Tiger King on Netflix has stolen all the headlines, with his wild tales from owners of & # 39; big cats & # 39; in the United States.
He highlighted the surprising statistic that there are more big cats on private property in the US than in nature. It was in this scenario that I left on safari to see them in their natural habitat in Kenya.
My trip coincided with the 35th anniversary of the release of the timeless Oscar-winning classic, Out Of Africa, based on the memoirs of Danish writer Karen Blixen. It stars Meryl Streep as Blixen and Robert Redford, as his aristocratic lover Denys Finch Hatton.
A pride of lions in the Maasai Mara. Lions can sleep up to 20 hours a day, Frank learned on his safari
Tiger King, on Netflix, highlighted the surprising statistic that there are more big cats on private property in the U.S. than in nature. It was in this scenario that Frank went on a safari to see them in their natural habitat in Kenya.
Deborah Calmeyer, the dynamic founder of ultra-luxury travel specialist Roar Africa, organized a special five-day Out of Africa tour. The company organized Robert Redford's first return trip to Africa, so if that was good enough for a Hollywood legend, my girlfriend and I were happy to follow in his footsteps.
Kenya, or British East Africa, as it was known at the turn of the 20th century, was Karen Blixen's idea of paradise. She describes the move there in her memoirs, Outside Africa, at a time when British colonial owners and other European colonial owners dominated vast estates inhabited by large numbers of animals from the Big Five – leopards, rhinos, buffaloes, lions and elephants .
Safari (from the Arabic word meaning & # 39; journey & # 39;) in Blixen's time, was more associated with hunting hunting, a popular quest among the bored and promiscuous aristocratic class, as portrayed in the underrated British film, White Mischief.
THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING ERNEST
The Hemingways Nairobi hotel. Frank describes the hotel as "a gentle introduction to Africa"
One of the executive suites at the Hemingways Nairobi hotel, located at the foot of the evocative Ngong Hills
Two kilometers from the Hemingways Nairobi hotel, pictured, is the compact Karen Blixen Museum, where the great writer lived for more than a decade
Frank's trip to Africa coincided with the 35th anniversary of the release of the timeless Oscar-winning classic Out Of Africa, starring Meryl Streep and Robert Redford
Danish writer Karen Blixen, whose memoirs, Outside Africa, became an Oscar-winning film
Ernest Hemingway embarked on the famous three-month hunt in Kenya, which inspired him to write The Snows of Kilimanjaro and The Short and Happy Life of Francis Macomber.
So it seemed appropriate that the first night stop on our trip was the Hemingways Nairobi hotel, in the garden city of Nairobi.
& # 39; Jambo & # 39; which means hello is a Swahili greeting that I would never tire of hearing throughout the trip and is always delivered with a smile and a warm welcome from Kenya.
A beautiful, airy hotel with lush gardens, Hemingways is a gentle introduction to Africa. We arrived just in time for the bottomless brunch, with a jazz band playing for a local African luxury clientele.
The hotel is located at the foot of the evocative Ngong Hills (& # 39; Ngong & # 39; is taken from the phrase Maasai which means & quot; rhino spring & # 39;).
Two kilometers from the hotel is the compact Karen Blixen Museum, where the great writer lived for more than a decade. & # 39; I had a farm in Africa, at the foot of the hills of Ngong & # 39 ;, are the opening words of Out of Africa, full of desire.
Among other accomplishments, Blixen was a talented portrait painter and her work hangs on the walls, alongside black and white photos of her champagne sip with Arthur Miller and Marilyn Monroe, and Blixen's Louis Vuitton suitcases.
"In the highlands," wrote Blixen, "you woke up in the morning and thought, Here I am, where I should be."
These highlands are the misty Ngong Hills, and it is where her lover, Denys Finch-Hatton, a great game hunter, was buried more than 10 miles away. Blixen placed a white sheet over her tomb so that she could wake up and see her in her garden and suffer.
SUSPENDED IN THE MIDDLE OVER MAASAI MARA
The breathtaking safari hosts Angama Mara. The name of the accommodation is inspired by the Swahili word for & # 39; suspended in the air & # 39;
Then it was an hour-long chartered flight to a breathtaking safari lodge, Angama Mara. When the plane landed on the private airfield on the lawn, there were graceful giraffes and a family of elephants enjoying their pasture on the plains, or mara, below.
The name of the inn is inspired by the Swahili word for & # 39; suspended in the air & # 39 ;, and this is exactly how it feels in the 30 tent suites located 300 meters above the Great Rift Valley.
Each suite, designed as an elegant open-plan apartment, has a fascinating view overlooking the Maasai Mara, the most beautiful game reserve on the continent.
The central picnic scene of Out of Africa was filmed on the grounds of Angama Mara. As a surprise to us, Roar Africa (which organizes safaris in 13 African countries) organized a picnic on the crest of the kopje Out of Africa, which appears on the movie poster.
BABIES WITH CHAMPAGNE TASTE
Angama Mara offers fascinating views of the Maasai Mara, the continent's most beautiful game reserve
"Each suite (Angama Mara) is designed as an elegant open-plan apartment," writes Frank
We were guided up the hill to discover an old world picnic scene – safari canvas chairs, a wicker picnic basket, tasty picnic food, checkered blankets, comfortable pillows, a bottle of sparkling wine, coffee in a bottle of Stanley and, of course, what a spectacular view.
A little disturbing was the sound of a wild dog barking, out of sight, but silently circling around the picnic area. Perhaps we should have reached anger after all.
After finishing the picnic, we kept our eyes open as we went down the hill, but our driver laughed when we told him our fears of being eaten alive by a wild and cruel dog.
He told us he was just a baboon alerting his family to our presence – it turns out that they are regulars as they walk around eating picnic leftovers. Fortunately, the baboons did not drink all the champagne we left behind.
THE SAFARI BALANCE CHAIR, THE SAFEST IN THE WORLD
Frank embarked on what Angama Mara calls The Rocking Chair Safari a joke – watching animals in the comfort of rocking chairs on the terrace of his room with a pair of binoculars
Angama Mara guests on a safari, which are held at sunrise and sunset in fully open vehicles for viewing games
Later, back at the hostel, I opened a beautiful leather copy of Out of Africa and never Blixen's words. You woke up in the morning and thought: Here I am, where I should be & # 39; it seemed more appropriate. I took the binoculars from the living room and sat on the rocking chair on the terrace.
I examined the golden expanse of the plains with dozens of zebras and impalas grazing silently. I was embarking on what the hotel calls a joke on The Rocking Chair Safari. I was impatient to try the real thing, but for now, I would have to settle for a curious round and hairy hyrax, or stone rabbit, spying on our tent with the cutest fangs.
Despite being just over a meter in length, I was surprised to find that the hyrax is the elephant's closest relative – it spends most of the afternoon sunbathing on a nearby rocky ledge.
Safaris are conducted at sunrise and sunset in fully open game observation vehicles, with a canvas roof as a shelter from the sun. Alice, a local Masai, was our guide for our game units. She is highly educated and passionate about wildlife conservation. She was constantly on the walkie-talkie to her network of fellow guides (from other resorts in Mara), heading for sightings of the Big Five.
On his safari in Angama Mara, Frank saw a sleepy pride of lions, a buffalo enjoying a mud bath and a lone rhino (image)
So, within an hour or two, we saw a pride of sleepy lions and a lonely rhino. The next day, we saw the same pride as lions attacking a buffalo that had retired to the relative safety of the swampy water.
On our way back to the store, we passed an old-looking buffalo triumvirate, enjoying a comforting mud bath, and Alice told us that they were known as "retired generals" residents.
Alice is a natural storyteller and we learned many surprising facts – that she knew that a giraffe's tongue is blue or that they are insomniac, usually sleeping only 30 minutes a night, or that an ostrich is the Usain Bolt of nature, able to run up to 45 miles an hour? Or that a lion sleeps up to 20 hours a day, and that wild boars are one of the few animals that mate for pleasure? Meanwhile, baby elephants take comfort in sucking their trunks.
Although it is known that rhinos and mountain gorillas are threatened with extinction, giraffes silently suffer what has been called "silent extinction", with their number dropping by 40% in just 30 years. Hippos are considered the deadliest and kill 350 people a year – don't get between them and the water!
AN ACCOMMODATION FOR A PRESIDENT OR TWO!
Angama Mara's restaurant. The hotel's local chef serves delicious meals here with the freshest salads picked from the hotel's shamba or vegetable garden, writes Frank
Frank describes the look of Angama Mara, in the photo, as being architecturally dramatic … an almost dreamlike quality & # 39;
Angama Mara's architecturally dramatic guest areas – Maasai brick walls and distinctive cone-shaped buildings – were inspired by colonial-era design in Africa. The beauty of the view has an immediate emotional effect, creating an almost dreamlike quality.
The hotel's local chef serves delicious meals here with the freshest salads …