Koija Starbeds: A Magical Escape off the Beaten Track
Few things can compare to spending a weekend in the Laikipia Bush. Maybe it is the vast landscapes, the starry skies, or the sights and sounds of nature and occasionally, a hyena laughing in the distance. I spent two nights at Koija Starbeds, and the trip was nothing short of magic.
If you’re not pressed for time I would recommend spending the night in Nanyuki and heading out to Koija from there rather than waking up really early and driving from Nairobi. Here are some charming places you can stay at while in Nanyuki.
There’s an airstrip five minutes away from Koija Starbeds if you prefer to fly.
Directions to Koija Community Starbeds
**Adapted from The Big North **
From Nairobi drive to Nanyuki or if using public means board a matatu to Nanyuki at Tea Room in Nairobi CBD. Upon arrival to Nanyuki town, Turn left (When coming from Nairobi) or turn right (When coming from Isiolo/Meru side) at Total petrol station, off the main road from Nairobi onto the road to Doldol. Turn right at the Maiyan signpost.
Ignore the tarmac on the right, carry on straight. Go straight past a post written Doldol to the right, take the left. Straight on past EL K sign on the left. Cross bridge at Mpala Research Centre. T-junction – turn left. Turn right at fork – Mpala on the left. Drive past the radio mast station on the right. Stay left on the v- fork. Drive past the” wildlife go slow” sign. Drive past the Asante sign.
There’s an old white sign with black and yellow striped polls on the right. Turn right immediately after the sign. Stay on the right fork, go under the electricity pylons, and follow the pylons which are on your left. Back under the pylons – you can now see a white shack on the right. Cross the bridge at Il Motiok centre. Turn left onto a small dirt road. Pass the Riverbed. Take the Left fork. Turn Left onto the main dirt road. Pass the Riverbed. Pass the Water tank and a brick building on the left. Turn left. Turn left. Pass the Long sandy riverbed. Bear right and proceed on to Koija Star Beds.
I left Nairobi at around 3:30 pm and arrived at Nanyuki at 7 pm. I used Nanyuki Express Cab and the prices range between Kshs.600 to Kshs.700.
The following day, we started our journey at around 10:00 am after a quick stop at Cedar Mall Nanyuki for some last-minute shopping. The road from Nanyuki is fairly smooth until you go past the Doldol sign then it gets bumpy. The real adventure begins and you enjoy what our driver Patrick warmly referred to as a proper African massage.
From then on you are treated to a free game drive and you begin to spot wildlife. You’ll see groups of Reticulated Giraffes, Zebras (both Plains and Grevy’s), Impalas, Dik Diks, Vulturine Guinea Fowls, Warthogs, Baboons and if you are lucky, Elephants, Gerenuks, Hartbeest and Black-backed Jackals. You keep your camera or phone on standby to capture the beauties.
The landscape changes as the journey proceeds and you will soon realize that you’ve lost your bearings. Everything looks familiar and you will struggle to remember which way you turned last but you arrive before you start recounting your steps.
About Koija Community Starbeds
The beautiful lodge is located in the Naibunga Lower Community Conservancy in Laikipia and is owned and run by the local community in Koija Ranch.
After a brief introduction to our hosts, we sign waivers and are shown to our rooms.
The lodge has 4 ensuite bandas raised on wooden platforms, each overlooking the Ewaso Nyiro. Bandas 3 and 4(the family banda) are connected and share a bathroom and washroom, making them perfect for a family or a small group of friends.
The bandas are spacious and the star of the show, the beds are huge. The bandas are partially covered, leaving the deck open. These special beds have wheels attached to them so you can push the bed out to the deck to sleep outside, under the stars.
Tip: Wheel out the bed at around 3 am, this is when the stars shine brightest.
Banda 3&4 bathroom and washroom
Each banda can accommodate a maximum of two people, and there’s an extra single bed.
The eco-friendly lodge is designed to blend into the environment and to let nature take the front seat. The bandas resemble manyattas and the materials used in construction were all locally sourced. The bandas are built around the surrounding vegetation, to avoid cutting down the trees so as to reduce the environmental impact on the area. You’ll notice that the lodge is open plan, there are no doors, which is perfect as you get to enjoy the best of indoor-outdoor living. The decorative items such as the lampshades and placemats were made by women in the community.
The better part of the evening was spent in the bandas chilling after a heavy lunch of ugali, nyama choma and kachumbari. It was raining and we had to skip sundowners. We opted to light a bonfire instead but even this proved futile as it started raining again.
The rest of the night is spent telling stories and playing games. We are jokingly told that a leopard was spotted near the family banda. We rush to our rooms hoping and praying we do not have an encounter with the leopard. The path to the bandas is lit by lanterns and we are given torches, suddenly, the pitch-black night sky isn’t as scary anymore.
The next morning, I was awakened by the loud chirping of birds which irritated me for a second but I ended up watching the beautiful sunrise and enjoying a moment of solitude.
For fitness and wellness enthusiasts, I reckon that a quick workout or yoga session at the deck in the morning would be amazing. Imagine stretching into Warrior pose and watching a family of hippos resting in the river?
We had breakfast at the mess area deck which offers a beautiful view of the river. We spotted two giraffes in the distance grazing at Loisaba Conservancy. Mid-morning looks like banter and conversations had over Beethoven and Sauti Sol. Someone swears that a hyena was near their banda, another claims that a monkey switched on the lights in her banda. All we can do is laugh, and wish that none of those was actually true.
After a delicious lunch, we headed out to a Maasai village. The resident community welcomed us with song and dance, which we happily joined. We spent the rest of the afternoon interacting with them and getting a better understanding of their daily lives and culture. The ladies make beautiful beaded jewellery, homeware, and wooden crafts that are available for sale.
Back at the lodge, we missed sundowners, again, because it was raining. It doesn’t rain as often and so I stopped whining. The last dinner was a bittersweet reminder that the trip was coming to an end, a reality none of us wanted to come to terms with. We spend the night talking, as had become the norm and continued praying that the Leopard would not visit.
The next morning flew by so fast and as we bid each other goodbye at the end of the trip we joked that we had solved all of life’s issues. Nothing beats having good company during a trip.
Koija Starbeds is absolutely magical. We did not encounter any animals in the lodge, other than the rock hyrax families staring curiously at us from the gabions below the bandas. I felt very safe at all times. There are three essential staff at the lodge at all times and rangers nearby if you need help or are at risk, which is extremely unlikely. Henry and his team are amazing and will take good care of you.
Some of the activities to do around Koija Starbeds include Game Drives in Loisaba Conservancy (which is across the river from Koija), Cultural visits to the manyattas nearby, seasonal boat rides, camel treks, fishing (with own equipment), Hiking, and nature walks. For hiking, using a Community Ranger is recommended, and it is Kshs. 1,000 per trip, paid directly to the Ranger involved.
Koija Starbeds Rates
Kshs.4,000 per person and Kshs.2,000 per child(for children 12 years and under) per night.
Camping- Kshs.2,000 per person and Kshs,1,000 per child (for children 12 years and under) per night.
Things to Note about Koija Starbeds:
- A 4WD is highly advisable. The road is rough, especially when it rains.
- Koija is self-catering. Carry groceries and drinks and the chef will prepare delicious meals for you at no extra cost. Stock up on all you need before you leave Nanyuki as shops are quite a distance away from the lodge.
- There are utensils and basic toiletries so you need not worry about that.
- Cell reception is poor at the lodge and there is no WiFi.
- There is electricity on the property and water in the showers is solar heated.
- The evenings are chilly, carry some warm clothing, especially if you plan on sleeping outside.
I would not recommend the lodge for families with small children because of the nature of the architecture of the lodge as it probably wouldn’t be safe for kids. I highly recommend Koija Starbeds for a romantic getaway or for a weekend away with friends and family. Carry your groceries, drinks, board games, a bomb playlist and you’ll be good to go.
Koija Community Starbeds is a fantastic place to visit, off the beaten track. You will have an authentic cultural experience, in the untouched wilderness at an affordable price. Here at OCD, we are all about travelling luxe on a budget and Koija exemplifies that perfectly.
Bookings can be made directly through The Big North or you can reach out to me for a package that has meals, accommodation and activities.
Here is a short video of my experience.
If you have any questions about Koija Starbeds please let me know in the comments section below.
Normalise luxury in your life friend and until next time, Bye!