By Jeremy Peters
It’s been 20 years since I last stepped foot on Kenyan soil, and that’s too long! I’ve been to other places in Africa, but East Africa holds a special place in my heart.
The Safari Collection has four wonderful properties in Kenya, and I had the hardship of spending some time at each of them to take some snaps and video footage.
Now, back on British soil, it’s a small miracle I did not return the size of my pregnant girlfriend such was the quality and quantity of cuisine served throughout my stay – from bush breakfasts in the Game Reserves to elegantly served Chocolate Mousse in Giraffe Manor where one eats one’s mousse with an artfully crafted milk chocolate spoon (mine never quite got to the end of the job!) – the food is top notch.
Without wanting to brag too much, apparently I lost some pounds during my 5 week stint in some of East Africa’s finest dwellings! How so I hear you ask? Well, there is never a dull moment at any of the properties. All offer beautiful vistas with facilities for sun-worshipping and idle game watching with a crisp Sauvignon Blanc in hand, but the wide range of activities is too compelling to turn down.
Giraffe Manor is situated in the Nairobi suburb of Karen, where Rothschild’s Giraffe roam the grounds (another critically endangered species) poking their beautiful heads through the windows in the morning to be fed.
It’s a surreal experience. One morning, waking up in London with a hangover, the next waking up with Giraffe at the window – what better way to immerse yourself into an African adventure. This is what most safari goers tend to do – a morning or two feeding the Rothschild Giraffe and some fine red in the evening to get rid of travel cobwebs before heading out to the further flung lodges for serious adventures.
My next stop was Solio Lodge, located within a private game reserve on the edge of Laikipia. On a fine morning, the Mount Kenya’s summit can be seen in the distance. This is no ordinary game reserve – this has the biggest concentration of Rhino than any other reserve in Africa. With some 240 Rhino in total (split roughly 170 white & 70 black), you can’t help but see Rhino aplenty.
You will even be able to identify Black from White Rhino. It took me a few outings and some mocking laughter from Olly, my guide, but I got there…. I think!
Solio is the newest of The Safari Collections lodges, with big open fireplaces as standard in all the rooms and floor to ceiling glass affording guests to lie in bed, watch the sunrise and compete to see what game wanders on by 50 yards away. Horse-riding, cycling, massages, day trips to the Aberdare Mountains are all on offer for those who tire of Rhino, Buffalo, Lion, Leopard, Cheetah etc – you get the gist! The only thing you won’t see at Solio is elephant and frankly, don’t be greedy – this is where you marvel at rhino and share tales huddled round one of the lodges many fires in the evening – plenty of elephants to come!
You wanted Elephants did I hear you say?! Sasaab, located in Samburu, has elephants that are incredibly relaxed, and this allows for some fairly up close and personal encounters. Samburu is hot and arid, but with the lodge perched masterfully atop of a river bank the views are remarkable and during my stay there was always a welcome breeze to regulate the body temperature!
Each room has a private plunge pool if you feel the need to take the body temperature down a few degrees (water’s fresh!) but there’s a main pool with amazing views if you are up for something a little more temperate.
I challenge someone to get bored here, activities include: visiting a traditional Samburu village; visit the local school; travel by camel to Sundowner Rock and watch the sun set quaintly sipping a G&T or more manly slurping back a Tusker beer – we won’t judge!; visit a local market (not compulsory to buy a goat as yours truly did!); watch and participate in a Samburu Warrior Dance; Spa; Pool; oh and by the way there is a reserve 30 minutes down the road where you can see Grevy Zebra, Leopard, Lion, Cheetah, Gerenuk etc and yes lots of Elephants.
You don’t necessarily need to go far to see wildlife – I saw Leopard lit by the rising morning sun at the roadside as we left the lodge. Another day I found myself running as fast as my weary body could take me through the shallow river, laughing loudly as one unmentioned owner was a few step behind and not too far behind him was a rather annoyed but splendid Bull Samburu Elephant. Bloomin wind had changed, thus giving away our position photographing this chap who had crossed the river and was paying Room 8 and 9 a visit.
Get your Spa and Pool time in at Sasaab as you ain’t gonna have time in the Mara, as it’s known to it’s friends – Masai Mara for the newcomers! You’ve arrived at Sala’s Camp, located in the South of the Mara and overlooking the border with Tanzania and the Serengeti. This is serious game country and you are in the best location in Kenya to witness Wildebeest and Zebra do their migration thing! Seriously, the only thing that separates the migrating masses from Sala’s Camp is Sand River where this time of year you will see crossings almost daily.
Sala’s is named after one of the owner’s eldest daughter’s which in itself is heartwarming, but spend 4 days in one of the best places to view game in the world and you will have enough heartwarming encounters to last you until next year’s African adventure! Sala’s is transitioning from luxury traditional tented camp accommodation to even more upmarket rooms with plunge pools but either way you will still find a hot water bottle greeting your arrival to your bed at night.
Despite spending 5 weeks in Kenya, there is plenty to return for—plenty I did not see and experience. A dawn Hot Air Ballooning in the Mara for one navigate to this site.
But the beautiful thing about safari trips, at least for me, is that I don’t get bored of seeing Leopard, Lion, Elephants, Impala, Kudu, Giraffe etc… and the amazing colourful birdlife which frankly is all too intimidating by it’s abundance. Each sighting has it’s own uniqueness, it’s own lighting and theatre with different characters.
To those concerned about security, I made the mistake one gorgeous Mara-morning of checking the BBC News and learned of bloodshed in Tunisia, France and other places in the world and thought there was no safer and no better place to be than where I was standing.
Get your passports out—there’s a migration to see!