The Secret Life of Trees
Ever dreamed of living in a tree house when you were a kid? Well for some people that dream never dies - and when you live in the Kenyan countryside you might even be able to make it happen! Roaming photographer and writer Jo Stewart was lucky enough to visit and stay in this amazing tree house, and as expected, it was a beautiful and memorable experience....
Ngong House, Nairobi: Looming behind the scrub like a wise owl, I instantaneously know this tree house and I are going to be great friends. After the fluorescent assault of airport departure lounges, how could anyone resist such a genuine place to rest weary, jetlagged bones?
This profile shot shows a great view of the nifty stilts the tree house is built upon. Surrounded by nothing but thick scrub and bush, when I return at night I cling to the complimentary torch like it’s a life raft!
Because no self-respecting tree house is complete without one – a trapdoor leading to a wooden staircase makes the experience even more authentic. There’s something strangely satisfying about swinging the door up and bolting it closed at night. Apart from being much more fun than using a generic, programmed hotel swipe card, the action of using your muscles to close a worn, timber door is fulfilling. It’s like closing the door on another day.
Sitting on a cosy couch, reading literary classics under a thatched roof really puts the ‘living’ in the phrase ‘living room’. I feel very smug in this simple pursuit, which funnily enough is not how I feel lying on the couch at home with a laptop on my lap and the TV humming nonsense. I resolve myself to try and recreate this at home (minus the thatched roof).
Now this is what I call a bed! Staying here alone I am literally lost in the size of this mosquito-netted, monument to sleep. I can do several “full body rolls” before meeting the edge. Simple pleasures are truly the greatest and I can thank this bed for giving me one of my greatest slumbers ever (yes, I have a list of ‘best sleeps’).
With a hand carved bed head and deluxe bedspread this bed is fit for a king, or should I say, fit for a Sting? Legendary singer Sting once stayed here, gushing in the guestbook that it’s the “best tree house in the world”. So I can now claim I have slept in the same bed as Sting (no one needs to know that we weren’t in the same bed at the same time).
With a distinct lack of white noise (no television, no radio, traffic or chatter) this view out onto Ngong Hills takes on a greater meaning. This land once belonged to the author of Out of Africa, Danish writer Karen Blixen. The unfamiliar calls of unknown bird species, the croaks of insects and the screeching of monkeys are the organic soundtrack to this place of simple perfection.
I know it looks quaint but this ain’t no antique! This is how you ring through to the main house reception area. Wondering what time dinner is? Need to know how to shut your trap door? Just pick up the receiver and resist the temptation to start the conversation with an old-timey ‘ahoy hoy’ greeting and ask away. Sadly, I have no questions for the staff, so resort to prank calling some people in another tree house.
The owner’s three cool canines roam the property, adding to the cosy charm. They are almost always in attendance at the afternoon sundowner drinks, where they play with each other, chase glow worms and monitor the snack consumption very closely. Bonnie (pictured here) can typically be found snoozing on the lawn by the pool, because running an operation like this is tiring!
Not far from Ngong House, a pioneering giraffe centre houses endangered, Rothschild giraffes which you can admire and hand feed from a viewing platform. Standing face to face with a giraffe I’m taken aback by how naturally beautiful these creatures are. These are the supermodels of the animal kingdom! Long, lean and graceful, I’m yet to find an animal in this world with prettier eyelashes.