Nyahururu town, north of the Aberdares mountain range, fell off the radar of must-see places in Kenya some years ago.
But the Panari Resort Hotel, which opened in 2016, has given a new lease of life to this sleepy town, which is about a three-and-a-half hour drive from Nairobi.
From the gate, a long driveway brought us to the colonnaded entrance of the hotel.
We were surprised to find a modern resort on extensive gardens with the ambience of a country club.
A warm welcome, a quick check-in and we were soon whisked away to our rooms in electric golf carts modelled on vintage cars, an efficient way of transporting guests and luggage to the rooms.
I stayed in the cottage blocks, in a sizeable room with contemporary decor and a balcony facing a steep river gorge.
Nyahururu sits 2,370 metres above sea level, so it gets chilly at night and in the early mornings.
Every evening the staff light the log fireplaces in the bedrooms and place hot water bottles inside the beds.
Families with young children may prefer the interconnecting rooms in the main building, which is also where the children’s play area is.
Set slightly away in the gardens are two villas with kitchenettes and valet service, ideal for guests who want more privacy and personalised care.
All our meals were buffet spreads at the Brown Olive Restaurant.
Happily, we could work off our indulgence at the gym, followed by a relaxing session in the steam room. And the hotel pool is indoors, which meant we could swim at any time.
I preferred to take in the crisp morning air with a brisk walk through manicured lawns with tall forest trees where silver-cheeked hornbills were calling out in trumpeting cries.
One morning, after a sumptuous breakfast, we decided to take in the nearby attractions. A 10-minute walk from the hotel takes you to the famous Thomson’s Falls.
For a small fee you can get to the viewing point that faces a deep ravine thickly covered with lush montane vegetation.
The Ewaso Narok river, which rises in the Aberdare mountain range, plunges down a 74-metre drop before joining the Ewaso Nyiro river.
You can walk down to the bottom of the gorge, which takes about 20 minutes.
It is a sharp descent, a gruelling ascent and definitely not for those who are uncomfortable with heights.
But the views from the valley bottom are worth it. A fine spray of mist hung in the air and the thundering roar of the falling water echoed around us as we clambered over large boulders, with brown freshwater crabs cowering in the rock crevices.
From the falls, we walked to the hippo pools accompanied by a hotel guard.
It is hard to imagine hippos living in a spring among the fields. We could spot their ears and nostrils peeking out of the water as they surfaced to take a breath.
An excursion into the neighbouring Marmanet Forest is recommended.
The forest is part of an elephant migratory route and at certain times of the year elephants come right up to the hotel fence. This part of the forest is the “maternity wing” because elephants often come to give birth here.
Sitting on the hotel’s raised elephant viewing deck, I imagined families browsing among the trees with newborns in tow.
Panari Resort Nyahururu makes a good overnight stop for travellers on the safari route from Samburu County to the Rift Valley.