I’m not sure who is more nervous: the Grant’s gazelle or me.
It is midday. The solitary male antelope sniffs the dusty air for lions. Through a frame of gently stirring drapes, I watch from a treatment bed in a shady, thatched rondavel. The masseuse kneads my back, attempting to pummel some semblance of relaxation into my muscles. It is no easy task. How can I relax? This afternoon I will be getting married.
I close my eyes and concentrate on the scent of marula oil wafting around me. On previous safaris I watched elephants go crazy for the fruit of the marula tree. Perhaps they were after more than just a snack. Recent research revealed the oil extracted from the nut of the marula fruit is rich in vitamins C and E and contains anti-aging properties. My skin is benefiting.
Anxiety subsides, and I am lulled into drowsy torpor. For a few minutes I drift contentedly on the combined effects of the massage, the marula oil, the familiar sounds of the bush and happy memories of childhood safaris. Then a rush of wind ripples through the trees, bringing me abruptly back to the here and now.
Momentarily spooked, the gazelle skittishly bounds away, then settles. My muscles tighten. The masseuse’s fingers adroitly tackle the new knots of stress. Why am I suddenly anxious? Oh yes, I remember. This afternoon I will be getting married.
Having decided on a small wedding, we had the entire world to choose from. As we began to address the options, we both felt the pull of Africa — on this continent I first met Hayley, and both of us had lived and worked here. Africa was narrowed down to Kenya, the Tsavo West National Park and the luxury Severin Safari Camp, located close to a cluster of self-catering chalets in which I enjoyed family holidays as a boy.
Severin Safari Camp boasts the world-class Kenbali Spa, whose philosophy that Africa stands for romance, natural beauty, originality and tradition felt in line with the meaning of the day ahead. So there I was, in my last hours as a single man, being pampered in the wilds of Africa.
The Severin’s Kenbali Spa opened in 2009. As the name suggests, it draws inspiration from Kenya and Bali, though the menu accentuates the African, from the treatment options to the natural, warm colors of the décor. The views of game, like my friend the gazelle, complement the magic of Mt. Kilimanjaro and the Tsavo River outside the spa doors.
The Kenbali journey includes African-inspired treatments designed to revitalize the five senses. The 30-minute Safari Feelings back massage I’m enjoying, perfect for post-game drive, incorporates warm oil to boost blood circulation. Spa-goers continue the journey with the African Dream face and neck massage; the 30-minute Kenbali Journey of Dreams, a peel followed by a warm, concentrated oil massage; the Back to the Cradle of Mankind full-body massage; and the Gazelle of Wilderness foot massage.
The spa also boasts a fitness tent, open daily from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., making exercise easier to bear with breathtaking panoramic views.
By the time my 30-minute treatment is up, the audience in the clearing in front of the rondavel has grown. A trio of giraffes and a zebra herd joined the gazelle. I dress, pulling on my safari boots and stepping into the blazing heat. My customary post-massage dreamlike state lasts for only a few strides … and then I remember this afternoon I will be getting married.
What happened next is something of a blur. Over the few hours, I bought my wife-to-be a bracelet from the camp shop, spent some time with our two guests, put on my suit and was accompanied to the wedding venue, a hill called Poacher’s Lookout. My recollection of the afternoon only regains focus with Hayley, stunning in her dazzling ivory dress, arriving in an open Toyota Land Cruiser.
The ceremony was simple. We exchanged vows and rings, and were declared man and wife. With celebratory Champagne, we posed for photos in front of the cinematic African backdrop as the sun set. Hayley had the tact not to mention I reeked of marula oil.
There was a major surprise still in store. Returning to camp in the open Land Cruiser, we encountered a pride of 12 lions ranged on both sides of the road. No wonder the Grant’s gazelle was nervous.
When a shaggy-maned male purposefully advanced toward us, we empathized with the gazelle. Hayley’s dress attracted the big cat. Spotting the danger, our driver, Sammy, expertly maneuvered us to a safe distance. Later that evening, after we retreated to the honeymoon suite, the lions stopped at the swimming pool beside the Kenbali Spa to drink.
Our honeymoon continued to various parts of Africa, and we spent our last few days beside the Indian Ocean at the Severin Sea Lodge. The history of this idyllic beach hotel, celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2012, is entwined with my own. My school essays from the 1970s record some of the many weekend visits my family made here from our home in the nearby port city of Mombasa.
It was a fitting finale for the perfect honeymoon. With my new wife, I lounged beside the pool, strolled along the white-sand beach and enjoyed additional treatments in the beachside Kenbali Spa.
Lazing on the coast, we recalled the morning after our wedding. With the lions gone, we planted a commemorative acacia tree in front of Severin Safari Camp and then made our emotional farewells. The wonderful staff made certain our special day progressed seamlessly and, most importantly, that we didn’t get eaten in the process.
Severin Safari Camp and Severin Sea Lodge
Tsavo West National Park
tel 254 41 2111 800
I had just taken off my sandals, stepping onto the white-sand beach for a late-morning walk to a secluded spot I heard about from a front desk clerk, when I glanced down and saw the time on my phone. It had just turned 11 a.m., which meant it was only 7 am back home, the perfect time to call and say good morning to by husband before he left for work. Not quite ready to head back to my room, I decided I’d test the WiFi signal and made the call as I continued walking toward the shoreline.
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