Tribe: Our full report
On the outskirts of Nairobi’s northern Gigiri suburb – location of several embassies, the UN complex and ...... the big Village Market mall – the large, design-heavy Tribe hotel opened at the end of 2008, positioning itself as Nairobi’s chic new place to stay and espousing a modern, inclusive, fun-loving ethos embodied in its slogan: ‘one planet, one tribe’. They host frequent sponsored poolside events that attract crowds ranging from youthful party-goers to Nairobi’s glitterati.
Deliberately eschewing straight lines and architectural conventions, Tribe is a succession of surprises, starting at the modest entrance from the car park to reception, which merely disguises the lofty atrium beyond. Here, many examples of African art and cultural ephemera are displayed on the stone-clad walls and across the expansive wooden, stone and carpeted floors, scattered with alluring furniture and what-am-I? lighting installations. And it’s all accompanied by well-selected somewhat ambient music that’s the opposite of muzak – a constantly refreshed playlist of more than 200 soul, R&B, house and trance tracks.
The revelations continue as you explore the central areas of the hotel (and wandering around, as every guest does, is a bit like visiting prehistoric caves in France, or a rather well-preserved medieval castle). Tribe’s spaces are alternately dark, narrow and cloaked with heavy drapes, as in some of the room corridors, or bright and angular, as on the pool terrace, where stepping stones encourage you to try out adventurous routes from your room to the restaurant, risking an unintended dip.
Many of Tribe’s 137 rooms have windows facing out across the landscaped pool, which cascades in waterfalls to the level of the lower rooms on the north side of the building. Others on the north side face onto the Karura Forest at the back of the hotel. Although some of the standard (dubbed ‘superior’) rooms are relatively small, they are super-comfortable, with orthopaedic mattresses, high-thread-count sheets, flat-screen DSTV, good air conditioning and glass-walled bathrooms, with rain showers and most of them with free-standing bathtubs. That said, the glass-walled bathrooms, while very funky, will not suit everyone. In particular the almost complete absence of even the option of privacy is not ideal.
As well as 103 ‘superior’ rooms, Tribe boasts 19 ‘deluxe’ rooms, five junior suites and loft business suites, and then the seven, stratospherically priced VIP suites – ‘Ambassadorial’, ‘Penthouse’ and ‘Presidential’. Calling Tribe a ‘luxury boutique’ hotel – their description – seems accurate in part: it is very luxurious, but it's just too big and incoherent to justify the label ‘boutique’.
Tribe has a relatively small plot, so there are no gardens as such, but it has a small gym; the luxurious Kaya spa treatment centre; a nicely equipped audio-visual Chillout Room now renamed the Sound Room (possibly in case anyone tries to get too chilled in there?), where you can listen to music or watch DVDs in great comfort; and the heated swimming pool/water feature/sun terrace that dominates the outdoor areas of the hotel.
On the food and drink front, we thought Tribe’s food, while fine, did not leave quite the knock-out gastronomic experience they were hoping for, and the Jiko Restaurant struck us as somewhat cramped for such a large hotel. You can also eat by the pool, or even on a ‘floating’ island over it. Nest (the open-air, rooftop shisha and cocktail bar) has a light meals menu. It’s a popular venue, with relaxing sofas, cushioned benches and armchairs, and like the pool area sometimes gets very lively, especially at weekends. Guests in the upstairs room beware.
As for Tribe’s reputation for late-night partying, if we had been shy retiring types, the 1.00am, Heineken-sponsored, red-carpet, UEFA football cup photo-opportunity over the pool, with accompanying pounding beats, that was happening during our stay, would not have been our idea of a restful night – although it clearly had massive appeal for the hundreds of glammed-up young Nairobians queueing to have their pictures taken with the soccer trophy.
Most guests at Tribe will be passing though Nairobi briefly, and considerations about airport transfers are likely to loom larger than the various activities you could do while based here. Within a minute’s walk of reception, through a gated parking area, you reach Village Market, one of East Africa’s biggest and flashiest malls and entertainment centres. There’s a variety of good restaurants and shops here, plus a cinema and a waterpark with slides. One of Nairobi’s ‘Maasai markets’ is held here on Fridays from around 8.00am to 3.00pm – a souvenir and craft mart with several dozens stalls where prices tend to be more realistic (after a little haggling) than at similar emporia in the national park districts around the country.
A five-minute drive from the hotel towards central Nairobi is the Karura Forest Park, a safe and beautiful woodland area, recently secured with rangers and made accessible with paths and modest entry fees, with dense stands of highland tropical forest, streams and even a waterfall and caves. It’s popular with dog walkers, joggers, cyclists and riders and still has plenty of birds and other smaller wildlife.
There’s no denying Tribe is a lot of fun. The plunging, angular atrium and generous displays of African art are impressive, and the atmosphere upbeat. We thought the food was a 7/10 rather than the 9/10 they clearly think it is, and we do feel that their famous events around the pool could sometimes be an issue for guests who don’t consider themselves late-night, clubbing types. Tribe’s rooms are innovative, the beds very comfortable and the whole ‘package’ stimulating. The hotel is also in a good location if you're planning to depart Nairobi by road to the north-west the next morning.
- Nairobi, Kenya
- Ideal length of stay
- 1 to 3 nights
- 26km from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA), 15km from Wilson Airport. Allow two hours for the transfer.
- Accessible by
Food & drink
- Usual board basis
- Bed & Breakfast
- Food quality
- The cuisine in the main restaurant, Jiko, aims to be eclectic and to use organic produce where possible. We sampled a number of dishes during the course of our stay and found some variation in the standard of what the kitchen was offering and a degree of hesitancy and delay with the service. Overall though, Tribe’s food offering is appetising and wide-ranging and the variety of vegetarian options makes the refreshing assumption that non-vegetarians also like vegetarian dishes. Both à la carte dishes and set menus are available and there’s also a children’s menu.
Breakfast is a big buffet spread, with plenty of choice of cereals, bread and pastries, fruit, yoghurt, cheese, cold meat, sushi and sashimi, and the full choice of cooked offerings. There’s a first-class egg chef who whips up eggs or omelettes of your choice, or waffles or pancakes.
Dinner offerings when we stayed included starters such as a caprese salad (US$8) or red shrimp battuta with asparagus purée and black truffles (US$15), various pastas or risottos (from US$10), Mediterranean-style snapper (US$20), a rib-eye steak (US$20) and cashew-stuffed chicken (US$18). Sides, all around US$3, are extra, and include local staples like black-eyed peas and sukuma wiki (greens).
The lunch menu is a shorter version of what’s available at dinner, plus club sandwiches and burgers (from US$12), soups (US$6) and salads (from US$8). The three-course express lunch menu is US$22.
- Having a heated pool is a plus in 1,700m-altitude Nairobi. There’s a small gym and the luxurious Kaya treatment centre which has a vast range of treatments (e.g. 90-minute custom massage at US$80)
- See ideas for Wellbeing
- Attitude towards children
- Children of all ages are accepted, with under 12s sharing a parents’ room free of charge.
- Property’s age restrictions
- Special activities & services
- Aside from the hotel’s swimming pool, there’s the Village Market shopping mall and entertainment centre next to the hotel, which has a variety of children’s activities, including mini-golf, bowling and a cinema.
- Complimentary baby cots and a roll-away bed for children are provided in all rooms
- Generally recommended for children
- We don’t think Tribe is an ideal choice for families with young children. There’s nowhere for them to kick a ball around or let off steam and its strongest appeal is to style-conscious, upmarket travellers. However, the hotel prides itself on its informality and is very open to hosting children. And the free stays for under-12s and huge discounts for 12–16s are impressive incentives. Older teenagers will enjoy the sponsored poolside events and the Sound Room.
- Under-12s sharing in parents’ room are complimentary. 12–16s are charged a nominal room rate.
- As well as Wi-Fi, in-room phone and cellphone reception, internet and fax services are available in a 24-hour business centre.
- TV & radio
- Satellite TV with local TV stations as well as international ones – e.g. CNN, BBC, Sky News
Health & safety
- Malarial protection recommended
- Medical care
- Tribe has a hotel doctor, and Nairobi hospitals can be reached within 15 minutes in an emergency. A helipad is available.
- Dangerous animals
- Low Risk
- Security measures
- 24-hour security surveillance with lots of security staff on site.
- Fire safety
- Full fire safety procedures are in place.
- Disabled access
- In Place
- Laundry facilities
- Full laundry service, extra charge.
- Each room has a digital safe, large enough to hold a laptop.
- Accepted payment on location
- Visa, MasterCard and American Express credit cards are accepted. Cash payments may be made in Kenyan shillings, US dollars, British pounds and euros.
Other lodges in Nairobi
Alternative places to stay in this same area.