Lake Naivasha, Nairobi, Kenya
The lake-shore residents of Lake Naivasha in Kenya are colobus monkeys, cheetahs, giraffes, impalas and zebras. They, and a number of hippos and donkeys, graze along the shores, and the rare fish eagle has given the lake a distinguished reputation. All these animals and birds share their habitat with Dodo and Michael Cunningham-Reid.
The lake is part of the former Delamere estate. As the stepson of Tom, Lord Delamere, Michael Cunningham- Reid lived nearby during his teenage years. He fell in love with the landscape, and he and Dodo later purchased five hundred acres of the estate as a game preserve and sustainable architecture vacation retreat.
I planned our house as a folly because the fantastic nature of the setting commands it,’ says Dodo Cuningham-Reid. Anything else would have looked too ordinary. The folly’s wood siding and octagonal shape reflect the German-born Dodo’s Nordic background. Yellow fever trees, common to the Rift Valley lakes, are as tall as the tower and have similar coloring; in fact, they inspired its height, color and plan. The tower, roofed in copper and clad in Kenyan cypress siding, is wide on the lower two levels to provide living and dining spaces, and narrower at the top for bedrooms, studies and viewing eyries.
Watching the lake and its banks allows innumerable sightings of local wildlife. My favorite rooms are the seventh-floor study and the first-floor drawing-room, says Dodo Cunningham-Reid. ‘Both face the lake, the mountains and the endless skies.’ The charming interior furnishings and fine art were all selected by her; some are European, while other items were made in Nairobi. Many of the antiques, including the living-room’s Gothic Revival table, came from the estate of my mother, Mary, Lady Delamere,’ says Michael Cunningham-Reid.
The Cunningham-Reids initially intended to use the folly as a vacation retreat. They invited friends who then wanted to share the unique experience with other friends. Finally, the Cunningham-Reids were convinced to open the Tower at Lake Naivasha as an elite bed and breakfast. In addition to staying in the wonderful rooms with their entrancing views, guests enjoy lunch on the lawn and on the first-floor terrace, facing the peaceful lake and phenomenal landscape. ‘This is by far one of the most beautiful places in the world,’ says Dodo Cunningham-Reid. ‘Where else do you have giraffes coming out of the bush to greet you at breakfast? Or hippos waking you at dawn? Mist rolls in from the lake at night, and during the rainy season the sky immerses the earth in pink and purple. It’s a perfect retreat.