Along with Tanzania, Kenya is the archetypal African safari destination. It is synonymous with the annual Great Migration of wildebeest and zebra, and home to iconic parks like the Maasai Mara National Reserve as well as a slew of private conservancies. For those in search of a truly memorable safari experience, Kenya also offers some of the most luxurious lodges on the continent. In this article, we take a look at a few of our favorites; ranging from classic tented camps to unique private villas.
Note: This article is based on expert advice given by Yvette de Vries of African Portfolio. It was updated by Jessica Macdonald on November 22nd, 2017.
- Cottar’s 1920s Safari Camp
Cottar’s 1920s Safari Camp is located far from the crowds in the southeast corner of the Maasai Mara, near the Tanzanian border. Set in a stunning 6,000-acre private conservancy, the camp consists of just 10 luxury tents decorated in a nostalgic 1920s style that recreates the safari golden age. Each white canvas tent comes with an en-suite bathroom, while family rooms include a living room complete with a fireplace. Meet your fellow travelers for dinner and drinks in the communal mess tents; or seek post-game drive relaxation at the swimming pool and spa. Game drives, night drives, and walking safaris all take place in an area known for its abundant wildlife.
- Tortilis Safari Camp
Surrounded by acacia woodland, Tortilis Safari Camp is blessed with some of the best Kilimanjaro views in the business. Here, you can enjoy game drives, walking safaris and sundowners both in Amboseli National Park itself or in the camp’s 30,000-acre private concession. There are 17 luxuriously furnished Makuti tents, that all come with one main bedroom, en-suite bathroom, and private verandah. For a little extra luxury, book a stay in the camp’s exclusive safari house. An on-site garden provides fresh produce for delicious meals served in the main lodge, which in turn overlooks a waterhole frequented by elephants. Other highlights include a swimming pool and spa service.
- Mara Bushtops
Located less than five kilometers from the main gate into the Maasai Mara National Park, Mara Bushtops is a luxury tented camp set high on a hill within a private conservancy. Scenic valley views are a feature of the lodge’s 12 5-star tents, as are private decks and hot tubs. The lounge and dining area includes a fine wine cellar, bar, and library; while the infinity pool doubles as an elevated game-viewing spot. Maasai guides accompany all game drives and walking safaris, and breakfasts can be enjoyed in the bush. When you want a change of scene, book a visit to a local school or Maasai village. Mara Bushtops is also renowned for its full-service Amani Spa.
- Campi ya Kanzi
Campi ya Kanzi is a unique camp built at the foot of the Chyulu Hills in southern Kenya, on communal land owned by the Maasai. Both socially and ecologically responsible, the lodge features six tented cottages and two suites, each with breathtaking views and a personal Maasai butler. If you’re traveling as a group, consider booking the private Kanzi House. Meals are accompanied by spectacular views of Mount Kilimanjaro or enjoyed beneath a canopy of stars. On your safari, you will benefit from the knowledge of a native Maasai tracker. Special Campi ya Kanzi experiences include walking safaris into the Chyulu Hills cloud forest, horse riding and scenic Kilimanjaro flights.
- Sasaab Lodge
Sasaab Lodge is located on Samburu communal lands in northern Kenya, near the Buffalo Springs National Reserve. Perched above the banks of the Ewaso Nyiro River, it offers magical views across the Laikipia Plateau towards Mount Kenya; and nine luxurious, Moroccan-themed tents. All are very secluded and come with an open-air bathroom and private plunge pools. The communal area is perched upon a rocky ridge with incredible views of the river below. Samburu guides will take you on a walking safari, camel safari or traditional 4×4 game drive. Keep an eye out for regional specials including the gerenuk antelope, the Grévy’s zebra, and the reticulated giraffe.
- Ol Donyo Lodge
Nestled at the foot of the Chyulu Hills, the Ol Donyo Lodge is located in between Amboseli and Tsavo East National Parks. Its uniquely decorated guest suites and villas boast private plunge pools and dramatic views that stretch all the way to distant Mount Kilimanjaro. Each one also has a rooftop star bed accessed via a winding stone staircase. There’s an infinity pool, a massage service and an elegant dining area with an impressive wine list. Spend your days exploring the lodge’s stunning surroundings on a game drive, horseback safari or guided bush walk; or immerse yourself in local culture with a visit to a Maasai village. Fly-camping can also be arranged.
- Loisaba Tented Camp
Escarpment views and chic Africana furniture are defining features of Loisaba Tented Camp. Located in a private conservancy on the edge of the Laikipia Plateau, the camp offers six tent suites and three family suites, all with polished wood floors, private verandahs, and rainfall showers. When you’re not in your room or out on safari, spend time socializing at the infinity pool or in the open lounge and bar. Activities range from visits to Samburu villages to horse riding, camel trekking, and fishing. You can even visit the sniffer dogs used by the conservancy’s anti-poaching patrol. For a truly unforgettable stay, book a night in one of the Loisaba star beds, owned by the same company.
- Lewa Safari Camp
Famous as the place where Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge stayed ahead of their Kenyan engagement in 2010, Lewa Safari Camp has access to 65,000 acres of private game viewing. Each luxury safari tent has its own verandah and en-suite bathroom, while the camp’s communal areas include a sparkling swimming pool and a sitting room with an open log fire. Gourmet meals include afternoon tea and evening canapés. Whether you choose to join a game drive, a guided walk or explore on horseback, keep an eye out for Lewa’s black and white rhinos. The conservancy also boasts the world’s largest concentration of endangered Grévy’s zebras.
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