To me, the essence of a really great safari is sitting around a fire with a drink, some mates and witty banter. This year is a unique one as the consequences of the COVID pandemic have meant that going to the Mara in the high season is a viable option for residents without the hefty price tag.
The mobile Leleshwa Luxury Camp is operated by Joe and Gillian Charleson and their team, and this year it’s set in some of the best private campsites within the Mara Triangle. The stunning location makes for an immersion into the sights and sounds of the migration whilst enjoying all of the fittings and attention-to-detail of a luxury camp.
During our visit, it had been set up at Kiboko private campsite, with the river lazily stretching along in front of the site and a resident pod of hippos observing us with casual suspicion. It offered the perfect backdrop to the mess tent, best taken in from chairs arranged along the bank. As it was the height of migration season, it was unfortunately not an unusual occurrence to see a wildebeest carcass floating past as vultures waited to fulfill their role as nature’s cleaners. It was however wonderful to fall asleep to the soft whoops of the hyenas in the evening and wake to the lions grunting to each other across the river.
The camp has ensuite bathrooms with warm showers, electricity in the morning and evening to charge cameras or phones, luxury shower products and soaps as well as staff who keep everything perfectly in order behind the scenes and prepare the most sumptuous meals almost as though to ensure the widening of waistlines.
We were not going to idle about at camp all day of course; there was a migration to see and our luck was in. The wildebeest were gathered on the reserve side of the Mara River in their thousands. Some genetic instinct telling the creatures that the grass was indeed greener on the other side was powerful enough to persuade them to risk their lives and limbs by hurling themselves down sheer gradients into the dark waters below. Then they crossed, splashing, swimming and clambering.
Aside from the spectacular crossing, there was plenty to see. With no other vehicles around, we were able to watch a majestic fully-maned lion leisurely devouring a wildebeest as a light breeze gave his mane an amusing bouffant effect. Some areas enjoyed an Eden-like vista with zebra, wildebeest, impala and elephants in vast numbers grazing in absolute serenity without an apparent care in the world and it was a pleasure to stop the vehicle and savour the idyllic scene as it would have been centuries ago.
Then there was a leopard, the master of camouflage, so clever and cunning that he can elude all but the most intrepid observers. A tip from one of the guides sent us in the right direction and a small movement alerted us to her presence before she settled into the undergrowth to await the fall of dusk where she could head out to look for dinner. We were told she had two cubs nearby but they clearly had no intention of coming out to play for the audience.
Leleshwa Luxury Camp is only ever available on an exclusive use basis, ideal for either a family or a group of friends. The staff have undergone their testing and are compliant with all the health requirements. It is available on either a self-catering basis where you bring your own supplies and the staff will prepare everything, or on a fully-catered basis with the option of open land cruisers and guides to do all the work.
While there is much to be said for wild camping and being self-sufficient in this beautiful country, there is also a lot to be said for enjoying some luxury, witnessing one of the world’s most famous spectacles and making memories that will last a lifetime.