I arrived from a five star stay at the new Residences at the Leopard Beach Resort & Spa and, having in succession on my trip stayed at Kempinskis in the Seychelles, Nairobi and the Mara was perhaps expecting too much, but the experience, mulled over for a few weeks now, was far from satisfactory.
Check in was perfunctory, almost mechanical but served the purpose. A walk of sorts followed to my room on Block 7, with the porter telling me the advantage of being that far away would be having a shorter walk to the restaurants, an illusion as it turned out. I had asked for a room near to the AFRAA conference venue, since as an aviation journalist it would have aided my work to be able to nip in and out of the room on the trot but was, when discovering the distance of my room to the allocated conference room, told that I could not change my room to one nearer as 'the hotel is full', perhaps just an excuse for being unwilling to accommodate my wish.
On arrival at my room I found that the sofa was being removed, leaving a coffee table but no seating, not even chairs and when raising the query with the staff and then the reception I was told the sofa would be returned the next day - needless to say I went without it for the duration of my entire stay. As journalists do, and as informed by AFRAA, I tried to find the wireless network dedicated to our conference but could not trace it. A call to the operator yielded no results either as I was told 1) There was no dedicated network for 'what conference is that?' and then to buy an internet package at 1.000 Kenya Shillings for an hour, an outrageous proposition at some 14 US Dollars before the operator offered a 2.000 Kenya Shillings per day option. She and in a second call the reception staff denied any knowledge that AFRAA was to have a dedicated wireless access point to facilitate invited journalists and delegates to actually file reports and updates and it was only later during the opening day that this was switched on, inspite of AFRAA staff assuring me and others it was due to be available from the day prior to the conference to facilitate communications for those arriving the day prior to the conference.
In view of this did my AFRAA minders authorize me to purchase a 2.000 KShs internet package which they kindly absorbed at the end of my stay.
The next rip off came when trying to change some money to buy airtime for a local SIM card, as while rates in the Sunday papers were quoted at 85+ Kenya Shillings the hotel offered a measly 78+ - giving the clear impression of greed being the driving factor and not customer care.
On the limited desk space I had in the room there was but one (crookedly installed) socket and my request for an extension cord went unanswered of course leaving me to use every socket in the room to charge batteries and keep my devices powered up. In the absence of the sofa I had to use the bed to spread out my files and notes.
I remembered the hotel when it was opened with much ado decades back and found to my disappointment that little if any major refurbishments have been carried out since then and the placement of a hair dryer in the bathroom, on a piece of plywood inserted 'Jua Kali' into one of the mirrors, speaks volumes as to the level of upkeep. I have documented some of the things with pictures in case the hotel management tries to put any positive spin on my experience, there simply was none.
The GM was seen at the opening cocktail, telling conference participants not to worry about security as there were dog patrols and armed guards, not the topic anyone would ordinarily chose to welcome foreign guests with, then never to be seen or heard of again, as was line management largely absent when the AFRAA staff had issues to resolve (like one staff waiting at the reception for over 20 minutes to find someone with a second key for the safe). Front line staff were friendly but they clearly THEY KNEW what was going on, considering the number of resigned shrugs encountered. DEFINITELY no longer the hotel it was even a few years ago when Mike Round-Turner was General Manager and an all round thumbs down from me. In a game of snakes and ladders I would say 'Return to the basement'.
I had by the way written an email to the hotel in advance of my arrival to meet with the marketing manager, a Miss Chege, and on check in that Saturday evening also left a message at the reception for her, followed by another one on Monday - to get but stoney silence in return.
NOT a 5 star property, in my book barely making three and I should know, going by the number of truly 5 star hotels and resorts I stay at during my regular travels across Africa. The choice to rate the Safari Park as average or poor left me to opt for the poor rating, to perhaps give them a sharpish reminder to look afresh at their hospitality management books and return to the basics of hotel keeping, upkeep and service and more upkeep and more service!
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- ‘THE AFRICAN PARADISE’ Surrounded by 50 acres of beautifully manicured gardens, the Safari Park Hotel & Casino combines the elegance of African architecture and art with an infrastructure at the leading edge of technology. Located only 15 minutes from the Nairobi city centre, the hotel offers calmness and serenity away from the fast pace of the city. The five-star hotel boasts 205 luxurious rooms each with en-suite bathrooms, antique African-themed four-poster beds and furniture. All the rooms have rear and front private large garden view balconies. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Safari Park Nairobi