How To Ride a Camel — in Style

I have always felt that Kenya is the absolute quintessence of African safari adventure. For a plethora of intangible, interwoven reasons, with roots deeply entwined in Europe’s colonial history of explorers, traders and naturalists, the notion of ‘safari’ first, and irrevocably, intoxicated our collective Western imagination with the 20th Century’s defining glorification of the travel genre in popular culture through films like ‘Out of Africa’, iconic creatives like Peter Beard, fashion houses like Ralph Lauren, Paul Smith Burberry, as well as legendary writers like Ernest Hemingway who penned ‘Green Hills of Africa‘, ‘The Snows of Kilimanjaro‘ and ‘The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber‘ after his life-changing Serengeti safari in 1933. Thankfully, the originative concept of ‘safari’ quickly evolved away from its treacherous trading roots, and more recently, the majority of safari operators earnestly eschew and advocate against the formerly popular safari ‘activity’ of trophy hunting.

How popular culture transformed the safari story into one of thrilling romance and audacious adventure.

How popular culture transformed the safari story into one of thrilling romance and audacious adventure.

The African safari is a grand symbol for Adventure (capital A!) – and particularly for the kind of audacious adventure where one boldly seeks out and exploratively enters into the exotic unknown of a non-Western place whose wildlife, land and peoples are unlike everything they have known about life – and themselves. For me – and so many of my clients I’ve spoken with over the years – Kenya most especially evokes the romantic allure of luxuriantly dreamy odysseys on sweeping escarpments, surrounded by the wildest of wildlife, beigely attired in Jackie O-chic whilst elegantly sipping an exquisitely stilled-and-chilled gin, immersed in the blushing gold liquid-light of another Kenyan sunset…

And so I was utterly exhilarated upon receiving instruction to visit Loisaba Tented Camp in Laikipia, Kenya, for ‘a bit of a report-back session’. (How very dull that sounds in comparison to the Adventure (capital A again!) that awaited me! I also loved that lyrical ‘Loisaba’ means ‘seven sisters’ and was inspired by the star cluster of the same name.)

View out over the Loisaba Conservancy in Laikipia from Loisaba Tented

View out over the Loisaba Conservancy in Laikipia from Loisaba Tented Camp.

Although Kenyan politics is oft in the news and may be of concern to some, I personally had no such qualms. Perhaps that’s because my day-to-day immersion in the travel industry provides me with an accurate,  finger-on-the-pulse perspective on all things ‘Africa’? I was not about to let any political rumours keep me from this beautiful country!

I flew up to Loisaba in a caravan with Safari Link, stopping along the route at different airports on the way, passengers either excitedly disembarking or arriving onboard, sunkissed and safari-satisfied, at each stop. This provided marvelous opportunities for comfort breaks of unhurried leg-stretches, deliciously dark Kenyan coffee and expanding excitement the closer we got!


Loisaba is most impressive. In fact, it is more impressive than a very impressive thing that is really jolly impressive indeed. Hence, I was impressed.

Perched on the edge of an escarpment overlooking the breathakingly vast Loisaba Conservancy, there is no shortage of “Oh WOW!” views across the plains. One can even see Mount Kenya, shimmering in the distance beyond! The elegant tented camp, which opened two years ago, was designed to make absolutely sure that each and every one of its spectacular views were maximisedAnd boy, did they succeed!

Loisaba's views steal your words away...

Loisaba’s views steal your words away…

The central areas include an expansive, open dining-room, an open lounge and bar, ensconced by a wonderful wooden deck for al fresco dining — and the most sensational infinity pool that, honestly, I could have spent a luxuriantly lazy infinity in…

The suites are all beautifully appointed, magically marrying Africa’s bold, earth-inspired design ethic with Europe’s contemporary elegance, turning even a bathoom visit into the most opulent of expeditions!

800-odd elephants call the Loisaba Conservancy home, with its western edge sheltering an ancient elephant movement corridor.

800-odd elephants call the Loisaba Conservancy home, with its western edge sheltering an ancient elephant movement corridor.

I realised why they call it an 'infinity' pool --- because I wanted to stay in it forever!

I realised why they call it an ‘infinity’ pool — because I wanted to stay in it forever!

View through a tent's bedroom out towards the incredible view.

Why glamp when you can camp at Loisaba?

Al fresco dining out on the wooden deck, serenaded by the sunset!

Al fresco, redefined!


A-ɨtɔɔmɔ́n: ‘Welcome’ in the Maa language

Photo of Brown, my guide, snapped on an amazingly guided game-drive!

Photo of Brown, my guide, snapped on an amazingly guided game-drive!

Upon arrival, I was welcomed by my Samburu guide, Brown, attired in awe-igniting tradition, swathed in hero-red cotton and graced in bold layers of beads, symbolic adornments of bravery. My welcome could not have been more fitting or more thrilling — and, yes, I did rather think of myself as a latter day Karen Blixen, but in more comfortable trousers and an air-conditioned vehicle!

Socio-ecologically inspired, Liosaba makes a strategic point of employing people from the local villages, investing huge amounts of time and effort in training and experiential education. This is why their staff complement is so impeccably professional and ‘reinvested‘ back in Loisaba itself.

Here in Kenya, ‘rangers’ are called ‘guides’.

Here in Kenya, ‘rangers’ are called ‘guides’.

There are so very many things to wax lyrical about when speaking about Loisaba, but for today, I’ll choose this particular plusLoisaba is a veritable smorgasbord of activities. Of course, Loisaba offers the most phenomenal game drives – but, if you’re anything like me, your appetite for experiences beyond the ubiquitous game drive is catered for with a thrilling menu of extraordinary activities.

  • For instance, camel riding — something you might more associate with desert-duned Arabian peregrinations — but which I experienced right in the heart of Africa! It was tremendous fun, I can assure you – perched so precariously high on the humps of this rather endearingly daft creature, but surprisingly comfy and elegant in a shuka*-chic bucket-seat. Business Class.
  • Guided bush walks take you right into the heart of wild Loisaba! The guides have the most jaw-droppingly astute knowledge and will teach you to read the animal sounds, signs and tracks — and at a marvel-inducingly slower pace so you can experience the more hidden treasures that are whizzed by on a game drive.
  • Take an afternoon tipple down to the river for a luxuriously lazy fishing expedition. Kids apparently love this experience — especially having their Samburu guide teach them their traditional fishing tricks!
  • Ride quietly through herds of zebra, impala and giraffe on horseback for an exhilarating rush!
  • Also on offer are guided mountain-bike tours, which I gave a miss — on account of now being such an accomplished camel-rider. They say that ‘perching perambulation’ is a strenuous sport in its own right! (*wink*)
Camel-trekking through the Loisaba Conservancy is a bucketlist-must!

How I became a camel-rider extraordinaire!

Lise atop her camel, taking a selfie to show just how high one sits on a camel!

Taking the selfie to new heights!

 

Fishing fun, guided bush-walks and extraordinary mountain-biking!

Fishing fun, guided bush-walks and extraordinary mountain-biking!

 

Other activities include phenomenal birding, horserides through herds of giraffe, zebra and elephants -- and sundowner adventures! (The evocatively named 'Eastern Chanting Goshawk is just one of 400+ bird species in Laikipia!)

Other activities include phenomenal birding, horserides through herds of giraffe, zebra and elephants — and sundowner adventures! (The evocatively named ‘Eastern Chanting Goshawk is just one of 400+ bird species in Laikipia!)

FAMILY FUN!

As immaculately luxurious as Loisaba is, it is still one of the most family-friendly lodges I’ve stayed at – with all sorts of exciting fun for children of all ages to enjoy. Their Family Combination tents (made up of a Double Tent and a convertible Twin/Double Tent) are joined by a picturesque little walkway – and have their own lounges and, of course, en-suite bathrooms. One very special family tent even has the use exclusive use of a second infinity pool! (There’s a special babysitting service for little adventurers with parents in need of a romantic dinner for two – or, indeed, a lusciously languid, solitary soak in the pool!)


Another of my highlights was a fascinating visit to the local Samburu village where I met the astoundingly special villagers, learning about their uniquely compelling culture. traditions and daily lives. What deeply impressed me was their passionate heart for conservation!

When you stay at Loisaba, you can even meet their dedicated anti-poaching sniffer dogsMachine and Warrior, and their amazing human handlers — hearing stories of their ongoing victory-by-victory battle to preserve the area’s wildlife and immense cultural heritage.

Loisaba's very own 'Bloodhound Gang' - with Warrior and Machine sniffing --- and snuffing out trouble!

Loisaba’s very own ‘Bloodhound Gang’ – with Warrior and Machine sniffing — and snuffing out trouble! (Photo by Ami Vitale)

I suppose I should, though reluctantly, round this sojourn off with a favorite highlight from my trip: a refreshment stop next to a waterfall. Whilst the chef grilled sizzlingly delectable chicken skewers and fresh veggies over a roaring fire, we (as one only does at an Africa barbecue) waited for a notorious crocodile to materialise from the waterfall’s depths. To the visible relief of some and the desperate disappointment of others, no such reptile emerged — but we nevertheless continued our reptile-free reverie while the sun set on another day in Kenya-paradise.

Having dispatched an urgent ‘Leave me at Loisaba’ SOS on my final day there, I realised this precious piece of paradise needed more of us to experience her, supporting and sustaining her resources. Responsible travel transforms each touchpoint of the journey: the wildlife, the unique ecology, special individuals and their community, the local and national economy and – last but not least, ourselves.

I’d love to answer any questions you might have about Loisaba Tented Lodge, Laikipia, Kenya or any safari-related question at all! Connect with me directly here.

 

Camel-trekking at sunset in Kenya (Loisaba Tented Camp)

‘If I know a song of Africa, of the giraffe and the African new moon lying on her back, of the plows in the fields and the sweaty faces of the coffee pickers, does Africa know a song of me?’ ~ Karen Blixen, Out of Africa


*’Shuka’ is the ‘traditional’ red plaid Maasai cloth which was originally introduced into Kenya by Scottish missionaries, circa 1895 – 1909. Before then, the Maasai wore garments crafted from leather.

History of the Maasai Shuka cloth

Credit: Tartanscot

 

Our Southern Destinations team would be thrilled to help you design your ultimate safari holiday – or, if you’re still in the dreaming stage, we’re here to answer your questions, no matter how grand or seemingly small. Our team has experienced Africa in the very same way our own guests do so they have first-hand knowledge and personalised insights about each of our carefully selected destinations and lodges.

Whether you’d like expert advice about a family safari in Kenya, a Zanzibar honeymoon or connecting with Rwanda’s endangered mountain gorillas, we can answer your questions about all the different kinds of safari experiences we curate.

If you’d like to to chat with someone who’s actually ‘been there and done that‘, just pop us an enquiry!