It’s not every day that you can lay claim to have had a kiss from a giraffe before you’ve had your morning coffee. But, when I arrive at Giraffe Manor, part of The Safari Collection’s group of Kenyan properties, I soon realise that this little nature-inspired interlude is a daily occurrence. A breathtaking 1930s colonial-style, 10-bedroom retreat, the manor operates as a sanctuary for the rare Rothschild Giraffe, so these towering interlopers are all around. Indeed, breakfast becomes something of a ‘free for fall’ with Helen and her gaggle of giraffe friends peering through the dining room window to see what culinary delights are rich pickings– my buttered toast becoming hottest property.
While my days are spent milling around the manor (the loungers on the lawn overlooking the lolloping giraffes are a much-fought over spot), more ‘active’ afternoons take me to the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust where I get to feed (and then adopt) orphaned elephants, and to The Karen Blixen Museum, to feed my Out of Africa fantasies. But one of the highlights is sitting around each night with the manor’s fellow nature-lovers swapping tales about safari adventures past, present and to come. The beauty of this kind of holiday is that it attracts likeminded people, so everyone has an instant ice-breaker.
It’s an amazing way to start a safari vacation, but with promises that Kenya is a country that keeps on giving, it’s time to pack up and ship out.
Just a short flight by private plane (well, when in Africa), I land in the foothills of Mount Kenya, where two of the world’s smiliest men scoop me up into a jeep and whisk me away into the Solio Conservancy. The area is Kenya’s first private conservation area, which basically means that between you, your drivers and the fellow residents at the conservancy’s only guesthouse, Solio Lodge, you’ve pretty much got the park to yourself. Considered to be East Africa’s most successful rhino breeding ground, just the drive from the airport is enough to witness both white and black rhinos just metres from your jeep. When the guides ask if I’d like to ‘get out and have a cup of tea’, I assume they’re joking. But two minutes later and I’m sipping on a nice cup of bush tea, surrounded by, at one count, over 300 animals: rhino, giraffe, zebra, wildebeest... Awe-inspiring to say the least.
My first morning here, I’m awoken by low guttural growlings and I look up see a lone male lion strolling across my lawn – his dawn-lit silhouette both majestic and tantalisingly close, so I decide to stay in bed just to be safe.
Days here continue with early-morning wake-up calls from our personal butler, 6am safaris, long, leisurely lunches, afternoon drives and then a long soak in the tub. There’s no Wi-Fi, so your time is your own to rest, relax and reflect on life without the trappings of a metropolis.
The last stop on my adventure is Sasaab in the heart of the Samburu land. The luxury Moroccan-style lodges sit on the banks of the Ewaso Nyiro river, and my afternoon naps are often cut short by the splashing of elephants taking a drink just metres from room. With a private plunge pool, you have the perfect vantage point to sit and watch in wonder. Here it’s all about elephants and lions and with the lodge’s eagle-eyed safari scouts, you’re ‘almost’ guaranteed a sighting. While you’ll be thankful for the spa to eke out any jeep induced bumps and bruises, memories are the best healer. Holidays don’t get much richer or more life-enhancing than this style of luxury African adventure. Born to be wild.
From Dhs1,710 a night; The Safari Collection