by Liz Fleming

Fairmont Mount KenyaCourtesy Fairmont Mount Kenya Safari Club

Once owned by 1950s movie star heartthrob William Holden and the safari get-away of the beautiful people, the Fairmont Mount Kenya Safari Club in Nanyuki, Kenya is living history.

Notables such as Winston Churchill, Bob Hope, Lord Louis Mountbatten, President Lyndon Johnson and Bing Crosby holidayed there, enjoying stunning scenery, daily game drives, horseback riding, golf, croquet, tennis and the fascinating animal orphanage where injured animals are cared for and, with luck, returned to the wild.

At the orphanage, an ancient tortoise lumbered slowly over to greet us, while a friendly monkey leapt onto my shoulder and vigorously inspected my hair for bugs. Nearby, an ostrich kicked her long, powerful legs, small colorful birds shrieked and fluttered and two leopards padded silently in their recovery shelter, no doubt plotting the first hunting trip of their release.

Fairmont Mount Kenya OrphanageCourtesy Alex Fradkin

Animal sightings aren’t limited to the orphanage, however, because the Fairmont Mount Kenya Safari Club sits beside the 1000-acre William Holden Foundation, a game reserve, still frequented by celebrities from around the world. Lucky for me, they accept regular guests as well.

Fairmont Mount Kenya-RoomCourtesy Fairmont Mount Kenya Safari Club

It was difficult to talk myself into going inside after our daily game drives and our early morning horseback rides among the giraffes – an unforgettable experience - but the mid-century modern, ultra-luxe colonial accommodations feature such elegantly outfitted individual cottages that I was tempted. Sheets with thread counts higher than I could count, pillows so soft I could disappear into them, the delectable cuisine of Tusks Restaurant featuring the finest local fare and a view of Mount Kenya that never ceased to amaze - all combined to make me want to stay forever. At night, I lay awake in my cottage, listening to the far-off roaring of lion prides and the squawking of the brilliantly colored peacocks that stroll the property.

One rainy afternoon, I wandered the halls of the main building, staring at photographs of some of the most famous film stars, authors, musicians and politicians of the 1950’s. Though more than half a century separated us, I knew they’d found the same wilderness magic I had at the Fairmont Mount Kenya Safari Club.

Originally published in Cruise & Travel Lifestyles Fall/Winter 2015 issue.

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