Travel Blog: Wine & Wildebeest Safari

A few months ago Rita & I were invited to round up a few of our customers for a ‘Wine & Wildebeest’ trip to the Mara by acclaimed wildlife author-photographers Daryl & Sharna Balfour. As one of the things on top of both of our ‘bucket lists’ we grabbed the opportunity immediately.

On 27 September we arrived in Nairobi Jomo Kenyatta International airport. We’d barely left the plane when we were greeted by the tour operators (Nigel Archer Safaris) staff who whisked us through the ‘interesting’ Nairobi traffic to our serene Fairview hotel, where we met the rest of our party. So the wine (but not the Wildebeest) safari effectively started a day early!

Elephant Orphanage

Map of the Serengeti  & Masai Mara National Parks

The next day we went through to the David Sheldrick Elephant orphanage where young Elephants rescued mostly from poaching incidents are cared for to a stage where they can move on to other centres for rehabilitation to the wild. A deeply moving place, both sad & happy all in one.

 

We then went on to the Giraffe House where the near extinct Rothschild Giraffe have been succesfully bred for several years. I was hoping the visit would include a glass of wine -Mouton Rothschild perhaps- but alas not so lucky!

Sped on to the domestic airport and after an intimate ‘weighing in’ session boarded a mightly small aircraft that got us to the Mara about an hour later.

 

Wow, what a place – just like ‘Out of Africa’, ‘White Mischief’, ‘The Lion King’, etc etc. Vast plains with Wildebeest, Zebra and several other ungulates. It seemed almost incidental that we would bump into some lion on the way to camp.

 

Shakiera with her cubs and Notch, the BBC superstar

The attraction of the trip for our twelve customers and us was simple: iconic game viewing during the day and iconic wines at night – washed down with the sounds of hyena, lion, zebra, impala etc etc. and a good dose of great humour. Luckily we have customers with a sense of adventure.

Olive with her catch and the bush kitchen.

River crossing (Photo by Daryl Balfour)

River crossing

5-star service  (Photo by Daryl Balfour)

Sharna, Daryl, David & Rita – Cheers!  (Photo by Daryl Balfour)

Phil, Pierre, Rita & David  (Photo by Daryl Balfour)

Paul’s Calvados, Sijnn, De Trafford & Niepoort.  (Photo by Daryl Balfour)

Another set of candles & more laughter!  (Photo by Daryl Balfour)

Twilight drinks by the fireside.  (Photo by Daryl Balfour)

The first night we served our current release De Trafford wines followed by our Sijnn wines on the second night. Night three we did a Cabernet Sauvignon study – mostly De Trafford wines going back to 2001. Night four we enjoyed a Shiraz vertical and night five an eclectic mix including Pinot Noir 2004 and Merlot 2003, both drinking beautifully. The final night was a taste off between De Trafford CWG Perspective and the De Trafford Elevation 393.

Guest wines included: Cadaretta Sauvignon Blanc / Semillon 2011 and Syrah 2008 from Middleton Family Wines in the Columbia Valley, Washington. Niepoort Vertente 2006 and Redoma 2007 Branco. Chapoutier La Mordoreè 2003, Cote Rotie. Paul Plant presented a Calvados and a couple of single malt Whiskies with great aplomb.

Game viewing highlights
• Shakira (Cheetah) & her four cubs and us nearly being flattened by a maniac balloon rider. The cubs raced off and the one got stuck up a Balanites tree.
• Fugli (Cheetahs) Brothers crossing the Talek river.
• Three river crossings.
• Every sunrise and sunset – always with the animals all round.
• Our random breakfast stops.
• Olive the leapard with her Scrub hare kill.
• Notch, the most notorious lion of the area and star of BBC Wild Cat Diaries, with his Wildebeest kill.
• Elephants pushing their way through a line of migrating Wildebeest.
• The sounds of the bush during our afternoon naps and the hectic sounds of the night too!

What would a ‘Wine & Wildebeest’ experience be without excellent food? We were constantly amazed at the delicious meals coming out of the bush kitchen. Daryl & Sharna; Phil; Pierre & Johan are guides of incredible experience and panache.

You can view more information about our upcoming 2018 trip here.

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