Everyone expects to see incredible wildlife while “on safari.” A wonderful, unexpected surprise of the experience is often the inspiring gourmet cuisine and fresh local ingredients that guests savor on a daily basis.
Scrolling through photos on my iPhone, I seem to have taken as many pictures of colorful dishes as exotic animals during my March trip to Kenya. Our partner, Micato Safaris, curated a wonderful journey exploring three distinctive geographic areas of the country: Tsavo West National Park, Lewa Wildlife Conservancy and the Maasai Mara Game Reserve. In each region I enjoyed incredible lodge accommodations that provided a true sense of place, the highest standards of service and delicious meals … and treats.
Whether you are ready to plan your first bucket list safari or to return to the bush again, high quality, flavorful food need not be of concern. The choices, diversity and presentation will certainly impress. A typical day starts with an early rise and continental breakfast offerings before heading out on a morning game drive. Once back, a bountiful breakfast awaits: eggs made to order, fresh local fruit and freshly squeezed juices, flaky pastries baked that morning, meat of your choice and American breakfast staples such as pancakes and waffles, if desired. Or you may be spoiled with this elaborate meal set up out in nature. I will never forget the breakfast arranged by Micato Safaris and Lewa Safari Camp at the top of a scenic plateau with a sweeping panoramic view of Mount Kenya – spectacular!
Lunch time comes quickly, perhaps following a late morning spa treatment, relaxation by the pool or time spent in your gorgeous accommodations organizing photos from the morning’s wildlife sightings. I LOVE lunch and especially the light, yet elaborate dishes offered at the lodge for midday sustenance. One of my favorite entrees was an incredible pad Thai inspired dish with rice noodles, red and yellow peppers, beetroot strands, cashews, ground peanuts and parsley. It is also common to be offered an array of salads and local proteins featuring ingredients from down the road. These meals are a true farm-to-table showcase: the reddest, juiciest of tomatoes; the greenest leafiest of lettuces; savory cheeses and homemade dressings; fresh breads; and desserts that are just modest enough (but still delicious) to prevent feelings of guilt.
In case you were fearful, please do not worry as tea service is indeed available in the late afternoon before climbing into the vehicles for evening game drive. Or a cocktail (or two) of your choice. The local beers are also great. These libations are, of course, accompanied by the likes of scones with cream and jams, coffee cakes and other afternoon pick-me-ups. My favorite, and clearly a favorite of our Micato Safari Director Peter as well, was a moist, airy poppy-seed, lime coffee cake baked at the Sand River Camp. Need I say any more?!
Finally, at the end of each incredible day of safari adventure, we returned to the lodge following the evening game drive for an absolutely delightful dinner. These multi-course affairs are truly gourmet and may be paired with African wines. Have a look at one of my favorite menus:
• Naan Bread Sticks and Honey Brown Bread Rolls
• Carpaccio of Beef, Crispy Capers, Parmesan shavings, Rocket and Fresh Lemon OR Soup of Seasonal Vegetables with Bruschetta and Aioli
• Grilled Pork Loin Chops with Mustard Sauce, Mashed Potatoes, Braised Vegetables & Caramelized Apples OR Paneer and Vegetables in Coconut Gravy with Basmati Rice, Raita, Mango Achar and Chutney
• Lemon Mousse with Salted Coconut Crumble OR Local Cheese Platter with Homemade Chutney, Fruit & Crackers
I could write on, but I now have become too hungry and need to wrap it up. The amazing wildlife will always steal the show on safari, however the incredible cuisine must be noted. So, cheers to the Chefs! And may you soon be able to share your own firsthand gourmet safari experience.
Contact me to start planning your own gourmet safari!
Principal, Culture Traveler