There are beach people and there are mountain people and I am most definitely the latter. There’s something inherently peaceful about looking at the countryside from above. Serenity washes over me as if the worries of the day are exhaled along with my breath. I’ve always been drawn to the clouds. So it’s not too surprising that during a trip to Africa, I was dazzled by two Kenya safari lodges with rooms sporting panoramas so stunning it was hard to drag myself away to explore the world below.
My first stop was Ol Malo owned by the Francombe family, a working ranch nestled in a jagged escarpment overlooking the Laikipia plateau in the northern frontier.
My suite, a cross between a safari lodge and Game of Thrones, was cavernous and emerged from the rocks as if it were a part of the cliffs. The view from the giant picture windows extended all the way to the faded outline of Mount Kenya over 50 miles away.
Every morning, I greeted the sunrise on my private two-story veranda with a diet coke and a tin full of biscuits waiting for the light to bathe the mountains in pastel shades of yellow, pink, and blue.
At the base of the escarpment, a man-made watering hole stood strategically positioned so that every suite had a front row seat. The heat drew leopards, impala, baboons, and hyena to the water and I loved to gape at the various dramas that would unfold from my comfy perch in the sky.
One day, I spent over an hour one day, watching matchbox-sized elephants graze their way through the rugged terrain to the watering hole. Five yards from their destination all but the matriarch came to a standstill. Alone, she walked the last few feet and faced the herd, her ears slowly flapping like the wings on a roosting butterfly. She stood in front of the water for a few minutes, the others patiently waiting for her cue, and when she was ready, in unison, they all moved forward and plunged their trunks into the wet, cool, blue.
The Maasai call it the Oloololo escarpment. It runs through the Mara Triangle along the Great Rift Valley and ascends to over 1,000 feet. At its summit sits Angama.
In Swahili, Angama means “suspended in midair,” and that’s just how it felt. My tented suite was so high that the world took on a completely different quality than what I found at Ol Malo. Gone were the trees and wildlife in toy-like miniature, replaced with what looked like an impressionist painting. The last time I saw the Mara like this I was in a plane. How extraordinary to have the luxury of such a spectacular view from my balcony.
A glimpse of the sunrise would draw me outside like a magnet. I loved to look down at the Masai Mara Reserve and watch it come to life before all the travelers started their game drives. One by one I’d see the headlights below, floating in the air like tiny fireflies.
I’d been to the Triangle twice before. It was wonderfully familiar and I loved that I’d come to recognize my surroundings as if I might actually belong. I knew where to find my favorite watering hole; I could pick out the tree where a leopard sat two years before, and I remembered the spot where I saw my first wildebeest crossing. During my stay, I wistfully relived dozens of earlier sightings as I went about making new memories.
From my terrace, however, it was all fresh again. I had a greater appreciation for the land I’d come to love. It’s immensity and its staggering beauty.
I didn’t want to leave.
I was a guest of both Ol Malo and Angama, however, views are completely my own.
Prior to October 2018, whenever I flew to Kenya I had to fly through Amsterdam, Johannesburg or London adding hours to my international travel. But no longer. Kenya Airways now has a direct flight to Nairobi from JFK. Yippee! I was invited on the inaugural flight and with the help of some headwinds shaved 7 hours off my trip. It’s a game-changer.