Kenya’s Treetops Lodge and Outspan Hotel

Kenya’s Treetops Lodge and Outspan Hotel

The Aberdare Mountains was the forest battleground in which many Kenyan heroes like Dedan Kimathi led the independence struggle and earned themselves a place in the history of Kenya. The Mau Mau uprising against the British colonialists in the 1950s also happened in the Aberdares. It has two unique safari lodges, Kenya’s Treetops Lodge and Outspan Hotel, called the Tree Hotels that are set high in the awning above natural salt licks and waterholes.

Landscape of Aberdare

The Aberdare is the third tallest mountain of Kenya and is well known for its salient forests and prolific game. Plains and moorlands break these high woods, and through the tree cover, there are abundant views of Mount Kenya and, Rift Valley. But the woodland is a world of wildlife. The dense vegetation provides perfect shelter for these countless animals. For example, vast herds of buffalo and elephant move almost silently through the undergrowth. Overhead, colobus monkeys and noisome birds dominate the canopy. The forest comes alive at night with a procession of game emerging to these clearings. Then one can plainly hear the distinctive rasping growl of leopard among the trees and the cries of hyrax. Besides, there are mountain streams that are inhabited by trout. And there are a series of waterfalls along the range.

Wild exploration trips

The Aberdares can be explored either on foot or by vehicle. There are trails throughout the forests and moorlands. They are Kenya’s best treks. The foothills are ideal for exploring on horseback.

Safari Tree Hotels

The ideal places for guests to observe game at length are the tree hotels. Elephant herds surround and drink from the waterholes and then fade away. Occasionally a rhino or the bongo antelope visit the waterhole. Buffalo bulls fight over territory. Genet cats descend and slip through the halls.

Treetops Lodge Kenya

Major Sherbrooke Walker erected the Treetops Hotel on a fig tree in 1932 at the request of Lady Bettie Fielding, his wife. She wanted a tree house like the one in the play Peter Pan. It was deliberately built near a wallow where wild beasts came for salt lick and refreshment. Initially, it was open only on Wednesdays to accommodate guests as a viewing platform. Eventually, Treetops Lodge Kenya remained open to everyone with just two beds. But during the Mau Mau uprising, the rebels burnt down Treetops Lodge in retaliation to the shoot-on-sight instruction made against them and hence the Lodge was closed.

Reaching British history

Treetops Lodge is legendary not only in Kenya but has a place in British history too. Princess Elizabeth along with her husband, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, spent a holiday in Kenya in February 1952. On the 5th of February, she climbed the steps of Treetops Lodge to watch the wildlife. She stepped down the next morning and learnt that King George VI, her father, had died and she had succeeded him to become the Queen of Great Britain. Five years after the Queen’s visit, fire destroyed the original Treetops. It was rebuilt on a larger scale and since then it has hosted many celebrities and dignitaries. But the real stars at Treetops are always the wildlife that comes past to drink from the waterhole below.

Ownership of Treetops

In 1961, the ownership of Treetops changed to Sir Malin Sorsbie from Walker, and in 1966 to Block Hotels Limited. The Treetops Lodge was continuously developed in 1983 to 40 rooms and in 1996 to 50 rooms. In 2012, it was completely upgraded with a 6-month refurbishment. The Lodge character was preserved while guest comfort, dining experience and game viewing was enhanced. The Lodge’s current owners, Aberdare Safari Hotels, purchased the Lodge together with Outspan Hotel in Nyeri.

Outspan Hotel Nyeri

The base before the visits to Treetops is the Outspan Hotel, an ideal getaway with great ambience, verdant green lawns and vibrant gardens where peacocks roam at will. The hotel is set in Kenya’s coffee and tea growing highlands in the green grounds near the Karuru Falls. It is a colonial edifice hotel located in Nyeri between Mount Kenya and Aberdare Mountains. Nyeri is the birthplace of prominent Kenyans such as the Green belt Movement founder and Nobel laureate Professor Wangari Maathai, the marathon runner Catherine Ndereba and ex-president Mwai Kibaki.

Building the hotel

Major Sherbrooke Walker along with his wife Lady Bettie built the Outspan Hotel in 1926. Initially, it was a four-bedroom hotel with running water and private baths. The Walkers offered to give away a bottle of champagne to whoever came up with the best name for the hotel. It went to a saw-miller, Grace Barry, who suggested Outspan. It means the place where the traveler unharnesses the weary oxen at the journey’s end. Outspan was opened to the public with ten rooms on New Year’s Day of 1928.

Lord Robert Baden-Powell

Sherbrooke Walker was a friend of the creator of the Boy Scouts Movement, Lord Robert Baden-Powell. In the year 1920, Lord Powell became the world’s Chief Scout. Walker appointed him as his Private Secretary and his first Scout Commissioner. In his 2nd Kenyan visit in 1935, Baden-Powell was so impressed with the beautiful views of Mount Kenya’s snow peaks that when the doctor advised him to rest, it was this hotel that Baden-Powell chose. In 1939, it is here where the founder of the Boy Scout Movement Lord Robert Baden-Powell retired. He lived and spent his last years in a cottage known as Paxtu in the grounds of the Outspan Hotel compound until he died in 1941. The Paxtu, now a monument and a museum, is devoted to the movement and his life.

Baden-Powell was buried in the Anglican churchyard in Nyeri along with another famous name, the Indian game hunter Jim Corbett. Hundreds of guides and scouts from all around the world continue to visit the museum. The hotel guests have free access to it while walk-in guests pay. Today, the hotel sits on 20 acres of gardens with 45 unique rooms, superior food, and service, and is an ideal destination for business and leisure.

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