An East African journey
East Africa – the original safari destination pioneered by adventurers and infamous international explorers worldwide. Vast open spaces with rolling grasslands interspersed with great lakes and volcanic mountains and added to this, the millions of wildlife that call this place home. A true eden on this beautiful planet. We have mostly managed to protect this space from a modern and expanding world with magnificent lodges that keep the sustainable ecotourism model rolling. Chris went on adventure with a group of likeminded safari driven people, to explore its wonders
I began this East African Journey on my own initially in Nairobi, Kenya’s Capital at one of the most unique hotels in the world – The Safari Collections Giraffe manor. To have high tea with a giraffe sniffing your scone and nudging you for a head rub (which is much larger up close) is something quite rare to experience! They are actually after the pellets the lodge provides for you to feed them, which they take rather appreciatively, long tongue and all. If you are lucky you will even get a sneaky giraffe kiss…
Next up was the Safari Collections Sala’s camp in the southern most section of the Masai Mara National park. This is one of the most remote areas of the Mara and allows unrivalled and mostly private viewing of animals, which in the high season is something really worthwhile. The camp is on the Sand River, and the Serengeti can be seen on its southern bank. It really is a truly beautiful location, with amazing wildlife all around. This makes Sala’s a must on any Kenyan itinerary.
Angama Mara, perched on the escarpment overlooking the Masai Mara below, has to have one the best lodge locations I have ever seen. The views of the expansive grassland and savanna below are simply breathtaking! Every morning at Sunrise this was accentuated with the beautiful golden rays of first light. This is where I met up with the rest of my team, the Africa Megafam Group, on a journey to see what East Africa has to offer. Well, who knew that this was to be the beginning of a fantastic and phenomenal experience with a group of soon-to-be-friends, having the time of our lives!
Introductions made and a brief outline of the trip done, we decided to take in the lodge and its surroundings. Nicky Fitzgerald, the owner of the lodge, graciously and enthusiastically showed us around. Nicky’s experience working at African lodges definitely shone through. We were all blown away by the detail – small little clever additions, as well as the staff lodgings and the back of house projects that make lodge-life better for the all the people who work there. Oh, and the guest rooms are world class.
Tanzania was the next leg of our journey. We headed not far south of the Tanzanian border to the location where Legendary Expeditions mobile camp is setup. This camp follows the migration and we were lucky that some of the herds were still around before moving South for the rains.
A 100% mobile camp that follows the migration, leaving no footprint, and placed in unique locations within the Serengeti. Image copyright Chris Renshaw.
Our team then proceeded onto Legendary Expeditions private concession on the South west of the Serengeti. Mwiba lodge was our glamorous and luxurious home for the next few nights. This unique lodge is located in an area that still homes many varying old African cultural communities who co-exist to work together with the lodges in protecting these areas and creating sustainable environments. Not only is a fantastic wildlife area, but the cultural experience was without doubt one of the highlights of the whole trip. A little cherry on top was a bush dinner and a festive night spent around a fire with great friends, followed by a bush sleep out on a granite dome, surrounded by the sounds of Africa under a canvas of stars above.
The two tribes that we were to interact with were known as the Hadzabe and the Datoga. The Hadzabe are hunter gatherers, whereas the Datoga are cattle farmers and pastoralists. Both tribes are very old and unique in their own way.
The Ngorongoro Conservation area was the next leg of the adventure, and Gibbs Farm was to be our lodging. A rather charismatic working farm, it proved to be delightful and a favourite among many in our group. A great place to unwind in the middle of a safari itinerary, with many activities to immerse ourself in. It is close enough to the Ngorongoro crater to do a day visit or a day hike to the crater rim, as well as hike to a cave created by elephants who gouged its walls for salts and nutrients. We decided on array of activities, as well as entering the Crater.
Little Chem Chem and Chem Chem lodge were the last of our safari stops on this magical trip. The owners, Fabia and Nicolai, have created something really special at their establishments. They have managed to turn a high-end ecotourism model into a vital cog in the conservation and linking of ecosystems in the area. Tarangire National Park and the Lake Manyara National park were separated by a main road and cattle grazing communities. There was historically a corridor linking these systems that broke down, but through concerted effort involving the community, these lodges have managed to restore it. Animals are now moving between these areas again and let’s hope that it is kept open and this conduit for animal’s movements can be maintained. The two lodges they have created in these concessions are as impressive as the conservation efforts they are driving. An amazing time was had by all, including memorable walks, sunsets and community interactions.
How do you return from such an amazing and life changing experience and get back to the reality of modern day living? I think the best way to do it is to reflect on the perceived quality of the life we have, compare it to all the cultures, experiences and wild places that you have seen, and then try remember that everything is relative and you must maximise every experience and try be a better, more humbled and grounded individual.”
Thank you to all involved, Classic Portfolio, and the all the amazing suppliers mentioned above for a very successful and magical trip. To my fellow badgers, you guys rock! Here’s to future moments when a memory pops up of a this great adventure, and a wry smile consequently crosses your face.
– Chris Renshaw