Malindi, Kenya

Giraffes strolling on the open savannah in the masai mara -Kenya with a blue cloudy sky and mountain background
Masai Mara Giraffes Kenya // Photo by paulafrench/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

 

Lion in the Sun
Dream of Africa provides extra-special levels of privacy with accommodations discreetly hidden under tropical vegetation.

 

 

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Malindi, on Kenya’s North-Eastern seaboard, became famous in the 1960s when wealthy Italian playboys built fabulous villas on its golden beaches. Since then, many of these properties have been turned into luxury retreats. One of these is Lion in the Sun, which is actually not on the seafront, but just a short walk, or two minutes by courtesy car, from its own private beach. 

 

The Junior Suites at Diamonds Dream
The Junior Suites at Diamonds Dream are done in African-Mediterranean décor.

With its four sea-water swimming pools, the fenced resort more than makes up for not having an Indian Ocean frontage. The seven suites, seven superior rooms and two singles are in four secluded villas, discreetly hidden under tropical vegetation. This makes it perfect for families or groups of friends who crave extra-special levels of privacy. VIP guests have included John Galliano, Bono, Fernando Alonso and Nicholas Sarkozy.

Although quite minimalist in style, the large, airy rooms and suites have a palatial feel about them, with white being the predominant shade and African art works and local artefacts providing interesting touches of local color. We loved the glass-fronted his-n-hers showers, and the walk-in closets have oodles of hanging space. Good to know: Some of the bathrooms have bathtubs as well as showers; so if you have clients who like to soak, be sure to ask for one of these.

In the public areas, Arab- and Indian-style furniture and art blend in an intriguing mix. One particularly striking area is the upper floor in the main makuti-roofed building, where colorful Indian silks and Moroccan harem-style hanging lamps create a One Thousand and One Nights atmosphere. We thought the setting would be great for romantic dinners and General Manager Sabina Vivaldi ([email protected]; 011-254-42-21-30066, ext. 102) said it is also popular for private parties.

Sabina advises that bookings be done at least three months in advance from mid-December to mid-January. She adds that luxury travel advisors can get through to the Front Office staff (011-254-725-906-044) too, who are also the property’s concierges. Tip: Contact them to set up airport fast-track clearance to have VIPs whisked through immigration and customs.

The Henri Chenot Thalaspa won the Tatler Award for Best Spa of the Year 2010. Spa Director Margarita Mayrata ([email protected]; 011-254-42-213-0066, ext. 113) says many guests come for the detox regime of hydrotherapy, massages and curing treatments. We tried the Biolight weight-loss menu at lunch, and the grilled fish and vegetables were quite the nicest diet meal we have ever had.

The sparkling turquoise waters, billowing white drapes on the gazebos, XL sun loungers and personalized butler service on the beach (where owner and former resident Flavio Briatore is building the Billionaire Resort with 24 luxury apartments) are hard to resist. But the more adventurous will want to take to the high seas on the Kaliffa motorboat to explore the resort’s private Robinson Island where picnics and sundowners can be arranged. 

Diamonds Dream of Africa, a member of Small Luxury Hotel of the World, shares lush tropical gardens with its sister resorts, Tropical Village and Coconut Village, on a dazzling beach about two miles from the center of Malindi. The resort, which offers quality service, has an Arab-style architecture and all-suite accommodation.

The 33 Junior Suites, where guests are checked in, have African-Mediterranean décor and are all similar, with hardwood floors, beds with mosquito netting, air conditioning and ceiling fans, complementary Wi-Fi and a dining table for four. Suites on the lower level lead out to small patios and into the gardens. We recommend you book one of the even-number blocks if sunsets are important to your A-listers. Contact General Manager Bruno Fontana ([email protected]; 011-254-72-060-7075,) or Resort Manager Allan Ochsner ([email protected]; 011-254-72-060-7075) to book the two larger Executive Suites with separate living rooms and bedrooms. Bruno recommends booking two months ahead during festive seasons and school breaks.

None of the suites have sea views, but the beach is only yards away and it is absolutely unique on this stretch of Malindi coast. One reason is that the management has effectively banned the beach boys whose unrelenting sales pitches can ruin a relaxing day in the sun. 

 

Lion in the Sun’s gazebos
Lion in the Sun’s gazebos, with its billowing drapes, overlook the sparkling turquoise waters of the beach.

Service in the main restaurant is table d’hote, with free-flowing house wine and soft drinks, while the beach restaurant has a fine dining à la carte menu. We enjoyed a candle-lit lobster dinner at the beach restaurant, and found the spice-laced pilau rice a perfect complement for the sweet lobster meat.

The Mvua Thalassotherapy spa next to the sea-water swimming pool has two single and one couple’s treatment rooms. Spa Director Risper ([email protected]; 011-254-72-060-7075) says Ann is one of the most popular masseuses for hot stone treatments. The Simba Club is open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. It organizes pool and board games and also Swahili lessons for younger guests and baby-sitters can step in so that Mums and Dads can have quality time together. 

The concierges can arrange airport transfers, island safaris, snorkeling, diving and, of course, game safaris. No visit to Kenya is complete without a safari in one of the game parks: the Tsavo is only a couple of hour’s drive away, and the Masai Mara a two-hour flight from Malindi airport. This small airport is used by domestic carriers and private jets. Turkish Airlines and Swiss fly into the nearest international airport, Mombasa, which is a 3-hour ride by car. Kenya Airways, Etihad, British Airways, Swiss, Emirates, KLM, Qatar Airways and Air France fly into the capital Nairobi from where there are domestic flights to Mombasa.

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