An unexpected and arty oasis in the heart of Kenya, Segera Retreat is relaxing and romantic… by Claire Trickett20th April 2018
They say art is an escape from reality. And so is travel … which is why I just have to tell you about the uber-arty and ultra-romantic Segera Retreat situated deep in the heart of Kenya.
Expect the unexpected
Giddy with a mixture of childlike and latte-induced excitement, we boarded the small plane and as we flew over what was then a very dry and stark landscape (the highly anticipated long rains were just around the corner) in Kenya’s ruggedly picturesque Laikipia region, we truly had no idea what was in store for us.
Our ranger David, flashing the most contagious smile, greeted us on the airstrip as if we were old friends. A gentle and, as we would soon learn, pretty hilarious Maasai gentleman, David took us on a quick game drive en route back to the lodge. Our scenic drive took us past countless humble mud and stick manyattas (homesteads) of the colourfully-clad Samburu people. We watched young children walking unfathomable distances to school and soon-to-be warriors dutifully tending to their thirsty cattle. The homesteads were modest, the terrain unforgiving, yet every now and then there’d be a smile or a wave to remind us just how important it is to expand your horizons, have compassion for different cultures and be kind to one another.
The landscape was harsh and the mid-summer sun was already blazing down in full force, yet we saw plenty of wildlife along the way. From journeys of reticulated giraffe, dazzles of striking zebra (some of them Grévy’s I might add) and the occasional handsome oryx, most notable was a large herd of elephant that was sheltering the tiniest, clumsiest calves that had us all enthralled.
David pointed the lodge out to us in the far distance, and from that initial view, you wouldn’t actually believe that such a lush and tranquil oasis awaits. It is so unexpected. As we eventually pulled up to the entrance, we were warmly welcomed by the most formidable team that would be looking after us for the next few days.
Now, a golden thread throughout the &Beyond experience is the simple notion that when visiting our &Beyond lodges, guests arrive as friends and they leave as family. We are reminded of it every day in each piece of guest feedback that we receive. I can honestly say that the Segera family had the same effect on us. In two short days (please can we come back?!), we became so attached to our newfound friends, it really was difficult to leave.
An art lover’s dream
Global art enthusiasts, as well as recent visitors to Cape Town, will certainly have heard of the Zeitz family. Art aficionados, antique collectors and conservationists at heart, the Zeitz family most recently established the critically acclaimed Zeitz MOCAA (Museum of Contemporary Art Africa) in Cape Town’s trendy Silo District at the V&A Waterfront. Do yourselves a favour and Google Jochen Zeitz. The youngest CEO in German history to head a public company (PUMA) at just 30 years old, Jochen’s entrepreneurial spirit is balanced with his lifelong passion for wildlife, conservation and community empowerment, which is why his charming Segera Retreat remains a cherished jewel in the Zeitz family crown.
As you enter Segera, you walk along a raised platform and past a giant fire bowl, which is a most welcome sight on those brisk mornings and chilly evenings when you’re heading out and returning from a game drive. You then pass the gracious Paddock House (with the artefact-filled Explorer Room just above) and Wine Tower (shaped like a Samburu neck) and into the Stables.
Interspersed along every winding pathway, hidden in and amongst the verdant oasis (the plant life here is thriving: aloes, euphorbia, pepper trees, bougainvillaea, sisals, acacias and fever trees) and proudly displayed in the stylishly converted horse stables are fascinating and completely unusual art installations, sculpture gardens, steelworks and paintings. Not the kind of thing you expect to see when you’re on safari, which is what makes Segera so unique and refreshing.
Designed to spoil you
Passing through the Stables you then discover Segera’s world-class spa and wellness centre, complete with tranquil and oh-so-elegant treatment rooms, the soothing Rasul Steam Tower and full gym with state-of-the-art equipment (let’s face it, after a few days of lodge podge, the gym can be rather inviting). So as the bumpy game drive vehicles give you your traditional ‘African massage’ in the morning, you can spend the afternoon lazing around the spa, meditating in the steam tower and spoiling yourself with a more conventional, and far more relaxing, massage treatment.
And the spoiling doesn’t stop there. Expect romantic surprises around every corner. Each spacious and elegantly appointed Out of Africa-esque villa is completely different, so you might return home one evening to find a flower-adorned outdoor bubble bath-beneath-the-stars on your private veranda, or perhaps you’ll opt to sleep out under the stars on your swinging daybed, complete with billowing mosquito net, comfy duvet and cosy hot water bottles.
Another unique, once-in-a-lifetime experience that I’m dying to try out is the Nay Palad Bird Nest. Commanding breathtaking views of the frequented riverbed and surrounding bushveld, this totally lavish and romantic ‘nestlike’ stilted sleepout is definitely one for the bucket list.
Your ranger will drop you off at the nest just before sunset, where you will enjoy lantern-lit champagne sundowners and canapés on the rooftop platform, followed by a picnic-style supper. You can then opt for an indoor or al fresco rooftop sleepout complete with fluffy duvets, luxurious linens and hot water bottles. Wake up the next morning to the sounds of Africa and take an invigorating outdoor shower before breakfast arrives.
It is important to note that Segera is ideal for couples and honeymooners and families alike. There are multiple spacious family suites and with six different and equally beautiful dining locations, each set of guests (be it a solace-seeking couple of a festive family) is treated to their own private dining experience. Think bountiful breakfasts at the farm table on the Paddock House stoep, hearty and healthy poolside lunches served amidst the aloes and bougainvillaea, quiet brunches savoured on your private veranda and romantic dinners in the cosy Stables next to a blazing fire or in the Wine Tower surrounded by fine wines and gentle African music.
Out of Africa
Ok, so you’ve all seen Out of Africa. If you haven’t, I’m not sure we can be friends. Clearly, the Zeitz family are fans of the film too, because not only can you indulge in a private screening of the movie (either in the cosy Explorer Room or under the stars) with bottomless bags of popcorn, but Segera is also home to the film’s original and now world-famous yellow bi-plane, G-AAMY. You can ask your ranger to take you out to the hangar and should you wish to go up for a scenic flight, this too can be arranged, although we can’t promise Robert Redford will be your pilot. Sorry ladies
Safari by day, safari by night
Situated in your suite is a pair of Olympus binoculars that are yours to use for the duration of your safari. During your lazy afternoon siestas, you can enjoy a ‘game drive’ from the comfort of your bed as animals saunter past your villa to the waterhole. Listen to zebras braying and birds calling by day, and at night, you might be lucky enough to fall asleep to the unmistakable sounds of cackling hyena, howling jackals and roaring lions. This is Africa.
The landscape may have been stark at the time, but we still managed to see three of the Big Five during our short stay. There are no rhino at Segera, but we were fortunate to observe everything from elephant, zebra, giraffe, warthog and buffalo, to oryx, eland, hartebeest and gazelle. And our surprise sundowner stop was absolutely enchanting.
A like-minded ethos
Of course, &Beyond is extremely selective about who we partner with. Our preferred partner properties are chosen specifically for their mutual conservation ethos and sustainable operations that give back to our planet’s land, wildlife and people.
Segera’s farm-to-table kitchens, flourishing vegetable gardens, massive solar farm, borehole, water treatment and bottling plant, water and waste recycling systems and community outreach programmes are aligned with &Beyond and our 3C’s model of Caring for the Land, Wildlife and People.
A completely unique and unashamedly luxurious safari experience, Segera Retreat leaves you wanting more. You’ll get in touch with nature, you’ll disconnect and truly unwind, you’ll learn a bit about art, you’ll realise that romance isn’t dead, and you’ll likely eat far too much (chef Elizabeth really needs to be cloned). Isn’t that what holidays are for?