How to holiday in Africa like Lewis Hamilton

The sporting star took an epic journey across Namibia, Rwanda, Kenya and Tanzania

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Even the most driven people in the world sometimes need a break.

Lewis Hamilton has been sharing details about a “life-changing" two-week trip to Africa on social media, talking about how transformative and “humbling” the experience has been.

The Formula One star's journey included stops in Namibia, Rwanda, Kenya and Tanzania, and featured interactions with local tribes, wildlife spotting, dune buggy rides in the desert, impromptu singalongs in the bush and warm welcomes at every turn.

“These past two weeks have been some of the best days of my entire life. I’m not the same man I was before this trip, all the beauty, love, and peacefulness I experienced has me feeling fully transformed,” the sporting star wrote on Instagram.

Hamilton has described his holiday in Africa as 'life-changing'. Photo: Instagram / lewishamilton

The trip was extremely personal for Hamilton, who said he was “finally tracing my roots through Africa”. Hamilton’s father is British with West Indian ancestry and Hamilton’s interactions with local African tribes such as the Pokot people of Kenya clearly resonated deeply.

“My ancestors and so many others had their beautiful culture interrupted and destroyed when they were stolen from their home and brought to the Caribbean as slaves. I am so grateful to have been able to gain a deeper understanding of where I come free,” he wrote on Instagram, alongside a video of tribespeople performing a traditional dance.

Travellers to Africa often find themselves captivated by the continent’s wide open spaces, incredible natural beauty, unparalleled wildlife and warm, welcoming people.

So here’s how to holiday in Africa like Hamilton.

Hot-air ballooning in Namibia

A sideways landing in a hot air balloon was one of the holiday's more 'surreal' experiences. Photo: Instagram / lewishamilton

Infinite stretches of red-hued desert, kilometres of unspoilt coastline, the world’s second-largest canyon, prehistoric fossils, dramatic dolomite rock formations and eerie ghost towns are only some of the attractions that make Namibia so enticing. Solitude and silence abound in one of Africa’s lesser-explored destinations.

Hamilton started his African journey in Namibia, calling it “one of the most stunning places I’ve ever seen with my own eyes. Words and pictures do not do it justice.” He spent time exploring the Namib desert, which extends for 1,900 kilometres along the Atlantic coast of Africa, from Angola to South Africa.

A smiling Hamilton is pictured driving a buggy across a desert expanse and posing for pictures in front of towering sand dunes. He described a hot-air balloon ride as “surreal” since it involved a rather unusual finale.

“We had to land sideways which is definitely something I’ll never forget,” Hamilton said, alongside an image of three enormous hot air balloons tilted on their sides.

Gorilla trekking in Rwanda

Hamilton on his gorilla trekking trip. Photo: Instagram / lewishamilton

There are about 1,000 mountain gorillas in the wild, with 604 in the Virunga Massif, a volcanic range spanning Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. With limited permits granted each day for gorilla-spotting treks, this is a bucket-list experience for many.

For the second stop in his African odyssey, Hamilton headed to Rwanda, where he went gorilla trekking. He is seen hiking through lush green fields and stopping to engage with a group of young children who are completely unaware of their brush with celebrity, before coming face to face with a troop of gorillas, including a majestic silverback.

“How does one describe such an experience that leaves you so speechless? What a sight it was to see them in their natural habitat relaxed and protected by the community around them. This is where they should be, in their own homes free to live their lives in peace. It was a profound and truly moving experience. I’m in love with this country,” Hamilton said.

Costing about $1,500 per person per day, gorilla trekking experiences in Rwanda can last from between 30 minutes to four or more hours, reaching an altitude of between 2,500 metres and 4,000 metres. Ten per cent of the revenue from permits is channelled towards local communities, to build schools and health centres, as well as roads.

Meeting local tribes in Kenya

The trip was extremely personal for Hamilton, who said he was 'finally tracing my roots through Africa'. Photo: Instagram / lewishamilton

Interacting with tribespeople from Kenya’s Pokot tribe was clearly an emotional experience for Hamilton.

“I spent time with the Pokot people in Kenya and just to be in their presence was one thing... To be welcomed was something different entirely and a massive honour I don’t take lightly. The way I felt here is how I feel with my family back at home. We are all family, anyway. I’ll carry this experience, and all my other memories from Kenya and from this journey as a whole, in my heart forever.”

The Pokot people live in West Pokot and Baringo counties in Kenya, and are one of the smallest tribes in the country. They remain totally dependent on their livestock, and their survival in the harsh surrounds of Kenya’s northern lands is remarkable. Women adorn themselves in large, colourful beaded neckpieces, while men don beads, ostrich feathers and metal embellishments.

Hamilton, who is known for his daring fashion sense, was clearly taken by the styling he encountered during his trip, making his appreciation for all facets of the culture apparent.

In one Instagram story, he is seen posing with two women wearing vibrant, multicoloured ensembles. “Was so into their clothes that I asked to take a photo with these women. The colours and patterns were so beautiful, even more so up close in person.”

Visits to animal sanctuaries

Hamilton at Kenya's Reteti Elephant Sanctuary. Photo: Instagram / lewishamilton

The opportunity to get up close to wildlife is a primary driver for many visitors to Africa.

From safari experiences that allow encounters with large mammals and big cats in the wild, to more intimate interactions at animal sanctuaries and opportunities to learn about the conservation efforts unfolding across the continent, there are unlimited opportunities to engage with the natural world.

Hamilton embraced them all. Beyond his encounters with the gorillas in Rwanda, there are also pictures of him on game drives, watching elephants from a hide and stroking a baby giraffe at the Reteti Elephant Sanctuary.

Owned by the Samburu community, the sanctuary in northern Kenya predominantly takes in orphaned and abandoned elephant calves, with the aim of releasing them back into the wild.

Hamilton expressed his enthusiasm for the work they are doing. “Thank you to the wonderful people at the Reteti Elephant Sanctuary for not only hosting us, but more importantly, dedicating their time to rescue, research and conservation. They're the first indigenous, community-owned and run sanctuary in Africa and the work they do for these animals should be an inspiration to us all," he said.

“This was a truly centring experience, one that reinforces that we all share this planet. We’re not above animals, we’re with them. More often, we’re guests in their homes. Every day in the motherland is more beautiful than the last. Much love, Kenya.”

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Updated: August 20, 2022, 3:28 AM
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