spa - Kinondo Kwetu, Nairobi
Written by and photography by Mark Eveleigh
With its spectacular location on one of Kenyas most enchantingly peaceful south-coast beaches, Kinondo Kwetu draws both energy and serenity from the ancient sacred forests on which it was built and which it protects.
From my hammock I can see a colobus monkey drowsily hugging the nights coolness out of the trunk of a monumental baobab.
This is a great place for tree-hugging; just yesterday I was hugging an ancient tree myself.
You get a special energy when you hug a living thing thats 300 years old, my guide told me. Juma Henry was leading me through Kaya Kinondo sacred forest, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and one of Kenyas last sizeable tracts of coastal forest.
Kinondo Kwetu is a spectacular boutique resort and spa that was built in another section of the forest just a few minutes drive from here. The great bulky baobabs and the gnarled knob-thorns that seem to have been so carefully placed around the pools and between the rooms were actually earmarked for salvation by mzee (elders) from the local Digo tribe. On a small coral ledge above the reef is a particularly sacred grove. When not in use for local ceremonies the Swedish owners run their yoga classes here.
This forest was once a refuge for the Digo from slavers and plundering European empires. Today the sacred trees still throw benevolent shadows over the swimming pool and a spa where African massages are now imaginatively combined with Finnish saunas.
Kinondo Kwetu (literally, Home in Kinondo) is still one of the most intensely peaceful and spiritual retreats on the East African coast.
In the saddle
"Horses just love the beach", says Kinondo riding coach Paul Wachiru as we canter across the great sweeping arc of Galu Beach. As an ex-jockey with four years of experience racing in Nairobi, Paul should know. Bring a racehorse out here and let him take off, and youll never be able to hold him back, he continues. Paul has galloped with the King of Sweden when he was a guest at Kinondo Kwetu. Im already skimming over the sand at a rate thats beyond my abilities… but, even so, I have the feeling that both he and Sultan (my ex-polo pony) think that I am taking it a little too pole-pole – a Swahili catchphrase meaning slowly-slowly.