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LUXURY SAFARI CAMP MASAI MARA

"Searching for the best Kenyan luxury safari accommodation? Jonathan and his family share their experiences of Bateleur Camp, a luxury tented accommodation in the Masai Mara..."

After our 50-minute, mid afternoon flight to
Kichwa Tembo on the Masai Mara’s western border, we were welcomed at the tiny airport by a genuinely lovely man, camp manager, Joseph. He was flanked by a couple of Masai herders in their amazingly colourful, decorative traditional clothing - draped ochre red cloth and decorative beaded jewelry.

The table they had set up with champagne, fruit and biscuits added to the sense of hospitality. Sheira, Zoe and I always get excited in anticipation of discovering a new luxury tented camp - and seeing one of the Masai helpers slinging our Louis Vuitton handbag across his shoulder was a fabulous sight! 

En route, we hadn’t even travelled a kilometer before we realised that we had landed in the Garden of Eden of safari camp settings! Sheira, Zoe and I all nudged each other in wonder as our jeep slowly drove past buffalo, zebra, antelope and giraffe all mingling and grazing in MASSIVE numbers. Zoe got a kick out of seeing an enormous hippo snorting and lumbering out of the water at a water hole - and as we headed to camp there was a large herd of elephants taking our spot on the road, making us detour.

The abundance in numbers yet peaceful feeling amongst the animals was remarkable: a great start to our stay here. (Although it is amazing to be in a region of the Masai Mara teeming with wildlife, the camp is completely fenced in so you do feel secure).  

As we arrived in the dark of early evening we pulled up to the beautiful welcome of smiling staff beating softly on drums, playing guitar and clapping. We had entered the world of this totally private luxury camp that conjures the ambience of the great Kenyan safaris of the twenties and thirties.

The public space immediately showcases Bateleur’s signature feature: it’s the epitome of tented luxury. The large, open plan main tent has canvas walls, and the library/sitting room inside is like another world. The design completely embraces an old-school, British colonial aesthetic: chesterfield sofas, Persian rugs, stacks of musty books and antique chess sets all add to the baronial look - with paintings and old photographs hung everywhere. All the extra touches, like crystal whiskey decanters, hurricane lamps, old leather luggage and pith helmets, really cast a spell that brings you back to safari’s aristocratic glory days. 

Sheira and I loved the way this formal yet cosy atmosphere strikes just the right balance - so surreally luxurious in a wilderness setting. The lounge had an element of fantasy that appealed to me, but on a practical level is also a warm comfy space where we could curl up with a book or Zoe could happily play with a puzzle...  

The camp is situated on one of the “steps“ of the Great Rift Valley, the OLOOLOLO ESCARPMENT just below the location where some of OUT OF AFRICA’S most iconic scenes were filmed. Just as farming fantasies used to attract foreigners and fortune hunters in the last two centuries, sophisticated safari camps like Bateleur still draw a totally international clientele; during our visit the other guests came from a variety of places, including Europe, the US and South America.  






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STANDOUT SERVICE 

We have to hand out a prize to the Bateleur Camp for engaging, personable service that made us feel like we were in our own home. In an already friendly, earthy culture, the efforts of the staff here were absolutely superb

For a country that is referred to as Third World, these properties could teach the affluent West so much about going the extra mile - with a smile! The African people are naturally gifted at hospitality: their attitude is… we are here to please! 

Sheira and I were charmed at the way our wait staff hovered while we ate in case we needed them, or greeted us with a warm smile that lit up their whole face each morning. Every night there would be a little message on our pillow or folded laundry to send us off to sleep with a thought in Swahili. We have them still... 

„Lala Kama Gigo“ ... Sleep like a log 

„Ndote Za Kweli“   ... Dreams do come true 

„Usiku Mwema“    ... Good Night 

The general manager, NIALL ANDERSON deserves mention for going way beyond the call of duty when we decided to cancel our final luxury Safari camp (NGORONGORO CRATER LODGE) and try a Zanzibar beach experience instead. (see MNEMBA ISLAND). He did not rest until we were organised and happy - his commitment along with his head office at AND BEYOND is really impressive, even by high-end accommodation standards.  

Sheira and I loved the way Camp manager, JOSEPH MASIBO devoted his time to the requests of the guests. Not only does the set-up allow him to devote his attention to you, but his good heart makes it seem like it’s truly his pleasure; I can see why he was promoted from his original role as a driver/guide. The Saids love making new African friends and Joseph is now on our favourites list!

Big points also go to the policy of high staff-guest ratio that gives guests their own PRIVATE BUTLER, who takes care of food and drink requirements. A separate ROOM STEWARD handles any housekeeping requests. The system runs like clockwork, and our butler WILLIAM was a delight (funnily enough, there seemed to be at least four other Williams on staff as well).

The same attention to detail is consistent through all the public areas as well, including the bathrooms, which are always fragrant and stocked with luxurious products and fresh towels.

We forged such a bond with the Bateleur family that we were actually in tears when it came time to leave! This is a very, very special property whose greatest asset is its people. 





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There are two luxury tented accommodation camp areas comprising 9 tents each - the newer North Camp, TENTS 10-18, which is closer to the main lodge for those who prefer not to walk too far back and forth from the dining and public areas (Tent #12 and #13 flank the lap pool).

The more isolated South Camp, comprising TENTS 1-9 suits those seeking more privacy (Tent #1 is the furthest from the main dining room). 

Each tented suite around the property is not as far apart from the others as I anticipated, but they all face outwards for privacy and have their own wooden decks overlooking the stunning, distant plains of the Masai Mara. 

The suites are so solidly built that we forgot we were even in a tent until we zipped up the canvas sides alongside us. Sheira said that it felt more like walking into a cabin - with the front wall removed! The bathroom floors are tiled, there are polished wood floors, the ‘ceiling’ is high enough for an overhead fan, so there is a feeling of solidity that adds a lot of comfort. 

The en suite bathroom has a stone shower and separate stone toilet - plenty of hot water and great extra products like body scrubs in glass jars. (I felt the bathrooms were a little “too perfect” for a tented suite. I would have liked a more rustic setting in this bush environment). Sheira is the bedding queen, so she really appreciated the plush, fluffy bed - and the hot water bottle slipped under the covers every night to keep us cosy after the exhaustion of a big day out in the wilderness.

We also loved the classic elegance of the furnishings, which is in keeping with the retro charm of the main lodge tent. We had a luxury TENT with a beautiful big four-poster bed, antique looking lamps, wooden furniture and African art objects for added warmth. The suite balances the solidity of the interior with the fun of a tent - the sides roll up, with cleverly built-in fly screens.

The look isn’t overly embellished but really creates a safari luxe atmosphere - made even more magical by the sound of monkeys, and amazing views from the deck onto the bush landscape where wildebeest roam in the distance. 

Although this is a great place to sit and look out to the bush, (tempted by two beautiful leather seats on the tent patio), YOU TEND TO SPEND VERY LITTLE TIME IN YOUR LUXURY TENT. By the time you come back from your evening game drive it is 8pm already: time to freshen up and head back to dinner. Safari is all about the activities.

The luxury tents are more than comfortable, but not large compared to other camps we have been to. Our open plan tented bedroom was a little tight because we had Zoe sleeping with us on an extra child’s bed. This flexibility was a fantastic option for us though, as many of the high end camps don’t really work around younger children sleeping in the same rooms, but requiring a second tent or villa being booked. This was another example of their willingness to accommodate our requests - and deliver.

Every morning started with a ritual: William would knock, gently open the door and put down our silver service tray of steaming hot coffee, teas, hot chocolate and crunchy biscuits. As you awaken and look over your toes through the net, the sun is rising, covering the Masai Mara plains in molten gold: a breathtakingly beautiful start to the day’s African safari.

Our room steward kept the room so beautifully maintained. Every time we returned it had been tweaked, with a re-stocked minibar, and lovely little bowls of sweets, biscuits and chocolates left for us to nibble on.  

W
hen it comes to feeling good in the bush Bateleur really get it right!  It really is the artful version of TENTED LUXURY.

PRICE

Seasonally   US $490 - $ 895 Per Person 

Join Jonathan Said and his family on their luxury travel journeys as they share their best restaurants experiences and luxury hotels and resorts holidays around the world. The comprehensive travel tips and ideas include some of the most popular things to see and do at each destination including a local shopping guide, photos, video, music and much more.






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Bateleur Camp| KICHWA TEMBO C14, Keekorok, Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya And Beyond, Masai Mara | +27 11 809 4314 | View web site
Joseph Masibo Camp Manager| Masai Mara | +254 735 398 193 |
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