Kenya is the land of African superlatives. With its incredible diversity of landscapes from the snow-capped peaks of Mount Kenya to rolling savannah and flamingo-ringed soda lakes, plus some of the highest concentrations of wildlife in the world, it simply has no match.
So, it’s no surprise that this is where the concept of safari was born. And the jewel in Kenya’s crown is the Masai Mara, stage for the annual wildebeest migration, when over two million wildebeest and zebra move between the Masai Mara and the Serengeti in Tanzania in search of greener pastures.
Boutique luxury travel operator, Sanctuary Retreats, offers up one of the best opportunities to experience the Great Migration, not to mention sublime accommodation and exciting game viewing generally, at its flagship camp Sanctuary Olonana which is situated on a private stretch of the Mara River in the heart of the National Park.
Ranked number 1 amongst Africa’s top resorts in the 2017 Conde Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards, the luxury camp is already renowned for its exceptional customer experience and individual service, and this reputation is only likely to be further reinforced thanks to a recently unveiled extensive refurbishment.
So we thought we’d provide a sneak peek into 24 hours at what is now undoubtedly one of Kenya’s premier safari camps.
Fly into Kichwa Tembo Airstrip in the afternoon, where you’ll be met with some light refreshments and a smile by your very own Sanctuary Retreats guide, who will then drive you the short distance to Sanctuary Olonana. If you’re lucky, you’ll spot some wildlife before you’ve even got off the plane!
Check into a spacious and stunningly appointed pavilion, your new home away from home during your stay at Sanctuary Olonana, and discover what ‘glamping’ is truly all about. Just 14 suites have been designed especially to maximise the wilderness experience for guests. Each one boasts over 130 sqm of floor space, with floor-to-ceiling glass folding doors providing panoramic views of the surrounding landscape and the Mara River across the private decking.
Stylish, contemporary interiors are furnished with bespoke furniture including plush king-sized beds and elegant nature-inspired furnishings. And coolly elegant slate and marble ensuite bathrooms are equipped with rain showers, along with generous freestanding bathtubs – the perfect spot to relax and unwind after a long day of game viewing.
Your luxurious exclusive hideaway comes complete with library and a spectacular swimming pool overlooking the river at the Camp’s Main Lodge. An extension of the surrounding wilderness, a Kenyan Greenheart tree grows proudly through its centre, while interiors feature traditional decorations and artefacts including handcrafted Maasai spears. Glass doors open out to an extensive terrace offering expansive outdoor dining and relaxation areas, including an inviting boma fire pit, not to mention more of those grandstand views of both the river and its resident hippos. So why not head over for a dip, followed by a traditional ‘sundowner’ cocktail on the deck and take in the views of the infamous Mara River while you prepare for a full safari day tomorrow.
After an early wake-up call of tea, coffee and snacks, it’s time for your hot air balloon safari. Inflated against the first rays of sunrise, this is definitely an activity worth getting up early for! Float gently over the Masai Mara’s plains while viewing the plethora of game below, before landing and enjoying a champagne breakfast to toast your flight.
When you return to the Camp, why not treat yourself to a little pampering at Sanctuary Olonana’s spa which offers a range of treatments from facials through to body massages – the perfect way to relax and unwind after your early morning start.
You’re sure to have worked up an appetite after all that ballooning and pampering. And the outdoor dining area in the Main Lodge is the perfect place to tuck into delicious fresh dishes prepared by talented Head Chef, Big John, with many ingredients picked straight from the Camp’s organic garden. But if you are feeling a little more adventurous, head out for a picnic lunch in the surrounding savannah.
After lunch, join an experienced Maasai guide and explore a nearby village where you’ll gain a fascinating insight into the still very traditional, but vibrant way of life of the local Maasai people. Then there’s still time before the afternoon activity to squeeze in a little rest and relaxation with a book poolside.
This afternoon, it is time to head out on a game drive and more fully explore the Masai Mara with your guide. And you are sure to be rewarded as the Mara is one of the best places for seeing big cats and Africa’s ‘Big Five’, as well as plenty of plains game and over 300 bird species. Indeed the huge and rich variety of food for dominant predators including lion, leopard, hyena and cheetah, means you can be assured of pretty amazing sightings year-round.
Nothing beats the tradition of a ‘sundowner’ enjoyed at the end of your afternoon game drive, served in a specially selected spot on the Mara plains. But, why not take it up a notch further with a private bush dinner, and dine in style as candlelight flickers and stars shine overhead, while you absorb the peace and beauty of an African night.