Kenya is well-known among foreigners for its stunning safaris. It is a pity that this is the main picture many travelers have as Kenya is so much more than just that. I live in Kenya myself and the last couple of years I have been amazed by its mesmerizing beauty and its diversity. Recently, I have discovered a part of Kenya that again stunned me. My goal is to show these different sides of Kenya and help putting Kenya in a different perspective than just a safari destination.
In this blog post I will share my recent discovery and hope it inspires you to hit the road less traveled as well.
Just 5 hours from Nairobi and 3 hours from Mombasa, you will find the town of Voi. Voi is one of the main entrance points for Tsavo National Park where you can see giraffes, elephants, lions and many more and located between Nairobi and Mombasa. Kenya has been hit by a countrywide heavy and long rainfall since the beginning of March, which hasn’t happened in many years. As a result, normally dusty and dry Voi was transformed into a green oasis.
This was the starting point of my journey. I was picked up by Livingstone, a local and passionate explorer from Voi who has spent the last 16 years of his life discovering new parts in Kenya. In the next three days he would show me parts of Kenya I wouldn’t know existed.
The Secret Valley of Sagalla
Just next to Voi is a hill that hides a secret valley, called Sagalla. It is a 45-minutes’ drive on a bumpy dirt road that slowly climbs up. Just at a point I was wondering where we were going and what to expect we turned around a corner and there I saw a beautiful green valley with hills dotted with small houses. It felt so peaceful. We slowly drove further passing people working on their land, laughing children and a lost cow here and there.
We were warmly welcomed by Gibran and the women of the community living there. They showed me their various community activities like leather sandal and basket making and their beautiful and unique dance. Sagalla is also a perfect hideaway for some great hiking opportunities through pine forest (yes, I know you wouldn’t expect!). Local guide Gibran is an expert of this area and could take you on a multiple-hour walk.
Another treasure of Sagalla is not only its stunning views, but also its well-kept British church that is set-up by a gentleman called Mr. Wray. It was built 130 years ago. The people of Sagalla have well- preserved some of the old furniture and items and are proud to tell its story.
There are various options to visit Sagalla. You can stay in the lovely homestay of Sylviah where you get a peek into local life or pitch your own tent. Another option is to just visit Sagalla for a day trip. I would recommend staying one or two nights as the environment is so stunning.
In our case we just spent the night at the homestay of Grace located between Sagalla and Wundanyi. A quiet place surrounded by nature. Grace was very welcoming and cooked a typical traditional Taita meal. A great way to learn more about the Kenyan culture.
The mesmerizing Wundanyi loop
The next morning, we continued our journey to visit another hill that is home to the village of Wundanyi. The roads are well paved and while driving up I fell from one surprise to another. Every turn gave me another amazing view while misty clouds were creeping up tropical hills.
Wundanyi is a small village with various homestays where you can stay. You can hike to the huge granite Wesu Rock, walk through Ngangao Forest or climb Vuria hill where you can enjoy a picnic lunch with a magnificent view on the Taita hills and surrounding area. Numerous trails crisscross the slopes, leading to dramatic gorges, waterfalls, and cliffs.
We took the time to visit the Kenyatta caves that are completely hidden in a small town just 2 km from Wundanyi. This is where Mzee Jomo Kenyatta stayed as one of the freedom fighters for a couple of years. Charles Mlekenyi was a child back then and was serving Kenyatta and the others their meals. He has a wonderful story to tell and can show you many things that still remind of that time.
Wundanyi is a little secret that is worth discovering and one of the most amazing ones of the Taita Taveta Hills. It is a perfect stop for one or two nights on your way to Tsavo West or the Tanzanian border.
Rich, but quiet game drives in the LUMO Community Wildlife Sanctuary
From Wundanyi it is a short drive to the LUMO Wildlife Conservancy, Tsavo West National Park and the Taita Hills that are adjacent to each other and provide excellent game drive opportunities. There are various options where you can stay, like the more high-end Lions Bluff lodge and Sarova Salt Lick, in the Lualenyi community homestay or their campsite that is being built at the moment I write this blog post.
The above places could be easily combined in a 4-6-day itinerary that you can undertake separately from Nairobi or on your way to Mombasa or back to Nairobi.
Day 1 and 2
Take the new SGR train from Nairobi to Voi (5 hours), or drive with your own car. As soon as you arrive in Voi you can grab a quick lunch and then drive 45-minutes up to Sagalla. Livingstone can either arrange a car pick-up or he can share the directions when driving with your own car. You can choose to spend one or two nights at this beautiful place.
Drive further south on the A23 in the direction of Taveta. At some point you can take a right to the C104 which is going to take you up to Wundanyi. You can just follow this complete loop which will at the end take you back to the A23. Spend one or two nights on this beautiful hill village.
Day 4 and 5
Relax and enjoy a homemade lunch at your homestay. Then visit the Kenyatta caves in the afternoon. Spend the evening exchanging stories with your homestay family. The next morning go up for a hike with your local guide by taking any of the many trails in this area and be rewarded with amazing views while enjoying a picnic lunch. In the evening enjoy the final evening with your homestay family.
Day 6 and 7
The next morning drive down and take a left on the A23. Drive for about 20 minutes on the A23 before you see the sign of the LUMO wildlife conservancy on your left. Immediately when you drive in have the chance of seeing the first wild animals. Pick your accommodation and enjoy fabulous game drives in an area that is not overrun by tourists.
Of course, the above itinerary is just a suggestion. You can make it longer or shorter according to your preference.
Do you know more hidden gems in Kenya? Please, share them in the comments. I would love to hear!