• Malu Lodge is a fascinating attraction in the middle of nowhere
When your child is selected to play for the school sports team against their counterparts in Gilgil, it gives a much-anticipated opportunity to try somewhere new and different. So, together with another family, we looked around and came up with the treehouse at Malu.
A discreet signpost on the Nairobi-Nakuru Highway indicates the turn-off, and a thirty-minute African massage leads to the gate of the 1,800 acre reserve. The property belongs to the family of Bruce Mackenzie, the infamous Agriculture minister in Jomo Kenyatta’s Cabinet, who was alleged to have been assassinated on the instructions of Idi Amin in 1978, when the plane he was flying malfunctioned.
As a group, we opted for the rustic but detached treehouse, which is set about a kilometre and a half away from the main lodge, where the restaurant and reception are located. Overlooking the river with the comforting sound of river flowing over the shallow rapids, this unique structure is elevated about 15 feet into the air, offering fantastic views and also benefitting from the occasional breeze. The structure is all wood and contains a sizeable living room and dining area with a small kitchen facility. Leading off is a double bedroom with en suite bathroom, and upstairs is a large bedroom area with a bathroom shared with a small room that contains four single beds.
Whilst the facilities are a little dated and would certainly benefit from a newer oven, the design gives it a Robinson Crusoe feel and as a self-catering option, you bring all your own consumable supplies, including drinking water, food and beverage. A barbecue can be made available, but you bring your own charcoal. There is a caretaker on site who will come and tidy up each day and with whom you can negotiate when the generator will be on, but a well-iced cool box would not be a bad idea. There are two resident dogs, Gigi and Hannah, who are extremely friendly and will hang out if you would like them to; otherwise, they will head off to the staff accommodation, where they officially live.
Well it’s all well and good being in the middle of nowhere, but what to do with ourselves, we wondered. Actually, that transpired not to be an issue in the slightest. In fact, another day would have been nice, as none of us were keen to leave as Sunday afternoon arrived. Apparently, there are relatively regular sightings of juvenile hippopotamus in the river next to the tree house, though there was nothing to see or hear that would indicate there were any there at the same time as us. So with a cautious trepidation, we climbed down the bank to a grassy knoll overlooking the river, and with some leftover bacon as bait and a couple of fishing rods, set the children to seeing what they could catch.
With a strict catch-and-release philosophy, three catfish were tempted out and, after posing for a quick picture, were returned to the river safe and well, though maybe a little more cautious. The next stop was a one-and-a-half kilometre gentle stroll through the cedar forest from the main restaurant along the river to a manmade plunge pool. The pool, sitting under a leafy canopy, is neither particularly large or deep, but claiming to maintain a temperature of around 25 degrees centigrade. With a well-appointed cool box, it is a pleasant way to pass a couple of hours. The children even fashioning a makeshift waterslide into the river.
As dusk approached, we set up a veritable banquet, with the only panic being when we realised we had forgotten to bring the fillet steak that was overcome when we accepted just how much food we had brought with us for two nights. The after dinner entertainment was simple and wholesome, reminiscent of our own youth with simple board games and a lot of laughter before the generators' bedtime dictated that we followed suit.
Whilst the treehouse offers a very peaceful sleep with the tranquil gurgling of the river luring me into slumber, any movement in the house of wood is echoed, and so any late night party animals might find themselves unpopular, and the hyena whooping in the early hours did little more than necessitate a change of position in the elegant four-poster bed.
Dawn brings the early morning light and, as the kettle boiled for the desperately needed coffee, Gigi and Hannah came by on the off chance there might be an excess of breakfast (they weren’t disappointed). The book I had brought in the expectation of lazing lethargically was never opened. We actually had some wine to bring back to Nairobi.
Despite not getting the opportunity to visit either the resident restaurant or the stables where there are options of horse rides through the sprawling reserve, I thoroughly enjoyed myself and would love to return.