“Africa,” Pliny the Elder wrote almost two millenniums ago, “always brings us something new.” The delights of that ever-newness vary with the continent’s subtly and dramatically diverse landscapes, people, and animals, but here is a typical—but always enthrallingly uncommon—day in Africa’s classic plains and riverside forests.
The sun rises early and eagerly on the savannahs, and after coffee, tea, and pre-breakfast snacks, we hop on our 4-wheel drive with our Micato Safari Director and venture into what the great lover of Africa Peter Beard called “a paradise caressed by light and air in their most special forms.”
The abundance of animals is stunning; no place on the planet remotely compares. “The wild creatures I had come to Africa to see are exhilarating in their multitudes and colors,” wrote Peter Matthiessen, “and I imagined for a time that this glimpse of the earth’s morning might account for the anticipation I felt, the sense of origins, of innocence and mystery, like a marvelous childhood faculty restored.”
Back to our lodge for a hearty breakfast, on the lookout for giraffes floating across the plains, or a family of elephants “pacing as if they had an appointment at the end of the world,” just as our heroine Isak Dinesen saw them and wrote about them in Out of Africa.
After a deep immersion in that precious modern commodity, serene leisure (and maybe even a rare, profound nap), we lunch by the verdant riverside. We especially enjoy a local dish, and after we pay our compliments to the chef, a staff member hands us a piece of paper with the recipe neatly written in pencil.
Our lodge’s thoughtful mix of luxurious modernity and safari tradition has a wondrous soundtrack: monkeys chattering in the bush, elephants splashing in the nearby water, exotic birdsongs. A thrilling experience “like returning to the really true world again–where I probably once lived 10,000 years ago,” as Dinesen remembered.
After a proper English tea on the verandah, we’re off on an afternoon game drive. Lions are ready to get back to work after their mid-day nap; great herds of gazelles, their muscles as finely tuned as a Swiss watch, resume their grazing; cheetahs limber up for their superhero sprints.
The game drive continues. Our Safari Director tells us about that doughty tickbird’s partnership with the intricately decorated giraffe on whose lofty back it sits. We may have eyes peeled for the Big (or the far more elusive Little) Five, we may be fascinated by a rhino Jurassically lumbering across our path, and we’ll likely agree with something Elspeth Huxley wrote in her enchanting The Flame Trees of Thika: “There is no feeling like being absolutely alone with creation…with nothing spoiled or sullied or abused….A whole world revolves in balance with itself more perfect than the finest symphony.”
We’ll often enjoy sundowners on a hill overlooking guileless eternity, then return to the lodge to freshen up and amble over to the main lodge for dinner. Safari is about surprises, and for many of us one of the most delightful revelations is the fresh, imaginative, and downright delicious cuisine in Micato’s meticulously chosen camps and lodges.
It’s been a long, enthralling day. We return to our tent (yes, that’s a tent in the picture; as we often say, our safari tents resemble workaday tents like a luxury yacht resembles a dinghy). And as we settle in for the night, we may agree with Ms. Huxley that there is no “sleep so perfect as that stirred but not broken by the thrilling vibrance of a lion’s roar.”