Welcome to our Behind the Bag Series
Here at ALOHA Collection, every SPLASH PROOF pouch has a story. As travelers, creatives, designers, and water women, we look at the world in a unique way, and for the first time, we're taking you behind the scenes to reveal the stories, real-life adventures, and influences that have inspired our collections along the way.
For our first installment of Behind the Bag, we’re sharing the story of how our NEW Safari Collection came to be. (Hint: It involves a safari.)
It all started last winter when co-founder Rachael got a call from Marni Granstan, the founder of San Diego based Tribù Travel. Marni called to inquire about ordering custom SPLASH PROOF pouches for her travel company, which specializes in global travel and safari tours in Africa. Rachael was excited to discuss the collab with her. Traveling to Africa had been a dream of hers ever since watching 'Out of Africa' as a young girl and as an Anthropology major at UCSB, going on safari would be a right of passage.
How did the trip come about?
Rachael: Marni had reached out to me a couple months prior to make a special safari bag for her team. We met for coffee, and brainstormed what that would look like. Next thing I found myself asking her if I could please come along on one of her next safaris. When she said yes, I quickly thought, how am I going to explain to Heather that I was going to Africa without her… so I asked if we could figure out how to bring Heather too. Our group of two quickly turned to seven.
What was your biggest packing challenge?
R: Well, how to pack for a 10 day safari adventure. I had never been on safari. Not only what to bring, but all of it had to weigh in under 30 lbs. We joked and called it the Bush Plane Packing Challenge. Anything over 30 lbs would be left behind.
In February, Rachael, Heather, and sales lead, Alana Pedro, embarked from LAX with Marni, photographer Jessica Davis, Stacie Devitt, and their good friend Libby Carstensen, who, by a fun twist of fate, had been tapped by Marni to lead the group's wellness component.
After 24 hours of travel, they landed in Nairobi, Kenya, where their African adventure began and where our Safari Collection was born.
First Stop: Tsavo West National Park
At 5:30 am, the team took off from Nairobi’s Wilson Airport in a 12-seater bush plane headed for Tsavo West National Park, Kenya's oldest and largest national park. This was an iconic flight for Rachael, who had spent almost ten years as a flight attendant. For her, it was a nod to the early days of travel and the spirit of adventure. They were awestruck by the breathtaking views of Acacia trees and Mount Kilimanjaro. Herds of wildebeests roamed below with zebras and giraffes in the distance. Rachael explained, “It felt like we were flying back in time”.
Their guide greeted them upon landing at the airstrip in West Tsavo and took them to Finch Hattons, an incredible safari lodge named after Denys Finch Hattons, the famed Big Game hunter and lover of Karen Blixen, made famous by Robert Redford in 'Out of Africa.'
What was your favorite experience at West Tsavo National Park?
R: Watching Alana find her hidden archery talent. After one of our game drives, Finch Hattons had set up a table with refreshments in the bush with Mt. Kilmanjaro in the distance. We enjoyed sundowners with Maasai warriors, and participated in Maasai Olympic games.
What is a sundowner?
R: It’s simply a drink at sunset over the African Bush, most commonly done after an afternoon game drive.
Tell us more about the Maasai Olympics.
R: For centuries, the Maasai had practiced a coming of age practice involving hunting and killing a lion. Today the Maasai are focused on saving the lion population and the Olympics is an event centered around preservation and the importance of conservation. Now the Maasai hunt for medals, not lions.
What was it like to stay in a safari lodge?
R: Finch Hattons was an amazing experience. We woke up to the sounds of birds, had monkeys sneaking into our outdoor showers, listened to animals wade through the river as we went to sleep. We met at sunrise each morning and took daily game drives where we saw giraffes and leopards.
We had dinners by candlelight under the full moon. This lodge was pure luxury in the middle of the bush. There was a spa, swimming pool, and yoga studio.
After West Tsavo, the girls boarded another bush plane to the Naboisho Conservancy, located in the Eastern Maasai Mara National Park. Upon landing, they checked into Naboisho Camp, a tented encampment in the middle of a wildlife conservancy surrounded by acacia trees and grasslands. Naboisho Camp is known for their "Big Five" sightings and its high concentration of big cats--including lions, which they had still not seen up until this point.
What is the difference between staying in a camp versus a lodge?
R: Our accommodations at Noboisho Camp were actual canvas tents with views looking out over the grasslands of the Mara. No swimming pool here. It was a bit unnerving hearing lions and knowing only the screen I was peering out separated us. We would meet at dawn in the main camp for game drives. It would still be dark out, so we had to use our flashlights to signal a Maasai warrior to escort us from our tent to the main camp.
What are some of your favorite memories from Naboisho Camp?
R: We quickly adapted to the rhythm of nature, waking before dawn to the sounds of birds, took early morning game drives where we saw lions feasting on their prey from their night of hunting, and enjoyed coffee amongst elephants. Our ears became accustomed to listening for the alarm sounds of birds, we learned that a giraffe never lies and if the zebras look up and turn in the same direction as the giraffe, there is for certain a lion hiding in the grass. We celebrated Marni’s birthday one night at the camp with local Maasai imitating lions in song and joined them in their jumping practice.
Tell us about the Safari Collection
R: I have always been drawn to the romantic era of travel, when people dressed up and packed their belongings in steam trunks bound for exotic destinations. Our Rover design is a nod to this bygone era. In the early 1900s, travelers would commission artisans to hand-paint their monograms on their luggage so they could quickly identify when deboarding a ship, a train, or an airplane.
Our Rover stripe is a modern-day take on this vintage practice, while a touch of sand pays homage to our time spent traveling in Africa.
Safari Photos by Jessica Davis