It is customary, when giving holiday options to our frequent travelers, to describe the particular holiday experience as ‘Relaxing’, ‘tranquil’, ‘peaceful’, ‘Luxurious’ and even ‘blissful’ in order to appeal to the psyche of our tired clients and inspire them to want to leave immediately for said holiday. Therefore, when a friend arranged a sojourn at Tandala house and tempted me by using my very own words, I had no choice but to say yes and see if this place lived up to our standards. As always, I did a little bit of research on Tandala house to allow me to prepare well for the experience.
Tandala has done a pretty incredible job of marketing itself. A website that I came across said that the place can get slightly chilly in the evening. Another website told me that the place is without electricity and but has the use of a generator that operates for just four and half hours daily from 6.30pm to 11pm. I figured then that my laptop battery would last just about 6 hours when in use, and so I carried a book that would take me through the hours until ‘Generator time’.
After a nearly 2-hour drive from Nairobi, we arrived at the little town of Bisil, an underrated tourist destination, where we turned off the main Namanga road to the left onto a rough and dusty road that would lead us to the house. A word of advice to the ladies here, carry a head wrap and or hat to protect your hair from the dust because the drive to Tandala on this dusty road is 7 kilometers long!
The Tandala gate was barely visible when we got there. Actually, we passed it several times and we had to call Tandala house for help. Fortunately, one of their people came to the road to guide us to the main gate of the house. And so further up from that entry, we arrived at Tandala, hungry and eager to settle in and enjoy our getaway in this place where the reviews ranged from ‘charming’ to ‘divine’ and even one reviewer described the place as ‘magical.’
Tandala did not disappoint. And nothing, not even the photos from the web, prepared me for the sheer scale of tranquility that is Tandala! The ambience of the house gives it an immediate character of calmness and luxury, and provides a whole new meaning to being one with nature. Tandala is an old house and is completely eco-friendly with solar heaters placed strategically on the roof of the house. The house is built on slight hill placing in it in perfect position for the natural winds to cool the house.
Tandala’s 5 bedrooms are simply an architectural delight! Two of the bedrooms have log fireplaces. The en-suite bathrooms, one of which is an outdoor bathroom, are simply eye-popping and the staff ensure that every amenity is provided including a romantic candlelit bath if you need one. Tandala is like a fairy tale!
I chose to sleep in the room situated under the pool simply for the underwater view of the pool. It was like sleeping under an aquarium with the blue hue from the swimming pool drifting into my room in the dark. I marveled at the ingenuity of its construction.
For the romantic at heart, I must mention that Tandala has a roof terrace that has a ‘made-for-cuddles’ sitting area with a breathtaking view for a sundowner. While up on that terrace, the staff at Tandala will set you up with a log fire to keep you warm as you sip on drinks and take in the view.
In my view though, the absolute architectural show-stopper is Tandala’s sitting room. The sitting rooms sits under high exposed timber beams, has wooden floors and a large fireplace that held fires that warmed us and inspired stimulating conversations late into the night. In this magical sitting room, every evening was the perfect setting to bond over wine and several mugs of tea and desert.
Although the ambiance at Tandala is impressive, I would also add that the cooking is pretty special as well. Whatever you do, do not go for the complete self-catering option. We brought our ingredients from Nairobi and had the Chefs at Tandala prepare the food for our stay. Meal times were glorious! We set our own meals times to civilized holiday hours with breakfast at 10am and lunch at 3pm! The chefs impressed us with a pool side barbeque for one of the meals and even though cabbage is not my favorite vegetable, it was elevated to sumptuous levels by the Chefs at Tandala. During our stay, most of our meals were served on the veranda overlooking the waterhole where various animals come to drink. Every morning a large troop of baboons would grace us with their presence and at one time, we became unwitting spectators to a most vicious fight between two large baboons seemingly engaged in a war of dominance. It was enthralling to watch!
If you are a fitness enthusiast like one of my friends is, you would need to be very brave to take a walk outside of Tandala. My friend did so, and the staff was kind enough to offer her a stick to ward off the wild animals should she meet any on her trek. We were glad that she came back alive.
Even though I did carry a book, I realized later that I did not need to. Tandala has several reading materials in the form of romantic novels, history books and thrillers all lined up on several shelves throughout the house and guests are welcome to indulge in the books.
Before our return to Nairobi, two of us indulged in several spa treatments at Tandala. The resident masseuse received a lot of praise thereafter with my friends saying that they felt remarkably refreshed and ready to tackle a 2-hour road trip back to Nairobi.
So, is Tandala a place I would recommend to my clients? Absolutely! And staying here is not as expensive as you might think. For the price of just over Kshs 50,000 per night for 10 people (minimum 2 nights’ stay), I would say that Tandala gives a pretty good return on your investment!
The Author is the Founder and CEO of Saffara Ltd
This article was published in the East African Newspaper on Monday the 25th of September, 2017. Read it here as "Peace and Luxury at Tandala House."