RHINO HAVEN

Just 4 hours drive from Nairobi, is the privately owned Solio Game Reserve. Home to large numbers of white rhino, the Reserve was initially focused on the breeding of the endangered black rhino, but has now succeeded in the breeding of white rhinos.

Driving down was a comfortable drive, and we arrived at the lodge in time for lunch. Lunch was served outside on the lawn deck and comprised of fresh salads with a pasta dish, followed by delectable cheeses and crackers. All this was accompanied by a glass of chilled rose.

After lunch we retired to our rooms where we spent some time admiring the view from the floor-to-ceiling windows. Then it was time to go out and see the rhinos. We began with a walk outside the Reserve for about 45 minutes, before entering the Reserve for a drive.

Rhinos, rhinos and more rhinos…we saw them in large numbers as we drove through the Reserve. Our vehicle was modified to have seats fitted on the roof, giving us an unobstructed 360 degree view.

At around 6 pm, we came upon a large pride of lions (about 27 to 30), feeding on the fresh carcass of a giraffe. We stopped a few feet away from them and settled down to watch. Lots of grunting and crunching sounds rent the air and we were totally surrounded by lions – one young male was stretching himself on a tree right beside me, and there were lions lying in the grass close to the vehicle.

As the sun had begun to set, this made for a charged atmosphere that had us glued to our seats, while feeling very vulnerable at the same time as we were completely exposed, and night was falling rapidly.

Then the lions began to quarrel amongst themselves and an old male lion began growling and roaring at two young male lions who had come closer to feed. The roaring grew louder and then the old male swatted his huge paw at one of the younger lions and the younger lions came bounding towards us – we were all spooked. This was definitely out of our comfort zone.

Our driver/guide, Ole, bless him, chose this moment to ask us if he could pass us our sundowners….a resounding NO from all of us put paid to that idea. We spent another 10 – 15 minutes there until it became too dark to see, and then headed back to the lodge. You can imagine what the topic of conversation was over pre dinner drinks.

Dinner was served in the dining room – the meals at Solio are very well prepared with good vegetarian options should you require, and a great wine list.

Taking a shower is a real treat as the shower heads are huge and it feels like you are standing under a waterfall. The shower area is large, and is fronted by glass on the garden side, so you can shower with a view of the gardens. There is a free standing bathtub should you wish to indulge, with a fireplace next to it – this fire is lit on request.

The lounge area next to the sleeping area also has a fireplace where the fire is lit in the evening, and lends a cosy air to the room. The beds are super comfortable and we spent a very relaxed night.

Morning game drives don’t start at the crack of dawn as in other parks and reserves, but at the more civilized hour of 8 am. On our morning game drive, we saw again, huge groups of rhino, and we went back to visit the lions – there was a lone lion feeding on the carcass with the rest of the pride sprawled in the long grass around.

The highlight of the morning game drive was a bush breakfast set up right next to the rhinos….who were very curious about us and kept coming closer to look at these strange creatures.

Later that day, we went for a horseride outside the Reserve. This lasted about 45 minutes and the horses were quite amenable except for one spot where 2 of the horses were bitten by tsetse flies and wanted to bolt.

On the day of departure, we had breakfast at the lodge and as one of our party was celebrating a birthday, the manager Ava, graciously arranged for a birthday celebration complete with cake and singing and dancing.

Ava also, very generously, sent us off with packed lunches and gifts for the ladies – the lunches came in very handy.

For anyone wishing to interact closely with rhinos…Solio is the place to be!!!

3 TOP TRAVEL PICKS FOR 2019

We still have 4 months of travel left in 2019, and I wanted to share with you, my top picks for the remainder of the year.

Suspended in mid air

ANGAMA MARA LODGE, MAASAI MARA GAME RESERVE

From your first stay at Angama Mara, it will become your ‘home away from home’. Right from the enthusiastically warm welcome from all the staff when you arrive at Camp (this is a tradition at the Camp), to the wonderfully caring hospitality during your stay, the outstanding cuisine and lovely, spacious tents with unparalleled views of the Mara Triangle below, the Angama Mara experience is outstandingly unique and memorable. Angama takes its name from the Swahili word meaning suspended in mid-air….we take it to mean ‘between heaven and earth’.

In addition to enjoying game drives with your experienced guide in the Mara Triangle below, you can also enjoy guided walks across the plains and in the forest with a Maasai naturalist. A speciality of Angama is their shamba lunch – wander through their one acre kitchen garden, also known as a shamba, pick vegetables of your choice, and enjoy a shamba-to-table lunch, with the vegetables you picked presented as fresh salads and supplemented with loaves of bread, local cheeses and chilled rose wine….all this under the shade of towering moth trees, with panoramic views of the Mara Triangle below.

Visit the Garden of Remembrance and spend a few quiet moment in the chapel, built in the loving memory of the founder, Steve Fitzgerald.

For budding photographers, the Camp has a photography studio on hand, as well as a shop onsite selling some unusual items, including beadwork done by Maasai women on site.

If celebrating an anniversary, the Camp offers intimate picnics for two, on the crest of the kopje which features in the ‘Out of Africa’ movie poster.

OL DONYO LODGE, CHYULU HILLS

Located in the majestic Chyulu Hills, the lodge offers a truly exceptional escape from the mundanity of life. Fly into the airstrip located just minutes from the lodge, and within a short while, you might find yourself in one of the unique features of the lodge – an underground hide located in front of the waterhole. The waterhole is always frequented by game, mostly elephants and you could choose to see them from this vantage point or from the deck of your room, or even while lazing in your plunge pool located on your room deck.

The lodge offers some exciting activities ranging from horseriding on the plains, to exploring the lava tube caves in the hills, guided bush walks, bush meals and day & night game drives in the conservancy. The cuisine at the lodge is top notch (with different settings for each meal) and after a wonderful lunch, refresh yourself by taking a dip in the plunge pool.

You could also choose to spend a romantic night under the stars….!

Last but not least, every room comes equipped with a pair of binoculars and a professional camera body and lens kit for complimentary use. However, if your guide is Jackson Lemunge, be warned….he will not permit you to take photographs on auto mode.

BARAZA RESORT & SPA, ZANZIBAR

For most people, Zanzibar is an exotic destination evoking scents of incense, cloves and other spices. Staying at the Baraza Resort & Spa allows you to enjoy all this, in 5 star accommodations. Located on the south east coast of the island and within an hour’s drive from the airport, and consisting of one and two bedroom villas, the resort offers unparalleled standards of luxury on the island. The experience here is truly 5 star with services and facilities elevated to an extremely professional standard. All villas come complete with their own plunge pools, walk in dressing rooms and a large terrace.

The cuisine here is influenced by Arabic, Indian, Persian, Asian and Swahili flavours, with local spices also used. Using the hotel as a base, you can explore Stone Town and Forodhani Park, Prison Island, spice plantations and Jozani forest among other attractions. Alternatively enjoy the Frangipani Spa with it’s lap pool with underwater music and therapists from Thailand, Bali and India. Or indulge in the vast array of watersport offered at the hotel.