The last stop on our Kenyan safari was perhaps the most fantastic. As my traveling companions and I soared from the top of Mount Kenya in a helicopter with the doors flung open, I was amazed at how quickly the landscape changed from jagged and snowy peaks to lush, green forest to muted farmlands and, finally, the scrubby vermilion landscape of Ol Jogi, a 58,000-acre private wildlife conservancy in Laikipia.
Our helicopters landed on the front lawn of the lodge, and we were shown into the jaw-dropping family residence filled with art, a billiards room, a hammam, a huge lagoonlike pool, a formal dining room and a “secret” underground wine cellar. The house is a treasure trove of safari-themed objects and décor: custom Hermès tableware printed with different animals, giant oil paintings of lions in the sitting room and (potentially off-putting) colonial art and artifacts. The nucleus is the indoor-outdoor living area with supremely comfortable custom-made couches, a breakfast nook and a mounted telescope that you can use to spy on Mount Kenya on clear days or get a close-up look at the wildlife.
The most incredible feature of the house is a concealed passageway that leads to a hide, a sort of underground bunker with windows facing the watering hole. There, we’d frequently find ourselves just a few feet from bathing elephants, giant rhinos or baby zebras, so close we could smell them. But it wasn’t necessary to visit the hide to see animals. Throughout our stay, creatures of all kinds would traipse across the lawn; unbothered giraffes and prancing wart hogs meandered just steps from us.