An African affair – A tremendous adventure in Kenya
Have you a hankering to explore Kenya and marvel at the wildlife, see some awesome scenery and meet some fierce looking Maasai warriors? Not sure where and how to start making that happen? Our LuxuryBARED reviewer and Africa devotee, Claire Parsons, knows her way around the place. Here’s what she has to say, fresh from her recent stay there.
“I’m in an ‘Africa state of mind’. Once upon a time, I commented to my friend Roberto, a conservationist by trade, that I always felt like I was ‘at home’ when in Africa. “Ahh,” he said. “That’s because Africa is the perfect antidote to civilisation.” I had to ponder that statement for a moment, but I realised he was telling me that, like so many, I sometimes needed to escape the ordinary and dip into an unpredictable and ‘wild’ rhythm of life.
“So here’s how I recently did just that.
“I began my journey in Nairobi. And although the city has never been synonymous with luxury hotels, Hemingways Nairobi is a great place to recharge for a night or two, flying in or out. Located in the exclusive and affluent suburb of Karen, named after Karen Blixen, the Danish author of the memoir Out of Africa, the hotel is near the Karen Blixen Museum and other city attractions. Surrounded by beautiful gardens with a large pool, outdoor dining venues and views of the Ngong Hills, this boutique property is full of colonial charm and got me ‘in the mood’ for the fantastic safari adventures that lay ahead.
“And if you just can’t wait to mingle with animals, visit the Giraffe Centre; the Nairobi National Park; or the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. The latter looks after orphaned elephants and rhinos; Hemingways Nairobi actively supports this venture as just one of their ongoing concerns.
“I left town on a flight to Keekorok, enjoying fantastic views of the Maasai Mara National Park from the air. I arrived in Cottar’s 1920s Camp, located in the very South-East of the park where the game-viewing started from the moment I touched down. This is one of the best places in the world to see Africa’s finest due to the sheer variety of species including elephants, rhinos, lions, leopards and buffalo. Top tip: fly directly to Cottar’s private airstrip if you can, avoiding Keekorok.
“Staying at Cottar’s 1920s Camp is a journey back in time to a genteel age of travel and the romanticism of the 20s. Every bit of furniture is a throwback: from the tented suites with billowing fabric roofs to the vintage gramophones and photos. I’ve always craved an authentic, golden era style exploration trip, with the little luxuries of the present day to hand, of course. And I got just that.
“Operating safaris since 1919, the Cottar family works in partnership with the Maasai on an exclusive 6000-acre private concession adjoining Maasai Mara National Park. The game in the Mara is prolific, and many trails offer the chance for up-close game viewing, including evening game drives that go off-road on private land for even more scope. The camp is also first in line to witness the annual migration of wildlife from the Serengeti towards the Mara River, as they make their way along the perilous crossing.
“While safari is the main event in Kenya, don’t miss the chance to tie up your whole Africa experience in the fabulous Segera Retreat. The game here is not as prolific as it is in the Maasai Mara, and so this presents the perfect opportunity to begin winding down after all those early morning starts.
“Flying over the bush landscape to Segera’s private airstrip, the lodge looks like an oasis in a seemingly barren landscape (actually a haven for wildlife). Situated on the Laikipia Plateau, the lodge sits between Mount Kenya and the Great Rift Valley. Originally a farm-style homestead, the ranch was purchased by the conservationist and billionaire Jochen Zeitz who, together with his incredible team, has transformed Segera into what it is today. It’s a ‘feel good’ place that speaks to your soul, where you can renew mind and body, check out the ‘big five’ and explore the hotel’s impressive roster of conservation projects.
“All funded by the Zeitz Foundation, efforts include looking after patas monkeys (in danger of extinction) and the running of a super-impressive solar farm which produces the majority of the electricity used on-site, while a water treatment plant churns out drinking water. Community projects have also been set up where local tribeswomen make intricate beadwork to sell, helping to keep their culture alive while earning an income.
“Food, drink and socialising – if you choose to mingle – is a big part of a stay at Segera Retreat. One highlight was trying many of the specially curated African wines in the Wine Tower, paired with gorgeous food created with ingredients from the resort’s garden. I also enjoyed picnic lunches and evening drinks on the roof terrace of the Paddock House while witnessing yet another incredible Kenyan sunset.
“By the time it came for me to leave this glorious land, I was so in love with Kenya that I’ve now vowed to go back one day very soon, taking my family along so we can share these amazing experiences together. Memories like these last a lifetime. As Burchell, the English explorer once aptly said: ‘Nothing but breathing the air of Africa and walking through it can communicate the indescribable sensations.’ ”
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