Traveling in Style with Africa Inscribed
We are on a journey with my favorite safari operators, Africa Inscribed.
Dylan Harriss and Gavin Ford started the company five years ago, and are a force to be reckoned with, on the safari scene. Based in South Africa, AI specializes in white glove private travel. Gavin, recognized as one of Africa’s premier guides has been escorting adventurers for over 30 years. They come by their expertise the expensive way, spending at least 200 days a year exploring, and experiencing camps and lodges all over Africa. No detail is too small. They build strong relationships with camp owners and staff. We partner with Africa Inscribed to make sure our clients have the best personal private experience .
Johannesburg is usually an overnight because international flights land too late in the day to connect with another airline. I recommend at least one day in Johannesburg for a tour with Robin Binckes who will do a visit to historical sites of South Africa starting with a breakfast intensive history of SA. By starting with a historical background, the entire trip takes on a different meaning if you are staying in SA.
A good comment from Dylan Harriss of Africa Inscribed, about choosing a camp in the Maasai Mara
I think the most important thing when choosing a property in the Mara is it must be on a concession within the park….this will allow good game viewing with limited vehicles around as well as having the option of going into the actual reserve should the guests want. We really like Mara Plains and Cottars for this reason.
Great camps in or near the Maasai Mara
I am writing about camps in the Maasai Mara that afford comfort and great game viewing. Copying from the Maasai Mara site:”Maasai Mara (Masai Mara) is known as Africa’s Greatest Wildlife Reserve, situated in southwest Kenya. Famous for the abundance of lion, the Great Wildebeest Migration and the Maasai people, well known for their distinctive custom and dress, it is without a doubt Africa’s most famous safari destination. Maasai Mara National Reserve stretches 1,510 sq km (580 sq miles). The terrain of the reserve is primarily grassland and riverine forest with clumps of the distinctive acacia trees.”
The problem with the Mara is the amount of people visiting. I encountered 6-7 jeeps stalking the same game. Not an exclusive endeavor in the Mara Game Reserve. There are some camps that are situated nearby and the game viewing experience is completely different.
One is Mara Plains. Mara Plains Camp is a small, high quality, seven-roomed camp under canvas and on raised decks with sweeping views across Kenya’s notable savannahs. It is among the smallest and most personal camps in the Mara region. As one of just three camps currently operating within the Conservancy, which boasts the region’s lowest vehicle density, no mini-buses and only one guest room per 700 acres. It is possible to avoid the high tourist density of the Maasai Mara Game Reserve proper, if desired.
No other camp in the greater Maasai Mara Game Reserve or Olare Orok Conservancy has the privilege of traversing opportunities of Mara Plains Camp. Guests are able to traverse three areas as part of their stay at Mara Plains.
Another camp that affords great game viewing is Cottars 1920′s Camp. The camp situated in the Maasai Mara, bordering the Serengeti and Loliondo reserves in an untouched exclusive concession guaranteeing privacy and an abundance of wildlife.
The camp accommodates up to 22 guests in authentic white canvas tents, which are spacious and luxuriously furnished. They incorporate original safari antiques from the `20`s, private en suite dressing rooms, bathrooms the main bedroom and a verandah.
Other favorites of mine are Bateleur, Il Moran, and Mara Explorer. All beautifully appointed and very comfortable.
One of my favorite safari camps in the Masai Mara, Olonana
I recently visited one of my favorite safari camps in the Masai Mara, Olonana. The tents are huge, and the decorative details are extremely well done. Number 14 has a white bathroom with a dressing alcove complete with blow dryer. Lighting for once is wonderful. I think the biggest drawback with a tented accomodation is the lighting. Forget makeup or drying your hair where you can actually see. And trying to find something in a duffle is a big challenge. The tents are close to the lodge and the walk dinner or lunch is not a long walk. Olonana is a Sanctuary Camp- part of A&K and the service is tip top. Food was outstanding as with all high end camps-I don’t know how they do it. The major drawback with Olonana is the road to the camp: extremely rutted and bumpy. A difficult ride especially if one sits on the back row of a jeep. We discussed the road with the manager, and he assured me that they are working on smoothing it out as soon as the rains fall.
Tent 14 Olonana
Olonana view from the bed
Olonana Masai Mara- one of my favorite camps in Kenya. View from Tent # 3 deck
Up and coming camps in Northern Kenya you might want to visit.
A sensational new camp in the Northern region of Kenya is Sasaab. Located in the arid Samburu region, Sasaab offers tranquil views towards the Laikipia plateau and Mt.Kenya. Nine tents and the main lodge have a distinct Moroccan design influence. One of the many activities is camel riding.
Other divine camps in the area are Borana Lodge, Sanctuary at Ol Lentile, and Sarara.
Five star camps in Kenya continued- Sirikoi
Continuing my look at spectacular new camps in Kenya, Sirikoi ranks up there at the top. A new breed of comfort, sophistication, yet keeping the feeling of a wildlife camp, Sirokoi is spectacular. It is situated on the Northern slopes of Mt. Kenya surrounded by the Lewa Wildlife conservancy. Your game drive experience will be private and always exciting. I am enclosing pictures of the villa, grounds and main house. They also have 6 tented accommodations facing the conservancy. Activities include game drives, helicopter excursions, biplane excursions, lion tracking, horseback riding, they also have a 200m pool.
Sirokoi / villa bathroom- fab new camp Lewa Downs
View when riding at Ol Donyo
Five Star Camps in Kenya you might want to consider:
ol Donyo Lodge is in the heart of the 275,000 acre Mbirikani Group Ranch, located on the slopes of the Chyulu Hills National Park between the Amboseli and Tsavo West National Parks in southeast Kenya. Its location is unrivalled with full views of Mount Kilimanjaro and in the path of traditional wildlife migration routes. It is a lodge rich in history, passion and conservation.
ol Donyo Lodge is a 20-bed lodge, rebuilt and redesigned in 2008, and perched on a hillside, with no two suites or villas the same. What is consistent is the attention to detail, the comfortable yet utterly luxurious décor and the tradition of greatness. Regarded as one of the most attractive lodges in East Africa, ol Donyo Lodge is a place to call home for at least 3 nights.
There is a range of activities available – from cultural visits, “Big Five” wildlife viewing and tracking, horseback riding and mountain biking – ol Donyo Lodge is a holistic experience. The only negative in the resort is the internet connection- slim to none. Hopefully they will improve that. And most people will be happy to disconnect!
I have enclosed some pictures of the suite I stayed in. It is a great place to start your trip to Kenya. It has a great stable, and horseback riding through a journey of giraffes is an experience to remember.
Ol Donyo Wuas family suite terrace
Ol Donyo Wuas family suite with plunge pool
Brand new appearance for my blog! Hope you like it!
I enlisted Taylor McCleskey from Atlanta, to help me polish up my blog appearance, and I really like it. I would love to hear what you think.
Looks like my next trip is a visit to the Hamptons to visit a friend in Montauk in July. It is one of my favorite yearly trips. We work on his next year travel plans. Always stimulating and lots of fun.
Then I will be off to Shanghai for a look at the Ritz Carlton Hotels.
Hard to beat Ritz Carltons! I am flying American so I am interested to see their flying experience. I am a Delta girl from birth.
Africa Inscribed, up and coming luxury Safari operator..
A quick word about the company that put together our trip: Africa Inscribed. New on the Luxury Safari scene, AI is gaining a well deserved outstanding reputation. The two owners, Dylan Harriss and Gavin Ford are working night and day to make our Safari Clients happy campers. They constantly travel to camps around Africa. We were most fortunate to have Gavin guide our trip, one of the top guides in all of Africa. His depth of knowledge and charisma made our trip unforgettable. Bravo to AI. I look forward to working with them again very soon. Outstanding job Dylan and Gavin. We all thank you both.
Brilliant game day drive
After we finished our heavenly Champagne breakfast on the Plains, we went on a drive. Immediately our driver, Benson, picked up a huge male lion. We tracked him for about 40 minutes because he looked like he was hunting, and there was a huge herd of zebra across the river. He would stand, smell the air and listen to the honking of the zebra herd. Finally he decided he was hot and just dropped down in some long grass. As we drove along we noticed vultures fighting over a kill, and two lappets dropped in. They were a spectacular sight, they land feet first and their wing span is around 6 feet across. we came upmto the river and watched a herd of 600 zebra. We thought we would see a crossing, but there were three huge crocs in the water. We saw one zebra get attacked, but he kicked the croc, and got across safely. Fabulous! On the way back to the lodge, Gavin, our brilliant hawkeye guide spotted a leopard in the bush and we turned around to watch him cross a swamp. Hard to top a day like that.
We started the day with a balloon ride
5A wakeup call. We were driven to the ballon launch site after coffee and tea. The balloon was such a spectacular sight when it was filled. We got off before sunrise in the most incredible silence. All we heard was the jets of hot air occasionally filling the balloon to give it height. It was a divine experience silently sailing over the treetops, the Mara Plains gliding below. We saw rhino, giraffe, elephants, hippo, impalas, zebra herds. We actually flew over 30 kilometers and upon landing we were treated with a full on Champagne Breakfast.
That was just the beginning of a brilliant game drive.
We started the day with a balloon ride
Sunset at Amboseli
Nelson showing the village children pictures he took of them
A visit to a Massai Village
We paid a visit to a Massai tribal village. They greeted us with a traditional welcome dance which incorporates jumping as high as one can. The men are the warriors and their job is to protect the village and cattle from predators. The women do everything else including BUILDING their houses. The Massai tribe is Christian and the entire village of 60 formed a circle with us and started our visit with a prayer. Very moving. we then proceeded to visit a home and meet the children. The proper greeting when you meet a child is to but your hand on their head. They walk up to you with their head bowed. The grand finale of our visit was an outdoor market., under a giant Acacia tree. The ladies do all the crafts themselves-beautiful beaded work. Each lady laid out a cloth and put her items on it. We walked around a big circle and picked what we wanted, then we go to the shade and negotiate. Needles to say we got some great deals. I have presents for my daughters and friends. Of course I bought a red necklace for one of of my best friends, Jane Kimbrell. I buy her a red necklace every place I go. She is getting quite a collection.
Let me backup and say that Vince and Barbara Dooley caught up with the group in Nairobi, so we are a happy group of 7.
Yesterday we went on a morning game drive which ended in delightful bush breakfast. Everything from omelets to fresh fruit on long tables draped with Massai Warrior plaid tablecloths and camping chairs. Lunch was buffet- amazing what they can do in a remote camp kitchen. This camp has a gorgeous organic garden, so all the vegetables and salads can be eaten with no worries. A quick swim, then we went for a LONG walk through a volcanic rock field. Not much fun but great exercise. We ended with a climb up a 1500 foot hill and a surprise bar for “sundowners”, watching the sunset on the right and a pink Killimanjaro on the left. We really earned our gin and tonics. Woody turned into Chas Woods. No, he did not get over served!
Killimanjaro in the background-WOW!
Day one Amboseli-the group
First day of safari- Amboseli
We had an amazing first game drive when we landed at Amboseli Park. We saw ostrich, wart hog, hippopotamus, giraffe, two lioness, water buffalo, cranes, egrets, eagles, horned bills, and hundreds of elephants in herds. Wake up call this morning was 430A – Yikes! We flew by charter from Nairobi and are staying at Tortilis Camp. The view on the Verandah is of MT. Killimanjaro, lunch was homemade pasta, chicken and rice, baked eggplant, organic salads and dessert was fresh fruit and Apple Crumble. Barbara, Susanne and I are writing on our iPads. Coach Dooley is taking a walk. Nelson is entertaining us with stories. What better entertainment can you ask for!
Preparing my group for their Safari to Kenya
Enclosed is a predeparture form that explains all the limits and requirements for travel on Safari to Kenya. We also have to be concious of shots needed. I recommended they all check in with the CDC requirements. One new shot is Yellow fever and it needs to be documented on a yellow card. One had to have it for Tanzania, but not really for Kenya. I am told Kenya Customs now requires it. Another very important part of Safari is your luggage. Weight can be no heavier than 32 pounds. Bag size should be 12X24/10. It should be a soft duffle type bag because they are going into a very small cargo department. I am checking with ATT to check on international plans for ipads, iphones, and Blackberry’s. Best I can tell, you need to add an international plan to BOTH your iphone and ipad and cut off cellular data on each device. That will allow internet access in WiFi zones only, but it won’t be hundreds of dollars in fees when you return. I have also learned one needs to cut off email push, so your iphone and ipad does not download when you don’t want it. More on the preparations.
Packing for an East African Safari
I am getting ready for a Safari to East Africa and I thought it might be helpful to write about what to pack. What I am suggesting is equally good for Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, South Africa, Botswana, and Zimbabwe. It is important to take into account the other activities one might choose do do other than game drives such as fishing, horseback riding- Singita Sasakwa, and Ol Donyo Waus among others have that- canoeing, hiking, birdwatching, ATV riding , etc. You might need clothing or equipment dedicated to those activities.
The key is to PACK LIGHTLY! Most charter flights won’t carry over 20KG. Which is 44.9 pounds. I found a canvas duffle with rollers from LL Bean. I can carry it on from the US to Nairobi. Then I packed a Longchamps fold up canvas bag to hold camera equipment when I have to check the duffle. Never check ANYTHING valuable, especially camera equipment or medications. In case your luggage gets lost.
4 short sleeved cotton T shirts
3 easy dry long sleeved khaki shirts
3 pairs long khaki pants- mine have zippers to make into shorts
2 pairs of long pants for night
2 pairs long shorts
One dress for night dining
One skirt for night
A really GOOD pair of binoculars
A good wide brimmed hat with a tie so it won’t blow off.
2 pair of sunglasses
Malarone medication for Mosquitos
A really good mossie spray with DEET
a bathing suit
A sarong for both BS and night
2 bright colored pashminas. I use them instead of the plane blankets.
2 cashmere sweaters for night or cold mornings
1 pair of Silver Tory Burch slippers for night
1 pair of sneakers
1 folding fan
All Chargers for phones and cameras
Ziploc bags for makeup and hair products
1 all weather jacket
2 cameras one with long lense attachment, one video. Extra cards.
A fold up bag to use when your carryon has to be checked.
Medjet medical pack
Visa credit card, iPad, and cash.
Just landed in Nairobi!
Just landed in Kenya. My guides, Gavin Ford one of the top guides in all of Africa and Africa Inscribed chief Dylan Harriss were at the airport to Meet and Greet. So nice to see their smiling faces behind a huge group of greeters They sent an airport employee, Lanette, to the plane. When I deplaned, she was front and center to help with carryon luggage and MOST IMPORTANTLY to get me through the Visa registration. I was in a special line! No problems and NO LINE. You’ve gotta love it! We were off to the fabled Norfolk Hotel, I am checked in and hitting the sack. I brought special luggage from a family in Atlanta for a school in the Massai Mara. I will take that to A&K Kenya tomorrow, check out shops, and find out what the BEST lunch place is in Nairobi.
A day in Nairobi
I stayed last night at the historic Norfolk hotel. It is over 100 years old, but recently renovated by Fairmont hotels. The public spaces remain the same and I really felt like I was in Africa. I love the Veranda and the gardens.
I paid a visit to A&K Kenya to meet all the folks that help me make wonderful Safari experiences. Last year a family from Atlanta came over on Safari and they met the children of the Jacob Loigero school. They were so impressed with the school, they sent with me two HUGE bags of school supplies- one was full of soccer balls. I took them with me today to A&K and they were delighted to get the supplies to the school in the Massai Mara. Such a wonderful gesture from my family and so great of A&K to help.
My number one mission was to find the atelier of Anna trezbinski. Anna is a fashion designer from Nairobi who does extremely successful trunk shows in the US.. Among her designs are pashminsas that have feathers attached to the ends. They are absolutely stunning, and all the best camps in Africa have her designs I their shops. She used local villagers and does the most Incredible beaded jewelry, clothing with beading, bags, belts etc,etc. After some phone calls, my most resourceful driver, Alex, found her. And it was her birthday! I would love to talk her into visiting Atlanta, and doing a show there with my friend Betty Jo. I felt like I was in AliBabas cave!
I also found some local crafts shops and a wonderful curio shop called African heritage. I am bringing a group in May so I wanted to get some places lined up for them.
Another delightful place I visited in Nairobi was The giraffe center where I was able to feed the giraffes and they gave me A big kiss. Seeing those gentle animals so closely was such a thrill. I highly recommend it
Arrived Nairobi. Our guides: Gavin Ford and Dylan Harriss of Africa Inscribed
Sent from my iPad
Catherine Whitworth CTA
Flying to Ol Donyo Waus in the Chyulu hills
Day 2, we got up early and flew a charter to the chulyu hills. Our destination camp is the fabulous Ol Donyo Waus. Charters are so much fun,because you can really see the landscape. As we were flying into the grass land g strip, I saw elephants, giraffe, zebra, impala, grant and thompson antelope. My biggest surprise wS that the landscape was so green! The area had just had rains and I have never seen such green. The trees and grasslands were amazing. I am sitting by the pool looking at elephants with a giraffe in the background, drinking from the pond below. Welcome to Africa!
Ol Donyo Waus is one of the five star camps I have been wanting to see, and it met all my expectations. The accommodations are top notch. Beautifully designed, the attention to detail is amazing. They have 10 villas- one is a two bedroom for families. Almost all have plunge pools, all have stunning views of Mt. Killimanjaro when he wants to show himself.
Activities include horseback riding, mountain bike riding, hiking, they offer a trek with with the resident bloodhounds( tracking pouchers)and of course games drives morning and evening. After our afternoon game drive, we had “Sundowners” and watched the sunset on the plains.
Riding in Kenya at Ol Donyo Waus
Horseback riding at Ol Donyo Waus
Today we are all going riding. Fingers crossed, I have not been on a horse In 20 years.
I probably will move very gingerly tomorrow, but riding was fun. Ol Donyo works with a riding company called Ride Keyna. They have an incredible stable with all the equipment for riding, so if you are a rider, you don’t have to pack extra. They have three levels of riding, so anyone- even beginners can go on a very nice ride. At the end of the ride, we were surprised with a complete breakfast, set up on the Plains- linen table cloths and all!
The food at this camp is amazing. I am told everything is flown in from Nairobi.
We took a charter to the Massai Mara- safarilink. It was a caravan type of plane and flew so low, we could see the country below beautifully.
In the Mara we stayed at Mara Plains , owned by the same company that has Ol Donyo Waus – Great Plains. We knew we would have lovely tents for accomodations and we were not disappointed. My room was right on the river with hippo below. In the night I thought one was in my room the noise was SO LOUD! the usual plan was a game drive in the early morning before breakfast,so we could get a good view of predators on the hunt. Then quick breakfast back at the camp, later lunch under a huge evergreen, afternoon break and then back in The car for afternoon drive. Dinner is at the camp. We were so fortunate to see several prides of lions. Gavin is a big bidwatcher, so we saw hundreds of special birds all during the drives. One evening we got caught in an enormous thunderstorm on the plains. The light show was just breathtaking. We had to have our sundowners in the jeep with the rain and lightening all around us. Quite fun. In the Mara we visited quite a few camps for inspection: Intrepid Mara, Explorer, Rekoro, and Pirini lion camp. Also Sanctuary Olonana, Bateleur, and Kitchwa Tempo.
Hippos in the Mara
Massai Warriors greeting us with a dance in the Mara
Cheetah at Lewa
Cheetah in Lewa
Lewa Wildlife conservancy is an amazing idea of a small group of people who wanted to preserve and conserve Indigenous animals game in north Kenya. Started by Ian Craig, they have grown to 17 projects protecting wildlife in the Lewa Conservancy. We stayed at Lewa House one of the camps in Lewa Downs. Game sighting is plentiful. Right after landing, on the way to the camp, we saw a pair of white rhino. Specialties of Lewa are reticulated giraffe, Grevey zebra, white rhino, black rhino, hippo, and elephants, which we saw in abundance. We also saw Cheetah, we rode right into the middle of a large group of breeding elephants- yikes! We visited a fabulous 5* camp recommended by Richard Boone of Ol Donyo Waus, called Sirokoi. A really polished, glamourous amazing property. I have attached some pictures. I would happily go back there again.
Lewa house was set on the plains under fever trees. Beautiful setting. During lunch we watched a spectacular display of the area birds, and a mongoose on the prowl – our first kill. Accommodations are more simple, but comfortable. Great for a more moderate budget.
Flying to Lamu on Kenya’s coast by Safari Link
We are back on the charter today- another caravan, flying to the island of Lamu on the Indian ocean. Tonight we are staying at Manda Bay. We will inspect peponi, beach house, and red pepper while we are visiting Lamu.
I have always heard that Lamu is a heavenly beach destination. Everything I have heard was confirmed in spades. We arrived in the afternoon and took a boat directly to Manda Bay. Gorgeous coconut palms greeting us on the beach. We dropped our luggage and went immediately to see a special surprise: thousands of Northern Carmine bee- eaters. Thousands and thousands clustered and flying in huge clouds. It was such a spectacular sight. I will never forget it. We then got on a Dhow and had our cocktail cruise. While watching the sundown. Fabulous way to start a beach vacation. Dinner was under the stars, on the beach. The food everywhere we have been has been incredible. This evening we had fresh prawns in our appetizer and red snapper. Lamu is a terrific fishing destination on the Indan Ocean off the coast of Kenya. An easy scheduled charter from many camps. I find that alot of clients like the down time on a beach after Safari. The next morning we went to see several hotels. Garden House, Shella house, Palm House, and the fabulous Beach House. All of these properties are in the city center of Lamu. They have several stories, so lots of steps to go from living room to bedroom, etc. We visited Peponi the delightful family run hotel, Peponi, right on the edge of the city, on the harbor. Across the bay on Manda Island is a spectacular new property called Majlis. Owned by an Italian family, we were hosted by Stefano Moccia, one of the sons. The artwork in the compound was the best I’ve seen in Kenya. Including major American contemporary art. I will happily return and feel very comfortable putting clients there. Rooms were bright, the furnishings and decorative accessories were terrific.
We actually stayed at another former private villa, Red Pepper. Soaring open rattan ceilings, very theatrical. I loved it. Only one room had air-conditioning and we suggested that they put it in all the rooms. The night is very still and weather in Lamu is HOT.
Sailing on a Dhow in Lamu
Dylan Harriss- our amazing organizer
Heading to Tanzania-Singita Grumeti’s!
Best camps are for last and we are on our way to Tanzania to Singita Sabora and Singita Sasakwa. As good as it gets!!! Can’t wait to see them again!
A note about the visa situation: get your visa before coming to Tanzania and be sure to have your Yellow fever shots documented on the yellow card. We flew on by charter, if we had flown in commercially, the visa application line and procedure would have taken a very long time because of the larger line of people. Visas cost $100 cash if you buy upon entry.
Fabulous stables at Singita Saskwa Tanzania. You should see the Tack room!
On top of the Copties , Chyulu Hills
cnn.com article “7 Trips you should NEVER book online!”
Fantastic article about the benefits of using a trusted travel professional on cnn.com by Christopher Elliott, Tribune Media Services. Very informative: http://www.cnn.com/2010/TRAVEL/01/15/booking.travel.online/index.html?hpt=Sbin
2009 Africa and Tanzania
One of my very favorite adventures this year was an unbelievable trip to South Africa and Tanzania. Saw the Singita Grumeti Camps-Sasakwa, faru Faru, and Sabora, Palahala Lodge, and Lupita on Lake Tanganika.