Daisy Shann knows about entertaining. She's effusive in her welcome and extraordinary in her attention to detail once you arrive. In fact it starts before you arrive, with text messages asking if you'd prefer to be in the spare room or in the tent a little further away, and a special phone call to enquire as to Saskia's favorite fruit whilst she was doing her shopping. It made us feel super special. When we arrived, after a long hot day in the car, tea was on tap and Saskia was scooped up by Daisy's immensely hands-on staff and whisked off to help in the kitchen. Bliss.
We chose to sleep a bit further away, in one of the two tents that Daisy has listed on her new website Umbrella Tree. Two reasons really: I was desperate to try out these beautiful new rooms that Daisy has put so much work into, and secondly I had an inkling that sleep was not high on Saskia's agenda, so the further away the better for Daisy & Roger's sakes.
Built on a raised wooden platform, with a permanent mabati roof, these tents are a far cry from the imagination of our foreign friends who usually envisage a waist high pop tent with barely space to bend your knees as you roll over in bed, and a healthy dollop of freezing condensation plopping onto your forehead in the morning. No no no! Just as Kenyans don't keep stables in which they are familiar with the tack, so they do not have tents that can be put up in five minutes. Everything here is big, space is an appreciated luxury but not at a premium (at least not in Laikipia).
Each tent has a beautifully made up double bed with scrumptious crisp linen and a super comfy mattress. There's enough space to swing several cats and no risk of hitting your husband around the head as you do so. I can also confirm that there is enough space for three… that is, a small third person; in our case ten month old Saskia. A serious power shower blasts out hot water within seconds and double sinks mean you don't need to worry about scrapping over who cleans their teeth first. The bathroom is quite open, so those with an aversion to such set ups should be aware that they will need to close the tent flaps between bathroom and bedroom for privacy. Otherwise, just send your partner on their way to go and explore the farm or listen to the many yarns of Daisy.
If you were staying more than one night, Daisy would ensure you were kept busy with a visit to the Lolldaiga Farm, Ol Pejeta, Nanyuki or countless other nearby excursions that will ensure you return tired out and ready for the three course meal that awaits. We feasted on incredible chicken soup to start with - the kind that is so thick and tasty you don't need much more. But I can always rely on my tummy to make space, and so for the slow cooked lamb tagine with couscous and green beans, there was most definitely space. And just as we were ready to roll towards the warming fire, out came a bubbling apple crumble with vanilla ice cream! We squeezed it all in, and on reflection I probably burnt off half those calories just bemberezering Miss Saskia later that night for hour… after hour… after hour. Somehow breakfast could not have come quickly enough, and we were duly awarded for our nighttime efforts with the full monty English breakfast. Yummy.
Daisy pressed us to take a packed lunch, and this is what you will get if you go and stay at Tapendoi, which is about so much more than the tent, and the food. It's really about spending some time with Miss Daisy, whose tales of finding the land, and singlehandedly building their house as a safari widow will keep you enraptured by the embers of the fire. Daisy doesn't really stop, she's a ball of energy and an endless fount of knowledge, not to mention local gossip which is always fun even when you have no idea who she's referring to!