Kenya giraffes

8 Reasons Why Your Favourite A-Listers Choose To Holiday In Kenya

Lions and leopards and lynxes, oh my!

Bonafide A-listers seem to live exclusively on a spectrum between birth, death and extreme luxury. Which, presumably, is why so many of them keep private-jetting back to Kenya, East Africa – a place where you can experience all three in a 24-hour window.

Adding another prestigious title to her ever growing list, it was Queen Elizabeth II who first advertised Kenya as a safehaven for the modern A-Lister when, in 1952, she stayed at Treetops Lodge in Aberdare National Park.

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But since then, countless premium-grade celebrities have followed her esteemed example.

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie took their dazzling selves on tour to Mombassa in 2005, Naomi Campbell raved about Kenya after a trip in 2008, Prince William proposed to Kate Middleton in the foothills of Mount Kenya in October 2010 and Richard Branson opened his own camp in the Maasai Mara in 2013. Let's not forget that Barack Obama's father was Kenyan – another reason to love the country unconditionally, of course.

But just what is it that makes Kenya so deliciously appealing to countless movie stars, models and Royals? Well, besides a few fracas with Somali terrorists, the country is relatively peaceful of course, which makes it an easier sell than some of the surrounding countries like the DRC. But there are myriad other reasons too, some of which we've outlined below.

1) The Fun Starts On The Plane

Forget the latest Bradley Cooper flick or squabbling over games of snap and instead, opt to fly early morning, pray for clear skies and marvel at the landscape beneath the wings of your Airbus A380. Because the flightpath from London to Nairobi is spectacular.

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Rising vertigo swallowed with a gulp, peering down at vast, epic views of the Sahara desert in both Western Egypt and Northern Sudan is, honest-to-God, one of the most breathtaking sights you'll ever take in. And that's before the holiday's even started.

Fly direct to Kenya's capital, Nairobi from London Heathrow with Kenya Airways and British Airways.

2) The Tourist Infrastructure Is Impeccable

Contrary to what you might think, the survival of countless African species is contingent on wildlife tourism. Without the conservation efforts of numerous animal reservations and the safari camps that fund them, Kenya mightn't have the means to protect such a wide range of animal denominations.

With this in mind, the tourism infrastructure in Kenya is geared towards shipping vast swathes of monied travellers between airports, lounges, fancy restaurants and safari camps with as little fuss as humanly possible. The more people who can be transferred, champagne in hand, between Nairobi airport and the vicinity of a snoozing lion, the better it is for everyone.

Resources like Magical Kenya – Kenya's official tourism enterprise – will sort out your whole itinerary before you can say 'karibu' (Swahili for 'Welcome'). Plus, Air Kenya will whisk you between every major game park or coastal resort by either tiny de Havilland aircraft or charter Helicopter as per your short-haul preference. As most of these little flights are under an hour, you can pet a baby elephant at the Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage in the morning and be sipping on a rum punch in the middle of the bush by lunch.

Plus, heading to Kenya requires no advance-entry visa, a significantly lessened admin headache.

3. You Can Feed Giraffes By Hand

I once thought I'd reached peak magical giraffe experience when, in my late teens, a French lover took me on a late-night date to watch giraffes sleeping, necks entwined, at Le Jardin Zoologique in Lyon. But I was wrong. Kenya is home to the most cheesy-grin-inducing giraffe experience ever, at Giraffe Manor in the Lang'ata suburb of Nairobi.

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Choosing to either stay in the manor house hotel or simply to visit as a day guest, you can head into the courtyard, scoop up a handful of chunky brown pellets and have a blue-tongued creature slurping them out of your hand with gusto, over and over again.

There is little more marvellous than feeling a fluffy chinned baby giraffe tickling your wrist as it reaches for an afternoon snack.

4. Guns And Poaching Are A No-No

There are places in Africa where enough cold hard cash will grant you a trophy kill of your choosing. Poor, poor Cecil. Kenya is not one of those places, thank the Earth. And a plague on any of the countries that still allow that sort of thing, to loosely quote some Shakespeare.

In fact, they're really against gun toting in general. Compared to safaris in South Africa, where every tour guide, jeep and assistant was armed to the teeth, the Kenyan approach is really rather startling. In a good way.

Most safari 4X4s certainly don't have visible armament and the security guards in the tented camps aren't girded with much more than a baton or truncheon. In fact, there's a profound sense of respect conferred on the animal kingdom in Kenya, of the sort that spurs the traveler to observe their place as a guest of the four legged beasts, rather than a superior.

Fairmont Mount Kenya

Stay at luxury camps like Fairmont Mount Kenya (from $265 per person per night) – a cottage-clustered, lagoon-pooled safe-haven in at the base of Kenya's highest peak – and they'll give you the option to venture into the wilderness on horseback.

Even then, mounted on steed, legs and arms firmly outside of the non-existent carriage, you won't find yourself flanked by gunmen.

You'll instead be at the mercy of the resort's sweet natured, mirthful riding guides, who'll babble at baboons with you, spot the warthogs and wildebeest from a mile's range and make like there's nothing dangerous whatsoever about riding around in the animal kingdom with your meaty thighs on show.

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5. It's Nature's Circus

Circuses are bad, just ask PETA. No matter how hard you convince yourself that that lion is smiling as he jumps through a fiery hulahoop, a big cat doing tricks in captivity is not a happy, healthy cat. A big cat doing tricks completely of his own volition on the plains of the Maasai Mara on the other hand, now that's a completely acceptable sight to behold.

One of the reasons why celebrities, and indeed, an overwhelming number of other tourists, flock to Kenya, is because the fauna is in such rich abundance you'll think that they've invented a few extras just for you. Hyraxes, for example, must be the figment of somebody's imagination – how does something so cute exist in the real world? And don't get me started on the 'bongo'…

A baby bongo

Most people head out on safari hoping to catch a glimpse of the big five – lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant, rhino – even if one of them is a mere flick of a furry tail as it disappears into the undergrowth. Well, in Kenya, you're likely to see not just all five of the big five, but each one a number of times, their babies in tow, partaking in a series of different activities, from playing with food, through to posing Marilyn Monroe style in the breeze as you release your shutter over and over again.

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6. Nairobi Actually Has It All

For those who are only passing through, hoping to get a taste of Kenya without embarking on a fully wild adventure, you can gain a surprisingly great deal of experience just by staying a day or two in Nairobi. Elephant sanctuaries, giraffe hangouts, an inner-city national park, museums, fine Kenyan-themed dining and some brilliant hotels, you'd be hard pressed to find yourself bored and alone in the country's capital city.

If you can't make it to Fairmont's beautiful Mount Kenya resort, don't worry, they have an equally grand hotel in Nairobi called The Norfolk (from $200 per person per night)- with the best tapas tasting menu that some Kenyan shillings could buy at their Cin Cin bar.

Cin Cin bar at The Norfolk

Roads are bit of a pain in Nairobi, but tour companies like the highly renowned Game Watchers Safaris will ferry you safely between each landmark in jeeps kitted out with nice seats, cold water and extremely friendly guides.

You can even ride one of these touring cars straight into Nairobi's national park for a quickie safari – where you'll find rhinos in abundance – or stay a night at the tour company's own tented camp, for a dip-your-toe in experience of safari living.

Nairobi tented camp, Porini Safari Camps
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One minute you'll be looking at the Nairobi skyline, and then from nowhere a family of giraffes will appear in the near-distance in the midday sun like prehistoric dinosaurs slowly ambling to meet you.

7. You Can Pay For Almost Anything

Eerie as it may sound initially, there's almost nothing in Kenya (bar trophy hunting) that you can't achieve with a little patience, a good attitude and a generous tip.

Post-colonial Kenya can sometimes feel like an uncomfortable place for any North-hemisphere dwelling Western traveler with an ounce of conscience. Littered with hunting lodges, souvenir pith helmets and palisade ceiling fans, it doesn't skimp on reminders of our unsavoury (often completely shameful) imperial past.

But one of the only palatable vestiges of the history between us and Africa is a surprising lack of racial or cultural hostility, certainly if you're on the tourist trail at any rate. Ensconced as they have been with British culture, Kenyan hospitality towards the travelling Brit is second to none. Not even Florida's Disney World can compete with the cheerful welcome you'll get from almost anyone in the Kenyan service industry.

Fancy stopping off at an off-schedule restaurant while on a city tour? Your guide is likely to drop you there, persuade the general manager to seat you at the chef's table and wait for you roadside as you while away the hours with a juicy steak and a carafe of wine. Pining after an experience that a resort like Fairmont Mount Kenya doesn't usually have on their list? It won't be long before the concierge has telephoned all of his friends and rustled up someone who can take you on the off-road motorbiking afternoon you'd been dreaming of.

Eager to please, the Kenyans will leave no string un-pulled to get you to have the time of your life.

8. Because No-one Does 'Luxury' Quite Like The Kenyans Do Luxury

Forget five-star living. Anybody can dole out a five-star weekend these days. And ever since Dubai thinks it invented the seven-star experience, you might think that the Middle East has now claimed dominion over the dizzying heights of serious luxury.

But Burj Khalifa be gone, because with guests as distinguished as the Queen of England, you'd better believe that the Kenyans have luxury down pat. At the luxury apex are places like Mahali Mzuri – the Richard Branson owned tented camp in the private Olare Motorogi Conservancy in the Maasai Mara.

Mahali Mzuri

Camps like this are reserved almost exclusively for the A-List glitterati – literally, Demi Lovato and her entourage recently vacationed at Mahali and Branson and his gang head there annually – and provide for guests to be met with champagne on arrival and then personally waited on hand and foot from thence onwards.

Saturdays were made for splashing about in the pool at #MahaliMzuri #VirginLimitedEdition #Kenya #infinitypool #swimmingpool

A post shared by Virgin Limited Edition (@virginlimitededition) on

Your every single wish is their easy command. Want to have a picnic under the stars while watching a lion make a kill? No problem. Need a quick neck rub because craning to see the hippos waddle noisily in front of your tent has given you a bit of a crick? Just say the word.

For more information on booking or scheduling your Kenya adventure, get in touch with Magical Kenya.

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