中文 FRANÇAIS Beijing Review
Issue 32
The Magnetic Cadences of Kenya
Sample the delights of teeming wildlife, sumptuous luxury and Maasai culture
By Jo Kromberg 

I really don't like mornings. This particular morning however, is an exception. Three of us, all Fourth Estate representatives, excitedly meet at OR Tambo International Airport on a sweltering Friday in November as we await our RwandAir flight into the vast African blue yonder en route to Kenya. The flight takes about three and a half hours on a brand new, state-of-the-art Boeing 737, but the amazing staff and food make it go by in the blink of an eye. A quick and hassle free stop-over in Kigali ensures that we begin our descent into Nairobi almost to the scheduled minute. We quickly clear customs and our friendly driver collects us for the 45-minute or so trip to Tribe Hotel. Well, 45 minutes is perhaps not quite accurate given that we find ourselves slap-bang in Friday afternoon city rush hour.

A bizarre scene straight out of Jurassic Park greets us along the highway - giant Marabou storks stalk the busy sidewalks along with pedestrians. Their massive nests are overhead in the trees and they dot lampposts for miles when not swooping down over the streets. We finally reach our abode for the night, the stunning Tribe Boutique Hotel. Located in the fashionable and tree lined Gigiri District and home to the UN's main post on the continent, as well as many embassies, this area has one of Nairobi's biggest international populations. You'll also find upscale restaurants, cafes, bars, entertainment venues as well as shopping establishments, such as the Village Market here.

Sense of splendor

Tripadvisor reviewers rave about this unique hotel. Descriptions like "amazing," "extraordinary design" and "wonderful service" are bandied about on the influential travel website and I agree completely. Just entering the lobby is a marvelous assault on the senses as you try to take in the soaring sunlit atrium which links the Tribe's 137 guest rooms and suites. Some 900 hand-sculpted artefacts from all over Africa have been gathered here, capturing the diversity of the continent and evoking a sense of splendor that is raising the luxury hotel stakes in Africa. This hotel, with its earthy color combinations, different wall and floor textures and unabashed elegance can rival any hotel in the world.

My friend and General Manager Stephan Meves shows us to our rooms and grins like a Cheshire cat at my facial expression upon being confronted with such volumes of space, comfort and outstanding design. No detail has been overlooked and although this is mostly a business hotel, I could spend a week here on holiday - indulging in the Kaya Spa (which takes its inspiration from the country's sacred forests) the well-stocked library, the rooftop bar or just lying by the pool, surrounded by waterfalls and gardens.

We are invited to a new art exhibition that evening and after rubbing shoulders with the who's who of Nairobi, dinner is served. It consists of world-class cuisine, conjured up by renowned chef Luca. The mushroom and seafood soup especially had us swooning.

We all retire to the upstairs bar after dinner and after much merriment I flop into my king size bed with its tailor-made linen and sleep like the dead. After a slap-up breakfast and coma-inducing massage, we're on our way again to Wilson Airport from where Safarilink Airlines flies us to the world-famous Maasai Mara in only about 45 minutes and already I see the ground beneath me teaming with wildlife. The views are astonishing and my soul sings with the realization that I'm back in paradise.

Maasai warriors in traditional dress
Lions taking a nap

Wildlife wonderland

Our safari guide Steve Nkumum - a Maasai guide from Basecamp Explorer - picks us up wearing the iconic Maasai red and colorful garb. For the next two hours we share an adventure which brings to mind deja-vu. I was here almost two years ago and to see so many animals together again, roaming the plains in harmony as far as the eye can see is a shock and a spectacle all over again. Elephant, impala, Red hartebeest, topi, zebra, giraffe, buffalo, Thompson's gazelle, the list goes on… at one point we count six species all together on one stage.

The Mara National Reserve is 1,510 square km and consists mostly of open grasslands and savannah plains and as clichéd as it may seem, Out of Africa scenes are everywhere. The southernmost part of the ecosystem is the Serengeti in Tanzania, visible and fortunately with no fences.

As I watch in awe while we drive, Steve explains the migration pattern of the animals when suddenly he stops abruptly and says in an even tone: "Do you see them?" "See what?" "There! Lions." And there, only a few meters away from us they are, maybe 15 of them, happily snoozing. We sit and watch them for a long while in silence.

We arrive at Basecamp Maasai Mara, almost giddy with delight at this feast of game in the Mara, teeming with creatures big and small. Across a drawbridge over the river, you enter the Garden of Eden, literally… And I am home.

Basecamp Maasai Mara is a Gold Rated Eco Camp situated on the banks of the Talek River, bordering the world famous Maasai Mara National Reserve. As a tribute to the man who inspired the founding of Basecamp, the camp is situated on land owned by the Taek family, descendants of Chief Ole Taek. From the very beginning, founder Svein Wilhelmsen's uppermost priority has been to sustain a close relationship with the Maasai people and to help them preserve their culture under increasing pressure from the modern world. Recognizing the vital importance of land, Basecamp co-operated with the Maasai community in establishing Naboisho Conservancy, a community-owned nature conservancy within which our two other camps are located.

The magnificent Tribe Boutique Hotel
The magnificent Tribe Boutique Hotel
The magnificent Tribe Boutique Hotel
The magnificent Tribe Boutique Hotel (Photos by Jo Kromberg)

Soul soothing

The team greets us with mile-wide smiles and we are shown to our tents. The tents are huge and very comfortable, but the emphasis here is on rustic nature and everything works off solar energy. The environment is its own reward - 100 times better than a 50,000 thread count duvet and pillow menu or mini-bar. The place is almost impossible to photograph, that's how well it blends into its environment. My tent looks out over the river and the peace and privacy is palpable and serves as an instant reboot for a jaded soul. The soothing river sounds embeds itself in your subconscious immediately. My outside shower is huge and the beds are ultra-comfortable. I wolf down the delicious zucchini soup, steak and strawberry cheesecake and then Steve calls us to the fire for a "surprise." As we sit under a million stars with only the sound of the night creatures and the crackling fire, another primordial sound slowly becomes audible. And there, from darkness, appear about 20 Maasai warriors, humming and dancing, circling the fire slowly. My entire body is covered in goose bumps and all my nerves are on end as I witness this ancient ode to Africa. It is hypnotic and trance-like as they dance and jump, all to the guttural rhythms of their voices.

By 10 p.m. I fade off into a calm, deep sleep to the sound of the quiet river and the cry of a lone hyena somewhere in the night. I wake up to a symphony of a million birds with a cup of the best coffee in bed the next morning, courtesy of James. The others are on an early game drive so I have the camp all to myself and I revel in the peace as I wait to continue on with my safari on Basecamp's circuit…

Stay tuned for the second part of our Kenyan adventure in the January 2017 edition of ChinAfrica Travel Page!

When to go:

The Maasai Mara is considered a year-round safari destination thanks to its resident abundant wildlife However, many visitors come for the wildebeest migration and the best time to visit the Mara for this famous spectacle is between July/early August and the end of November although due to varying rainfall patterns, the exact timing varies from year to year.

Contacts:

Tribe Hotel

For the first time ever in Nairobi, Tribe is offering a New Year's Weekend party to end all parties! For three nights starting Dec 30th

a very special package price (less than $450 per person) is on offer for four days/three nights of fun! Specific complimentary drinks, various DJ's, a Chill-Out Pool Party, New Year's Eve party with barbecue, New Year's Day All Day Brunch from

and much more! So book this exclusive use of Tribe Hotel Nairobi for a one of a kind New Year's party now! Go to http://www.tribe-hotel.com/

Basecamp Explorer (all their camps)

To celebrate this New Year, Basecamp Explorer Kenya is offering The African Lion Safari inside Mara Naboisho Conservancy now believed to host the highest number of lions in Africa. Chances of spotting lions on the hunt are particularly good from January to March, when the wildebeest are calving, providing easy targets for lions and other predators. Also the Savannah is adorned with sparse vegetation, making it easy to spot Africa's biggest cats.

Go tohttp://www.basecampexplorer.com/

Getting there:

There are direct flights available between China and Kenya but we suggest flying to Nairobi with RwandAir from Johannesburg in South Africa via the beautiful city of Kigali. We also suggest you stay over in Kigali and explore its incredible beauty and history, before flying onward to Nairobi. RwandAir will also soon add Harare (Zimbabwe), Mumbai (India), and Guangzhou in China as well as North America (New York City) and Europe (London Gatwick) to its list of destinations before expanding to Western Europe.

Go to https://www.rwandair.com/

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