game galore while still on the conservancy with Segera incidentally the place with the second highest game density in Kenya. 40 plus mammal species and over 350 bird species surely are evidence enough what a guest can expect when setting out on foot or on wheels, be it at dawn or in the late afternoon.
A private airstrip is located right next to the lodge but only available for charters and not the scheduled safari flights leaving every day from Wilson Airport.
Segera here I come again will be my battle cry when next making my way to the retreat, and the sooner the better, as nothing has ever quite so lit my imagination and expectations like Segera did.
For added information check out www.segera.com
Well there you are, if you are looking for a very special travel experience while in Kenya, the Segera Retreat provides something totally unique and away from the heavily frequented national parks and yet ticks all the right boxes for an intrepid traveler, from birds to game to flowers to shrubs to trees to scenery to food to service levels second to none and all in all, to unadulterated luxury, made in Kenya.