Amanda Thomson, CEO and Founder of Thomson & Scott Skinny Prosecco and Skinny Champagne roars into a Kenyan safari holiday and finds escaping to the wilderness is exactly what her frenetic entrepreneur soul needs.
Who gets the chance to escape for three weeks? Since starting my crazy entrepreneurial journey, certainly not me. There’s been plenty of international travel over the last five years (and I’ve loved every bit of it) but no real holiday. I’ve either been on a plane for work or trying to combine growing my business with making sure the children get some kind of break. We’ve spent summers in Cap Ferret and rushed the kids to surf school then sped to the nearest wifi-enabled café to hit the emails. So a bit like a normal school day, albeit a lot warmer. So when I got the chance to spend three weeks in Kenya with my husband and two children, Lola, 15 and Ripley, 10, we couldn’t pack our rucksacks quick enough.
Great friends, whose son had been at school with ours in the UK, moved to Nairobi three years ago. They invited us to spend the Christmas season with them. After coming up with the usual reasons why I couldn’t get away for that long (I mean, three weeks!) Christmas sales, new product launch for 2018, blah blah, I eventually realised it was an opportunity too good to pass up. I’ve got a great team in place and my husband’s work as a publicist in the entertainment business is always quiet at this time of year.
We left an England under a blanket of frost and ice, excited at the triple whammy of catching up with friends, the certainty of sunshine and the prospect of real adventure. Our only previous experience of Africa was via long weekends Morocco and none of us had ever been on a safari.
When your trip is organised by people who know both you and the country you’re visiting, you can pretty much relax. For an unashamed control freak this was a holiday in itself! Our friends knew we’d be exhausted when we arrived and decided that it would be beach first, the Island of Lamu, then Nairobi for partying, then onto safari. From Nairobi we took a small plane to Lamu’s tiny, charming airport. Warmed by both the air and genuine smiles of the people around we boarded a boat with our comically heavy luggage (hey, I’ve a teen daughter and brought lots of Thomson & Scott bottles!) and chugged towards Kizingoni beach. An engine issue mid-journey saw us stall then bob about, before another boats came to rescue us! Of course, this only added to the excitement, not least as we could see tantalising beaches in the distance and every boat that passed was full of waving locals.
Our rented house was, well, completely gorgeous. The pool and balcony were cleverly positioned to deliver incredible views of a deserted beach and we soon learnt, ‘picture perfect’ sunsets. These offered the opportunity to enjoy what the Kenyans charmingly call ‘sundowners and bitings’, cocktails and canapés to enjoy while day became night. Christmas Day, in particular will forever be etched in our minds for a potted palm decorated with lights and a moonlight swim. Heaven. https://www.scottdunn.com/luxury-holidays/africa/east-africa/kenya/lamu-and-the-coast/kizingoni-kuni-jogoo-house
After ten luxurious days of swimming, walks on the beach, sandy cricket matches and a lot of lolling about on hammocks, it was back to the boat (which didn’t stall this time) and onto the small plane back to Nairobi. Our friends’ home city is a whole lot of fun and I soon became accustomed to treats like pancake breakfasts with perfectly ripe mango delivered to the table. Being waited on in a private home was a whole new world to me, but it didn’t take long to get used to it! We spent a fabulous New Year’s Eve at Talisman Restaurant where we hit the dancefloor by midnight to work off the delicious food.
And what would a Kenyan holiday be without a safari? Our friends travel with Offbeat Safaris, because the company focuses on game conservancy and gets off the beaten track. In some parts of the vast Masai Mara game reserve it can be a case of jeeps chasing game in a tick-list mentality. We wanted to see wildlife big and small and found watching dung beetles lugging their cargo over dusty red soil while black kite wheeled overhead was just as exciting as seeing four of the ‘Big Five’ (no rhinos) of the safari kingdom. We were promised that we’d get up close and personal and little did I realise what an understatement that would be. At night as lions roared in surround sound we felt like we were sleeping with the pride. I also had little need to zoom on my iPhone as our all-seeing Masai guide drove us close to game which included cheetah, leopard, hippos, giraffes… And the opportunity to see newborn lion cubs romping around chewing each other’s ears and jumping on their father’s manes was an incredible privilege. And who knew how enjoyable a warm bucket shower could be. I even have the Instagram video to prove it. Neck up of course!
Taking time out under flawless African skies made us see our own horizons more clearly. Being away from the office for three weeks has helped me reset my priorities and spending time in such unspoilt environments has made me even more passionate about creating a carbon neutral business that never uses plastic packaging. I’d do it all again in a heartbeat, but in the meantime I am enjoying a new weekend family tradition, sundowners and bitings on Saturday nights!!