• Monday, June 26, 2017

Kenya Safari

Kenya – Up in the Air
November 20, 2013
By , Galavante Contributor

Not to sound jaded, but when embarking on a Kenyan safari, we expect it to contain the following high-endorphin elements: rugged landscapes, military-grade Land Rovers, and predatory animals lurking around every baobab. It’s just part of the territory – basic necessities for the adventure traveler. Back at camp, we’ll make ourselves at home in an appropriately posh Out of Africa setting: cushy mosquito-proof tents, grilled medleys of fresh game, and an endless supply of G&T’s. It comes as no surprise that we love glamping in all its incarnations, but we’re ready to step it up a notch – 25,000 notches, actually – into the sky. Introducing: the Kenyan flying safari. 

Navigating Kenya by air is a far cry from trundling along a tortuous overland route in a sweltering 4x4. Tailor-made flying safaris give you the once-in-a-lifetime chance to explore diverse, inaccessible areas from 25,000 feet in the air. A safari in itself is a lifetime trip – this is the high-octane version. Prepare for takeoff.

A day on a flying safari goes something like this: Rise at dawn for a hearty breakfast before venturing out on a morning game drive. Explore rocky lowlands and grassy river plains in a canopied Land Rover. Watch the wilderness wake from its slumber. After a few hours, succumb to an overpowering sense of drowsiness, due in equal parts to contagious lion yawns, the sweltering midday sun, and something we like to call the “meat sweats.” Head back to the lodge for a siesta. Wake refreshed, step into your private Cessna 210 Centurion, and take off into the skies for aerial views of vast gorges, massive rock formations, wildebeest migrations, and the epic Mount Kilimanjaro.

Upon touchdown, you’ll be chauffeured to your new lodge and shown about your plush cabin by a dashing colonialist. Curious about that spot between the solar power switch and your deck’s plunge pool? That’s your own private elephant watering hole. How’s that for an authentic experience? Then it’s time for happy hour, but don’t worry – your daily dose of wildlife isn’t over yet. In fact, it’s even more magical with a Pimm’s in hand. Head out on a boozed-up evening drive to spot leopards, zebras, and lions, just waking up come dusk. Resolve to rearrange your real-life schedule to reflect that of a relaxed wild animal. Back at the lodge, have a late dinner with fellow explorers before dozing off under a carpet of stars, lulled to sleep by the calls of hyenas in the distance. It’s relaxing, we promise.

Good For: Couples, families, adventurers, and competitive travel snobs. A Kenyan safari is a must; but a Kenyan flying safari is likely to make your top 3 list.

The Highlights:

  • Gazing across a grassy plain at rhinos and zebras roaming in the beautiful afternoon light.
  • Shooting the breeze with a Maasai warrior; getting to see his knife collection if you’re lucky.
  • Peering out the Cessna’s window at Mount Kilimanjaro, its summit just peeking through the clouds.
  • Sipping on a gin and tonic as the sun sets and an elephant roars in the distance.
  • Waking up on your last morning to see a pride of lions lazily ogling a lone gazelle jaunting across the plains, before going in for the kill.

Suggested Stay:10 days. You wouldn’t want to feel like anyone’s rushing your, er, game.

Cocktail Chatter

Dowries among Kenya’s 42 tribes can be worth as much as five years of a groom’s income. While traditionally this tended to be paid among the community in the form of beads and other tools, today the exchange is made in a combination of money, vehicles, and animals – typically cows, goats, and camels, depending on the bride’s family’s requests. But dowry is a social institution intended to show commitment and agreement; in effect, it has little commercial value.

What to Know: Things move at a much slower pace on safari time, so you'll want a few days to wind down and disconnect from your iPhone. Be sure to do your game drives early in the morning or late in the afternoon; midday is far too hot to be out, but a prime time for naps and cocktails. In addition to sunblock and a wide-brimmed hat, your most important accessory is going to be a solid pair of binoculars. A camera is great for honing your National Geographic skills, but a pair of 32x8mm specs (Swarovski, if you can swing them) will emblazon images of the safari into your memory.

Getting There: The bespoke journeys organized by Safari Experts are about as over-the-top African luxury as you can get. The owner, Tim, a Kenyan-born Brit who’s flown as a commercial bush pilot for several decades, knows the Kenyan airspace like the back of his wing – sometimes he’ll even fly you around himself. Tim’s completely custom-planned safaris range from full-on wildlife-only adventures to more laid-back journeys that blend a bit of beach with some Serengeti. Tim also has personal connections to the most resplendent lodges in the country – from plush, thatched bivouac camps to private properties where you get nearly a million acres of wilderness all to yourself – which means that your glass will never go empty and you’ll want for nothing out in the bush.