Robyn Stalson, General Manager of Giltedge Africa’s US office helped facilitate a once-in-a-lifetime FAM trip (familiarisation trip for travel agents) to Kenya and Tanzania. A group of eight seasoned travel agents came together from across the globe: Victoria, Australia; Cape Town, South Africa; Wyoming, Montana, Texas and Colorado Colorado, USA.
In Part 1 Robyn shares their experiences in Kenya, while Part 2 tells of their East Africa adventure they continue on Tanzania’s Serengeti and Ngorngoro Crater.
Giraffe Manor: Nairobi
“We all met at the famous Giraffe Manor, on the outskirts of Nairobi. The manor house has a British charm and feels like a home with creaking floorboards and comfortable furniture. But the really unique feature is the endangered Rothschild’s giraffes roam freely around the estate.
“Breakfast is the highlight of the day: a time when the giraffes meander over to the lodge, reach their heads through the big open windows to be fed, by hand, some tasty giraffe treats. I was more adventurous and tentatively shared a treat from my mouth! Talk about a close encounter.”
Getting Around: Light Aircraft Flights
“The small Safarilink planes that ferried us between lodges added a whole new dimension to our travels: we were able to get an aerial view of the terrain below, and a preview of the spectacular game drives scheduled for later in the day.
“Tsavo National Park, the Masai Mara Game Reserve, the Serengeti and the amazing Ngorongoro Crater each delighted and awed us with their unique and dynamic ecosystems.”
Finch Hattons: Tsavo National Park
“Voted ‘Africa’s Leading Tented Safari Camp’ (World Travel Awards 2016), Finch Hattons gives you a taste of “old Africa”. Here we were immersed in the ambience of elegance and style reflected through the ideals of the aristocratic Denys Finch Hatton, his love story with Karen Blixen made famous through the movie “Out of Africa” starring Meryl Streep and Robert Redford.
“The lodge is amazing and a fantastic place to start or end a Kenya safari. Game viewing in Tsavo is not as good as the Masai Mara, but the landscapes are stunning and so diverse: you drive through forests of palms and expanses of the African savanna, past hardened dramatic black lava flow and freshwater springs.”
“A special treat was our sundowner experience. Perched high on an escarpment with Mount Kilimanjaro framed through the clouds and the sun’s rays, we were able to absorb the beauty of the land and toast to our good fortune! A well-stocked bar and tasty bites were served under elegant canopies, and we were introduced to the art of bow and arrow target shooting and fire building by hand through the guidance of some local Maasai warriors.”
The Maasai People
“Throughout the rural areas as well as the national parks one can recognise the Maasai people by the Shuka (special red cloth) and beaded jewellery that they wear. They live a nomadic life, moving from place to place with their animals. The Maasai tribe has a deep – almost sacred – relationship with cattle, and believe that they are the sole custodians of all the cattle on earth.
“It was quite surprising to see them with their livestock in the game parks. We learned that the government, in an effort to create a balance between human lifestyle needs and conservation, will compensate the tribe for any of their cattle that are killed by predators in their homelands but not if they are killed with the national parks.”
Angama Mara: The Maasai Mara
“Angama Mara opened earlier in 2016. This remarkable owner-run safari lodge has two camps of fifteen suites each, the luxurious tents perched high above Kenya’s Masai Mara plains with magnificent views of the savannah below.
“We enjoyed the fully-inclusive bar and complimentary laundry (a great plus due our limited luggage restrictions stipulated by the light aircraft). Another thoughtful touch is the huge pair of binoculars provided in each suite, which enabled us to relax and view the 40 miles of savannah stretched out before us.
“I discovered that the sound barrier between the tents was thin, and I could hear entire phone conversations of my neighbour. However, on the plus side, listening to the rain that evening bounce off the canvas roof of my tent was very soothing and lulled me into a deep and restful sleep! The food was superb as well as the service, and after a 2-night stay it was an emotional goodbye to the staff and management.”
Hot Air Balloon Flight
“One of the activities offered at Angama Mara is a dawn hot air balloon flight. Even the 4:30 am wake-up call was worth this truly spectacular experience!
“Floating over the great plains of the Masai Mara; hovering just a few feet above the Mara River and witnessing the magic of early morning sunrise… This is amongst the most cherished memories of this wonderful African adventure.”
Robyn’s East Africa adventure continues in Part 2: Serengeti and Ngorongoro.