A Luxury Kenyan Safari In The Masai Mara & Chyulu Hills
Relax with a slow safari at ol Donyo Lodge, horseriding or kicking back in a wildlife hide, before picking up the pace with abundant game sightings in the Masai Mara, staying at the exclusive Mara Plains and Angama Mara camps. This eight-night luxury Kenyan safari has it all.
3 Nights at Ol Donyo Lodge
A short flight — plus a mini safari — brought us to ol Donyo Lodge. We were held up briefly by on a slow journey of giraffe: life happens at a different pace here in the Chyulu Hills National Park … precisely how we’d wanted to start our holiday. From our suite, I gazed spellbound on Mount Kilimanjaro, made even more impressive by the flatness of the land around it. Already enraptured, my partner and I joined our guide for a slow afternoon game drive, and we soon came across an impressive bull elephant. Like the mountain, he too towered over everything around him.
After a deep, restful sleep, we chose a horseback safari over mountain biking for our second day. The zebra we encountered didn’t seem very interested in seeing their cousins trot by with us on their backs! Our guide began to aim for a small knot of trees where a flash of white turned out to be the linen tablecloth for the ultimate al fresco lunch. Back at camp, we spent the afternoon relaxing in the library before sundowners at the bar.
Much of our third day was spent in the log-pile hide, watching animals come to drink. My favourite were the bizarre long-necked gerenuk, which I’d never heard of before. An afternoon siesta in our four-poster bed proved irresistible, and we enjoyed the rest before another excellent dinner. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that a star bed had been created for us on the roof of our suite! I almost had to pinch myself: could this get any better?
A massage by our private plunge pool continued the slow-safari theme on our final morning. I kept the binoculars (supplied in each cottage) to hand, and I’m glad I did — seeing lion added adrenaline to an otherwise very relaxing treatment.
3 Nights at Mara Plains Camp
Someone once said that life is comprised of arrivals and departures — and the arrival at Mara Plains Camp, which had us traversing a swing bridge, blew us away. Once settled, we immediately got into game-drive mode, as now that we were in the Masai Mara we really wanted to focus on seeing wildlife. We were still taking in how lush and green the terrain was when suddenly we were among herds of wildebeest and zebra. There were many other species around too, as we discovered later on our exciting night drive.
We varied things on our second day with a cultural visit to a nearby Maasai village. The people we met were following their authentic herding lifestyle in addition to being our landlords. We felt even better about coming here knowing that they benefit directly from tourism. On our way back we were thrilled to see a cheetah suddenly accelerate to its top hunting speed of more than 110km/h! Somehow the zigzagging Thomson’s gazelle evaded capture, much to my relief! The chase alone had been dramatic enough, with the gazelle dodging and weaving just ahead of the spotted blur that was the cheetah.
On our third morning, we watched in delight as the sun’s rays illuminated a hot-air balloon drifting over the savannah. We’d originally planned to go in one too, but now that we were safari addicts we decided instead to save that experience for our next trip to East Africa. While my partner sorted through the pictures we’d taken with the professional camera equipment provided by the lodge, I went on a brief walking safari before lazing in my outdoor bathtub.
2 Nights at Angama Mara
Just a two-hour drive from Mara Plains Camp, Angama Mara was a wonderful place to conclude our safari. High up above the Great Rift Valley with spectacular views, our final luxury Kenyan safari camp gave us a different viewpoint on the Masai Mara. And changing camps let us vary the pace again. While my partner indulged another game-drive yearning, I spent the afternoon in a beading workshop learning the basics of this Maasai art form. I loved the instant sense of connection and discovering that some human experiences are universal, and my partner was delighted to receive a bracelet as a very personal gift.
Little did I know that secret plans had been made, and our second morning’s walking safari ended somewhere that I recognised immediately — the exact place where the famous Out of Africa picnic took place. Our experience was even better — we didn’t have to share with a film crew! Instead, we had chilled Champagne in celebration and happily drank in the sights, sounds and smells of wild Kenya. Feeling very satisfied with the day already, we chose to relax by the pool until our bush-barbecue dinner, which was kicked off with a showstopping Maasai dance.
I only found the pre-stamped postcards in our tent on the last morning, but I had time to write them before our light aircraft flight back to Nairobi. To be honest, each one took me forever, as the view kept distracting me. On each morning in Angama Mara I felt like I was looking out over a newly-minted world; a fresh start in this ancient land.
What sets it apart
This eight-night itinerary gave us ample scope to explore Kenya. We had incredible flexibility at each of the three luxury safari camps we’d chosen, and we could enjoy our safari holiday at our own pace, doing as much (or as little) as we wished. I loved having so many activities to choose from, and I found that the views from each camp — and the chance to spot wildlife without going anywhere — meant that it was really possible to relax.
I came to Kenya for the animals, of course, but despite all the planning and research I still wasn’t fully prepared for the breathtaking excitement of watching a hunt, or of seeing elephant up close. I really enjoyed the contrast between these fast-paced moments of adrenaline, and the pauses we inserted into our itinerary: the candlelit dinners, the massage, and the chance to simply be together in stunning settings.
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Originally published at artofsafari.travel.