I’m just going to say it… I’m seriously crushing on Cindy & Carl of Bliss & Bone. Not only does this stylish hubs and wife duo design the most chic and fashion-forward wedding invitations, but they also take amazing trips. Like this unbelieveable African Safari honeymoon. Trust me when I say this might just be the coolest thing you’ll see all day.
From the honeymooners, Cindy & Carl of Bliss & Bone… Our first camp was located in Amboseli National Park. Amboseli is located in the south of Kenya near the border of Tanzania and in the shadows of Mt. Kilimanjaro (or “Kili”, as the locals call it). At 19,341 feet, Kili is the tallest mountain in Africa, the tallest free-standing mountain in the world and is not just a mountain, but a dormant volcano. Amboseli is known for its elephant population, which totals over 1,000.
We arrived to Tortilis Camp one morning after a 30-minute flight from Nairobi, which was where we spent our first night. We were immediately picked up by our private guide, Tari, who would show us the park for the next three days. Directly from the airstrip we went on our first game drive, which did not disappoint. Wildlife in Amboseli is plentiful and elephants (aka “Ellies”) are everywhere. Nothing compares to the initial excitement of spotting the first of each animal. We actually found an elephant who had snuck its way into a protected area and the park rangers had been trying to get him out for weeks before he could destroy years worth of preservation.
We were woken up every morning by a camp employee just before sunrise, sometime around 5am, with a thermos full of hot coffee and biscuits (the small cookie kind). It was a part of our day that we really enjoyed. We would pour ourselves a cup of coffee and sit out on our porch watching the sunrise and listening to the animals wake up. We took 2-3 game drives per day with the first beginning just after sunrise. Animals are the most active at sunrise and sundown, since they rest and find cover during the heat of the day. When not on drives, we read, swam and ate incredible food.
On our second day at Amboseli we ventured into an area that was owned by Ker & Downey (the safari company we booked with). Here we were allowed to go off-road and that’s when the true adventure and hunt began. Our morning was relatively uneventful as we stopped the car and got out our binoculars to see what we could find. Lo and behold, there they were, a pair of female lioness sitting lazily in the grass, perfectly camouflaged. We drove up to them very slowly, turned the car off, and watched them for at least an hour. We’re not quite sure we can ever understood just how enormous and powerful lions are, but it’s something that truly takes your breath away every time.
Although that would have been plenty of excitement for the day we continued on, only to stumble on on a family of cheetahs. The best part? The mother and her two cubs were protecting a kill they had made no more than 15 minutes prior. When we returned later in the afternoon, our Cheetahs were nowhere to be found. We looked for a good half hour, but nothing. Just about when we were going to give up, there they were. They took turns, they kept watch, they ate together as a family. We could not only see every gory detail, but were also close enough to hear the gnawing and tearing of flesh. It is these moments when it truly hits you that this is the wild. Survival of the fittest at its core. We’ll remember Amboseli mostly for the elephants, cheetah kill and beautiful views of Mt. Kilimanjaro.
The next stop was the most incredible place we’ve ever been: Sarara Camp. It is located in Central Kenya more towards the north, so when we flew from Amboseli we had to fly through Nairobi. On our drive up to camp we immediately noticed the density of the area versus the relatively barren Amboseli and began to learn about the unique balance of life within the Namunyak Conservancy. Interestingly enough the Namunyak Conservancy experienced over the last 50 years the opposite of what we witnessed in Amboseli. Elephants in the Namunyak Conservancy had been heavily hunted in the area and only recently begun to rebound. This environment was extremely dense and host to a variety of different animals.
As an example, Sarara is famous for its leopard population, which is a trickle down effect from the elephants being so widely hunted. The density of the area is ideal for the tree climbing leopard, who drags its pray up into trees. While driving up to camp, we learned that we would be the only camp inhabitants for two of the three days we were there. Outside of the camp employees and the local Samburu living somewhere within conservancy (they are nomadic), we were the only people for over 850,000 acres. Not bad. The main lodge was so incredible because of the pool and watering hole just below. The pool was as refreshing as it looked and filled with spring water, which filtered down to the watering hole, creating a permanent oasis for the animals. At all hours of the day elephants, baboons, kudu, warthogs, dik-dik, and leopard used the watering hole for drinking and bathing. A variety of animals joined us for all our meals and afternoon swims, and we would sit for hours watching them come and go.
One morning while in Sarara we went to what is called the “Singing Wells”, a Samburu tradition never once taped or photographed. Each family has its own well in the riverbed and every dry season each family digs in the exact same location. The Samburu warriors (adolescent men) are required to do all the work and dig until they hit water. Each level, carefully dug out, has a chiseled, naked warrior (they are naked so their clothes do not get dirty), and water is bucketed back and forth one level at a time and dumped into a wood trough on the top of the riverbed. And the “singing” part… well, while the warriors work, they rhythmically sing… back and forth… back and forth. Each family has its own “song”, passed down from generation to generation, and the warriors sing until the job is done. And then they do it all over again each day until the rainy season fills the riverbed. Our final night finished with dinner on the dry riverbed. They set up a bonfire right in the middle of the sand and after some drinks sitting by the fire, under the stars, we ate at a perfectly set table nearby. What a dinner. And of course on the way back we did a night game drive, using spotlights to find the animals.
Our third camp, The Lewa Conservancy is home to 74 Black Rhino, which is critically endangered (it also has 56 White Rhino). Lewa is also a pioneer of modern conservation techniques and a leader in the industry. Lewa Conservancy, started by Craig family as a cattle ranch, is now 90 square miles and has gorgeous rolling hills, mountains and amazing views of Mt. Kenya. It’s so beautiful that the place practically looks like it’s manicured every morning before you get up. We stayed at Lewa Wilderness, a camp with eight beautiful cottages. Our cottage was recently constructed and we were lucky enough to be the first people to stay in it. Our views were spectacular and the cottage itself was damn near bigger than our house. Hardly roughing it.
After a game drive our first morning we played some chess and rested up for our afternoon walk around the grounds. Lewa has a well-known garden and wood shop that we wanted to see, so we got a full tour that doubled as a game walk. Their garden was impressive and nearly all the vegetables served at the camp came from this labor of love. Mango trees, banana trees and massive avocado trees also lined the outskirts of their gardening zone. After our garden tour we went to the wood shop where they made furniture from fallen down acacia trees. They re-purposed all the wood and made beautiful furniture to sell and help fund the conservation effort.
The next morning we had signed up for a safari on horseback, which is unique because it allows you to get very close to the animals. They only see the horse and can’t distinguish the human form on top of the horse, so it allows you to get up close and personal with animals like baboon, giraffe and zebra. The ride ended at a surprise breakfast buffet set up for us in the bush, and then we rode back to camp on camels, something else they had up their sleeve. Great times, although I have to say camels are not all that comfortable.
The camp was stunning and the scenery out of this world. Not to mention their work with the Rhino, learning about the conservation efforts and actually seeing the Rhino up close. It’d be a travesty if we let them go extinct. Fortunately if places like Lewa have anything to say about it I might actually be able to show my children what a Rhino looks like…and not just in a book.
Photography: Bliss & Bone