The Sankara is one of Nairobi's most stylish and comfortable hotels.
Sankara: Our full report
Opened in 2010 in the busy central Nairobi suburb of Westlands, the 156-room Sankara is aimed largely at the business-traveller market. It stands on a modest-sized plot that was formerly part of the grounds of the neighbouring Jacaranda Hotel.
The Sankara is on a quiet lane still partly overhung by big old trees, yet is barely 100m from one of Nairobi’s busiest roundabouts, just off the arterial Uhuru Highway/Wayaki Way that runs through the city connecting the Mombasa road to the Uganda road. Despite this proximity, once inside the lobby you’re not aware of the traffic.
The front of the Sankara Hotel has a vehicle security lane, with a pop-up barrier, and all guests and staff (and their bags) go through airport-style security to reach the lobby.
The most ‘central’ part of the hotel is the first floor, where the
Artisan restaurant and the open-kitchen fusion/curry/noodle bar Muhibbah are located, along with a very nice crafts gallery, the Sankara Boutique, with some well-chosen pieces sourced from local communities. The Artisan restaurant has an open-air terrace along the back of the hotel, overlooking the Jacaranda’s garden. The restaurant’s tables lie along the front side of the hotel, overlooking Westlands from behind well-soundproofed glass, as does a wine bar and patisserie/deli/sandwich shop, The Gallery. As well as a French pastry chef, The Gallery has probably the best wine selection in Nairobi –displayed in impressive, temperature-controlled glass cabinets. Higher up, are the open-air, rooftop Sarabi Pool and Supper Club, by the swimming pool, where you can curl up with a shisha pipe, have a plate of tapas or just sink a cold Tusker, and the opulent Champagne Bar which has menus on iPads, complete with a selection of vintage bubbly, champagne cocktails and malt whiskies.
Most of the Sankara’s rooms are ranged around the central atrium of the hotel, which floods daylight on to the gallery-walkways connecting the rooms to the lifts. Standard (32m², dubbed ‘Superior’) and Deluxe (34m²) rooms are ranged across floors 2 to 6, with guests paying a more expensive ‘Club’ rate giving access to the seventh-floor club lounge, usually given rooms on the sixth floor.
The rooms are the most comfortable, well designed and well lit that we’ve come across in central Nairobi, discreetly decorated with African artworks, with sumptuous beds and high-thread-count sheets, very good bathrooms with walk-in showers and bathtubs, flat-screen satellite TVs with all the channels you need, and well-planned work desks with a choice of free wired internet or reasonably fast free WiFi. The air conditioning worked well as did the large, digital room safes. Our only quibble is with the unnecessary blue lights indicating working power points, some of which have to be covered if you want to avoid night-time bedazzlement.
A note about the bathrooms: the Superior rooms have glass fronted bathrooms, making them very voguish for couples, but rather unsuitable for less well acquained work mates, while the Deluxe rooms have non-glass fronted bathrooms.
On the sixth floor is the first Angsana Spa in East Africa. Rain-mist rooms (the only ones in Kenya), treatment and therapy rooms, chill-out areas and highly trained staff make an hour or two here supremely relaxing.
The rooftop swimming pool is long enough for laps, and you can give yourself a little shiver by swimming over the glass-bottomed end that juts out over the street seven floors below. If you want, you can also work off some calories in the well-equipped gym, looking out across Westlands’ rooftops and jacaranda trees.
A location close to the city centre isn’t what most people want from a stay in Nairobi. But if you’re into doing some central visits and exploring what makes Nairobi tick, then the Sankara stands out as a very stylish, comfortable option. Excursions from the Sankara include the worthwhile National Museum and a scattering of attractions in the central business district, from the National Archives to the viewing deck of the Kenyatta International Conference Centre, all within 3–4km and reachable in anything from 15 to 60 minutes depending on traffic. Nearby malls include the Sarit Centre (a two-minute walk) and the modern Westgate (10 minutes’ walk or 5–30 minutes driving). Guest relations will happily organise visits to anywhere in the city, using the Sankara’s own limo service. The main Uhuru Highway into the central business district (or ‘town’) can be gridlocked for hours, but traffic along back streets through Westlands and Parklands usually keeps moving.
Our viewWith 156 rooms the Sankara is not small, yet it has the vibe of a boutique hotel, largely down to the slick professionalism of the staff and management who make it run like a well-oiled machine and are proud of the fact. We love the well-thought-out rooms and the calm efficiency that seems to pervade the whole hotel. We thought the food was a bit variable – never less than OK, and sometimes sublime – but a visit to the popular rooftop Sarabi bar and pool for a moment’s reflection over the Nairobi night skyline was a wonderful way to finish the day.
Ideal length of stay: 1 to 2 nights
Directions: Allow 1 to 1½ hours to/from Wilson and 1 to 2½ hours to/from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA), depending on the time of day.
Owner: Grenadier owns Westlands Hotels which owns Sankara.
Food & drink
Usual board basis: B&B
Food quality: Although the Sankara’s food can be inconsistent, when they get it right, and provide service to match, it’s exceptionally good.
Breakfast is available 6.30am–10.30am.
Artisan open all day until 11.00pm
The Gallery 6.00am–1.00am
Champagne bar 6.00pm–1.00am
Dining style: Individual Tables
Dining locations: Indoor Dining
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: £20-25
Drinks included: No.
Wellbeing: The Sankara has the first Angsana Spa in East Africa and offers the first rain-mist rooms in Kenya, therapy and treatment rooms using natural ingredients, plenty of chill-out and contemplation areas and highly trained staff. It’s open daily from 8.00am to 9.00pm.See more ideas for Wellbeing in Kenya
Attitude towards children: Children are accepted without age restrictions.
Property’s age restrictions: None
Special activities & services: The hotel has no staff for babysitting or childminding in rooms, but would source suitable professionals if requested, subject to signature of a disclaimer.
Equipment: Everything – as you would expect in any top, city hotel.
Generally recommended for children: Yes, fine, though we don’t recall having seen any children during our stays. This is not a family hotel, but staff handle all guests with equal professionalism.
Notes: Children may use the rooftop pool, but only with parental supervision. There is a lifeguard on duty and waiting staff from the Sarabi bar are all being trained in CPR and lifeguarding.
Power supply: Mains Electricity
Communications: Room telephones with IDD, free WiFi, Ethernet sockets
TV & radio: In-room flatscreen TVs with a reasonable range of satellite channels & DVD player.
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: There’s a fully qualified in-house nurse, and a doctor on call (ten minutes’ drive away). The MP Shah, Aga Khan and other hospitals are all within a ten-minute drive.
Dangerous animals: Low Risk
Security measures: Very tight lobby security, with all guests having to pass the security search. Inside, security staff are based on the inward-facing landings on alternate floors. Keycards allow access to lifts and room floors.
Fire safety: Every room has smoke detectors and sprinklers (tested weekly), plus a warning system with speakers and lights. Fire hoses are positioned on every floor and are checked daily. We’re told that fire drills take place on a quarterly basis, and the entire security team and 80% of staff are trained in fire safety and response.
Disabled access: In Place
Laundry facilities: Full Laundry Service - Extra Charge
Money: In-room digital safes. 24-hour currency exchange is available (for buying Kenyan shillings only).
Accepted payment on location: Cash payments may be made in US dollars, euros, pounds sterling or Kenyan shillings. Visa, MasterCard & Amex credit cards are accepted with no surcharge. Travellers’ cheques are also accepted.