As Abercrombie & Kent’s founder, Geoffrey Kent, writes in his memoir Safari, ‘Africa never fails’. He believes that A&K’s home turf of East Africa is so wildly beautiful and beautifully wild that it won’t fail to enrapture, particularly the youngest guests. And he should know, having grown up running free in Kenya’s Aberdare mountains, having his holidays in places in Africa that they ‘couldn’t drink the water’.
With work, school, and ever-present devices, we have so little uninterrupted time with our children that holidays are the best chance we have to engage and interact without intrusions from day-to-day life. Safaris make for the perfect family holiday, combining adventure, activity and learning with relaxation, magic and mystery. Getting up close to the ‘circle of life’ with your family is both humbling and thrilling. One day on safari is sure to change a child’s viewpoint forever.
From the original animated feature to the live-action remake, The Lion King has a very special place in our children’s collective consciousness. Following on from the re-release in 2019 of the Disney classic, a new generation of children started to dream of visiting the real-life locations that inspired the film, and in turn, their parents turned to A&K. Why? Geoffrey is widely recognised as having reinvented the modern safari. And travelling with Geoffrey to Africa directly inspired Jeffrey Katzenberg and his making of The Lion King during his tenure at Disney.
For one particular family who wished to see the vast rolling savannahs, rocky outcrops, acacia trees punctuating the horizon, as well as the delicate balance of existence up close, we arranged an exceptional trip to the wildlife-rich reserves of Lewa Wildlife Conservancy and the Masai Mara in Kenya.
They started their journey in the pawprints of The Lion King in Nairobi at famed Giraffe Manor, an exclusive boutique hotel set in nearly five hectares of forest in the suburbs of Kenya’s capital. At this hotel, our guests were delighted to meet the property’s resident herd of Rothschild’s giraffe, who like to visit every morning and evening – delighting children by poking their long necks through the windows in search of a treat.
Next, it was off to Hell’s Gate National Park in the Rift Valley by helicopter to see the towering rock piles that inspired Pride Rock. The park doesn’t contain any predators, so they could take in the savannah and see its resident zebra, baboon and buffalo on foot or by bicycle. The children headed back to school with an actual classroom experience to learn about the Rift Valley geology, that tectonic tear that cleeves the continent from Lebanon to Mozambique. And the day was rounded off with a dip in some mineral-rich hot springs, which bubble thanks to the park’s geothermal energy.
A short flight brought our guests to Laikipia to stay at Sirai House, an exclusive six-suite African lodge at the highest point on the Borana Conservancy, which shares a boundary with Lewa. Outside this property, the views of the savannah and rolling foothill reaching to magnificent Mount Kenya and the rich wildlife within in the Conservancy are thrilling. Inside, the attentive staff and luxurious amenities are remarkable. Our clients enjoyed exploring by 4x4 and on horseback seeing the plains wildlife such as zebra, giraffe, Grant’s gazelle, eland and hartebeest – as well as Borana’s lion and herds of elephant. They travelled to Mount Kenya for a mountainside breakfast followed by fly fishing in the mountain’s teeming rivers, an afternoon hike with a ranger and sundowner drinks atop a ‘Pride Rock’.
Their journey next took them to Kenya’s otherworldly, abundant Maasai Mara. It’s undeniably one of Africa’s most significant reserves and the site of the annual wildebeest migration. The Great Migration – made up of more than 1.5 million wildebeest, 200,000 Burchell’s zebra and some trailing Thomson’s gazelle – circle through these ‘Pride Lands’ every year. Snapping at their heels or lying in wait are hungry predators like Simba, Shenzi and Scar. The family had a huge interest in photography, so we arranged for them to meet with zoologist, wildlife photographer, and the BBC’s Big Cat presenter Jonathan Scott. Having lived in or around the Mara since 1977, he knows this reserve intimately and helped the family produce their own big-cat documentary whilst sharing his knowledge about lion conservation efforts.
For a final hoorah, our group stayed in the ultra-luxurious Geoffrey Kent Suite at Sanctuary Olonana. This exceptional enclave connects guests to the extraordinary Kenyan landscape in a truly enriching way. While the children splashed in the raised infinity pool, their parents enjoyed celebratory drinks on the grandstand look-out deck. Later that night, the famous soundtrack to The Lion King rang out across the savannah, as it was curtains up on very special viewing of the movie in a bush-cinema experience. Africa never fails.