We were lucky enough to catch up with famous adventurer Charley Boorman, on his passion for travel, his love affair with Africa and his recent trip to Kenya. Here’s what he had to say…
1. You are always out and about exploring the world. What is it you love so much about travel?
Ever since I was a little kid I’ve travelled the world with my father, so I managed to get the taste for it from a young age. One of the things I like the most is going to new countries and meeting new people along the way.
2. We are particularly interested in your trip to Kenya earlier this year, where you stayed at three of our much-loved properties: Saruni Rhino, El Karama Lodge and Almanara. Tell us more about your trip…
For as long as I can remember I’ve had a love affair with Africa, and Kenya is one of the places I love the most. To be able to go and stay in these unique places in Kenya was an opportunity that couldn’t be missed. All three of the properties offered something different and a unique experience getting close to African wildlife, from walking with rhinos to sitting in a hide beside a watering hole, and the most spectacular accommodation and food that you could possibly imagine.
3. What was your favourite wildlife sighting?
You can never really get over the amazement of coming over the brow of a hill and seeing a herd of elephants or zebra or wildebeest. But to get a glimpse of a cheetah or a pack of wild dogs, they’re the special ones. If you’re lucky enough, you might come across some hyenas, which are the oddest animals! The cute ones are the warthogs. When they’re being chased by a predator, they forget after a period of time why they’re running, and stop and start eating, and then they get eaten themselves!
4. What did you learn on your trip?
The trip reaffirmed my love for Kenya and for safari, but also really opened my eyes to the importance of protetuscting places like this and the wildlife that call it home. The lodges were amazing and the personal touches and service at all of them made the trip that extra bit special
5. We know you experienced Saruni’s ground-breaking rhino tracking programme. Can you tell us all about this?
Saruni Rhino offers the first ever opportunity in East Africa where you can track the majestic black rhinos on-foot . It is an incredible feeling to be metres away from the twitching ears of a black rhino! The experience runs in a place in Northern Kenya called Sera Community Conservancy, and it is the first community conservancy in Africa to own and operate a sanctuary dedicated to the conservation of this iconic species. The sanctuary was established by the relocation of black rhinos from other parks and reserves in Kenya, and they are already breeding successfully which is fantastic in helping to increase numbers.
6. Why are conservation projects such as this one so important?
Sera Community Conservancy is a shining example of how, when conservation efforts work hand in hand with local communities, you can create something very special. By working with the local Samburu community, the Sera team have managed to bring back the highly endangered black rhinos to the area having not seen them for over 25 years. By visiting projects like this you cannot only bring money directly in to benefit the local community but you also help to protect them by raising awareness to hopefully encourage their protection elsewhere.
7. We understand you also went along on the horse patrol with the Mount Kenya Trust. How does the horse patrol help reduce illegal poaching?
The Mount Kenya Trust is a small but highly impressive charity that does lots of great things to help the communities and terrain around Mount Kenya. I had the opportunity to ride out with their anti-poaching horse patrol team (which was set up in partnership with the UK charity Tusk) and so was able witness first-hand how, by having a simple team of rangers who ride out daily on patrol in the forests around Mount Kenya, they have been able to catch and deter poachers and illegal loggers. Since the patrol was set up, poaching in the area has reduced by an incredible 80%.
8. How does Kenya differ from the rest of Africa?
I think Kenya is one of the last few places on Earth where the animals have no boundaries. The animals travel from Tanzania to Kenya, and there are so few places left in the world where you can see wildlife do that. As a motorcycle fan there’s also nowhere else in the world where you can be riding alongside hippos or giraffes!
9. Did you meet any particularly interesting people while you were out there?
Sophie and Murray Grant who own and run El Karama Lodge are a really interesting and inspiring couple. Sophie is from the UK and is a passionate conservationist and sees herself as a guardian of the landscape at El Karama. Her husband Murray is, in my humble opinion, one of the world’s leading wildlife sculptors and the lodge is filled with his work. In order to produce a sculpture he spends months studying his subject at close quarters, be it leopard, elephant or kudu, camping out for nights on end to watch how they move and how they hunt. The results are amazing and they look like they could walk right off their bronze plinths.
10. You came second in the TV show Masterchef a few years ago now and are known for being a bit of a foodie, what do you think of Kenyan cuisine?
The food we experienced throughout our stay was all delicious and really celebrated how you can cook amazing food with pretty limited resources. I particularly loved the seafood at Almanara. The chef there, Luke Doig, spent time working at the Savoy in London and it shows in his food. His restaurant, Sails, is in a beautiful location under the palm trees on the beach at Diani, and one of my favourite dishes was his locally sourced steamed ginger crab. So memorable.
11. What advice would you give to someone who was planning to travel to Kenya?
There are three things I would highly recommend for anyone thinking of going to Kenya:
1. Whilst the Masai Mara is teeming with wildlife, I would definitely recommend getting off the beaten track and heading north. My wife Olly and I both fell in love with the incredible landscape and wildlife in Samburu and Laikipia. We particularly loved being able to go out on safari on foot both at Saruni Rhino and El Karama (having been on crutches for all of last year the joy of walking is still hitting me hard)! Getting close to wildlife on foot is amazing, there is nothing like being able to smell elephants before you see them, you notice so much more on foot.
2. Definitely combine safari with a beach stay at the end, as if you want to make the most of your safari experience it involves lots of early starts and can be quite tiring. You definitely need time to chill on the beach at the end. The beach at Diani is one of the most beautiful I have ever been to and I have been to quite a few beaches around the world over the years!
3. Carry baby wipes! Applicable to travelling anywhere where it is hot and dusty, I always recommend having a pack of baby wipes in your hand luggage so you can freshen up wherever you are!
Charley’s book The Long Way Back is available at all major bookstores and on Amazon now.