Going on safari in Kenya is like diving into Disney classic The Lion King. Oooing and aaahing over big game starts the moment you pull away from the dirt airstrip in an SUV. Game drives are a bumpy business, and having somewhere luxurious to kick back at the end of a long day in the sun is a treat. Whether you’re in the bush of the Maasai Mara or Samburu’s arid plains, stay in style at one of Kenya’s best safari camps.
&Beyond Bateleur Camp
Composed of two camps, each with nine tents, Bateleur feels like a home away from home. The camp has a host of ultra-friendly, super-knowledgeable staff, lovely managers (Esther Baridi and Joseph Masibo), and a chef whose passion for food is evident in the multi-course meals produced daily. It’s a treat to visit the site’s organic garden where much of its produce is grown. Bateleur sits at the edge of the Maasai Mara, which means lying in bed with the tents’ outer screen open affords you the opportunity to see animals walking by, including lions. Bateleur is well positioned for Big Five sightings and though there are no guarantees on safari, many guests have seen beautiful, endangered black rhinos on outings in addition to elephants, zebra, antelope, buffalo and even cheetah cubs.
The views of Mount Kilimanjaro from Tortilis Camp are phenomenal. The camp sits within the 151-mile Amboseli National Park, a top spot for elephant sightings, and overlooks Kitirua, a 30,000-acre private wildlife conservancy. Tortilis has 16 tents, including a two-bedroom family tent and a three-bedroom house. Private verandahs make for peaceful sunrise-watching spots on the property. Beyond the usual bush walks and exciting game drives, Tortilis Camp’s amenities include a pool where you can sit in the shade and sip on a drink, a lovely little spa that offers massages and nail services, and the chance to sample secret recipes from the Italian mother of the camp’s owner.
It’s a delight sitting down for dinner at Naboisho Camp. Meals are communal, a great opportunity to chat with the other guests. The food is superb, especially the cakes that come out of the tiny kitchen. But meals are made even better by good conversation with South African managers Helen and Roelof Schutte. Naboisho embodies rustic luxury: its nine tented suites have hot showers, flush toilets and plush beds. Alas, the camp has no Wi-Fi, thus encouraging you to truly immerse yourself in the safari experience. This is easy enough with a roster of activities that includes bush walks led by Roelof, sundowners around the campfire and visits to the local village.
Overlooking the banks of Samburu’s Ewaso Nyiro River is Sasaab, a nine-tent camp that’s earned a gold rating from Eco Tourism Kenya. Each of the luxe tented suites is 1,000 square feet and has a private plunge pool. From the verandahs, guests can take in the view of Mount Kenya — and of elephants bathing in the river. Sasaab also offers game drives and walks, stargazing, bird-watching and fly camping. With the latter, you can really get back to nature by walking along the river, partaking in dinner backed by a stunning sunset and then sleeping it all off under the stars.
On a rocky mountain above Samburu’s arid plains is this intimate six-tent camp, the only lodge in the 200,000-acre Kalama Conservancy. Saruni’s villas are arranged in a line, with two pools and the main lodge where communal meals are served. Food skews Italian (think fresh pasta with zucchini and capers) because the lodge’s owners are from the country. The higher of the two pools has breathtaking views over the conservancy. If you don’t go out on a sundowner drive, this is the place to watch the sun melt into the horizon. Saruni has one activity that truly sets it apart from other safari camps, and that’s its Warriors Academy. Here, the young (and young at heart) learn what it takes to be a Maasai and Samburu warrior, from tossing spears and shooting arrows to beading the vibrant necklaces worn by the Maasai or Samburu people.