I was travelling out of town a couple of years ago when my room was broken into and my laptop, phone and money were stolen. I wasn’t even far – we were downstairs having a meal when I went to check on my charging phone. After searching for a while it hit me that my phone, my laptop and my money were gone. I raised the alarm but by that time some of the other rooms had been stolen from as well. The thieves got away clean. I felt unsafe and felt like my space had been violated.
This experience has made me so paranoid about my safety in hotels and when I travel. I worry about myself as a person. There have been so many incidences of sexual assault and drugging of women in hotels around the world. I also worry about my property, especially my laptop. When I stay in a hotel I am one of those people who lock the door and also make sure I put a chair or the doorstop there so that nobody can try to open the room without me knowing. I also rarely travel with my laptop and when I do it must be to a hotel that has safes in all the rooms. This was one of the red flags at the hotel I stayed at which is why my things were stolen.
So when I heard about a women’s only wing at Panafric I needed to try it for myself. I was going to be staying in the Wangari Maathai Wing, which is inspired by the 2004 Noble prize winner and eco-feminist. which has 6 rooms dedicated to the needs of women.
We stayed at the hotel overnight. My sister and I were received well by the guest relations officer, Maureen, who gave us our key cards and showed us to the room. The key cards are specific to the floors and you can’t access the women-only floor if you don’t have the key that can access the rooms.
The Wangari Maathai Wing
As more and more women travel both for leisure and work, safety is a concern. Women want to feel safe when they travel in groups or even as solo travellers. The creation of this wing at Sarova Panafric Hotel was inspired by the phenomenal, courageous, resilient, visionary and woman of many firsts, Wangari Maathai.
The six-room wings are all en-suite and cater uniquely for the special needs of women. It caters for female solo travellers on business trips, leisure tourists and women on business delegations.
The rooms have beautiful Wangari Maathai murals, with some of her famous quotes. They capture the essence of her tremendous contribution to the African continent in preserving the environment and her unbowed legacy. They offer exquisite serenity, comfort, peace and convenience quite essential for their travel.
No males are allowed into the rooms (not even cleaners or managers) and a female security guard is stationed outside the wing to ensure the maximum safety of women on this floor. There is 24-hour security so you feel secure.
A key thing is that there is a camera that connects to the door that you can access from a small monitor on the wall so if somebody comes to see you you can decide whether you want to go and open the door.
The rooms have feminine touches. There are feminine products in the bathrooms that women can use including pads and cotton balls.
The room comes with a standard hairdryer but it also comes with a hair curler and straighter.
There is also a weighing scale in every room so that women can check their weight. The bathrobes are also luxurious so you feel like you have truly come to relax.
On the main table, there is Wangari Maathai’s book Unbowed and Michelle Obama’s autobiography Becoming as well as a coffee book one can read while in the room and one can also buy.
We got a complimentary fruit basket plus some white and dark chocolate pieces. The handbag made out of white chocolate was a delicious and welcome surprise.
The rooms are comfortable and there are several beautiful paintings with Quotes by Wangari Mathai. The rooms have soundproof glass so you can’t hear what is going on outside. The room comes with a safe where you can charge your phone or device as you keep them there for safety. Coffee-making facilities are available and water is also available. Each hotel room has a minibar and snack bar (those are charged). There is an ironing board and iron in every room.
We went down to the Flame Tree Restaurant where we were warmly welcomed. There was a live band playing (not sure if that is an everyday thing or a Friday thing). As we were waiting to order we got some yummy bread rolls with butter.
We split the mains and desserts.
We ordered the Tusker Battered Fish fillet which is Flame Tree’s version of an English-style fish recipe. This was a fantastic meal which came with fries. A meal so good came with sauces and that was so delicious and filling. A perfect meal. I would recommend this anytime.
We also had the seared apple honey pork chops with white wine reduction, sesame broccoli and sauteed potatoes. It also came with its gravy. The pork chops were soft on the outside but a little tough on the inside. While it was a good meal we felt like it could do with some improvement.
For dessert, we had the Tiramisu and cheesecake which were both excellent options.
Their orange juice was delicious.
I have to say that the mains are so filling that we were struggling to finish desserts but we were meeting some friends to go out clubbing for a bit so we ate them in a hurry but I could do a do-over.
I have to say that service at the Flame Tree Restaurant has vastly improved from the last time we went there years ago. The service was great at that time but this time the service felt more personal. This was for both meals we had, dinner and breakfast.
One of the reasons Sarova Panafric is so convenient is its location. It is near enough to town that you can go into town for meetings or have people come to meet you there. It is also not far from the airport and it is also in a great location where you can move around easily to any destination you may be going to for business or leisure.
Later we went back to the room and had a good night’s sleep. The bed is comfortable and we could not hear the noise outside.
The Flame Tree Restaurant has an extensive breakfast buffet from cold foods to hot foods, baked goods to everything else in between. There were options for everyone. Our favourite thing that we ate was the kidney that was done so well.
The hotel has other facilities that are open to all guests. There is a fully equipped gym for those who like to work out (the machines were so many I wanted to become one of those people who just gym it but alas).
There is also a swimming pool and spa facilities (the spa is under construction).
There is also a sauna and steam which of course I had to try. So relaxing with water available for hydration, some soothing piping music and lounge chairs that one could sit in between sessions. I found the greenery of the room to be very restful and I have to say I enjoyed my session there.
The only thing I would say needed to be added is towels for plus-sized people. As Africans, many of us are plus-sized and that towel was too small for me.
Overall it was a fantastic experience that I would recommend to women. If you are looking for a place for a staycation or a layover or a central hotel near the CBD then Sarova Panafric Wangari Maathai Women’s Wing is for you.
Did I feel safe? Absolutely. So much that I was able to leave my room sometimes with my laptop not in the safe because I knew nobody would enter my room and make away with my valuables. Of course force of habit made me leave my stuff in the safe most of the time.
Why women-only rooms?
When I mentioned that I stayed in a women’s only wing some men were up in arms over why women needed to have their wing. Well, it is for different reasons including comfort, and security and also because women need to have dignified experiences.
Physical safety. Women travelling need to be assured of their security and safety while travelling. Women on solo trips or young girls particularly could be possible targets of harm. Therefore, a women’s only wing could make them feel safer since it is so easy for women to communicate, form friendships, look out for each other and sense danger. Sometimes teenage or preteens girls have to travel on their own and it helps to know that there is somewhere where they will be taken care of and parents will know that their girls are safe.
Variety of choices. The provisions of women-only rooms give women the opportunity to make choices that suit them.
Response to unique feminine needs. Women have different needs. The best possible way to accommodate, and address these intersectionalities is the creation of women-only rooms. They can be designed to effectively suit the needs of a woman living with a disability, an LBQT woman or the career needs of a woman or teenager.
Psychological safety. There continue to be horrific stories of violence meted out against women during travel. Both women on group trips or solo vacations would want to feel safe when they travel. Also, women who have survived such traumatic experiences especially if perpetrated by men would prefer women-only rooms for safety. Women need to be mentally secure when on travel and it is quite essential that they get this kind of hospitality.
Cultural and religious reasons. Some women are not allowed to be in the same space as men who are not members of their families. When they travel, women-only hotel spaces allow women to be able to travel knowing they are not breaking any cultural or religious taboos. It also allows such women to have the freedom to move around such a space freely.
Women leaders with female-only entourages. Also, a lot of women leaders travel with female-only entourages and having a female-only wing allows them to be able to control who gets in and out of these wings.
I also got taken around to some of the other rooms.
Rooms for people living with disabilities
Sarova Panafric hotel has embraced diversity beyond African traditions and promoted inclusivity by creating rooms that can conveniently accommodate persons living with disabilities.
They are uniquely designed such that;
Emergency cord in the bathroom and bedroom in case a client needs help
A seat to use while in the shower
A connecting room, in case they are travelling with somebody else
Beds, tables, coffee facilities, wardrobes, toiletries, and sinks are lower than in the standard rooms and therefore easily accessible by someone in a wheelchair.
Ironing is done for free as a complementary service.
These rooms have been designed to celebrate a series of African tribes. Through a collection of artworks, these rooms pay homage to the civilization of African states. Some of its amenities include; a smart TV, accessible sockets, an intercom system, fire doors, bathtubs and an electric safe.
They have beautiful views of the pool with the option of opening up to the adjacent twin rooms.
They have a large terrace with amenities such as; bathtubs, access to a private lounge, a smart TV, and iron and board easily accessible sockets.
Panafric executive suite
These rooms are furnished with king-size beds, with breathtaking African decor. They can also be interconnected to cater for an entire family on a gateway.
They have amazing amenities; mini-fridges, fire doors, smart TVs, electric safes and self-closure doors.