By Lilian Maingi-Barasa
Street News Service
Thank you for such a wonderful 24 hours! Sadly no fish to be found but we had great fun trying. I love the warm fires and candle lights -- so romantic! Hope to be back again soon."
Kate Middleton signed the visitor's book and thus the story opens: 140 miles north of Nairobi, the Kenyan capital, stand the Rutundu cabins. They are owned by the Craig Family, who also own and manage The Lewa Wildlife Conservancy. It is in these cabins that Prince William proposed to Middleton, his long-term girlfriend.
The Lewa Conservancy is famous for its passion to protect the Black Rhino and the annual marathon that aims to raise funds to support the many other projects at the conservancy. Until the royal engagement place took place, the Rutundu cabins, which are located on the rim of Lake Rutundu overlooking the north eastern face of Mount Kenya, were unknown to outsiders. At 10,200 feet above sea level, both the vegetation and wildlife are distinct.
The two cabins are set off the beaten track on the northern slopes in an area of pure wilderness and breathtaking beauty. A 4x4 vehicle is needed to access the place and that does not take you right into the cabins. The upward drive takes around one and half hours after which the patchy road ends opening one to Kizita Gorge. At this point it is a challenging fifteen minute walk through the gorge to the splendor of the cabins. The cabin staff are available at the gorge mouth to carry any luggage. One can also fly to Rutundu and the landing site is only 100 meters from the cabins.
The log cabins are exclusively private, accommodating only four people comfortably. It is rumored that while the royal couple was at the cabins, no other visitors were booked in. However, there are four extra beds at the cabins if guests are willing to share rooms. The cabins have been built along the principles of Alaskan log cabin using large cedar logs found in the forests around the mountain.
It is perhaps the raw romantic allure of the Rutundu cabins that led the prince and his princess to the base of Mount Kenya. Rutundu has no electricity is lit using lamps and candles. The cabins have open log fire places and the larger one has a bedroom, a sitting room with dining area veranda and kitchen. The smaller cabin has a bedroom, a bathroom and a veranda. Guests are encouraged to cater for themselves although there is a kitchen assistant who is not a chef.
While some believe that the proposal took place at the veranda of the main cabin, others say it happened while trying to catch fish. Maybe the royal couple will one day tell the world where exactly at Rutundu the royal ring met Kate's finger. It could be during the nature walk, while fishing at Lake Alice, maybe while bird watching or on horseback -- the main activities around the log cabins.
For now, the world's imagination has to run wild, though everyone agrees the experience must have been magical, personal, private and very romantic. Just like the Rutundu Log cabins.
The Big Issue Kenya Editor spoke to Elodie Sampere, head of Conservation Marketing at the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy:
How often does Prince William Visit the Conservancy?
This is very unclear to all of us because his visits are private. He spent part of his gap year on Lewa, and did some volunteer work there. He is friends with the Craig family and must come back frequently. He has been back there at least 3 times since his gap year.
Do you know the exact place where the engagement took place?
Again, there is no final confirmation, but supposedly it happened on Rutundu, which is a log cabin at the base of Mt. Kenya.
Was The Lewa Conservancy staff aware of this occasion and were any preparations made or it took everybody by surprise?
We had no idea.
Obviously The Conservancy has gained global recognition by this simple romantic act. Are you anticipating for such events from other celebrities?
Not right now. If we do, we would try and keep it as private as possible.
When is the best time of the year to visit Lewa conservancy?
Just avoid the rainy seasons which are from March to April and October to November. The rest of the year it is wonderful up here.
Originally published by the Street News Service.