Njeri Maina @njerimainar
Birds chirp in the trees as we take a leisurely walk in a forest located in Limuru sub-county, Kiambu county.
We are at Brackenhurst Gardens where guests can either walk on or ride a bike on either a 3km or 1.5km trail. There is also a tiny gazebo, smack in the middle of the forest that is mainly made of indigenous trees, where one can have a few drinks and a rest while hiking up the nature trail.
After the scenic walk, we go back to Muna Restaurant for a spot of tea with Nick Ndirangu before going to our cottage. I think he is the best guest relations guy I have met in a while.
Set on 150 acres of land and owned by the Kenya Baptist Church, Brackenhurst Hotel and Conferencing Centre is a tranquil and serene place. Perfect for authors, the creatives, naturalists and seekers of quiet resorts.
Located about 30km from Nairobi city centre, Brackenhurst is an international conference centre and eco-destination. It has six conferencing rooms surrounded by well-manicured lawns and sprawling lush fields where one can laze on a quiet Sunday evening.
Hammocks are strategically placed around the compound, perfect for rocking in while reading and enjoying the scenery. Even during high noon, the weather is relatively cool in Limuru.
There is also an arboretum, which is good for a children’s theatre during festivals such as the Harvest Festival that happened recently or the Easter egg hunt, which happened earlier in the year.
Right next to Muna Restaurant, there is a tree house, which offers scrambling opportunities for energetic younglings such as my nephews. Energetic grownups can engage in a sport of basketball, tennis, volleyball or my favourite — walking and trying to name the different indigenous trees.
And for some of you adrenaline junkies, there is a ropes course that induces in some of us vertigo just by looking at it. This is the perfect team building tool as it would take several team players to actually launch my kicking, biting self up there.
Why would I want to hop from one hanging step to another? I can do the rope walking alone though. There is a method to my madness.
There are two lovely botanical gardens with different indigenous trees, which are first grown in a nursery then replanted there. The gardens are managed by a non-governmental organization, Plants for Life, which aims to replace all exotic trees in the area with indigenous African trees by 2030. They have been at it for the last 18 years.
Before I tried the place out for a weekend staycation with my sister and way before my many lunches at Brackenhurst, we happened on it quite by chance. We were driving back to Nairobi from a wedding in Limuru. And since cake and food are never enough for guys serving others, we ended up having dinner at Brackenhurst.
The drive down from the signage by the roadside was quite lovely. The setting sun glinted off the man-made lake and covered everything with a golden hue. Oh, everything is beautiful under a setting sun, but that pond is brilliant.
We wandered around Brackenhurst with our bellies full and sober since no alcohol is allowed. These are church grounds after all. Later, we came across a group of people who were talking animatedly around a bonfire. ‘That looks nice. It could be us’. And the idea for the staycation was born.
A few months later, we checked into a cottage for a weekend of relative calm interspersed with nature trails and runs. The hut, which can accommodate up to four people, goes for around Sh15,000. It has a lovely kitchen and a sitting room with an upstairs bedroom. One can also opt for a single going for as low as Sh7,000 or a double, which can sleep two for around Sh9,000.
Though Brackenhurst may at first come off as rustique, it is way more than that; it is charming and warm. It always has an undiscovered corner or gem of an activity waiting for you to discover it. Oh, and if you spot me with a lovely pair of African earrings, you can rightly suspect that I got them from the Bracken Fern, the gift shop at Brackenhurst. Go get yours too.