I'm incredibly fortunate to have travelled extensively across Africa, and around the globe, but elusive Kenya was still sitting on the top of my ‘Must visit list. When an invitation from The Safari Collection and &Beyond to stay at some of the most unique properties and fabulous locations that Kenya has to offer of, I didn't have to be asked twice.
My trip started with a stay at one of the worlds most unique, indeed iconic, hotels - Giraffe Manor, just outside Nairobi. This special place is just the holy grail for giraffe lovers (and if you weren't one before your stay, its guaranteed that you will absolutely be won over by these amazing animals).
On our first day at the Manor we were treated to afternoon tea and then the most unique breakfast you can imagine – both meals involved an up close and personal encounter with these majestic creatures. I will admit that there was very little tea drunk in the afternoon or toast eaten at breakfast as the Rothschild Giraffes totally steal the show. Bowls of special ‘giraffe treats scattered about the Manor to encourage intimate interactions. They eagerly hoover them from your hands or if you are feeling a bold enough you can place one in your mouth and experience a giraffe kiss as they lick it away. A truly unforgettable moment that thankfully I've recorded on camera to relive in years to come.
Next stop was Solio Lodge, Laikipia, another property in the Safari Collection portfolio and this was probably the lodge I was most looking forward to visiting. The Mahlatini team are acutely aware of my passion for rhinos and Solio Lodge certainly indulged my obsession.
The lodge is located in a private wildlife sanctuary, Solio Reserve. The area is fenced to protect against rhino poaching, which persists as a massive threat to one of our planets most endangered species. My heart hurts at the senseless poaching and destruction of this magnificent animal. After a visit to Solio, my heart was literally singing with joy to see so many wild rhinos happily roaming in one place.
Solio offers huge diversity of wildlife viewing with lots of plains game, large buffalo herds, not to mention a pride of over 20 lions. On one evening game drive we were lucky enough to come across these lions grouped together, planning a hunt as they quietly watched the unsuspecting buffalo stroll by...
Not only does Kenya offer its visitors incredible wildlife experiences it also has some of the most beautiful scenery in Africa and our next stop in the Samburu Region illustrated this perfectly. Only a short 30-minute light aircraft flight from Solio; yet it felt we had moved to a different continent. At Solio, the Aberdare Mountain Range and Mount Kenya are a magnificent backdrop to the grassy plains and fever trees of the reserve but in just a short flight the scenery is dramatically altered, and I was now mesmerised by the peaks of Mount Kenya set against a rocky, barren landscape. We were fortunate to arrive after some much-needed rains and the desert landscape was now sprinkled with life-giving patches of green vegetation.
Our base here in the Samburu Region was Sasaab Lodge. Moroccan-inspired, with magnificent views, Sasaab is perched on the slopes of a river bank and offers a most unique setting. The rooms are completely open plan, so you can drink in the amazing views from every corner; even the bathrooms boasted ‘a loo with a view. The river below the lodge was full after the rains and the sound of the water flowing was fabulously relaxing as I relaxed by my private plunge pool in the sun.
The final leg of my journey was of course a stay in the Maasai Mara - no trip to Kenya would be complete without a visit to the home of safari.
&Beyond Bateleur Camp was my home for my two-day stay in the Mara. It has recently re-opened after an extensive renovation and it certainly does not disappoint. It transports you to a bygone era of safari, with its opulent furnishings, ornate crystal, fine china and exquisite antiques. My only wish was that my wardrobe reflected the magnificence of the venue!
At Bateleur, I had the privilege of meeting one of Kenya's very rare creatures - a female safari guide. Charity is such an inspiration as it is not an easy path for a woman to train as a safari guide in Africa and having her as our guide during the stay made it that little more special and memorable.