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Shompole Lodge, Great Rift Valley, Kenya
~ courtesy of Viia Beaumanis, special to Billy's House of Charm ~

Where to Stay | Getting There | When To Go | Rates | Snapshots

The ‘boutique’ lodges found within the Shompole Group will wow any World of Interiors reader. Designed by former safari guide, Anthony Russell, this handful of exceptionally chic, ultra private, properties are favored by the cream of Save Africa celebs, Brangelina to Bono—and travelers looking for complete isolation, cultural authenticity, and inspired design.

The hilltop Shompole is an elegant dining/lounging pavilion surrounded by eight, private, wildly elegant, open-air bungalows and villas. Varying in scale and design, each offers a private pool, stunning, panoramic views and indescribable sunrises—a deep indigo sky slashed with a horizontal ribbon of golden light that slowly expands into the day.

Rough-hewn figwood furniture, 40-foot ceilings, coffee tables piled with traditional Maasai pipes fashioned of giraffe bone, floors inlaid with mosaics of local stone—Shompole is a study in organic luxury. Electricity, yes; wi-fi and cable, no. Even air-conditioning is managed naturally with continuously flowing, icy spring water flushing through the shallow channels that edge every room before emptying into refreshing plunge pools. Delicious, beautifully presented meals are harvested from the on-site garden.

Best of all, in the popular safari destination of Kenya, you won’t run into other Jeeps full of tourists on a game drive here—this is the only lodge for 6,000 sq. miles. This region, edging the Tanzanian border, is also home to Kenya’s most glamorous Maasai. Partners in the lodge, local tribes people make up its staff—waiters and porters to housekeepers, chefs and guides, taking you not just on game drives and nature walks, but also into their villages and homes. A far more authentic experience than you’ll find elsewhere in Kenya: you feel like a lucky guest, not a tourist.

David Bailey, who shot it for Vogue, is listed among the brochure’s photo credits—and, yes, cool posh comes at a price. Rates, inclusive of excursions, meals and alcohol, run $670 for a bungalow to $1200+ for a villa equipped with personal butler and infinity pool. But that’s all inclusive and most high end lodges are about $500, for the extra couple of hundred a night, the experience here is definitely worth it.

GETTING THERE: Fly to Nairobi, then an hour’s private charter to the lodge.

WHEN TO GO: Winter is cooler than summer.

RATES: $670 - $1200+++