Sylvie at Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

Sylvie’s Safari Essentials

Our connection to Africa has deep roots, from Sylvie’s first trip to Kenya over a decade ago to our new Vanishing Species Collection. We hit her up to share her top safari trips and tips.

“I immediately fell in love with Africa,” recalls Sylvie Chantecaille of her trip a decade ago to meet Dame Daphne Sheldrick at her elephant orphanage in Nairobi, before embarking on a safari in the Masai Mara. “I felt like I knew who I was, where I belonged on the planet.” She’s been back several times since—trekking to see gorillas in Rwanda, walking the migratory pathways of Northern Kenya with Space for Giants founder Max Graham—always returning to visit the young elephant orphans at Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, now run by Daphne’s daughter, Angela. Of course, she always manages to look so stylish while covered in dust from the day’s game drive. We asked her how she does it.

Clockwise from top left: Figue Military Jacket; Lip Veil in Baobab; Ultra Sun SPF; Hermes Baobab Cat Silk Scarf; Tod’s Ankle Boots; Gold Recovery Mask.

How do you pack for safari? What won’t you leave home without?
It can be cold on the morning game drives, so I always bring a military jacket from my friend Stephanie von Watzdorf’s company, Figue. The jackets are upcycled and embroidered to ward away the evil eye. I always wear pants by James Perse – they are so comfortable – plus a wide hat and a scarf for the wind and dust. I have the best ankle lace-up boots from Tod’s. Mine are at least six years old and I know I will keep them for life.

How do you change up your skincare when you’re in such harsh conditions?
I sleep in Gold Eye Mask – it’s so hydrating. First thing, I use a spritz of Pure Rosewater—I carry it with me everywhere. Then I always wear our Biolifting Serum+ and Ultra Sun Protection Sunscreen primer. Rose de Mai Face Oil is a great way to ease windburn. And I’ll bring something for my lips, like Lip Veil in Baobab, which supports my friend Max Graham’s charity Space for Giants. That’s pretty much it!

Lengishu House, Laikipia Kenya

What are some of your favorite safari destinations?
I love visiting the Lewa Conservancy, in Kenya, and stopping at Sirikoi. It’s like an eco-chic African home with a thatched roof, known for its rhinos. The owners, the Roberts family, have been there for years. Borana, another lodge in Lewa, owned by the Dyer family, is a beautiful place, too. Lengishu is a new house you can rent at Borana called made from stone and earth excavated right on the site, but so gorgeous, it’s insane. You can ride horses to a secluded spot where you have tea from a little English tea set and watch the monkeys.

Another place that’s really cool is Richards Camp, on the Masai Mara. You sleep in tents, which are wonderful because you feel so close to the animals at night. Solio, in the valley near Mt. Kenya, has the most successful private rhino breeding reserve in the country. And one of the best ways to see Kenya is with a private safari camp, which moves with you, and can be arranged through Robert Carr Hartley.

Once we’re done in the bush, we like to go to Lamu, on the Indian Ocean. It’s on the World Heritage list as the best preserved Swahili city in East Africa, with Arabian and Portuguese influences. We like to stay at Peponi hotel, at Shela Beach on Lamu Island, which is always filled with interesting people.

A lion pride in Botswana

"Every time I hang out with lions I’m amazed by their intelligence—the way those girls work together."

What do you prefer: Morning or afternoon game drives?
Both! But I love the morning. You wake up with hot tea and biscuits, then get out in the bush and by 10 o’clock you stop for a real bush breakfast—they cook your eggs on the back of the Land Rover and it’s so wonderful, you just have your coffee there, looking out at the landscape. It’s also really nice to come back from game drives in the late afternoon and all sit around the fire as the sun goes down.

What is the rarest or most memorable wildlife sighting you’ve had?
Oh, so many! One time, on a camping safari in Botswana, we hung out with 32 lions for two days. They were all around us. It was extraordinary to watch them and understand them. Every time I hang out with lions I am amazed by their intelligence, the way those girls work together—the lionesses are incredible in the way they hunt and teach their young ones. Mother cheetahs are also mind-blowing, because they’re so courageous. They have to hunt on their own while they hide their babies, whose hair camouflages them to look like badgers. They bring back the kill and watch for vultures and predators constantly while the babies eat. When they sense danger, they don’t panic. They just take their little ones and are like, Okay, children, let’s go play! and just lead them up a tree. They’re the coolest mothers.

Sylvie on safari in Kenya

But the elephant is your spirit animal?
Yes, I love elephants. I just find them so intelligent, so brave. To be a matriarch is an incredible job, such a responsibility. They have to make decisions for the herd about where to find water, about where to go—they retain incredible memories of their herd and the landscape. When they kill a matriarch, it’s a terrible loss for the whole herd.

Where do you want to go next?
I want to go to Chad, to see Zakouma National Park. It has been successfully rewilded under African Parks. When the trips get adventurous, I try to bring my son, Philippe, with me.

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