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Part TRAVEL JOURNAL and part LIFESTYLE BLOG, this site captures DESIGN, CULTURE, CUISINE and STYLE as seen through the eyes of ALI SWISHER.

Safari Honeymoon at Angama Mara

Safari Honeymoon at Angama Mara

It’s roughly 11 AM. Our small prop plane is approaching a dirt airstrip located high on the Ngong Hills of the Great Rift Valley in Kenya. As we descend, we watch a few men below chase away zebras and giraffes that had been grazing the runway. That’s when — in my jet lag induced delirium — it hit me: we’re in AFRICA.

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Nestled on these same hills, just 10 minutes away from its private airstrip, is Angama Mara, a modern luxury safari lodge featuring 30 tented suites overlooking the beautiful and expansive Maasai Mara. In addition to two communal lodges, a pool, gym and library, Angama Mara boasts an art gallery and photography studio with seasoned wildlife photographers and photo editing experts on site.

The lodge’s design is characterized by a modern aesthetic fused with the rustic features of a traditional safari camp. The brick pavilion is home to the lodge’s restaurant and communal area which is outfitted with sleek wood furnishings, leather upholstery, bronze accent tables, copper lighting and pops of traditional Maasai red.

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Fun fact: Angama Mara is located on the former site of the Olkurruk Mara Lodge, which was built for the crew and stars of Sydney Pollack's 1985 movie,  Out of Africa . The original lodge burned down and the site remained vacant for 30 years, until Angama Mara opened it’s doors in 2015.

Fun fact: Angama Mara is located on the former site of the Olkurruk Mara Lodge, which was built for the crew and stars of Sydney Pollack's 1985 movie, Out of Africa. The original lodge burned down and the site remained vacant for 30 years, until Angama Mara opened it’s doors in 2015.

A fully stocked bar offering an endless supply of spirits, bubbly and rosé was at our disposal for a sunset glass (or bottle) of wine or diy cocktails.

A fully stocked bar offering an endless supply of spirits, bubbly and rosé was at our disposal for a sunset glass (or bottle) of wine or diy cocktails.

The food was fantastic and breakfast was by far our favorite meal of the day. It began with a butler’s tray (consisting of baked goods, juice and smoothies, fresh cut fruit, granola, yogurt and coffee) and was followed by an extensive menu offering everything from fluffy pancakes and avocado toast with poached eggs to shakshuka and eggs Benedict. That’s right, 10,000 miles away from San Francisco and I still managed to eat avocado toast.

For lunch, we enjoyed picnic-style meals on our game drives that we would wash down with a Tusker beer and South African wine.

We also experienced Angama’s bush BBQ — which is a family-style dinner party held under a canopy of trees at picnic tables surrounded by tiki torches. Chefs in tall hats cooked over an open fire, serving up an array of traditional dishes including Swahili-spiced kuku (chicken) and prawns from the coast. Leafy greens and herbs from Angama’s garden accompany the flavorful surf n’ turf.

In addition to great food, the hospitality was remarkable. I literally cried when we left. Perhaps in part because I was returning to a reality sans butler but mostly because the team at Angama Mara felt like family by the end of our stay. I still think about each and every person we encountered during our time there. The impact was that profound.

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We were on the sun’s schedule during our stay: up at 5 AM (without an alarm) and dozing off by 6 PM.

We were on the sun’s schedule during our stay: up at 5 AM (without an alarm) and dozing off by 6 PM.

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The stunning tented suites feature glossy brown floorboards, rolled tent flaps, beautiful brass fixtures and white linens under a bright red bed throw. Books including Karen Blixen’s Out of Africa and Too Close to the Sun by Sara Wheeler are stacked on a side table and perfect for downtime in the room in between game drives.

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My safari style consisted of a neutral, earthy palette of soft cotton and gauzy linen paired with leather combat boots and a packable straw hat. Chilly mornings called for warm layers as we made our way down the bumpy trail for our game drive. Warmer afternoons were met with a glass of wine and a dip in the pool.

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Descending into the Mara with Geoffrey, our knowledgable safari guide..

Descending into the Mara with Geoffrey, our knowledgable safari guide..

I found the game drives to be very meditative in the sense that they required a lot of patience and silent observation. I don’t think I’ve ever felt more present and connected to my immediate surroundings than sitting in that windowless Land Cruiser. You don’t really think, you just observe. You are truly “in the now” - and I mean the full blown, spiritual, Eckhart Tolle “now”. It’s incredible.

I rented a lens the size of my leg from our camp’s photography studio. 2,846 photos later, it’s safe to say it was worth it.

I rented a lens the size of my leg from our camp’s photography studio. 2,846 photos later, it’s safe to say it was worth it.

Going on safari was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. If it isn’t already on your bucket list, add it right now. Being in the presence of wild animals in their natural habitat was exhilarating, humbling and at times, totally serene. You feel an overwhelming sense of being a guest in their home with no idea (or control over) what might happen next. We watched a herd of elephants elegantly make their way towards a watering hole and lions nap under a Balanites tree — their refuge from the hot African sun. We saw hundreds of giraffes, spotted a rare black rhino and witnessed the dangers of the great migration when, in a climactic turn of events, a zebra was attacked and killed by a crocodile (yes, it was as horrific as it sounds).

It’s like a zoo, except you’re the one in the cage.

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the Great Migration

the Great Migration

Visiting a Maasai village.

Visiting a Maasai village.

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THE DEETS

LANGUAGE: Swahili, English

CURRENCY: Kenyan Shilling. 1 USD is approximately 100 KES. Carry cash, ideally KES because there are so many rules around what US bills they accept (i.e. the will reject bills that are older than 3-5 years or with slightest rip/tear).

CLIMATE: Kenya is a large country with a diverse climate. We visited beginning of November and were in the Southwest region of Kenya bordering Tanzania. Average temp was 75-80° degrees. Chilly mornings and evenings. A few hours of rain total in the week.

GETTING AROUND: a safari guide in a rad Land Cruiser. All you’re really doing is game drives anyway.

DRESS CODE: neutral, earthy tones at all times Think linen, cotton and layers in olive green, brown and sand. Avoid black and blue as it attracts Tse Tse flies.

TRAVEL REQUIREMENTS:

  • Yellow fever vaccination

  • Single-entry Visa - apply here, once approved they will send via e-mail

  • Passport with 6-month validity and at least 2 blank passport pages

  • Hire a travel agent!! We used Elaine Randolph and she was AMAZING to work with and had a ton of insider knowledge on safaris and travel to Africa in general. It was a complex, 35-hour trip consisting of multiple layovers and transfers and it all went off without a hitch… all thanks to her!

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