For some, an African safari has to be done properly, and that means luxury, fine food, and an exclusive experience, almost always accompanied by a suitably wallet-shredding price tag. Here we pick our six favourite luxury lodges in the Maasai Mara.
COTTARS 1920S SAFARI CAMP, OLDERIKESI
For the ultimate yesteryear safari experience, look no further than Cottars 1920s. In keeping with its name, the lodge offers six 1920s-style white canvas tents, sumptuously furnished with the trappings of another era. A butler is provided with each tent, and guests can also enjoy a pool for down times. Thanks to its location on its own conservancy, guests can also enjoy night game drives to spot lesser-seen nocturnal animals.
Rates: The conservation fee is Ksh2,320 per person. A newer bush villa, sleeping six, starts at Ksh277,725.
For those with deep pockets, look no further than Mahali Mzuri,British entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson’s newish camp in one of the thriving conservancies to the north of the reserve. Guests stay in tents with a decidedly modern twist, opening onto a private veranda with staggering views. Every detail is considered, from your own set of binoculars to sunscreen. The conservancy offers an exclusive game- viewing experience.
Rates: Full board, including game drives and conservancy fees. $415 pp sharing, kids go free.
This is a lovely property in the hills with themed rooms with private decks. The Observatory cottage, for instance, sports a vintage brass telescope and moon map; the artists’ cottage a painting on an easel and paintbrushes, and the photography cottage … well, you get the picture. For honeymooners, there’s the Love Shack, a secluded cottage furnished in classic style.
Rates: Starts from Ksh23,940 per person, all-inclusive, including drinks and game drives. Conservancy fee is Ksh2,320.
At this low-impact, hosted camp, you feel like you’re in the midst of the bush, with animals wandering through at will. It’s safe enough, though, with askaris always on hand to escort guests, and watch over little ones as their parents dine. Tents are well-appointed, kitted out with ‘Indian Raj’ furniture and brass wash basins and pitchers. The tents afford terrific views over the plains. An evening camp fire helps foster interaction between guests, something often lacking at more exclusive camps.
Rates: Ksh23,000 per person sharing, full board, including game drives. Ksh2,000 conservancy fee. Children 5 and under go free, although it’s not suitable for very young, free-ranging children.
Established by the Beaton family, this luxurious seasonal nine-tented camp is among the more established in the reserve, and offers an unrivalled location from which to view the annual wildebeest migration in all its messy glory. This camp is particularly renowned for its skilled guides, and Jackson Ole Looseiya, of BBC Big Cat Diary fame, used to guide out of Rekero before establishing his own camp. With the camp being unfenced, children five and under are not allowed.
Rates: $200 per person sharing, full board, including game drives.
Finally, for those with money to splurge, this riverside lodge is one of the Mara’s most exclusive and intimate camps with just four tents, elegantly constructed with hardwood floors and a sunken bathtub on the veranda. This camp is reached by bridge from sister camp Serian, and guests will have acres of conservancy, privately leased by the owners, all to themselves. For a slice of sheer luxury, guests can spend a night in the Nest, a treehouse for true romantics. For something a bit different, guests can spend a night in the Nest, a treehouse for true romantics.
Rates: $640 per person, all-inclusive. Conservancy fees cost Ksh2,700.