When Priyanka Modi visited Africa for the first time she was all of 9 years old. It was an experience-of-a-lifetime, where she chased a breathtaking sunrise on an early morning hot-air balloon ride, had brunch next to a pride of lions and witnessed elephants and giraffes wandering up to her viewing decks.
The African culture drew her in – she was enraptured by their sustainable livelihoods and vibrant arts. It was this same fascination that brought her back after three decades and she designed AMPM’s spring/summer 2020 line as an ode to the land of serene landscapes and magnificent wildlife.
She shares five of her most memorable moments from the African safari (and ones that you shouldn’t miss on your next trip there!).
Trailing the pink horizon
“This story still fills me up with so much joy.
On the third day of our trip, we woke up early in the morning to visit Lake Nakuru. As we were moving in our safari jeeps, we saw this massive lake with a pink perimeter around it. At first, we couldn’t make out what was making that pink hue on the horizon. As we got closer, we realized that it was actually a flamboyance of flamingos that had surrounded the lake. And not one or two, but it seemed like a million flamingos had gathered around the lake in the morning!
The sight left us speechless. I was seeing these majestic birds for the first time and it left a lifelong impression on me. This was the time of no smartphones and definitely no Instagram but I remember this day like it happened yesterday.
We quietly observed the flamingos for a while and then left them undisturbed. Later, the ranger told us that the bids assembled there every morning to feed on the shallow edge of the waterbody. I remember saving one feather from the ground as a beautiful keepsake.”
Exploring the natural habitats
“An African safari is like stepping into an enchanted cabinet of curiosities and experiencing nature how it’s meant to be – untamed and uninhibited.
On day 2 while travelling through a dense thicket we came across this clearing where we saw The Mountain Lodge standing in the middle on stilts. Once we climbed inside the lodge we could see the whole forest engulfing us and an enormous lake in the distance – a view that was reminiscent of standing on top of a mountain peak.
The whole structure was made of wood and surrounded with balconies. These balconies acted as gorgeous viewing decks from where we saw majestic red elephants and giraffes, elegant antelopes and impalas grazing in the wild.
The spectacular lake was a sight to behold. It was an enormous water reserve surrounded by wild bushes, trees with entwined branches and animals that came to bathe, to play or just to sunbathe.
There was an underground passage from the lodge that went all the way to the lake. From here, we could quietly observe the animals up close without distracting them.
As a child, it felt like I was living inside the magical world of Jumanji.”
Tracing the equator
“Have you ever visited a spot where you could be in two places at once?
I did when I visited the Equator line in Africa, which let me be in the Northern and Southern hemisphere at the same time. It was equal parts cool and bizarre.
This spot was quite fascinating because as a child I had only read about the equator in my geography classes. I was pretty excited to see it as I imagined it to be this real line that cuts through Africa. Of course, as a naïve nine-year-old I didn’t know better.
The area was marked with a sign that declared “You are on the Equator”. I remember standing on the spot and hearing these stories about The Great Migration – one of the most surreal phenomenon of this world. The ranger told us how millions of wildebeests, zebras and antelopes make the extraordinary journey from Tanzania’s Serengeti to south of Kenya’s Masai Mara in search of greener pastures and water reserves.
At that time, I couldn’t imagine what a million animals would look like when they simultaneously moved together but it definitely sounded ethereal. The story was so captivating that I have put it on my bucket list since.”
Chasing the first rays of the sun
“It was one of those glorious mornings that I remember each time I watch a sunrise.
On our last day at the Masai Mara National Reserve, we woke up early in the morning to go for a hot-air balloon ride. All of us were in high spirits as we were all trying this for the very first time.
We climbed atop a clearing on a higher ground and saw these massive balloons being inflated. As we were slowly lifted in the air, the clearing gave way to the dense forest. Beyond that it was miles and miles of uninterrupted expanse as far as the eye could see.
We saw the sun rise in the distance and it felt like we were chasing the sun in our baskets. We also spotted so many animals from your birds-eye vantage. It was exhilarating and at the same time a little frightening, as we were floating miles above the ground.
A couple of hours later when we descended, there was a fantastic breakfast spread waiting for us. The adults even toasted with a glass of champagne. What a perfect way to conclude a heavenly morning!”
Understanding the essence of sustainability
“In Africa, I saw firsthand how humans and nature can co-exist without distressing the ecosystem.
Once we moved to the Masai Mara National Reserve, we stayed at the Mara Serena Safari Lodge for the next few days. This was a beautiful space where all the structures were yellow-coloured and there was an oval-shaped swimming pool in the middle.
The rooms looked like they were made of mud, similar to the houses in the neighbourhood, but they were actually quite sturdy. The yellow paint made all the structures inside the lodge look one with the golden savannah.
Along with the organic shapes, candle-lit interiors and wall art that imitated the locales, the lodge was nestled under clear-blue skies and surrounded by miles and miles of sweeping grasslands.
It was here that we engaged with the indigenous culture, bought souvenirs created by the native communities and ate fresh produce from local farm plantations.
Looking back, I realised that sustainable development was a part and parcel of the African communities and not an afterthought, something that we all can learn from.”