Amy Mowafi's time at Borana Lodge
26th August 2018:
As our 12 seater propeller plane bumps and jolts a little alarmingly somewhere over East Africa, I wonder if perhaps I should have paid heed to every piece of travel advice I’d read suggesting saving safari for when one’s kids are at least in their early teens. My youngest, four year old Momo, suddenly lets out a piercing sheik, “LOOK ITS A GIRAFFE” and everyone cranes for a sight of this creature strolling across the plains just as our plane lands into an ‘airstrip’. We are all enraptured. But only my little one lacks the inhibition to express the full gamut of his excitement. F**K THE TRAVEL ADVICE.
Lewa ‘airport’ consists quite literally of a small empty patch of land right in the middle of the wilderness; a three-walled thatched hut with a wooden bench, and a secondary smaller hut, which is the bathroom, naturally. Maya, my six year old and her little brother strain against their seatbelts, desperate to burst out of this flying contraption that has landed them seemingly in the middle of Lion Kind territory. Well actually, not ‘seemingly’ at all. I chose Kenya’s Borana Conservancy specifically because it is Lion King land, having inspired the landscape of the Disney cartoon and because it lays claim to the real Pride Rock. I figured if I’m going to take the kids way out of any reasonable comfort zone I may as well root our adventure in a story they are familiar with.
(Side Note: This Eid marked the first time in five years I completely disconnected - metaphorically, literally, and digitally. It was f****ing glorious. For a start I was reintroduced to the sound of my own thoughts, and all the words come flowing. There was a time - long before CEO - when all I did was weave stories and that is when I feel most like me. I slept wonderfully and didn't have a single dream that involved racing against time to finish some implausible task. But most importantly I discovered that my kids are quite possibly the coolest humans in the world. My reality demands connection around the clock, but I plan to punctuate my life with more of deliriously dazzling scenes. After all, the world is somehow spinning.)
27th August 2018:
I had been on safari before, a decade ago, in South Africa’s Kruger Park - a wonderful experience all be it hampered by the countless congregation of tourists. I didn’t want that for the kids, so - once again contrary to convention - I avoided the far more popular Maasai Mara with it’s incredible concentration of game, and opted for Laikipia’s Borana Conservancy - a 35,000 acre working ranch at an awe-inspiring altitude of 6,500 feet on the edge of the Samangua Valley. On clear days, Mount Kenya can be seen soaring in the distance. Borana is also one of the few lodges I researched that seemed eager to offer very young children a safari experience - unlike many other destinations which would begrudgingly accept them (a kind of ‘if you must’ mentality). Indeed a whole host of lodges prohibit under 8s or under 12s all together. But then Borana is a family run concern – having been in the Dyer family for three generations. The current generation still pours their passions into the land, a rare accomplishment, and one that imbues your experience with an authenticity far removed from the tourist trails - as if you’re visiting intrepid family friends.
The Lodge itself consists of eight thatched cottages hewn into the mountainside by local artisans. An endless expanse of undulating African bush stretches out in all directions, all the way to the horizon, and nestled in our room, it feels like we are suspended somewhere between heaven and earth.
When I sit with my children on our terrace at sunrise, gearing up for the early morning game drive, sipping at steaming hot coffee from flasks placed on our doorstep (and munching on the cornflakes they have scoured out especially for the kids), it feels in fact, that perhaps this is indeed heaven. God’s country - wild, untouched, ethereal. We are guests at nature’s behest, beholden to the majestic beasts that roam and rule the land...
31st August 2018:
I hope the kids remember being surrounded by a herd of elephants at dawn, the little babies being cajoled along to a nearby watering hole. The cheetah that sauntered languidly right in front of our cruiser and the squeals of delight when we spotted two tiny cubs scrambling behind her.
I hope they remember refusing to shhhh as a lion approached at sunset, but being stricken into silence when it stared straight into the open car, opening its mouth as if to roar only to yawn and stroll away. How silly to think the king of beasts would believe us worthy of his attention.
I hope they remember hiking through the forest, Momo insisting on wearing his entirely unsuitable Crocs even as he navigated steep and slippery terrains and Maya loudly singing ‘This is Me’ off key all the way to the secret waterfall.
I hope Maya not only remembers but sustains the fearlessness that had her leap off an alarmingly high rocky ledge into the freezing waters of Mount Kenya’s melted glaciers.
I hope they remember all the Swahili words that Ben our incredible, patient, tireless, generous Borana Lodge guide taught them. And how Momo inherited the nickname Mamba (which means crocodile) which infuriated him at first but became a fait accompli when Ben and the entire team at the lodge started using it.
I hope they never ever forget horse riding across the wide open plains of East Africa as a tower of giraffes sashayed past so close we could almost reach out and touch them.
I hope they remember taking a bath on the edge of a mountain top beneath an endless sky full of stars, and then falling asleep by a roaring fire as the sound of cicadas seeped through the silence.
But even if, as is most likely, all these magical memories slip through their little fingers, I suspect, that something intangible has happened in their imaginations, far greater than any one moment. An understanding of the possibilities, the immeasurable size of things, the adventures to be had.
When I think I have too much work for impractical adventures, I hope I AM THE ONE who remembers Maya racing to her grandad when we got back, “I want to see all the places in the world now,” she told him.
2nd September 2018:
For weeks we had talked to the kids about visiting the real Pride Rock Borana Conservancy but I had neglected to mention that it was highly unlikely Simba and friends would be present. This resulted in much sulkiness and a refusal to take proper pictures despite the half hour hike. Me yelling, “you will regret this forever, why do you have to ruin everything” was probably poor parenting and did little to allay the situation. And then they started throwing themselves at the edge of the cliff in an attempt to see if perhaps the rest of the animal kingdom were bowing at the bottom to the strains of the Circle of Life.
At this point one parent sensibly decided it was time we ended this part of the proceedings while the other sulked all the way back down because her kids had ruined her potentially perfect Instagram picture.
So I am eternally grateful to @dannyarafa for his nimble photoshop work on this picture. I LOVE it. ❤️🦁
Amy made a short video clip of her time at Borana Lodge which was published on her instagram page. Follow this link to watch it.
Amy, many thanks for your kind words - we very much enjoyed having on Borana and we hope that you will visit again soon. Ben sends his regards to The Black Mamba and Maya.