Dook/Courtesy of Arijiju

A remarkable private villa rental in the Kenyan bush raises the bar for safari stays.

July 03, 2017

You won't know you're nearing Arijiju until you have already arrived. The house is built into the Laikipia foothills north of Mount Kenya, its grass-covered roof and rough stone walls making it appear, from afar, like part of the landscape. The effect is one of inevitability — as if the property were always meant to be there.

Most visitors come to Kenya for the wildlife, and the 32,000-acre Borana Conservancy surrounding Arijiju teems with all manner of creatures. But, unlike most safari properties, this lodge feels like a destination in itself. Built as a vacation retreat by a Londoner with African roots, it's now available for exclusive-use rental. The 14-person staff, which includes butlers, chefs, and a masseuse, is warm and attentive, lighting crackling fires at bedtime and delivering coffee to your room when you wake. That human touch gives the five-bedroom property an intimate, homey feel, like a fabulous friend's personal retreat.

Beyond the occasional campaign-style piece, Arijiju has none of the typical safari-lodge trappings — no Masai prints or mosquito-netted beds, and the only thatched roofs are those of the outbuildings. Instead, relaxed luxury reigns: rugs are layered on the hardwood floors, and linen sofas are draped with rabbit-fur throws guests can use to ward off the evening chill. The décor takes more inspiration from India and Morocco than from Kenya, yet everything about the house is in keeping with the spirit of Laikipia. That's in large part because Arijiju puts all eyes on the landscape that surrounds it. Massive glass doors overlook a forest of acacia and African olive trees, and beyond the elevated terrace, the grounds are open to the wilds. Baboons scratch at the earth a few yards from the breakfast table. In dry stretches, giraffes and elephants come to drink from the pool.

There are game drives, of course, and you can see it all — even rarer animals like Grevy's zebras and both black and white rhinos are flourishing in Borana and neighboring Lewa. But on the slim chance your favorite animal should elude you, any disappointment will be quelled the moment Arijiju's flickering lanterns announce your arrival home. from $7,500.

Lodges to Look Out For

More Instagram-worthy properties launching in Africa this season.

Miavana, Madagascar

From the people behind the Seychelles' North Island, this ultramodern 14-villa lodge on a private island off Madagascar combines beaches and wildlife in one luxe package. from $2,500.

Duba Plains Camp, Botswana

Spot hippos from your private plunge pool at this plush new Great Plains Conservation property in the quieter northern reaches of the Okavango Delta. from $2,480.

Chobe Water Villas, Namibia

These 16 eco-chic villas on the northern bank of the Chobe River are Africa's answer to the over-water bungalow, with each offering 180-degree river views. from $990.

Asilia Jabali Ridge, Tanzania

Deft use of organic forms and materials gives this eight-suite lodge in Ruaha National Park the lok of having emerged from the landscape. from $950.

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