When I spoke to Leslie Lefkowitz, an expert in luxury communications, about one of the outfits in her stable, she said emphatically, “It’s ROAR AFRICA… in all capital letters.” There were no illusions as to why this might be one of the most luxurious tour outfits in the world with a focus on African hospitality.
Some of the company’s exclusive adventures take place in Kenya, and they come at a price. For example, a 10 day safari and accommodation in some of Kenya’s bespoke inns costs each guest (the safari takes up to six people) $32,660 or 3.9 million shillings at current exchange rates.
A cursory glance at the company’s website provides a glimpse of some of the notable figures who have made their way to the African plains in search of tranquillity.
There’s Vanessa Williams, the American singer, actress and fashion designer who, after an epic safari, recommended that “everyone should experience Africa’s unique treasures at least once in their lifetime”. Pat Mitchell, a media personality and former president of CNN Productions, said she “came home a different person” after an epic tour of Africa.
However, there is one name on the guest list that clearly demonstrates Kenya’s position as a top holiday destination. Robert Redford is the renowned actor behind the classic Out of Africa. in which he co-starred with Meryl Streep, and which detailed the love – and much heartbreak – that Danish author Karen Blixen endured.
Indeed, ROAR AFRICA’s Kenya itinerary follows in the footsteps of the films, with guests revisiting key film locations where some of the romantic scenes were filmed.
“The Safari is inspired by one of the greatest films of all time,” says Lefkowitz. “This journey could only happen in Kenya as it brings the romance of the cinematic masterpiece to life by recreating the beloved film’s most magical moments in the exact locations where they were first filmed. Guests can express their inner Meryl Streep or Robert Redford and experience this extraordinary destination like no one has experienced before.”
What would this unique safari look like?
It helps to spend at least two nights in the city before a flight transfer into the bush, and Hemingway’s Nairobi, the plantation-style five-star hotel is in the leafy and historic suburb of Karen, not far from where the film was filmed the place to spend the nights.
The ankle-high Ngong Hills come into view from the hotel’s balcony. On the slopes is the final resting place of Denys Finch-Hatton, Karen’s second lover, who died in a plane crash at Voi in May 1931.
For the next four nights, the Far away from Africa Set consecutively at another location where Finch-Hatton’s “funeral” as described in the film was recorded. At this point, perched high on the western outcrop of the Great Rift Valley, now lies Angama Mara, aptly named for seemingly suspended in mid-air, or the place where heaven and earth collide.
Here Redford and Streep had an unforgettable view over the endless Mara plains. Not far away, towards the Mara River, is the location where the film’s intimate “hair washing” scene was filmed.
The highlight, however, lies in the vastness of Laikipia. Segera Retreat is nestled between the Great Rift Valley and Mount Kenya on an exclusive 20,000 hectare private conservation area owned by conservationist and businessman Jochen Zeitz.
Here in Segera, a hangar on the property grounds houses the original G-AAMY biplane used in the 1985 film. The quaint aircraft is still in good condition, and guests can fly on this piece of history for an additional fee.
These ultra-luxe itineraries are the work of Zimbabwe-born entrepreneur Deborah Calmeyer, who founded the company in 2005. Commuting between New York and Cape Town gave her an unmatched understanding of the needs and desires of travelers who care not only about their pockets, but the serenity of specially curated destinations.
“Deborah is curious and cultivated, with her finger on the pulse,” she states in her work profile. Their tours are more than just sightseeing. It’s about food, culture and art.
Deborah grew up on a farm in Zimbabwe, riding horses and playing with families of “Carmel”, the pet lioness her father rescued. Spending much time in the African bush, her family instilled in Deborah a deep commitment to preserving and supporting their people, animals and the fragile environment in which they lived.
Her business is primarily run by women, with a supporting cast of local guides and other experts from Africa. She deliberately included women in tourism as they are the ones who suffer most from a fragile ecosystem. Women, she says, were in the hotel kitchens, in housekeeping or at the reservation desk and rarely sat at the high table on an equal footing with men. “As African women rise, wildlife will thrive” has become the driving force for change in the previously male-dominated industry.