Categories: Places

Africa’s Most Glamorous Camps

Amidst some of the most exploited natural regions of Kenya, find out how exceptional Safari properties have made being green very glamorous and profitable. Protecting wildlife and wilderness and profiting the tribals co-exists with ethical and elegant tourism.

Mara Plains

Plastic and cement-free, built entirely from bio degradable local materials and creatively implemented recycled materials

Mara Plains is the sophistication of simplicity and the mark of one of Kenya’s classiest camps that boasts the best guides around. They’re witty and poetic, and often show you the cat-trick (lion-leopard-cheetah), including lions that look like Brad Pitt and Antonio Banderas. Really. Award-winning filmmakers for National Geographic, Derek and Beverly Jubert have their camp floored with colonial railway sleepers; the chandeliers are from colonial dining-carriages. Plush zebra-striped shawls drape dining-chairs and you can take them with you to bed (the shawls, not the chairs, although peculiar preferences are no doubt entertained). Ah, the tents! One hears they cost US$300,000 per key, are river-wreathed, embellished with hippos who serenade you as you splash in your stand-alone copper tub. Showers have Lamu doors said to cost US$2,000 per door. No, the doors aren’t to the shower, but are the shower, studded with brass taps.  Lean, clean cuisine ravishes.  I’m told the spanking-new Mara Plains piqued Brangelina’s interest. They’re sure to come given that they endorse and grace places renowned for conservation and Great Plains Conservation has made of conservation a fine art.

Ol Donyo

Pays Masai 70 per cent of their cattle’s worth if eaten by a lion to prevent them from killing the culprit

Perched over the Savannah with astounding views of the snow-caped Kilimanjaro that hangs in the sky like crystal, Ol Donyo is rustic by day, and turns seductive when dressed for supper in candles, lamps and lavish tableware. Suites come with salons flowing unimpeded into terraces with cliff-edge infinity pools offering those bewitching views over Mt Kili. Sleep under a blanket of stars on terrace-top star-beds whose velvet-armed embrace you leave only for champagne breakfasts in the lodge’s fabulous forested tree-house. Or you can breakfast in-camp with a view of a waterhole where animals have mid-morning drinks parties. Elephants pose gracefully- when not throwing their weight around, nudging out giraffe, zebra, gazelle, and warthogs.


Unbelievably lush organic farm

Enchanting hand-built stone-and-thatch structures. They have a jet-setting pet giraffe (yes, Nditu whizzed in from the giraffe orphanage) who gallops about the lushest lawns when not shooing away suitors. Embowered under trees where monkeys swing and birds court and sing, relish a cornucopia including fruit and veggies from their gardens, veritably the Garden of Eden, where tropical mangoes and papaya flirt with multifarious berries.

Elewana Sand River

Supports NGOs involved in environment protection, their vision being commitment to East Africa

Superbly stationed on the Sand River with the best seats in the wilderness theatre to watch the Great Migration. Colonial-chic tents, all leather and wood swirl in signature almond fragrances, are sumptuously draped, have crystal decanters, and the crumbliest cookies stored in cut-glass bottles. There are in-door baths and outdoor showers. Breakfasts on private terraces are a delight, unless monkeys whisk off your wholegrain toast. Sup al fresco on Little Sand River’s jacuzzied pavilion.

&Beyond Bataleur Camp

Among the first to integrate existing trees into the camp to prevent tree-cutting; don’t be surprised to see a tree trunk shooting out from within a tent.

With its artfully created vintage look, the camp feels like it’s been around a century. And too, the impressively loyal staff. Managers aren’t ‘imported’ expats or ‘mzungus’ (white Kenyans). This exclusive retreat masquerades as rustic colonial casualness. If you spot a guest lazing around in tattered shorts, don’t attempt rescue. He’s probably one of Bataleur’s typical unpretentious billionaire-millionaire guests. Sultry dark-wood tents have wispy four-posters and sheets you wish you had back home. Chef Meshak unfurls epicurean four course meals, sprucing up Masai specialities too, including spinach or bean stew usually served with goat, the Masai staple (Chef can also prepare a vegetarian version). After a nice therapeutic massage in the Mara (in-tent spa amidst roses and candles) emerge onto your terrace ablaze with 150 lamps and candles.

&Beyond Sabi Sand Game Reserve

Choose from a number of lodges and have the ultimate African bush experience

Located in the south-western corner of Kruger National Park, Sabi Sands Game Reserve is all of 65,000 hectares, and quite popular as a leopard spotting destination. Since there is no fencing between Kruger and Sabi Sands, animals roam freely, and spotting the Big 5 is easy. Laze on your private balcony and watch the rustic untamed wilderness stretching to the horizon, or be out early morning on a 4X4 for an experience of a lifetime. The best time to visit is in summer to catch baby animals.

Neha Kaushik

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