The year in review

It’s December and time to reflect upon the most successful year Safari Architects has had since its inception. 2017 has been a fulfilling year on all fronts – we’ve had fantastic guest feedback on some great safaris, increased our staff complement, been humbled by the incredible work done in conservation efforts and had lots of fun in between.

Our travels took us to no less than 11 African countries where we encountered some unforgettable sightings, the highlights of which speak for themselves.

2018 is going to be a special year as we look forward to trips with exceptional itineraries for incredible people. 2019 is already filling up with numerous safaris locked in so, if you’re a person who enjoys the finer things and is still deliberating, now’s the time to get in touch to plan your 2019 experience.

It’s easy to see why we do what we do but there is a lot of hard work that goes into making sure we give our guests the best African experience they can hope for. I would like to thank our whole team for their commitment, drive and hard work towards growing this business.

The journeys I took to the USA and Europe were very successful and thanks again to our amazing clients for their generous hospitality.

Finally, I would like to wish each and every one of you a fantastic festive season and also extend our grateful thanks to all for the support you have given Safari Architects this year.

We look forward to planning for, hosting and flying you somewhere in Africa soon…

Brad and the Safari Architects team

50 Moments from 2017

2017 has been one of our most productive years at Safari Architects. We have travelled across the African continent and have provided lasting experiences for all of the guests who chose to travel with us.

From the Cape to the Sabi Sands and the Timbavati. The Kalahari, the Namib and the Skeleton Coast. We have ventured over the swamps of the Okavango Delta and along the spillway of the Selinda. On foot with Elephants in Zimbabwe, chasing wild dogs in the Luangwa and anti-poaching in Tsavo. We have been face-to-face with the gorillas and chimps and on journeys through the vast plains of the Serengeti. From an aircraft to a safari vehicle, hot air balloon, horse back or helicopter, we have done it all!

Our adventures have been captured in moments that we would love you all to see. Here are our Top 50 moments for 2017.

The silhouette of a perfect cat. Londolozi, South Africa.

Precious moments with the Elephants of Tsavo. Ithumba, Tsavo East.

Mud-bathing during the heat of the day. Ithumba, Tsavo East.

Bush dinner under the stars. Londolozi, South Africa.

Sailing down the Selinda Spillway. Selinda Explorers Camp, Selinda Reserve.

The San bushmen of northern Botswana. Selinda Reserve.

Unique moments captured in Botswana. Little Vumbura, Okavango Delta.

Wild dogs hunting through the Spillway. Selinda Reserve, Botswana.

Waking up on the moon. Londolozi, South Africa.

A moment of protection within a herd. Little Ruckomechi, Mana Pools.

Once in a lifetime experience, on foot with elephants. Zambezi Expeditions, Mana Pools.

Campfire stories at the end of a day on safari. Zambezi Expeditions, Mana Pools.

Some down time between game drives and walking. Little Ruckomechi, Mana Pools.

With giants in the blue forest. Mana Pools.

A family portrait. Singita, South Africa.

A wild baby elephant, from an orphaned mother. Ithumba, Tsavo East.

Elephant encounters whilst canoeing down the Zambezi River. Little Ruckomechi, Mana Pools.

A quintessential moment on the banks of the Zambezi River. Zambezi Expeditions, Mana Pools.

Hot air ballooning over the Namib desert. Little Kulala, Namibia.

The keepers and their elephants. Wild and orphaned. Ithumba, Tsavo East.

A leopardess strolls nonchalantly down a road at Kirkmans Kamp in the Sabi sand Game Reserve.

Benjamin and his elephants. Head keeper and an all round leader, he is given respect by all. Ithumba, Tsavo East National Park, Kenya.

Watching the fastest animal on earth on the open plains of Serengeti, Singita Grumeti Reserves, Tanzania.

Jumping for joy on the last night of an epic safari. Kings Pool, Linyanti, Botswana.

A majestic giant, Tarangire region, Little Chem Chem.

The last white lion, Singita Lebombo, Kruger National Park.

A unique individual, standing out of the crowd, but part of a family. Singita Lebombo, Kruger National Park.

A heart wrenching scene and the result of a hunt. Life and death and its most raw. Kings Pool, Linyanti, Botswana.

A pride of lions crosses the Sand River in response to a few wildebeest grunts. Mala Mala, Sabi Sand, South Africa.

A pair of adolescent male lion kill and fight over a warthog boar. Duba Plains, Okavango Delta, Botswana.

A herd of Lechwe witness a golden sunrise. Duba Plains, Okavango Delta, Botswana.

Sunset with a king of the grasslands. Singita Grumeti Reserves, Tanzania.

A privilege to dance with the Masai on the banks of Lake Manyara. Chem Chem, Tanzania.

A lioness creeps out of the darkness and slakes her thirst after a dry Kalahari summers day. Tswalu, South Africa.

The dominant male lion of the same pride follows suit. His Kalahari genes showing in his immense size. Tswalu, South Africa.

A herd of elephants drinking in dwindling Athi River below the Yatta Plateau. Tsavo East National Park, Kenya.

A young and inquisitive gorilla explores his environment emboldened by the comfort of his father. Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda.

A dazzle of zebra contrast with Lake Burunge. Little Chem Chem, Tanzania.

A lioness, draped across a fallen branch, stares at an approaching male. Singita Grumeti Reserves, Tanzania.

A cruel yet incredibly exciting story unfolds on the plains of the Serengeti. An unfortunate outcome for the Thompson’s gazelle, but an amazing sighting. Singita Grumeti Reserves, Tanzania.

A leopardess yawns on a fallen tree, while her hidden cub feeds on a carcass nearby. Singita Grumeti Reserves, Tanzania.

A leopard scans her horizon, using a slightly elevated position much like a cheetah. Singita Grumeti Reserve, Tanzania.

A million animals moving across the grasslands, makes for an old movie scene. Singita Grumeti Reserves, Tanzania.

One of many… The biomass of the great migration is truly hard to comprehend. Singita Grumeti Reserves, Tanzania.

A friend and guests stares in awe at a once in a lifetime opportunity. Greystoke, Mahale, Mahale National Park, Tanzania.

Photographed by: Mike Sutherland and Chris Renshaw

The finer things…

 

 

The finer things that can be appreciated at luxury safari lodges is a facet of our business that adds to the complete picture of what we do. Wildlife viewing and the game experience is what brings us to Africa and the reserves, but once we are there we realise there is so much more. We take you through our thoughts on how we feel this adds to the overall experience.

Immaculate spaces

Waking up and falling asleep at your lodge should be just as beautiful an experience as being out in the wild plains. Your room, along with the rest of your abode, should effortlessly boast a peaceful space filled with elements which connect you to the outdoors even whilst being inside. That being said, we are proud to say that the lodges we frequent with our guests are of this belief and have it implemented down to an art. The balance between creating a space with the comforts of home but which can also simultaneously transport you to a world beyond imagination, is imperative to the experience these lodges aim to create. Every individual holding in its own respect represents a different sentiment and style, some encapsulating an era, others a feeling, but always an experience. Some boast vibrant bright colours with a modern edge, whilst others transport guests to another world, usually one long before their time, evoking a delicate sense of mystery and wonder. In this way, they can become exquisite time capsules which leave guests feeling nostalgic for something they have most probably never even experienced before.

Certain lodges have also been crafted to seamlessly and naturally blend right into their surroundings, fully immersing guests within a wilderness experience in every way. Bathtubs on the deck, showers under the trees, bedrooms surrounded by clear glass walls, open-plan lounges with an uninterrupted view of the plains, dining tables on the balcony and everything else you could ever desire all contribute to the feeling of undergoing a full wildlife immersion. At many of these camps, animals such as zebra, elephants and even leopards wander freely in the open area around these luxury holdings. Guests can sit on their balconies or even just look out of their windows to see breathtaking wildlife close up and in full view. There is a feeling of real involvement and engagement when you visit lodges such as these, it is no longer us and nature, it is us with nature, promoting a true and genuinely wild-at-heart affair

Abu camp in the Okavango Delta. A contrasting design between texture, fine lines and “old” leather.

Singita Sweni lodge. The newly renovated lodge has a funky design unlike any other. It has to be seen too be truly appreciated.

Singita Sasakwa. Perched atop a hill overlooking the Grumeti concession,Tanzania. The view alone is with it. The colonial yet modern design screams opulence and decadence.

Zarafa Camp in the Selinda reserve, Botswana. The open design with wood finishes makes it truly unique and guests feel right at home whilst seemingly fading into the bush.

Londolozi private Granite suites in the Sabi Sand Private game reserve. Modern, private and utterly beautiful.

Singita Ebony lodge. A mix of new with the old. The complete union of an older style lodge, but with new and interesting finishes.

Singita Castelton. An old farm house brought to life by modern concepts and a new twist on colonial bush living.

Fine wine and dining with a twist

Luxury lodges are becoming far more aware of the significant role which the food they present plays in the overall experience of their guests. Yes, food has always and will always be an important factor when hosting lodgers, people need to eat! However, the simple kitchen-to-plate approach has recently undergone a far more in-depth thought process by the top-class chefs who run these wilderness kitchens. The thought process in question is one which acutely considers the surroundings of the location: the colors, the sounds, the aromas, the flora and of course the wildlife. In bringing elements to the plate such as shades and textures inspired directly by the particular setting of each camp, the diners are not only experiencing the outdoors whilst outdoors, but are also enriching their experience while they dine. The plate becomes a reflection, a picture almost of the vast habitat they are visiting. This incorporation allows chefs to become more involved and share another perspective of the journey with the guests. They become the bush guides of the kitchen, bringing to light and sharing the beauty of the site within a dish instead of from a game vehicle. You don’t need to stop at just seeing the wilderness, you can fully consume it (quite literally!)

In order to fully execute this exciting dining concept, many of these premier chefs also take extra care to ensure their produce is always fresh and honest, many of them even being hands-on in the growing and harvesting process. This, many of them say, brings them the greatest joy in knowing that they have seen the ingredients flourish and have then worked them honorably into the marvelous story-telling creations which end up on the guests’ plates. Being able to build these immaculate displays with such exquisite ingredients and skill allow chefs the opportunity to take the breathes of the guests away too, much the same as a cheetah hunt on the plains would.

Considering the immensely remote locations of these camps, the quality of the food offered is truly outstanding. Whilst travelling to these lodges from the outside world and realizing more and more just how secluded they are, the expectation of world-class luxury cuisine is most likely not big on one’s mind. This, in fact, is the element of surprise the lodge chef’s love to play on, presenting their guests with a spectacular meal they never could never have imagined within such isolation.

Chef Liam Tomlins’ influence at work at all the Singita lodges.

Fine dining setup with new cutlery concepts,

Tapas style!

Local cuisine and game meats on offer along with creative ideas on sides and sauces.

Baristas serve the freshest and finest coffee.

Wine is the quintessential partner to complete one of these impeccably crafted meals. It takes these servings to another level and adds an element of learning and discovery to every bite. The world-class Sommeliers stationed at these lodges carefully select the perfect pairing, which not only brings about another dimension to the meal but also offers guests certain insight about the country being visited or, if not the same, the region in which the wine has come from. Each sip tells a story, a story perhaps not directly tied to the exact area the guests are exploring, but to a region which is ultimately connected to their overall experience on the African continent. A merlot crafted to perfection can beautifully compliment a piece of game reflective of the wildlife in the area, whilst similarly a crisp chenin can bring to life a piece of fish fresh off the East African coast. It awakens the diner to the true beauty of the food presented. Wines of course don’t only have to be enjoyed with a meal, but can be appreciated on their own whist watching the golden sunset or after coming back from a long day in the bush. Many of the sommeliers say that what they enjoy most about working out at these lodges is being able to interact with people from all over the world. They are able to educate them about our country’s outstanding wine varieties and show them how they are all unique to any other wines in the world.

Most of the clientele are familiar with a long list of international wines crossing their palette, but few are educated about the magic that happens within the African winelands. In each sip, they can taste the essence of our continent, the rich land in which the grapes were grown and the fine flavour instilled by the nourishing sun. This is an extremely rewarding experience for the sommeliers and one which they can give to guests in the most beautiful and quintessential of African settings. Special pairing dinners in the remarkable cellars and sundown deck tastings are also available and are sure to develop the most memorable wine appreciation within the guests.

Wine tasting with top sommeliers and wine from South Africa’s best vineyards.

Wine pairings to match some of the finest bush cuisine is always on offer.

The personal bar experience at these lodges is also a wonderful component worth discussing. A bar is a place where people generally come together to share their experiences, to swop stories and to reflect on the day that has passed. This is the focal idea lodges want to play on, especially as the guests are most likely having many and daily first-time experiences. At the end of a full day of exploring their surroundings, guests can come together in this familiar setting and reflect together. Sipping back on a carefully crafted cocktail, a crisp gin & tonic or anything else you desire made by the expert bartenders on site, lodgers can sit together and reminisce on their day (or night) inside around the counter top or outside under the African sky just beyond their doors.

The private bar is an element becoming more and more popular in luxury lodges. There is no queue or waiting in line, nor is there just the option to have a glass of wine or a basic spirit and mix, instead the options are limitless and reflect a true ambiance and drink variety seen in top-class bar lounges anywhere in the world. The idea is to bring worldly luxury into the wild, a place people may not expect such luxury to reside. It is this element of surprise and a joy which lodges hope will delight guests and hopefully make for a truly special and unexpected lavish experience.

Cocktail hour, with a rather splendid background.

Virgin or alcoholic, the choice is yours.

Fun, recreation and relaxation

Although game drives are standard at these lodges, the amount of additional activities are infinite. Recreation plays a huge role in making guests feel as though they are truly on holiday, away from the stresses of everyday life. These activities range from sports such as tennis on the beautifully constructed lodge courts, or fishing in some of the most bountiful rivers in Africa. The rivers in Botswana also make the perfect pathways for traditional Mekoro rides down the glistening channels of the Delta (dugout canoes whereby you are propelled along by a local polar) Other available sporting activities include quad-biking and hot air ballooning, both superbly experienced riding over or floating above the colossal red-faced dunes of Namibia or over the vast herds of migrating wildebeest and Zebra in Tanzania. Additionally, if you love being in the air, a bird’s eye view from a scenic helicopter ride can also serve as the ideal way to view the beauty bustling below.

Fully equipped gyms are another facet which many lodges are implementing, an element which allows visitors the comfort of being able to continue their normal exercise routine. If this is a daily activity guests partake in back home, lodges understand that some visitors may feel uneasy should they not have that outlet (even on vacation) Therefore, they make sure everything they need is at their disposal. And of course, let us not forget what is most important on these trips – relaxation. Luxury lodges are no stranger to the finer things and you can certainly expect to be looked after on your visit. Spa facilities, hot tubs and full body massages are on demand to make sure you are never out of reach of indulgence.

All staff are professionally trained and on-hand to guide you, teach you, look after you and pamper you to your hearts’ content. Any activity in which you wish to partake, someone will be there to make sure you are always safe, happy and entirely satisfied.

The backbone of these luxury lodges are the people, in every department and at every level. It is their greatest pleasure to create for you a world in which you find only peace and beauty. Their hope is to make sure that in every aspect of your stay you find a little bit of magic, a whole lot of lavish luxury and, most importantly, a head and heart full of unrivalled memories… forever.

A private gym and tennis court at Singita Castleton. A gin and tonic and a set…

Private bush dinners are setup under the stars and in the wilds of the African bush.

An old school full size snooker table for some after dinner fun.

A variety off lodges offer some recreational catch and release fishing. Always a great activity for both the kids and adults alike.

A scenic chopper flight at sunrise over the Okavango Delta.

A spot of reading in the shade of a tree overlooking the Serengeti plains.

Some of the most scenic gyms on offer to work off the extra indulgence that is bound to be had.

Beauty, Spa and that feeling…

Private spa treatments on your deck…

Pool, spa treatments and a luxurious bath are always just a call away.

All the best amenities on hand.

Hot rock massages and zen music are the perfect way to unwind.

 

A bath tub with a special view.

Whatever your indulgence or pleasures are whilst on safari, the finer things on offer will immensely compliment to your stay. Of course, the bonus of seeing a leopard and a cub or watching elephants frolicking in a river is what we come for and a cracking glass of wine to the end the day makes it all the sweeter.

Images courtesy of Great Plains Conservation, Londolozi, Royal Malewane, Singita, and Wilderness Safaris. 

Safari Architects – Why we do it?

Have you ever thought about travelling to Africa? Or have you been before and now thinking about your return? If either of these questions resonate with you, you may want to continue reading…

We are often asked: “What do you guys actually do?” As if our stories and pictures of the bush are too good to be true, for this to be our full-time job. The idea of living out one’s passion every day and making it into a career is unfortunately a foreign concept to many people.

We have been lucky enough to turn what we do into our career. To experience the beauty of Africa with people from all over the world, some of whom are first timers and some whom can’t help but come back, is extremely rewarding. To be able to share these beautiful areas with like-minded people and revel in each day’s new adventure is the ultimate gift.

To clear up any suspicion that this might be too good to be ture, we’d like to shed some light on who we are, what we do and why we do it.

Who we are

For the past nine years, Safari Architects has been designing bespoke luxury safari experiences for guests from all over the globe. From discovering the magnificent wetlands of the delta to exploring the wide-open plains of the Serengeti, no one trip is ever the same!

One of the private aircraft used by Safari Architects on our safari’s.

Sunsets in the Sabi Sands. Londolozi.

What we do

Safari Architects, with ‘architects’ being the operative word, builds guests’ experiences from scratch. A trip is designed with each individual guest in mind. Some have dreams to see leopards for the first time, some long to interact with a troop of mountain gorillas, whilst others may want to tick hot air ballooning over the great migration off their bucket list. Our job is to ensure that all these diverse dreams come true as well as everything in between.

Driving through the flooded Jao flats.

Fire-side stories from Selinda Explorers Camp.

Endless views of endless landscapes. Namibia.

Why we do it

Who would turn down the chance to create unforgettable moments, remarkable experiences and once in a lifetime memories in what we believe to be the most beautiful place on earth? In addition, when you throw in being able to share that with people who are experiencing it for the first time, it sweetens the deal even more.

It is a privilege to know that people put their dreams of Africa in our hands and give us the chance to live up to them. The thrill of going above and beyond what they ever thought was possible is an easy feat when this spectacular continent and its offering never seems to disappoint.

We spoke to our two private guides and this is what they had to say about why they do what they do.

Amazing predator sightings in East Africa. Singita Grumeti

King of the beasts. Mala Mala Game Reserve.

Private dining experiences on luxury islands. Azura Benguerra.

Mike Sutherland: Safari Architects private guide & social media manager

“Why do I do what I do? It’s is a simple yet very tough question for me to answer. It is not as straightforward as many people may think.

The bush has always held a special place in my heart after years of visiting as a young child on family holidays. There has always been something mysterious about the bush that captivated me.

I am driven by an unending passion for wildlife, the bush and photography and the need to share this passion with my guests. There is something magical about the bush that makes everything more tangible and allows you to reconnect with what is important. 

Being witness to the positive effect the bush has on our guests is also something that will never get old.  

My aim is to continue to make these dreams a reality for all of our guests, and give them an insight into what Living The Dream is all about.”

Enjoying drinks with our feet in the water at Vumbura Plains.

A Mekoro ride through the channels of the Delta at Little Vumbura.

Paddling the Zambezi River at little Ruckomechi, Mana Pools.

Relaxing between drives in the luxury of Little Ruckomechi.

Chris Renshaw, Safari Architects private guide and co-owner

“What drives you? What gives you joy? Are you passionate about anything and why is this so? These are the questions I ask myself daily. It is an introspective approach but something that gets me out of bed every day.

My inspiration comes from a few sources, but most notably, it comes from the people I have met along my journey in this industry. One of the most inspirational persons is an unassuming character, one who guided me through this complex yet simple world of the African bush. He was my first safari tracker, Isaac. The way he was able to appreciate the simple things in life, cherish them, smile and be happy is something that has resonated with me ever since our time together. Slow down, think, watch and take it in.

My second influence is again a tracker with whom I worked. Martin, the softest, most kindhearted man I have had the privilege of meeting. He taught me to look at each individual person in the world and not to judge him or her, but listen and always give him or her a chance. We are all different but, essentially, the core of a being human is very similar.

There are many other people that inspire me too, all sharing similar characteristics of being happy, calm and providing joy to others through their actions and personalities.

Bring this back to Safari Architects, and I can then answer the question. My “why” is the incredible joy I get from showing guests my world for the first time. Like Isaac and Martin taught me, slow down, look, listen and breathe. See what the world is really showing us. This essentially puts us on the same page for a moment in time, and this is when people really connect with each other and the environment around them.”

Reconnecting with old friends. Singita Ebony.

Sunsets in the heart of Africa. Lake Burunge, Little Chem Chem.

Moments before soaring over Sossusvlei in a hot air balloon. Little Kulala.

Climbing the hughest sand dune in the world, Big Daddy. Sossusvlei.

Enjoying a private dinner over looking the southern Kalahari. Tswalu Kalahari.

A boma feast, dining in the outdoors. Singita Ebony lodge.

On foot with giants. Zambezi Expeditions, Mana Pools.

Tracking leopards in the bush. Little Mombo.

Amazing wildlife viewing. Londolozi.

Precious family time. Vumbura Plains.

Overlooking Murchison Falls. Uganda.

Sunsets and silhouettes. Singita Castleton.

Bush dinners, burning fires, fueling the soul. Londolozi.

An essential way to end the day. Zambezi Expeditions, Mana Pools.

Whether you resonated with our story, our “why” or were just able to take some insight away from reading this, we have done our job in giving you an awareness of who we are and what we stand for.

To follow along on our continued journey, go check out our other blogs and our social media channels.

Instagram:

@safariarchitects

Facebook:

Safari Architects

Keep chasing your why!

Safari Architects Team

Written by: Mike Sutherland

Photographed by: Mike Sutherland & Chris Renshaw

The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

In 1977 The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust was founded by Dame Daphne Sheldrick, in honour of her late husand, David Sheldrick, the founding warden of Tsavo East National Park. Today, the Trust is the most successful “orphan-elephant rescue and rehabilitation program in the world and one of the pioneering conservation organisations for wildlife and habitat protection in East Africa.”

There mission statement:

The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust embraces all measures that complement the conservation, preservation and protection of wildlife. These include anti-poaching, safe guarding the natural environment, enhancing community awareness, addressing animal welfare issues, providing veterinary assistance to animals in need, rescuing and hand rearing elephant and rhino orphans, along with other species that can ultimately enjoy a quality of life in wild terms when grown.

At the heart of the conservation project are the elephant orphanages (now an internationally recognised programme) where elephants, and other orphaned or injured animals, are hand reared and rehabilitated to be successfully integrated back into a wild environment.

In September, Chris and I had the opportunity to head up to Kenya to visit the Trust and spend time with various factions of their conservation projects. Having strong ties with the Sheldrick and Carr-Hartley families, we were invited to spend some intimate time with the people who make this project such a success. We were also able to spend one-on-one time with the animals which the Trust spends its time rescuing and rehabilitating.

After a lengthy trip along the great east road from Nairobi toward Mombasa, we arrived at our destination at Mtito Andei before heading into Tsavo East National Park. We were to spend the next few days at the Trust house on the Athi River with Taru Carr-Hartley (grandson of Daphne Sheldrick) and the pilots of the DSWT Air-wing.

Their mission is to pro-actively curb poaching of elephants for their tusks by being ever-present. Every day they are up in the air scouting different locations, looking for poached elephants, poachers camps, sick elephants, snared animals, animals weakened from the drought and local cattle herds within the National Park. The list is endless but their work is making a huge difference to the longevity of the park and the animals within them.

For the next few days we would spend time with the team in the air and on the ground visiting the Canine Unit and the Orphanages to see, first hand, the work they are doing.

Preparing for our flight across to the Ithumba elephant stockade.

Taru and co-pilot Mike.

Ithumba private camp is built into the side of a mountain with rocky boulders everywhere. Beautiful!

After a quick flight across the National Park, we landed in Ithumba where we visited the beautiful private camp nestled into the hills before heading out to see the elephants at the mud-wallows.

Every day the orphans are lead from their stockade to an ancient mud-wallow that is littered with wild elephants, coming from far and wide, during the dry season to take advantage of a few resources that are now common place here. Firstly, the perfect mud-bath. During the heat of the day, the elephants mingle, play and socialize with one another whilst also enjoying a soothing mud-wallow to cool themselves off. Secondly, access the fresh water. This water is trucked in daily and deposited into a large well for all the elephants to enjoy.

The most eye-opening part of the entire experience was to watch the keepers at work. These are the committed people who look after the elephants day in and day out, spending every waking and sleeping moment with these young animals tending to their every need. Ultimately they also play a huge role in their reintegration into the wild herds of Tsavo. The keepers, after many years of working in this area, have almost become a part of the landscape and are seen to the wild elephants that visit the mud-wallow as common place. They are able to approach the wild elephants on foot and calmly gesture them to move away from the fresh water to make way for the little calves to come and get drink.

This young elephant calf was born in the wild, its mother, an ex-orphan of the Trust. Amazing to see the story go full circle.

On arrival at Ithumba, we were greeted by multiple herds of elephants. They only gave off a welcoming aura.

Benjamin and his elephants. This man commands so much respect, even amongst the wild elephants. His demeanour is so calm and respectful, that all the animals know and communicate who he is.

Benjamin and his Elephants.

A young elephant stands out from the crowd as it has shed its Tsavo dusty coat after having a cool and refreshing swim.

As visitors here, we were able to walk among the elephants, wild and orphaned, and interact with them on such a deep level. Photographing them in such an intimate setting is something I will never forget, but for much of the time I found myself just sitting and watching. Watching how these young elephants, raised by humans, are able to interact with wild elephants with no separation or segregation by either party. It is a success story one can only grasp once seen with one’s own eyes. This method of reintegration is what has made this project so successful, and it was playing out right in front of our eyes.

We were introduced to a tiny baby elephant, a wild-born elephant, whose mother was once an orphan of the DSWT. The story had gone full circle and continues to each day.

Mike getting up close and personal to photograph the swimming elephants.

The frame captured from the moment behind the lens.

Playing in the mud-bath is not only fun for the elephants but helps to cool their bodies down on hot summer days.

Some of the older wild elephants show off their size to the “non-elephants” in the mud-baths.

From the stockades, the young elephants are led to the mud-wallow where they enjoy two bottles of milk each (unless they can sneak in a third while the keepers aren’t watching!) and are then allowed to go and play with the other elephants. The elephants spend a great deal of time with their keepers before venturing out into the wilderness to be normal wild elephants. Later in the day they return to the stockades where they rest for the night in secure stables, keepers still at their side.

The young elephants are lead down to the mud bath from the stockades each day to interact with wild elephants.

Ready to feed some baby elephants.

Emmanuel, an orphaned elephant and a young friend.

Each orphans gets 2 bottles of milk before getting a chance to go and interact with the wild elephants at the mud bath.

Its not always easy to limit them to 2 bottles. It is amazing to see how cunning and cheeky these young elephants are.

All elephants of all ages, both orphaned and wild frolicking about and having blast.

Wild elephants mingling with orphans. A real life success story of rehabilitation.

A gentle hello and greeting…

Being exposed to humans on a daily basis, these elephants, albeit wild, are used to the presence of humans.

It is important to always watch your back with these playful giants close by. Their strength is greater than they know.

The red earth of Tsavo is so iconic.

We were privileged to see this beautiful place from a different perspective, from high among the clouds. Flying over the reserve allows one to get an understanding of the vastness of the place. From horizon to horizon is a serene wildlife area, but one which is sadly under constant threat. Poachers are the obvious threat, however local herdsmen also cause concern as they require grazing resources for the large herds of cattle. We were eventually able to grasp the enormity of the task they are faced with on a daily basis.

On our flight back to the trust house over the Yatta Plateau, Taru spotted a leopard. See if you can see it…

The dark area is a lava flow in Tsavo West.

The trust house overlooking the Athi River in Tsavo East,

An image from a drone of an evening sunset overlooking Mount Kilimanjaro.

A final sunset with the lads, with Kilimanjaro in the background.

A wild herd of elephants slaking their thirst on the Athi River.

From Tsavo East we headed back to Nairobi where we visited the Elephant orphans at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust headquarters, which is based in Nairobi National Park. We visited the home of the incredible Daphe Sheldrick and explored the compound with her and another of her grandsons, Roan Carr-Hartley. We were then treated to a one-on-one experience of the baby elephants, the orphaned giraffe Kiko, a blind black rhino and the rest of the gang that call this place home.

Visiting such a unique and successful conservation initiative allows us, as the Safari Architects team, to have a greater knowledge and understanding of the world of conservation outside of high-end, luxury safari travel. It was an experience that I will carry with me wherever I go and I will forever talk of my time spent with these majestic giants and their amazing keepers.

An orphaned giraffe also makes the Nairobi orphanage this home.

The orphans in Nairobi come for their morning feeds before setting out with their keepers for the day. In the distance, Nairobi National Park.

A little game of chase..

Easy does it!!!

This image from behind the lens.

To everyone who was involved in making this trip such an amazing journey and experience, we thank you endlessly. We cannot wait to be back to visit Tsavo and the orphans, and sincerely hope there will be ongoing support for the work the Trust continues to provide to save these beautiful animals and places from human conflict and influence.

To follow their story, go to their Instagram page or to contribute to the work the Trust is doing, click this link: The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.

Written by: Mike Sutherland

Photographed by: Mike Sutherland and Chris Renshaw

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