Krista Krieger is obsessed with Africa. She has been to the continent three times since January and stopped counting after more than twelve trips. In 2007, after funding the renovation of a preschool she had visited, Krieger joined the board of the Africa Foundation which works with its corporate partner &Beyond to raise money for basic necessities in the war-torn and economically desperate African villages. “Africa Foundation does a lot of brick-and-mortar type projects, so it’s easy to show donors where the money has gone,” Krieger explains. “This is one of the main things that attracted me to the organization—the transparency of where the funds have gone.”
This summer, Krieger gathered a group of friends from New York’s art world and high society to experience safari adventures at Phinda Private Game Reserve—a luxurious, eco-friendly lodge on 56,800 acres of prime wilderness (aka “the bush”) in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Nina Griscom came, as did art patron Beth Rudin DeWoody (who funded a garden and water tank in the area) and her fiancé photographer Firooz Zahedi (having a world class photographer is always a plus on safari) and her creative children Carlton and Kyle DeWoody. Also, there was artist Ryan McGinness who made a print to benefit the Africa Foundation that will be sold through The Pace Gallery. “I found the timing serendipitous because I was working on a body of African art,” McGinness says.
Safari is not for the lazy socialite who likes to sip vino on the beach in St. Tropez. Leave the jewels at home. “Pack clothes that you don’t care if they get destroyed,” advises Krieger with a wink. Every morning we were up at 5 a.m.—it was still dark out. A guide meets you in your sleek and comfortable “Zulu Zen” house and escorts you to the main lodge. (If you dare go unaccompanied, you could be attacked by a leopard, no joke!) After coffee, you hit the terrain. Within days we had spotted the big five: lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo and rhino. We even saw a kill (involving a pride of lions and an unlucky male nyala) that left us less hungry at the gourmet breakfast spread that awaits guests after every morning drive. To say that witnessing the immense amount of wild animal life is astounding is an understatement. After two days, seeing herds of zebra and enormous giraffes starts to feel like home.
We also visited a local school where McGinness hung his African-inspired prints. On the last night, we held a costume party (I went as Peter Beard, sarong and all, while Carlton did African Dictator and Kyle was a Zulu princess) that ended with a dance-off as monkeys and zebras literally watched us loopy Americans boogie to old-school disco.
Safari in Africa is a total yin and yang. You tough it, kind of, on treks through the bush, then kick-back in the luxury of Phinda’s amazing resorts. You visit a local village that survives on nothing, and then eat the most amazing meal at Phinda’s traditional African boma under the stars. But make no mistake, the Africa Foundation is about helping, and one dollar goes a long way. On October 9, the organization is hosting a safari-themed fundraiser in New York where they will recreate a bush dinner. Time to bust out the Zulu fabrics I scored in Johannesburg. To get your ticket, go to http://www.africafoundation.org and start planning your safari chic look today. If you need a beaded bracelet, I have some I can loan you.