My Kenyan Safari

My end of year overland journey was filled with wild adventure, local culture, first class amenities, a luxury lodge and a wonderful portable tent camp in the migration path in the Maasai Mara on the banks of the Sand River.

In the last few weeks, the herds have arrived to the Serengeti, with half a million wildebeest competing for grazing with herds of zebra, all will eventually cross the Mara river.

It goes without saying that we provide the best guides and in our portable camp, Stormin’ Norman, the indomitable bush camp chef, turns out soufflés, exquisite appetizers and bountiful banquets. Eventually you beg him to stop serving more food, he doesn’t understand NO!

Our private charter flight sets the stage, a low pass over the Great Rift Valley escarpment spotting herds of Zebra on the plains; we landed softly on the strip not far from Ol Doyno Lodge, which is situated where the Chyulu Hills stretch out to meet the plains.Wedged between Kenya’s Tsavo East and Amboseli National Parks in the heart of the Chyulu Hills, this is a place of timeless wild beauty presided over by the magnificent summit of Africa’s greatest icon – Mount Kilimanjaro. Small but luxurious, the lodge only accommodates 20 guests.The lodge itself was rebuilt in 2008 and sits in thick woodland on a gently sloping hillside with views out over the plains to a distant Kilimanjaro. Designed to merge outdoor and indoor living, a series of unique suites and villas (no two are the same) appear to emerge from the arid landscape on either side of a palatial lounge and dining area. The structures are open to the spectacular view, no walls stand between you and the wild terrain. Eight of the ten private cottages have their own swimming pool while all enjoy roof terraces where intimate “star beds” can be set up, allowing guests the thrill of sleeping in style under a canopy of endless stars. The hide is a delightful viewing spot and the perfect location for sun-downers. Set amid a jungle of fallen trees on the floor of the plain, wild animals meander by mere feet from your perch amid the hide. The watering holes below many of the rooms are filled with recycled water, thus the Elly’s and Zebra know it is a reliable water source and visit, even after dark. As you fall asleep on your star roof, a quiet slurping reminds you that a thirsty elephant is visiting for a moonlight drink.This is cat country, moments after landing, we watched a cheetah mom teaching her five young cubs the stalk and hunt.An authentic Maasai village is nearby for visiting and the Ol Doyno lead guide has family in the village, thus you enjoy a very personal visit.

 Luxury accommodations, exciting game drives, leisurely poolside lunches, afternoon plunge, sun-downers in the hide or atop the tallest rocks in the plain…followed by a gourmet dinner and after dinner drinks in the main salon…Civilized Safari!There is nothing like the broad expanse of a Kenyan horizon. It’s not too late to begin planing an unforgettable African Journey!

From Mendoza Cavas Wine Lodge

Located at the foot of the snow capped Andes – one is instantly impressed and awed by this spectacular wine growing area. There are five different regions within the Province of Mendoza. Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Riesling, Merlot, Chenin Blanc, and Malbec.  Most of the better Argentine wines come from the province of Mendoza, desert flatland’s in the foothills of the Andes that are irrigated from melting snow. While the grape varieties are European, the weather and soil conditions give the Argentine wines a very special quality. Few of us realize that Argentina is the fifth largest wine producer in the world; and there are some spectacularly good Argentine wines. The primary reason Argentine wines are only just beginning to appear on international markets is that, with an average wine consumption of around 60 liters per head annually, there has been little surplus for export! And we thought the Italians and French consumed wine by the barrel full.

Mendoza is an area of magnificent estancias, marvelous wines, wonderful horseback riding, fishing and birding, rafting in the summer, golf – countless activities for families, all nearby. Or if you are inclined, follow the vineyard trail, taste from the barrel with the wine maker, and explore charming ancient wineries or appealing boutique modern facilities. Wine tasting here is by appointment only, and often includes a leisurely lunch and tasting of 4 – 8 different wines.

Lodging options include modern hotels in Mendoza City – or better yet,  boutique properties in the country-side. We always recommend and love Cavas Wine Lodge, which is a short 20 minutes away, nestled at the base of the snow capped Andes – plopped in the middle of 35 acres of a working vineyard. Cecilia Diaz Chuit and Martin Rigal have created a splendid hotel built in a Spanish colonial style and are devoted to the joys of wine. In the rooms, the spa and the Arabian feel of the patios, paintings and pottery are a constant reminder to slow down and enjoy solitude, excellent meals and delicious wine. Each room a private casita with a roof deck with an outdoor fireplace. A small private plunge pool outside your cabana for soaking at the end of a hot day with a view of the Andes, it’s hard to imagine a more perfect setting. The trip here is a bumpy one on a gravel road, but the journey is worth it. The entrance is impressive, with a view of snow on the Andes beyond and a lobby featuring a twisted grape vine chandelier and commissioned original modern art. A sunny rectangular sitting area is outfitted with designer furniture and enough books to occupy anyone for days. Since Cavas is a bit out of town, the staff offers entertainment every night: a wine tasting class, Tango lessons, cooking classes with the Cavas chef.

A car and driver can be arranged for dinner excursions into Mendoza, again marvelous food at very reasonable prices. Francis Mallmann 1884 restaurant recently voted as 7th best restaurant in the world by Restaurant Magazine serves high-end fusion Patagonian ingredients and French technique. Housed in an atmospheric Spanish-style building inside the Bodega Escorihuela, 1884 uses a wood-fired oven in the winery’s courtyard to prepare roasted meats and empanadas. Respecting the seasonality of his ingredients, Mallmann changes the menu every two weeks and prepares dishes with matching wine selections. During the week, you can easily combine a meal at 1884 with a tour of the bodega, which also has an art gallery.

Mendoza is home to quite a few internationally known artists, meeting them in their studios is easily arranged. Of course private tours to wineries, dinners or lunches in vineyards or olive groves, Cavas staff will arrange special visits to their local providers.  You can also savor regional Argentine cuisine amidst olive groves and gardens, and even stargaze from vineyards, wineglass in hand.