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Published by Harmonia Norah, 2017-05-16 06:41:19

Africa

Africa

On her most recent adventure, Norah Casey headed off into
the bush to explore the remote corners of South Africa and
Tanzania, discovering a range of safari lodges and wilderness
experiences. In the following pages, she shares the best of her
travels, from the Lowveld of Limpopo to the wildebeest migration in the
Serengeti, during this once in a lifetime journey to see the world’s most
spectacular wildlife. Along the way, she walked with the Maasai and
danced with the amazing women from the Shangaan tribe.

JUNE 2015 IRISH TATLER 127

travelafrica

RETURN to AFRICA “There is an
Norah Casey is drawn back to the continent of incredible wonders.trategy has always been my core area of expertise in essence to Africa
business. I studied strategic management at Ashridge which is unique”
Business School in Hertfordshire and was so taken
with it that I went back there to study advanced and fell in love with the local man who guided her to the
top. They are now married, running a travel company
Sstrategic management. The irony of being a strategist together and living in the nearby town of Arusha with
Africa to the many safari lodges which have evolved to create their beautiful baby daughter. Their company is Amani
sustainable communities through ecotourism. It had been some Afrika and its story is incredible. Godwin Temba was
years, but what I remember most about all of those safaris is born in the shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro and spent
how differently you see the world when you spend time close to his early life as a porter bringing groups up and down
animals in their natural environment. It is impossible to allow it, carrying heavy luggage and setting up camp. He
who learned the hard way in my personal life how your head to drift off into petty worries and the mundanity of can’t remember how often he has done the climb, but
futile it is to plan ahead is never lost on me. So for the last year life’s everyday problems when you head out at dawn. over 1,000 times at least, he told me. In 2007 he took a
or two, instead of making plans in advance, I have become a Dara was five when we started taking him to safari camps, big leap of faith, went back to school, learned English
more spontaneous decision maker… that’s a nice way of saying and he hardly remembers them. He was ten when we last and scraped together the $2,000 registration fee to
I do crazy things on the spur of the moment. As a widow, visited one of our favourite game reserves, Madikwe near the start his travel company – a lifetime’s savings. Amani
Christmas and New Year is never a good time in my house Botswana border, and has hazy memories of the excitement of Afrika is very special because of that. You can be sure
because it often serves to remind my teenage son Dara and I of tracking lions and the wonderment of sitting quietly in a jeep that Godwin and Vivian mind their guides, pay them
what we’ve lost, rather than all the treasures we have. By the gazing at a herd of elephants chomping around us. I knew it a fair wage and the service they provide is personal,
time it came to 31 December, myself and the teenager were in was the right place and that it would transport us, as it did then, ethical and authentic. When I first talked to Vivian, she
a bit of a funk, which is when I hit on a plan to go to Africa. into a world teeming with life. all but persuaded me to attempt the climb up Mount
There was a reason for me choosing Africa. There is a standing Life is short and when I hit on a plan it is usually a big one… Kili. When I protested about my pitiful track record
joke in my publishing company, Harmonia, which and it has to happen yesterday! So, three days after of climbing mountains (Bray Head aside!), she brushed
involves an invisible but powerful elastic band. I New Year’s Eve, Dara and I flew to Johannesburg my reservations aside and emphatically told me it was
your brain and will power that carried you to the top,
more so than muscular calves and climbing expertise.
“My husband says it’s mind over matter and more
about determination. You can do it,” she said. I had a
moment when I thought I might just go for it, but in
the end, we couldn’t fit it in, and I am now on a mission
to climb Kili before year end – and thanks to her and
Godwin I know I will do it.

Over the following pages, I recount the many adventures
during our African trip, and I hope one day you will find
yourself at one or all of the many great places we encountered.

With many thanks to Claire Picknell at Mahlatini and the Tembas of
Amani Afrika for co-ordinating this once in a lifetime trip. [Mahlatini.
com, Tel: +44 (0)28 9073 6050; Amaniafrika.com, Tel: +255 786 037 897]

attach this band to great people who leave to and visited seven lodges between South GREAT STOPOVER
further their career elsewhere, which is why Africa and Tanzania, ending the three week AT OLIVER’S
we have so many returners in the business. marathon on a tropical island off the coast
I think Africa has its own elastic band of Zanzibar. It was a life-changing trip
and she has had me firmly in her grip which reminded me of the tremendous
since I first visited over a decade ago. beauty in the world and we returned
There is some justice and balance in different – in a good way. So it wasn’t
Mother Nature endowing a country quite as foolhardy as it sounds: I knew We flew from Dublin to Paris and then overnight to Johannesburg, and had a
beset with poverty, disease and conflict that Africa has a powerful healing ability long day at the airport before our flight to Kruger Mpumalanga Airport. Our
with the most incredible wonders. and that the beauty of the bush would first safari lodge was a five or six hour drive, so we decided to stay at a great
There is an essence to Africa which is have a magical effect on our spirits. place called Oliver’s Lodge at White River, just 20 minutes from the airport.
unique. Beautiful people combined with Helped by two brilliant women from the
beautiful places act as a powerful magnet world of travel, we pulled off what initially This is a perfect stopover pre- or post-safari. White River is a quaint little
that draws you back time and time again. appeared to be an insurmountable challenge. town which probably hasn’t changed much since the Boer War when British
My late husband Richard and I had been If you are planning your own adventure, then I settlers set up camp there. The surrounding farms produce tropical fruits,
to Africa many times to write about its many can highly recommend these two powerhouses: The macadamia nuts and flowers, which makes for a very pretty and almost arrived, the place was very quiet – even a bit sleepy to be honest – and we
splendours; from the wine, food and vistas in South first is Claire Picknell from Mahlatini, a knowledgeable manicured rural landscape. The Lodge is charming (think English country expected to be dining alone. Not so – the restaurant was packed with large
and personable Belfast-based travel company specialising in house) with beautiful gardens and friendly staff. The room was spacious and groups and couples and our waiter told us most of them were local. Even
“It was a life-changing Africa. Claire had visited most of the places we were going had everything we needed – including multiple sockets (so we could charge though we stayed barely 16 hours at Oliver’s, we found ourselves saying
trip and we returned quite to, so gave us invaluable advice on everything from what to all of our various devices after two days travelling!), a large bathroom to warm goodbyes to the staff, and it really did feel like it was a bit of a wrench
different – in a good way” bring to the best routes for transfers. She also has a tremendous unwind and wash the long-haul out of our system and we were right next to leaving the place. No surprise that there is an amazing warm, personable
network of contacts and ensured we got the best out of our the swimming pool. I had been told that the food was exceptionally good, woman at the helm, Tanja Ruf, from which this magical, homely atmosphere
time at each lodge. The second is an amazing Canadian woman and it was. Earlier we had wandered through the vegetable and herb garden stems from.
called Vivian Temba who climbed Kilimanjaro a few years ago so had a preview of what might end up on our plates. I had grilled Kingklip
(locally caught) and Dara had rack of lamb. I have to admit the quality and Oliver’s Restaurant & Lodge, White River, South Africa; Tel +27 137500479;
the presentation was way higher than I expected – it was superb. When we

128 IRISH TATLER JUNE 2015 JUNE 2015 IRISH TATLER 129

travelafrica

The wildlife by the river Garonga Safari Lodge

“This is wilderness in every sense of the
word...it added to the whole experience”

GARONGA SAFARI LODGE was a picnic in a tree that Bernie organised was Harmonia. She insisted it was Harmonia,
on our second day. We headed off from the even as I repeated my name, and after a while
SAFARI for the SOUL camp and climbed a huge tree with a stunning we both smiled in that way when we know
A luxurious wild retreat with a difference in South Africa. view of the bush, where the team had laid out that language will remain a barrier. She got on
T here have been many times a beautiful spread of salads and wines and with the most amazingly serene massage using
since we returned from I tried almost all of them. Our ranger, Elvis, and tracker, traditional cakes. As the staff retreated into the purifying properties of Buchu oil from the
Africa that I have found Now, the fences have been dropped Richard, were great enthusiasts and the distance – and once we were absolutely Western Cape against a backdrop of whooping
myself thinking of Bernie made every drive a bit of an adventure convinced that we weren’t also on the menu monkeys and noisy crickets.
between Makalali and the neighbouring with a touch of comedic talent thrown for a canny cheetah who fancied some juicy,
Pidwa reserve creating 60,000 acres sweet tourists – we relaxed and took in the When we walked back to the camp she
Smith. I’ve thought about the of government-protected land, which in. This is wilderness in every sense gave me her card…her name was Harmonia.
courageous decision he took 17 years ago is also a base for a significant wildlife of the word, where you have to work Ionce in a lifetime experience. I then took out my card and we both
to ditch his life as a sergeant in the British research programme. There are only hard to find animals which added to n the evening, we gathered and marvelled and laughed at the coincidence – I
army and follow his boyhood dream of two commercial game lodges, so you the whole experience. We spent one swapped stories with the rest of the had travelled all the way to the banks of the
living in the bush. He comes from good really do feel you are out on your own evening tracking cheetah – well when I guests at a crackling boma feast. The Makhutswi River in South Africa to find
stock: for generations his family owned for game drives. The reserve is also home say we… it was Elvis and Richard who atmosphere was like nowhere else we another Harmonia.
the famous high street newsagent chain to a research programme and the reserve patiently waded head down through the went – and we loved the informality of
WH Smith. But young Bernie opted for warden Ross Kettles and his wife Audrey, Lowveld bush and dirt tracks pointing a camp where everyone chatted to each other Garonga is laid-back heaven and it really
life in the army and, believe it or not, his an ecologist, have been a leading out footprints and markings we (helped by the fact that all drinks at Garonga is a safari for the soul – you will leave feeling
disciplined squadron-like leadership has force in elephant conception would never have noticed. After are complimentary throughout your stay). like you have glimpsed Africa in her natural
created an amazingly restful and informal in South Africa. an hour or so, and after we beauty with little influence and interference
wilderness camp – the most laid-back We stayed in a tented had given up all hope of ever One evening when we returned, bedraggled from man (or woman).
of all that we visited. He laughs when I room – no ordinary tent finding her, they spotted a and dusty from the evening drive, the staff
rib him about ‘marshalling the troops’ mind, this is glamping at beautiful cheetah virtually had a candlelit rose strewn bush bath ready ESSENTIALS
but there is no doubt that his attention its best. The large four- hidden in the grasses. We for me under the stars. It was bliss. There are
to detail, strict discipline on quality and poster bed with billowing were amazed and in awe of Picnic in a tree magical touches at Garonga that you won’t Game: Garonga has four of the big five –
timekeeping is the reason why Garonga is white mosquito nets the duo, and it made the find Sundowners in the bush find elsewhere. Morning drives often ended lions, elephants, cheetahs, white rhinos – and
so relaxed. He calls it ‘safari for the soul’, played centre stage in our all the more special. It was our with a surprise breakfast in the bush, and on loads of general game, including hippos,
and there are special touches at Garonga room, raised on stilts among first game reserve of the trip, and I our last evening drive, Elvis took us to the in the river. Makalali has also begun the
that set it apart as a unique experience. giant ebony trees. The outdoor Dressed for am glad it was because we learned Sleep Out camp, where braver souls than process of populating the area with buffalo.
When Garonga first started, the reserve shower we shared with the the wild more about the patient and ancient me spend the night sleeping under the stars Just as I was writing this, Bernie emailed to
with only a walkie talkie by their side. I was say that 20 black rhinos had been delivered
couldn’t compete with the game-filled monkeys. Most afternoons Dara lazed in art of old-fashioned tracking at Garonga courageous enough to enjoy a gin and tonic on to the reserve. (The black rhino is the
experience of nearby Kruger, so Bernie the hammock on the deck overlooking a – with no expectation that we would as the sun set over another spectacular day in Holy Grail of many safari seekers, so this is
came up with some ingenious ways to dry riverbed where elephants and impala always be successful. Makalali, before heading back to the safety great news for Garonga.)
enhance the ‘wilderness experience’. And wandered through on a regular basis. We stayed two nights and the highlight of the camp.
Accommodation: There are two camps.
On our last day, I planned to have a massage The safari camp where we stayed has six
at the Sala and, like everything else in this half-tented private rooms raised on stilts
eco-friendly wilderness, the experience was among giant ebony trees overlooking the
different for two reasons. The product line, dry river bed. Each has an outside deck
Moya, creates employment in a traditional with hammock and an indoor and outdoor
community, and promised miraculous healing shower. Little Garonga has three ensuite
properties using a rare and special plant bush suites.
species, Fynbos, from the southern tip of
Africa. The therapist approached me and said, Who should go: Great for wildlife
“Harmonia?” in a quizzical way and held out enthusiasts. With no dress code, it’s informal
her hand. I shook hands and said that my name and personable, and perfect for families.
was actually Norah and the company name
Garonga Safari Camp, Hoedspruit, South
Africa; Tel: +27 (0)82 440 3522 [email protected]
garonga.com; garonga.com

130 IRISH TATLER JUNE 2015 JUNE 2015 IRISH TATLER 131

travelafrica “We were witnessing something A leopard kill

Hunting is tiring work

that photographers spend months,
if not years, trying to capture”

MALA MALA during out visit. The wild dogs began an even more precarious
were also resting, and we waited climb to get the prized impala to
THE THRILL of the HUNT patiently until first one, then two, a higher level where he could rest
then the whole pack, roused and in safety. By now, other rangers
An exceptional photo-safari game experience where you are guaranteed to see the big five. before long they headed single file began to arrive, but we retained
across the grassy plains. The pack our prized position at the base of
Still, few can claim witness, as Norah Casey did, to an up close and personal leopard kill. had attracted a number of other the tree, mesmerised by witnessing
jeeps and we followed through the something in nature that
M ala Mala proved to the journey of a hungry lion or cheetah. starvation because they are too weak to bush at a safe distance. Before long photographers can spend months, Sated after lunch
be by far the best Gripped as they hunched low and still in hunt. These animals hunt for food, not the alpha male began to crouch if not years, trying to capture. The
game experience we the tall grass, spying with forensic intent for the thrill of it – game reserves don’t low and we spotted a group of leopard by now was exhausted
encountered. This was an unsuspecting herd of wildebeest or interfere with the laws of nature and only impala through the binoculars. and panting heavily while
in part because we had springbok; waiting for that moment when the strong survive. Then, in a flash, the chase was on, occasionally licking the animal’s
an exceptional ranger, Roan Ravenhill, a weak or young animal was separated and we were speeding through the neck – a strange and somewhat
who generously shared his knowledge from the group, and then racing and On previous safaris we had arrived at bush in convoy trying to keep up intimate act of a killer relishing
gleaned over many years in the bush. lunging and bringing down the prey. various stages before and after a kill, but the feast ahead. I’ve notched up
But it was also because we saw a kill As a passionate animal lover, I have an never before had I seen one with my own Awith the pack. more than 20 safari lodges and
right in front of our eyes – an incredible uneasy guilt about my fascination with eyes (and it happened right in front of las, after many game reserves in the past decade,
experience. The zenith of every safari- the chase and the kill, and that usually I us – just feet away). We headed out one fruitless chases the yet this was a first. Roan told me
goer is to witness the thrill of a chase am internally cheering on the hunter. It’s evening to see a pack of wild dogs, a rare impala scattered and it was only the fifth kill he had
that ends in success for the hunter. I not that I relish such a brutal assault on a encounter for us, and Roan was keen to the dogs regrouped. encountered in eight years. We
grew up watching wildlife programmes hapless deer, it’s more that the herbivores see if we could join them on an evening As dusk was almost returned to the camp to discover
over and over again, listening to David have an easier time of finding food than hunt.We spotted a leopard on the way and upon us, Roan turned the jeep to a pack of lions were dangerously
Attenborough’s soft lilting voice building the carnivores in the bush. And I have stopped to view, photograph and marvel head back home. Along the way close by and extra security was
towards an excited climax as he narrated seen first-hand beautiful animals die from at this magnificent male who, apart from we spotted the same leopard now provided for the walk to and from
an occasional yawn, slept peacefully lazily making his way down a dirt our lodgings. The evening couldn’t
track. We circled around until we get any better as we listened to
were a little ahead of him and out the roar and rumble of the pack
of his way. As he got closer to the of lions who had ventured into
jeep he looked to me like he was our midst. It was one of the most
about to lie down for another exciting evenings of our trip and
nap, when a large crashing sound it took a while for the adrenaline
came from our right and an to dissipate. The lions eventually
impala jumped straight over the left the area and we arrived at the
bush into his waiting jaws…he camp for a well-earned drink at the
only needed to stretch his neck a bar as we excitedly went through
bit to ensnare his prey. The wild every detail of the encounter with
dogs had spooked the impala and Roan and his fellow rangers. We
our leopard spotted an easy kill. even attracted interest from other
But he also knew the wild dogs guests who sat with us to hear
would be coming for him and the story of the leopard and the
the prized impala and weighing impala. For days afterwards we,
up the surroundings in a matter along with all of the other rangers
of seconds, he headed straight and guests, visited the leopard in
for a tree nearby. We followed. the tree as he feasted on the impala
Incredibly, we were all alone, until there was nothing left.
hearts hammering, flustered and
trying to get video and pictures of Mala Mala is now the biggest
this amazing sight. The dogs were private game reserve bordering
getting closer and the leopard the Sabi Sands, with just over
lunged for the tree and, in what 33,000 acres of open boundary
must have been a Herculean with Kruger National Park (the
effort, hauled the impala to the fences were taken down in 1993).
first branch – and only just in It was originally a hunting reserve,
time. Seconds later the furious and the trophy heads, elephant
dogs appeared at the base of the tusks and old black and white
tree barking loudly in fury – but photographs that adorn the walls
they couldn’t get near him. Then are testament to a different era.
Mala Mala was owned by the

132 IRISH TATLER JUNE 2015 JUNE 2015 IRISH TATLER 133

travelafrica A close encounter with rhinos on a bush walk Oyster Bay Hotel “It’s best to avoid
looking out the
Breakfast in the bush window because the
driving makes Rome
look pedestrian”

“We were captivated A pack of wild dogs setting out at dusk
by spells sitting still in
the middle of a large Oyster Bay Hotel
herd of elephants”
A Beautiful Stopover It’s best to avoid looking out the window
famous hotelier Michael Rattray, but it made IN A CRAZY CITY because the driving makes Rome look
headline news in September 2014 when the pedestrian and the city’s traffic jams
South African government controversially ACCOMMODATION: A calm oasis in Tanzania’s chaotic capital city, the Oyster are legendary – most commuters face
bought the land and properties for the Shangaan four hours in traffic every day in this
Tribe (who claimed ownership dating back to The main camp has 14 rooms (accepts Bay Hotel offers welcome respite for weary travellers. overcrowded city. A lot of travellers face a
previous generations) for $100 million under children of all ages). Sable has seven suites We were bound for Tanzania stopover in Dar because of onward flight
the land reform policy. However, the tribe have (no children under 12). Rattray’s Camp and the Serengeti, so masses of exhausted fellow travellers in the times and despite all of the difficulties and
leased the land and management to Michael has eight rooms with private plunge pools we left Mpumalanga in arrival hall trying to find the right piece delays, we found the perfect spot.
Rattray so it’s business as usual at Mala Mala. (very luxurious and private). South Africa behind and of paper and waiting patiently to borrow
a pen to fill it out. Then we unfortunately The Oyster Bay is a magical oasis and
I can’t promise that every trip to Mala Mala the perfect stop-off. We recuperated,
will be just as exciting, but the quality of the GAME: Mala Mala has all the big five (lions, ventured northwards. In Swazi and ran into a health official, who demanded enjoyed an excellent dinner and, as luck
game viewing was exceptionally good – as was cheetahs, elephants, buffalos, rhinos) would have it, found ourselves chatting
the knowledge and patience of Roan our ranger. and has a particular reputation for its fine Xhosa, Mpumalanga literally means the $50 each from us. Although we had our to the British woman who opened this
At Mala Mala you have a dedicated ranger and significant population of leopards. It little gem with her husband Christopher
who stays with you at all times – meals, drinks, also boasts several endangered species “place where the sun rises”, so it was only yellow fever vaccine, it takes ten days for Bailey. By sheer coincidence Sarah Bailey
game drives – and is a constant companion. cheetahs, wild dogs (we saw two different was having dinner right next to us with
We couldn’t have asked for a better guide and packs), hippo, baboons, crocodiles, fitting that we rose at dawn to drive it to become active in your body, and her good friend and former long-term
teacher than Roan – an avid photographer with warthogs, lots of deer and 300 species of manager of the hotel Maretha Wentzel.
an encyclopaedic knowledge about the animals amazing birds. Mala Mala guarantees that overland to Kruger International Dar Es Salaam we were four hours away from that Her son Charlie Bailey now runs the
and the bush. And given that he did this for a if you have two nights there, you will see Airport for our first flight to magical tenth day. Anyway, after relaunched and reimagined luxury
living and was constantly meeting new safari the big five in 24 hours and at least two boutique hotel. It deservedly receives
goers, his enthusiasm and excitement was very different leopards. Remnants of the former Jo’burg. After a few hours’ much discussion – entirely on many accolades and awards. Oyster Bay
much in evidence during our time with him. We hunting lodge remain has only eight beautifully appointed ultra-
were captivated by spells spent sitting still in the stopover, we took a four- my part as she looked into the chic suites with balconies overlooking the
middle of a large herd of elephants; we watched Indian Ocean. The contemporary interior
lions up close; witnessed the majesty of giraffes, hour flight to the capital of middle distance repeating the décor gives way to a covered veranda,
and the beauty of rare birds. We ate breakfast where we dined and which spills over
in the bush each morning, and on one hot day, Tanzania, Dar Es Salaam, need for us to give her $100 – I into the beautiful walled garden. Outside,
ventured for a walk with an armed Roan which a giant gnarled fig tree stands centre
was abruptly cut short by some wading rhinos for an overnight stay at the handed it over (“cash only please stage over the pristine garden, complete
up ahead. Mala Mala is an exceptional lodge. with a lap pool and shaded areas to
We loved the main camp where we stayed. Each Oyster Bay Hotel – a beautiful madam”). Bear in mind, you also escape the Tanzanian sun. It was one of
evening the food offering was different, the the highlights of our trip. Considering
Shangaan tribe sang to call us to supper and country manor house in the centre have to pay $50 each for the onsite that we left South Africa at sunrise that
we mingled with the other guests and rangers morning, and had endured flights, drives
before collapsing exhausted into bed ready WHO SHOULD GO: This was by far the best of a chaotic congested city. visa. So $200 later, after endless queues and Dar airport, it says something about
for another 5am start and a new adventure. game experience we encountered, with the service and ambience at Oyster Bay
We visited the beautiful Rattray and Sable each drive packed with encounters and There is nothing welcoming about Dar to be fingerprinted and photographed by that we left transformed, relaxed and
camps while we were there – both even more experiences. There is also a great kids’ happy very early the following morning. I
luxuriously appointed than the main camp. programme and other facilities such as a Rattray’s Camp airport or the drive into the city. While a customs officer, and a half-hour wait can’t recommend it highly enough.
gym, pool and satellite television. The food A welcome pool
was fantastic (in fact, I was beginning to Jo’Burg is an international airport with for our passports to be returned, then a Oyster Bay Hotel, Dar Es Salaam;
wonder if they were fattening us up for [email protected]; Tel: +44
other purposes!). all of the facilities that you might expect, further 15 minutes waiting for a receipt 1932 260 618; theoysterbayhotel.com

Dar Es Salaam is like stepping into a (which came on a handwritten scrap of

different era – this is an impoverished brown paper!), we ventured into the even

developing country, among the poorest in more chaotic scenes outside customs.

the world. Dar Es Salaam’s Julius Nyerere But there waiting for us was a wonderful

International Airport is not for the faint driver from Amani Afrika – who were

Mala Mala Game Reserve; Tel: +27 13 735 hearted. It carries the dubious distinction minding us for our stay in Tanzania. So
9200; [email protected];
malamala.com of being named the fourth worst airport in we sunk gratefully into the back of his

Africa – and with good reason. Our flight air-conditioned car and headed towards

didn’t have landing cards, so we joined the the city – a journey of around 40 minutes.

134 IRISH TATLER JUNE 2015 JUNE 2015 IRISH TATLER 135

travelafrica

SINGITA A ROOM WITH A VIEW

OUT OF AFRICA Our first stay was on the prestigious
Singita Grumeti Reserve which has three
North of the Serengeti lies the exclusive Grumeti reserve, an expansive wilderness with distinctive lodges – Sasakwa Lodge, Faru
Faru Lodge and the Sabora Tented Camp.
luxurious lodges where Meryl Streep and Robert Redford would feel at home. Singita also has an Explorer Camp, which
E arly one morning we set out on an epic adventure from moves around depending on the season,
Mpumalanga to the Serengeti, a trip that would take loop south to north and south again. During that treacherous river and the exclusive Serengeti House, which
two days, four plane journeys and some unforgettable crossing, I am all but shrieking to urge on the wildebeest and their can accommodate up to eight guests.
overland excursions. It was worth every minute. We tiny calves to get safely to the other side. Now I was going to see The Grumeti is a 350,000 acre expansive
part of that epic journey in real life. Our plan was to do the route wilderness along the western side of the
Serengeti National Park, and the migration
were heading out to see something spectacular. For as backwards and meet the great herds as we ventured south. passes through sometime during the
long as I can remember, I have wanted to see the annual and ancient We flew to the north west of Tanzania to Mwanza at the base months of June through to August.
We stayed in a stunning two-bed villa in
great migration, where over a million wildebeest accompanied by of Africa’s largest lake, Lake Victoria, bordering Uganda and Faru Faru Lodge with a private infinity UNRIVALLED GAME
zebra, gazelle, eland and impala make that perilous journey in Kenya and the source of the Nile River. From there, we ventured pool and a view to die for. At the press of
search of food and water from the south of the Serengeti through west to Sasakwa on a 12-seater Cessna 208B with a very cool a button, the entire wall of glass glided Grumeti is a vast expanse and you feel raising the hair on the back of my neck,
to the rich grasses of the Maasai Mara. Along the way, they risk safari flying company, Coastal Aviation. These little bush planes open, revealing the beauty and sounds truly alone when out viewing game. One and with heart racing and eyes straining
the crocodile-infested waters of the Grumeti River and, further were our main mode of transport for the next period of the of the great outdoors and the Grumeti evening as we headed out with our guide, we caught it all on video. We headed
north, the Mara River into Kenya. Being a wildlife enthusiast, I trip, flitting from lodge to lodge across the great plains of the River. As we sat one evening, a group of Medison Samwel, towards the open plains, out for a bush walk one morning with
have watched in awe at the sheer scale of the migration on TV – Serengeti. We landed just two degrees south of the equator. baboons made their way down to the river, I saw an enormous brown swarm on the Singita’s resident specialist trail trainer,
oblivious to us silently watching them. horizon – as we got close, I could see it Rich Vaughan. Leaving the top of a hill
the largest movement of animals on the planet – in a continuous Deer grazed in the early morning, and was a vast herd of buffalo, hundreds of to venture down into the plains below,
birds hopped down to the swimming pool them. I had seen small groups but nothing we got up close to the smaller wonders
The beautiful infinity pool at Faru Faru Lodge to wash and drink. It was pretty close to on this scale. The habitat of great plains, – an industrious troop of dung beetles
paradise. In all my travels, I have never woodland and rocky outcrops makes making light work of cleaning up after the
encountered a more beautiful setting, game viewing a beautiful breathtaking elephants; clouds of white butterflies over
and we were loath to leave our haven to experience, and ensures a wide variety a waterhole; and weavers flitting back
venture forth for game drives…well for of mammals (over 70) and at least 400 and forth, overshadowed by the stunning
anything really. The villa was beautifully species of birds. lilac-breasted roller. Rich brought this
designed: billowing, sheer white mosquito world to life for us and, in contrast to the
tented beds dressed in crisp white linen, It’s the sheer scale of the game that I magnificent marvels of the big game, we
where muted shades, natural woods and remember most. On our first evening, we were lost in the majestic intimacy of the
rattan created an environment at one with stopped right in the centre of a huge plain smaller delights that are impossible to see
the vista. It is impossible not to feel at one that stretched for miles into the distance from the back of a Land Rover. And just
with nature in such surroundings and each surrounded by animals. In our midst were as the walk was coming to an end, we
of the rooms cleverly nurtured our creative wildebeest, zebras, topi, waterbuck, eland, spotted a troop of rare Colobus monkeys
side with pencils, colours, crafts material Grant’s gazelle and impala – thousands swinging through the trees along the banks
and drawing pads. The food was a serious of animals as far as the eye could see. of the Grumeti River.
step up from anything we had experienced On our return home and as the sun was
before and on the first day we met the setting, we came across a family of lions Singita Grumeti is a luxurious and
head chef Frank Louw and a group of just stirring, booming growls across the exclusive game reserve – the beauty of
the lodge chefs, including our own Bryan plains signalling their presence to all. These the lodges perfectly complement the
English, and discovered why. Singita takes primal sounds reverberated around us, spectacular scenery and amazing wildlife.
food and wine very seriously and works
Stunning views over the Grumeti River hard to create a fine dining experience HORSEBACK SAFARI
in the bush using traditional recipes in a
Explorer Camp Sabora Camp contemporary way. The adventure of the Singita has something that I had not encountered elsewhere
136 IRISH TATLER JUNE 2015 game drive was equally matched by the – an equestrian safari experience. We headed to the stables
exploration of these unusual and tasty and met with the manager Alison Mundy. Although we didn’t
treats at mealtimes. have the time to venture out into the bush, we got a tour of
While we were there, we visited Sabora the five-star equine accommodation and rode out into the
Tented Camp and had lunch overlooking fields nearby. When I saw the photographs of how close you can get to the
the beautiful plains where zebra, eland wildlife riding out onto the plains at dawn, I just yearned to do it. But you must be an
and gazelle ventured close to graze. The experienced horse rider because when you are up close to lions and other predators
luxurious camp itself was like a scene you need to be able to manage a horse very well. So I have promised myself I will get
from Out of Africa and it felt like Robert my horse riding hours back up again and return ready for the adventure of a lifetime.
Redford and Meryl Streep might just
saunter through the ornate tented rooms
at any minute to pour themselves a sherry
from a crystal decanter.

Singita Grumeti; Tel: +27 (0)21 683
3424; [email protected];
singita.com

JUNE 2015 IRISH TATLER 137

The infinity pool dmaangcneif–icaaesndtratasMddaiatsidaoasnsadaialwscdaormriionrgs’ojfuamgpeinrigtual. asdasdasdasdasd
Very soon after arriving we met Oli
SEAnROEasNisGinEthTe I ACCOMMODATION
Dreike who ran the Discovery Centre – a
The Four Seasons offers five-star luxury, where you can lounge in unique education and research centre There are 60 guest rooms, five villas and
your private pool and gaze over the wildlife grazing on the plains. where various animal artefacts, interactive three suites at the Four Seasons Safari
exhibits and guest lectures created a Lodge, all with stunning views. We stayed
W hen we embarked on this view of a watering hole just beyond a private natural history hub. We learned so much in a two-bed suite with a private infinity flat screen TV and we had wifi and mobile
adventure, I mentioned to infinity pool, so we didn’t need to go on a about the Serengeti from Oli, especially pool looking out over one of the two signals. We were in full communication
some colleagues that I was game drive to see the animals of the Serengeti about various conservation and research waterholes. When the sun went down mode catching up with everyone back
keen to stay at the Four up close. And because the Four Seasons has projects, like the Cheetah Watch Campaign and the curtains were closed, we enjoyed home. I even did a few interviews –
Seasons in the Serengeti. elevated walkways, the whole Lodge feels safe and Snapshot Serengeti, a camera-trapping watching the comings and goings of the including one with Marty Morrissey on
They were dismissive…‘When you are visiting while venturing from the main area to the project sponsored by the Serengeti Lion elephants and other wildlife live via an RTÉ One to promote the new series of the
one of Africa’s greatest wonders why would spa or rooms. And it seems the wildlife like Project. As dusk was approaching, Dara infrared feed on the television. Traveller Academy. He laughed like a drain
you want to stay in an international hotel?’ the raised walkways too, because they freely went out with Oli and the Maasai warriors when I told him I was looking out across
they queried. How wrong they were. roamed below us. One evening, an elephant to place hidden cameras at the waterhole The décor is modern and smart with the Serengeti plains where a family of
had decided to come and visit and didn’t and in the morning was overjoyed to see four-poster beds draped in mosquito elephants were bathing at the waterhole.
I have stayed in many Four Seasons hotels, appear that keen to leave…so we weren’t the elephants and lions captured on screen. netting. Furnishings were a mix of soft
but always in cities – Bangkok, Sydney, New only ones that wanted to stay. leather and local textiles, with African The Four Seasons works on many levels
York, London and, of course, Dublin. They A MASSAGE WITH artefacts adding relief and interest. Don’t – wonderful food, exceptional service, and
all share the same upmarket ultra-swish style There were a number of very special A DIFFERENCE get me wrong, we really enjoyed staying the raised walkways were such a welcome
and high standard wherever you go. So I was experiences at the Four Seasons. For one, the in the bush and being close the wildlife, relief as we didn’t have to wait for security
intrigued to see what a Four Seasons might be GM is a man from Kilkenny called Martin The spa at the Four Seasons embraces the and were well used to living with insects to walk us to and from our rooms. We loved
like right in the heart of the Serengeti. And it Cody – who gave us an effusive welcome. We flowers, plants and trees of the Serengeti, and lizards, but it was wonderful to sleep the Maasai warriors who were stationed
was, unsurprisingly, fantastic. loved the place even more because one of our and has been experimenting with natural and relax without their company for a along the walkway.
own was at the helm. He spoiled us rotten exfoliants and rehydrating therapies from night or two! We recharged at the Four
We flew on a small Coastal Airways safari and gave us great insights and advice that the unique landscape that surrounds the Seasons and delighted in all the mod cons FAMILY FRIENDLY
plane from Singita (Sasakwa) to the Seronera made our stay even more incredible. Lodge. One blissful morning I had the that you forfeit when going on safari. All
airstrip in the heart of the Serengeti. Our signature Kifaa Massage, which uses warm of my makeup and lotions were spread I can highly recommend the Four Seasons
Amani Afrika driver from our ever-efficient We had a special wine cellar dinner on baobab oil derived from the seeds of the out across the surfaces of the spacious for teenagers, but younger children are
Tanzanian travel company was waiting to our first night with Martin, cooked by the baobab tree – a high vitamin and nutrient- bathroom; I was able to dry my hair…with a also well catered for at the Lodge’s Kijana
transfer us to the Four Seasons. Along the executive chef Curtis Smithen – a five- rich concentrate – applied with a Maasai real hairdryer. My crumpled clothes were Klub, which had lots of activities including
way, we viewed some of the spectacular course tasting menu with wine matches that warrior rungu (a wooden baton). It was hung up and the well-used shorts and shirts learning more about local Maasai traditions
game of the Serengeti National Park. If incorporated wonderful local ingredients quite something. sent to the laundry. Dara was glued to the like beading and crafting with twigs.
only all airport-to-hotel drives were as and traditional African dishes. Dara and
exciting. Maybe it’s because we had already I had become big fans of the traditional The Four Seasons Safari Lodge Serengeti;
experienced wilderness lodges and tented staple African maize dish called pap in South Tel: +255 768 981 981;
camps that the Four Seasons was such a Africa and ugali in Tanzania. Curtis had fourseasons.com/serengeti
welcome sight. Beautiful open areas, cool created a more contemporary version to
outside spaces, swimming pools, a gym, a serve with beef fillet and married pan-seared THE ULTIMATE BUSH WALK
spa, great restaurants and bars – it had it tilapia with a local northern Tanzanian
all. We were so enthralled by our beautiful dish of corn makanda. It was a memorable Among the many highlights of our it eventually. Kassi, one of the
two bedroomed suite that we point blank meal on the beautiful Maji Bar & Terrace, stay at the Four Seasons was a walk Maasai, showed Dara how to make
refused to leave it on the first day. It was overlooking a busy watering hole as the sun in the bush with Oli, two Maasai a toothbrush from a twig, and he
bliss to relax in a bug-free room with air was slowly drifting downwards. We enjoyed warriors and a couple of armed happily spent the rest of the walk
conditioning and every amenity you could another evening at the hotel’s Boma, where men. The combination of Oli’s brushing away with his newfound
possibly need. Our rooms had a spectacular we ate traditional food while watching the encyclopaedic knowledge of the implement. As we wandered the
wildlife and the Maasai made for an plains the Maasai pointed to the
exhilarating few hours and some bark of various trees used to treat
very useful “warrior training”. tummy ailments and even malaria.
As we were coming to the end our
We headed out across the plains, trek, I urged Kassi to show us how
stopping occasionally to look at to throw a spear. It’s not as easy as
animal tracks, while dodging a large it looks, and everyone wisely stood
herd of elephants who appeared well behind me! Still, I stuck with
to be following us – despite our it and eventually managed to hit
efforts to change course a few the target tree. A new skill I might
times. The Maasai were searching never manage to use again, but
for a particular tree – the sap was then again, you never know when it
poisonous and they used it on might come in handy!
the tip of their spears. We found

138 IRISH TATLER JUNE 2015 JUNE 2015 IRISH TATLER 139

CALL OF THE WILD
Nothing compares to the powerful scene of a wildebeest stampede

W e were about to witness make up the bulk of the migration with predators who follow the migration MAASAI WARRIORS
the greatest wildlife 1.5 million setting out on the perilous
show on earth. And closely. We came across a pride of well Travelling from Seronera to the Ngorongoro
even the most powerful journey, joined by over 700,000 zebra and satiated lions sleeping deeply in the shade Conservation Area, we stopped at Maasai villages
hundreds of thousands of other grass- of an acacia tree, lazily opening their eyes nestled behind circular enclosures. We had already
documentaries can’t eating animals. We arrived in January walked with Maasai warriors and learned much
compare with seeing over a million once in a while to stare disinterestedly at about their culture. We had seen (and taken part)
when the herds were still lingering on us. These golden-maned lions are different in their various jumping dances and rituals, but
wildebeest cross the expansive savannahs the plains near Ngorongoro. The heavily here we were right in the very Maasai heartland.
of the Serengeti. As far as the eye can see, to the darker South African lions. Soon There are estimated to be around a million Maasai
pregnant cows aanredcolothseelrypwreadtachtoaersdds,absydasdasdasdoafntear we happened upon a lone leopard living in Tanzania and Kenya, with many living in the
there is a mass of grey moving animals lions, cheetahs rocky outcrop, who also appeared Ngorongoro area. Way off in the distant fields, we
inatsedrasspdearsdseadsdwasidth zebra, gazelles and, on the could see groups of these colourful smiling people
periphery, hyenas and lions – ever watchful. who wait patiently for the easier prey to have feasted recently and two cheetahs lying close to their cattle under the shade of a tree
of 400,000 calves born in February and and small children herding cows and goats with
This ancient instinctive migration March. By April and May, the southern sloping off through the grasses and scrub sticks, stopping to wave and grin as we passed.
land. We spotted hyenas and jackals and Cattle are everything to the Maasai, a measure of
remains unaltered as the single biggest plains dry out and the herds migrate the vultures maintained a steady circle wealth, the primary source of food and considered
movement of animals on the planet. It a gift from God. Wherever you see livestock, you
is also where human life began with the northwards, stopping and starting as flying high above the herds. The migration will spot Maasai minders, distinctive from the grassy
grasses and water become more plentiful. brings easy pickings for the predators with plains with their vibrant shukus in red hues. Much
discovery of the oldest remains of man We headed south for four or five hours over half a million of the wildebeest dying of the Maasai dress is symbolic. Young warriors
from more than two million years ago. have complex braided hair, some wear an Errap (a
Contrary to popular belief, there is from Seronera, spotting a few hundred before reaching the Maasai Mara. leather band) with metal coils on their upper arm
here and there. Then, shimmering in the to signify that they have fought and killed another
nothing fast about the great wildebeest As I write, there is a significant threat man. Others have large headdresses that symbolise
distance, we saw a carpet of grey moving to this World Heritage Site with the a battle with a lion. Only Maasai warriors wear their
migration. It is actually a fairly leisurely towards us. We had found the main bulk Tanzanian government planning to build hair long, as women shave their heads to showcase
journey, except for the frantic, treacherous the large and incricate beaded neckpieces. The
crossing at the Mara River into Kenya, of the herds. We stopped the Land Rover a two-lane highway across the Serengeti. Hundreds of hippos jostle for position in the mud pools Maasai are not immune to encroaching civilisation
right in the middle – the only human The $480m Arusha-Musoma road will cut that run from the Seronera River. As you get closer to this and on arrival at a clump of Kraals or villages, you
where the African crocodiles lie in wait to lwifietnfoesrsminfgotrhmisislepsecatnadcumlailreps h–esnioalesmndtaelsnydoansd. asdasdcstaruasieghdtetvharsotautgiohnthtoe incredible sight, the stench, snorts and grunts assault the will first be met by an elder who will describe what
feast on the new-born calves. The other migration route and senses, with sporadic outbursts of narkiness leading to vicious you can see and what you have to pay. Tourism
maysdthasdisastdhaastdiatsdis a one-way migration, the ecosystem and fights between the bulls. While we had seen a few hippos from reaches all parts and is a significant threat to the
The wildebeest were skittish at first, but the migrating species. The move has led to a distance, this was wall-to-wall hippo with only a wooden preservation of the long traditions and ancient
when it is in fact a continuous 1,000km soon settled, the stillness interrupted fence between us and them…and a few sleeping crocodiles cultures of the Maasai. Nonetheless, the Maasai I
circuit from the south of the Serengeti an international outcry but the Tanzanian stretched out along the bank. Despite the slight unease at met and talked to retained much of their cultural
by their distinctive grunts. It remains government has not as yet backed down. the proximity to one of Africa’s top killers (3,000 people heritage and it was a privilege to learn from them.
National Park northwards to the Maasai one of the most memorable sights I per annum), we remained transfixed for some time, as the
Mara in Kenya and back again. Many The World Bank and Germany have hippos’ peaceful bathing was interrupted by huge cavernous JUNE 2015 IRISH TATLER 141
have witnessed – the powerful surge of offered to fund an alternative road that mouths and teeth clashing noisily, before, with loud snorts
do not return. The pace of the migration hundreds and thousands of animals urged would circumnavigate the park, and and warning growls, the big grey mounds stilled again. It was
depends on the rainfall, but generally the
loop begins in December in the southern on by an ancient need to follow a well- conservationists, travel companies and riveting.
worn trail northwards for the preservation scientists are also bringing pressure to bear.
part of the Serengeti when the grass is of their species. We may well be among the last to witness
green and plentiful. The mass of wildebeest
It didn’t take us long to find the this incredible wonder.

140 IRISH TATLER JUNE 2015

travelafrica

Discovering
NGORONGORO

Home of the Maasai and the most spectacular crater on earth.

F or more than a decade, I have crater. An ethereal mist hung above the drawing rooms camouflaged in raw The lodge is part of a great company solidified its conservation work into the In my experience, you will never be
gazed longingly at images of cavernous basin with hues of blues and and rustic huts. Small cameo windows called &Beyond which has a reputation Africa Foundation, which funds projects disappointed with an &Beyond lodge
one of the planet’s greatest greens shimmering through. Over the offered tantalising glimpses of the for luxurious lodges combined with a which help schools, health care and or camp – it’s a great company, with a
marvels – the incredible course of the next two days we captured crater, while the wooden deck outside strong conservation ethos, supporting the environment – particularly through great ethic and the Crater Lodge is no
Ngorongoro Crater in the ever-changing colours and light of offered dazzling views. The main local communities through low-impact its work with the preservation of exception. Get there if you can, you will
Tanzania. It was a long-held ambition the crater at dawn and sunset. It is quite dining areas are similarly – and even tourism. I have been a fan for years leopards in South Africa and the Rhinos love it.
to see it first hand. And here we were, beautiful and captivating. more spectacularly – adorned. Marcus since it began life as Conservation Without Borders initiative, the first to
driving through the Maasai villages Schroeder, the assistant general manager, Corporation Africa (CC Africa) in translocate white rhino to Botswana. Beyond Ngorongoro Crater Lodge,
in the southern Serengeti, heading We were heading to one of the was on hand to take us on a tour of the the early 1990s and Richard and I The international investment community Tanzania; Tel: +27 11 809 4314;
straight for this unique, mystical place. most unique and luxurious lodges three camps: North Camp, where we had the pleasure of visiting one of its liked the ecotourism model too and [email protected]; andbeyond.
Ngorongoro is a UNESCO World with stunning views of the crater. The were staying; Tree Camp, with just six early lodges in South Africa and seeing backed the company to considerable com
Heritage Site and the most spectacular Ngorongoro Crater Lodge is quite unlike suites, and South Camp, which has 12 first-hand the great work it was doing expansion – now boasting 33 high-end
caldera on the planet. About 2.5 anywhere else I have been. Set amidst the luxurious rooms (and a sneak peak of with the local community. &Beyond lodges and camps in Africa and India.
million years ago, a gigantic volcano (to rich green highland forests on the crater the new wine cellar dining room that
rival, if not beat the height of Mount rim, the lodge wouldn’t be out of place in was opening the following day). There CRATER SAFARI DRIVE
Kilimanjaro), rose up from the Rift The Lord of the Rings. was some wonderful touches at Crater
valley, before collapsing to form this Lodge. When we returned from a long We set out at 6am one morning to drive down into the
deep hollow bowl, 2,000 feet deep and On the outside, the lodge blends game drive, a hot bath was waiting crater for an amazing safari drive. The floor of the crater
260 square kilometres. It now boasts the seamlessly with the lush landscape. in my room adorned with rose petals. is mainly grassland, dotted with some pools, marshes and
greatest game density in Africa. The stilted, individual handcrafted, Each evening we returned from dinner a large soda lake. It is home to some 20,000 mammals,
banana-thatched suites take their to a warm fire to ward off the chill of including the rare black rhino, which we finally managed
We spent many days in the company inspiration from the Maasai Kraals the night. One evening, the staff choir to see up close. Because of the high density of animals
of a great and knowledgeable driver and are reached through wooden steps sang and the Maasai warriors danced we witnessed, we saw all of the big five within a couple
and guide, Isaya, from Amani Afrika. and raised walkways. Inside is a whole for us as the sun sunk low over the of hours of arriving onto the crater floor. Incredibly,
He picked us up when we landed at different story. Think Versailles meets ancient crater beyond – these were and because of the density, we witnessed a bold spotted
Seronera Airstrip, in the heart of the Victorian meets Philippe Starck overlaid special unforgettable experiences. The hyena venture into a herd of zebra and a pride of lions
Serengeti, and remained with us on the with traditional African and Indian beautiful dining room was matched by with a couple of energetic baby cubs chasing each other
long drive south towards the migration influences. It was quite extraordinary beautifully prepared and presented food. through the grass right next to the Land Rover. We
and then on to the Ngorongoro Crater. to enter the heavy wooden door to the Harissa grilled prawns, Maasai honey stopped by a lakeside for breakfast with a lone hippo
We soon began to climb quite steeply suite and be greeted by such opulence and saffron-roasted chicken, lemon and submerged just feet away, and some cheeky black kites
up from the plains of the Serengeti. The – rich Taj Mahal red velvet furnishings, fennel-marinated tilapia and Kilimanjaro hopping close by, ready to steal any scraps of food.
higher we climbed, the more lush the a majestic chandelier suspended from coffee panna cotta were among our On the drive back, we saw elephants, buffalos, jackals,
vegetation. Tall evergreens and verdant the pitched roof, ornate mirrors, an favourites. The lodge also organises warthogs, gazelles, antelope and a couple of black
forests cover the slopes, in stark contrast antique bathtub and in one cosy corner, bush lunches and banquets in the crater, and white Abdim’s storks foraging in the marshes. The
to the scrubland and savannahs of the plump armchairs arranged in front of rose petal carpet dinners (especially for Ngorongoro Crater is an incredible place – a once in a
Serengeti. Isaya pulled over so we could an old stove fireplace. I marvelled at honeymooners) and packed breakfasts. lifetime trip, quite possibly, but I hope someday to return
get our first glimpse of the ancient what kind of genius designer came up to its many splendours.
with such a combination – gilded chic

142 IRISH TATLER JUNE 2015 JUNE 2015 IRISH TATLER 143


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