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OUT OF AFRICA

There's a reason why Africa inspires writers and fashion designers alike. Emma Sloley reports on its fierce beauty


OUT OF AFRICA
There’s a reason why Africa inspires writers and fashion designers alike. Emma Sloley reports on its fierce beauty


Africa


 
Africa

Dreaming of Africa is required behaviour for writers and travelers alike. Karen Blixen and Ernest Hemingway devoted gallons of ink to the subject. Modern globe-trotters consistently rank an African safari as their top fantasy journey. That continent of contradictions and fierce beauty looms large in our collective consciousness as a byword for romance, adventure and profound experiences. I’m hardly immune to this siren call. In fact, I’d always longed to explore East Africa and recently decided that I simply couldn’t wait anymore. (Did the spring runways, which were awash with safari-inspired looks, help trigger this sudden fixation? Maybe a little.)

Ralph Lauren


 
Ralph Lauren

Gucci


 
Gucci

Ralph Lauren Gucci

So it was that my husband and I one day found ourselves seated in a tiny prop plane on approach to the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, the gateway to Kenya’s Laikipia Plateau. Two Maasai Mara tribesmen, in their distinctive red robes and beads, greeted us shyly as we disembarked, then went back to leaning on their spears and squinting off into the distance. To call such an introduction to Kenya magical vastly understates its emotional impact. This is no theme park tricked out with trained animals and paid actors, but a living, breathing wonderland where elephants roam freely across the vast savannas between Kenya and Tanzania, and tribes eke out subsistence lives largely unchanged from centuries past.


Africa


 
Africa

As we stood with our bags at our feet, excitedly pointing out a giraffe and several elephants in the distance, a tall blond man strode over to greet us. This was Toby Fenwick-Wilson, an Abercrombie & Kent guide and Africa veteran who would be our companion for the next week as we traveled around the country. Our first destination was the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy. It’s a third-generation family ranch in the country’s Northern Frontier District that has been preserved as a haven for wildlife, including the endangered black rhino and Grevy’s zebra.

Kenya


 
Kenya

Kenya


 
Kenya

Our first two nights were spent in a mobile tented camp that paid homage to the early days of safari, only with modern amenities such as solar showers. A smiling camp staff member greeted our arrival with a silver tray full of cool eucalyptus-scented towels, a small kindness repeated every time we arrived back at camp. We settled into our canvas tent beneath the trees: inside was a romantically (and practically) placed mosquito net draped around the bed, hand-woven rugs and wooden furniture made by local craftsmen, plus a small ensuite bathroom and outdoor shower.


Elephant


 
Elephant

We were keen to get back out into the wild, so we piled into the SUV for a late-afternoon game drive. At dusk, we gathered around a roaring bonfire for sun-downers mixed by the ever-smiling bartender, Kipsang. We ate a hearty three-course meal in the dining tent at a table scattered with wildflowers and set with Waterford crystal, then retired to our luxurious quarters. The next morning we emerged to find a pot of hot coffee outside the tent, which we drank while iridescent-blue superb starlings darted around the clearing and the bushland all around us came to life.


Africa


 
Africa

I could have stayed for weeks exploring the a 62,000-acre model of conservation, but there was just one more treat in store before we departed for the long journey home: a stay at the famous Fairmont The Norfolk Hotel in Nairobi, one of the first hotels in the city that starred as a starting point for safaris. Winston Churchill and Hemingway both stayed there, soothed no doubt by the understated colonial elegance and lush tropical gardens. We ate dinner at the swanky and storied restaurant Lord Delamere Terrace, then repaired to the inner courtyard to sit and look at the stars while reminiscing about our adventures. Let’s see, we’d seen the Big Five, slept in a romantic tented camp in the bush and watched the sun rise over the Maasai Mara and set over the hills of the Laikipia Plateau. Talk about living the dream…

YOU SHOULD SEE: Our Paris travel story…

“Out of Africa” has been edited for FLARE.com; the complete story appears in the October 2009 issue of FLARE.

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