Where can I eat breakfast with a Giraffe?
Funny you should ask.... This time last week I sat down to breakfast with a giraffe, Helen to be precise. Being slightly ‘bigger boned’ than me she only just managed to get her head and neck through the window and her table manners left a lot to be desired but despite this she was hands down my favourite breakfast companion. Ever. (David Gandy included). It might sound like the stuff of fairytales (and no, I hadn’t been on the sauce), but that’s because Kenya (where the aforementioned breakfast took place) feels like a truly magical place. I’d been to South and North Africa previously – both beautiful in different ways but Kenya does seem to have that elusive ‘quality’ that you can’t quite put your finger on and it was something that hit me the minute I stepped off the plane. (Can you tell I’m rather smitten?)
Magic aside, Kenya has suffered somewhat of a bad rep recently but follow these golden rules of travelling and it'll set you in good stead wherever in the world you go. 1) Do your homework - a quick search on the government's travel advice website will tell you how safe the area you're travelling to is. 2) Unless you particulalry like living life on the edge choose a reputable company to stay in/travel with (we booked our four day trip through The Safari Collection - a family-owned company of boutique camps and lodges throughout Kenya.) 3) Speak to the locals - they're often the best equipped to tell you where you probably shouldn't be walking at 3am with Louis Vuitton trunk in tow (that'll be half of London then!)
So back to Helen and her family. Giraffe Manor, where they've set up home, is found in the outskirts of Nairobi and is rather disconcerting when you first see it as it looks exactly as though someone has plonked a rather stately Scottish hunting lodge slap bang in the middle of the African landscape. Built in the 1930’s it’s set in 12 acres of private land nestled in 140 acres of indigenous forest. The rooms are all individually furnished and each contains a bowl of pellets so that you can feed any passing giraffe before they join you for breakfast. Speaking of the giraffe, the resident herd of endangered Rothschild giraffe form part of a breeding programme in association with the Giraffe Centre (although I was pretty fond of the cheeky Warthogs that wander around the guests too). Whilst there, we had the privilege of visiting the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, a wildlife conservation charity that runs an orphanage for elephants and rhinos, where we watched the baby elephants being fed (cue lots of 'ahhh's')
What about donning my khakis and spotting the other 'big five'?
Solio Lodge is your place. Just a hop north of Nairobi on a (very small and to someone terrified of small aircraft knee tremblingly scary) plane and we were there. But 45 minutes of fear was worth the incrediblly lush scenery (think Avatar incarnated) and unforgettable wildlife that Solio has to offer. Better still, the 45,000 acre game reserve (squished between the magnificent Mount Kenya and Aberdare Mountains) is internationally recognised as the most successful private rhino breeding reserve in Kenya so you're guarenteed to spot them. In fact, it’s almost difficult to imagine that these magnificent beast are under threat as they seem to be everywhere - babies included (cue more ahhhs).
Even driving to the six luxurious cottages that would become our homes for the next couple of days we spotted at least 20 different species of animal and even got to witness a kill by a pregnant lioness (not quite so 'ahh' but pretty amazing nonetheless).
Just as we were all getting rather used to our palatial homes (complete with nightly fires and prepped hot water bottles), the sundowners overlooking the mountains and the delicious home-cooked food from the lodge’s own organic vegetable garden, it was time to bid farewell to Solio (and the resident baby Bush Baby we all fell in love with) and take another flight to our final destination.
And for a spot of relaxation?
The infinity pool and spa of Sasaab should do the trick. Located in the heart of Samburu land - a dry, rocky landscape that couldn’t be more different to Solio, Sasaab is a stunning property whose Moroccan-inspired décor is achingly chic. Each of the nine uber-luxurious rooms (I say ‘room’ - mine was about twice the size of my flat) contain an open-air bathroom (with some interesting but rather adorable house-guests – you might want to google Dassies before you go) as well as a private plunge-pool. All overlook the Laikipia Plateau and the river directly below where we were lucky enough to see a herd of elephant come to bathe.
This is pure pinch-me (but-then-again-don’t) honeymoon territory and the attention to detail was spot-on. The best part? Apart from coming face-to-face with a bull-elephant, eating freshly-made pancakes on a game drive and dining by candlelight at the foot of a huge rock in the desert, it had to be watching the beautifully decorated Samburu tribe dancing by the river.
Kenya feel the magic yet? No? Then stick it on your (immediate) bucket-list and make sure you experience it in person.
For more information go to: thesafraricollection.com who have a free flight offer: Stay at a combination of The Safari Collection’s properties (Giraffe Manor, Sala’s Camp, Solio Lodge or Sasaab) for a minimum of 7 nights and enjoy your internal scheduled flights for free. This offer is valid at any combination of The Safari Collection’s properties and is subject to availability until 15 December 2015. Starting from rates are: Giraffe Manor - $525 per night, Solio Lodge - $680, Sasaab - $680 (Rates include game drives, airport transers and are based on 2 people sharing on a full board basis)
Love baby elephants? Then watch this little clip that Cassie took of the orphans at the the David Sheldrik Wildlife trust being fed. Altogether now ahhhhh...