In the earliest days of African travel, visitors came to hunt. Later, they used cameras instead of guns, but animals remained the principal reason. Today travelers are more interested in a wider experience, and one that includes real R & R as well.
Animals remain the main reason an American would choose an African safari vacation. But today there is a growing interest in the peoples and cultures of the area as well, both historical and contemporary. I often think this has something to do with the incredible availability of wildlife documentaries and the growing sensitivities of our increasingly stressed planet.
But within the last few years another motivation has become to appear: just good R&R.
That’s what vacations were always intended to be. The educational component of vacations really didn’t appear until the 1960s. Many Americans traveled to Europe since the earliest parts of the last century, but rarely then did they visit museums or have cliff notes on politics and society. They normally took cruises that rarely docked or found a single splendid villa in Florence to spend a month. It was, afterall, a retreat from the pressures and demands of a working life.
The more exotic destinations like Africa were never presumed to have a spa. Boy, has that changed!
There is hardly a lodge or even tented camp in Africa, today, which doesn’t have a full-time masseuse. And as travelers became more and more enamored of such amenity, the spa has become a virtually essential ingredient of any good property. And some properties are beginning to emphasize the “retreat” to R&R and spa, above animals.
Such is the outstanding remote Kenyan lodge, Sasaab. It’s also a community based tourism project with the local Samburu, assuring a mutually beneficial success to its own investors.
Sasaab is located west of Samburu National Park, in a remote part of Laikipia on the Ewaso Nyiro River. My family safari just spent two wonderful days here. Nine gargantuan rooms with 40-foot thatched roofs and individual plunge pools were all set on a bluff above the river with fantastic views of hundreds of square miles of Laikipia. It is absoluely conceivable that you would spend four days here not leaving your own little villa. The architecture is northern African Arab, perfect for the warm climate. The public areas are all open. The food is unbelievable and the hosts, Tony and Ali Alport, become fast friends to all who enter the massive arched entry from the long bumpy road from Samburu.
The children adored the big pool, the camel rides, the visit to the Grevy’s zebra orphange, and the climb to the top of a flat rock for sundowners. We did see game, including elephant, but it seemed secodary to the relaxing if breath-taking experience. Annie spoke for all the adults in the family when she said, “This is the most beautiful place I’ve ever stayed at.”