To the manor born
You could be in the English countryside, complete with a stone manor house, except that a giraffe or two pokes his or her head through the window to share your breakfast with you! Welcome to Giraffe Manor, on the outskirts of Nairobi, where there is a unique juxtaposition of 19th century grace and elegance combined with rustic Africa in the form of a journey of endangered Rothschild’s giraffes.
A great place to rest after your flight and to switch gears into the rhythms of Kenya, Giraffe Manor is a hit with young and old travellers alike, and the perfect spot to explore – time permitting – some of Nairobi’s fascinating highlights, like the Karen Blixen Museum and the Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage.
Into rhino territory
After a blissful night at Giraffe Manor, you board a scheduled flight to the Nanyuki Airstrip in Laikipia, where you are collected for a 45-minute 4×4 transfer to Solio Lodge. This is one of the first private rhino conservancies in Kenya and one of the most successful breeding projects for these critically endangered, gentle animals who are descended from the days of the dinosaurs.
But it is not only the proximity of rhinos that makes Solio Lodge so compelling: it also offers very easy game drives with diverse wildlife and sensational scenery around Mount Kenya. Try your hand at a safari walk, horse riding or mountain biking or get back in the 4×4 for a day trip to Aberdare National Park in the Aberdare mountain range. The Kikuyu people believe that aberdares is one of the homes of Ngai or God. The park’s mountains, waterfalls and streams support an astonishing array of wild- and bird life that includes the black-and-white colobus monkey, golden cats, melanistic serval and bongo, an elusive antelope that lives in the bamboo forest (to protect the bongo populations, Aberdare’s lions have been moved to other national parks, although leopards and wild dogs remain). Over 250 birds have been spotted, including the endangered Aberdare cisticola, Jackson’s francolin and sparry hawks.
Solio Lodge has only six chalets done in a chic, modern style that is still in step with the surrounding landscape. After an enthralling bush breakfast (considered a ‘must-do’ at Solio), wonderful sightings and a convivial dinner, curl up in front of the fireplace in your private sitting area and dream about what tomorrow holds…
Samburu sunsets beckon
Today you charter a flight to award-winning SaSaab Camp, which is located on community land owned by the Samburu tribe. The samburu is a unique area of Kenya and, in addition to colourful cultural encounters with these ancient people, you can also seek out the ‘Samburu Special 5’. These are animals endemic to the region: Grevy’s zebra, the adorable long-necked gerenuk, reticulated giraffe, besia oryx and the Somali ostrich.
SaSaab takes its inspiration from the Arabic traders who used to barter on Kenya’s shores and has a distinctly Moroccan feel to it. The Arabian touches in the décor may inspire you to try a completely different mode of safari transport: how about game viewing astride a camel, led by an experienced Samburu guide? Camel trekking is an exciting way to get in touch with Africa’s sights, sounds and scents – surely one for the bucket list.
There are other tantalising activities on offer at SaSaab: venture deep into Samburu National Park for fly-camping, visit a traditional Samburu manyatta (village), go market shopping, lie back for stargazing, and hone your photography skills on safari walks.
Classic Masai Mara
A Masai Mara safari is synonymous with Kenya and the Great Wildebeest Migration. An astonishing landscape that supports millions of ungulates that graze on its sun-sweetened grasses after the rains, the Mara is virtually compulsory for any serious safari goer. Sala’s camp is a good place to make your base, settled as it is along the Sand River, in a grove of shady trees.
‘Location, location, location’ is the mantra of prime real estate throughout the world and it is no different at Sala’s. Between June and September, this is the place to be to witness the trials, tribulations and triumphs of the Great Migration. Although it is the height of comfort – with fully plumbed bathrooms and Internet connectivity – Sala’s still has the air of ‘classic safari’ about it: expect Meru tents, safari showers and after-dark chats around the campfire.
And don’t overlook Sala’s outside Migration season: those in the know also rate January and February, as well as October, when temperatures are pleasant and the wildlife abundant.
After nine days, you may find it hard to return to ‘civilization’ but, although you may be bidding Kenya fond farewell, you will also be leaving a piece of your heart in this exquisite chunk of Africa…