Paul, our Head of Safari Design, has recently returned from a luxury Kenya safari holiday; his first trip post-pandemic. He touched down in Nairobi and explored what’s new in the city, ventured into the wilds of much-missed Masai Mara and Borana Conservancy, before setting foot on the shimmering Indian Ocean coastline for the promise of barefoot luxury at its best.
Paul travelled in style and stayed in the very best lodges along the way, including Angama Mara, Lengishu and Alfajiri Villas.
Africa is waiting for you
With international travel reopening, but the world still adjusting to a new normal, we're getting lots of questions about the feasibility of a luxury safari. Having just returned from an incredible ten day safari in Kenya, I can say with complete confidence that Africa is ready and waiting to welcome you.
Fortunately, whilst there is a bit of additional admin to complete before entering the country (we will make this as easy as possible for you), it is relatively simple and without doubt worth it once you touch down on Kenyan soils.
Post pandemic Kenya
But what of Kenya post-pandemic? Due to the nature of the many remote safari lodges, there remains a blissful calmness that comes with any safari holiday; there is something rejuvenating about being so close to nature.
Of course our partners are taking covid precautions; staff are vaccinated and wearing masks, rooms are exceptionally clean and hand sanitizer is available throughout - but thankfully none of this detracts from the magic of Kenya. In that respect, all is as it always has been, perhaps just more fist bumping than hand shaking.
Hemingways Nairobi provided the perfect bolthole for relaxation and recuperation after our flight. It’s set in a particularly tranquil part of the city with vast suites overlooking lush undulating gardens; the perfect tonic for weary travellers, serving excellent food no matter what time of night - my midnight spaghetti bolognese went down especially well!
We took a stroll through the giraffe sanctuary forest and found ourselves at the newly-opened ‘Eden Nairobi’. The property is owned by a renowned fashion designer and is a celebration of her late husband’s art collection. We whiled away the afternoon on the deck overlooking the property’s lake and couldn’t help but feel utterly at ease here; it is a rather luxurious home from home and potentially the perfect place to spend a few hours if awaiting an international flight in the evening.
The wilds of the Masai Mara
After a short, but sweet, stay in Nairobi, it was time for some adventure. The familiar flight across to the Masai Mara was as intoxicating as ever and I was excited to reach Angama Mara, our home for the next three days.
We spent three blissful nights at the lodge and I could have easily stayed for longer. From the moment you arrive, you are drawn to the incredible view of the plains, which can be enjoyed from your tented suite, the expansive main area decking, the infinity pool or even the gym (if you so desire!). Wildlife is so abundant at all times of day in this quiet part of the Mara Triangle that there’s no need to set off for your safari under the chilly cover of darkness if you don’t want to, rather we enjoyed our breakfast on the deck and headed out when ready.
It’s possible to experience the wildlife from the comfort of the safari vehicle, from a hot air balloon, or to head along the edge of the escarpment by foot for a guided walk with a Maasai naturalist in search of some of the rare birds in the forest areas. All offer a totally different, though equally exciting, take on a safari.
You can even borrow their professional camera equipment and then spend time in their dedicated photography studio after game-viewing activities, with one of their experts editing your shots. I can say from personal experience that they can make even the most novice photographer look surprisingly skilled.
You could have a different dining experience every mealtime at Angama Mara. For me, whilst the food is locally sourced and incredible, it’s the view that makes the meal memorable. Whether it’s sundowners at the ‘Out of Africa’ rock, a private meal around the boma, a lantern-lit BBQ or a handpicked-meal in their Shamba Garden, all are centred around the wildlife-filled view in daylight or evoke a sense of wonder and magic when dark, undeniably elevating the dining experience.
Safari at your pace
Next we travelled to Lengishu, a stylish private bush home set within the fiercely protected Borana Conservancy - a rhino stronghold in Laikipia. This exquisite lodge is perfect for families or groups travelling together in need of privacy and style. Lazy afternoons and sumptuous lunches at the pool villa punctuate exclusive safari experiences and cozy evenings with fine dining in the main lodge.
The food at Lengishu is supplied by a local farm tucked in a corner of the conservancy and run by the founder’s son Lew Dyer. Fruit, vegetables, livestock and eggs are all produced here using some very clever farming techniques; a real farm to fork experience. Guests also have the luxury to work to their own schedule with no constraints on activities. The highlight for me was riding horseback through the conservancy past rhino and zebra and finding myself surrounded by giraffe on the open plains.
Rhino tracking on foot (not to be missed!), mountain biking, canopy walks and paragliding are also on offer. In addition, there are refreshing rivers and waterfalls to explore. Whether you want to immerse yourself in ice-cold glacial melt water or fish for trout in the high altitude lakes; the possibilities are endless.
For the most intrepid, there are even remarkable helicopter day trips up into Kenya’s northern frontier, the otherworldly Suguta Valley and Lake Turkana your reward.
I was sad to leave Kenya’s wild places behind, but the luxurious villas of Alfajiri were calling. A collection of three villas that hug the coastline on Diani Beach exceeded even my already lofty expectations. Upon arrival I felt an immediate sense of calm; barefoot luxury at it’s best - even the butlers are barefoot! Italian cuisine is a reflection of the owner’s heritage and I enjoyed meals alfresco with the cooling coastal breeze.
All three of the luxury villas are a celebration of Kenyan design and offer privacy with incredible service, yet they are unique in other ways. The Garden Villa lends itself to families, with its rolling lawn that flows from the infinity pool to the beach; the laidback luxury of the Beach Villa is perfect for couples or families with children in tow; whilst the Cliff Villa with its luxurious turret penthouse suite offers 270-degree views of the Indian Ocean, a very special hideaway for couples or groups and families can fill all four rooms.
The final day of my ultimate luxury Kenya trip had arrived and it was one of quiet reflection as I snorkelled amidst a myriad of colourful marine species on the reef. I was fascinated to learn about the turtle conservation initiatives in the area and even found time to relax on the beautiful white sand beach. A sunset meal with a delicious Kenyan Dawa and freshly cooked pizza “appetisers” was a truly idyllic way to end my adventure. It was wonderful to be back and I cannot wait to return once again.