By Camilla Fane – repeat client of The Luxury Safari Co
When Rose at The Luxury Safari Company asked me which were my favourite camps and lodges in East Africa, this caused a lot of head scratching and recalling some amazing trips to this very special part of the world.
What makes one camp better than another? Is it the staff, the location, the food, the other guests? In truth, it is probably a combination of all of the above. A bit like the head of a school, the managers can play a big part in your enjoyment – easy conversation, more than a little laughter and some good stories around the camp fire, even if some are a little embellished, all make for a good atmosphere and a relaxing stay. And the guides – eagle-eyed, good sense of humour and a wealth of knowledge all contribute to the best game viewing experience.
I could not pick out one camp as my overall favourite so I am going to list them alphabetically. The list could be endless as, basically, I love anywhere I am staying in the bush! I dream of when I am next going to be there – the smells, the colours, the four delicious meals a day! Camps do change – they have a refit which may or may not improve the stay and managers move on, but any of the ones below I would be happy to go back to again and again.
Manyara Ranch is on a private 35000 acre conservancy close to the shores of Lake Manyara in Tanzania which allows for complete freedom to ride, walk, do night game drives and have sundowners in extraordinary locations. The camp itself is lovely, shaded by a few trees with a waterhole right in front of the mess tent . We had some amazing times here including sundowners in a lake on the far side of the property sharing the water with a large herd of elephants, seeing lions with their cubs feasting on a dead elephant in a dry river bed (although the smell down wind is one I do not want to experience again!) and the all-singing and all-dancing butler summoning us to dinner in his own inimitable style. A super comfortable stay in a lovely location and not another vehicle on the property!
Olarro is a super luxury lodge a comfortable drive from Nairobi on the way to the Masai Mara. Perched on the edge of the Loita Hills it has stunning views particularly from the top dining room which has a large balcony from where you can literally see for miles. Due to poaching, there is not a lot of wildlife here, but they are working hard to change that, but this meant we could go out on quad bikes which was tremendous fun, lie by the pool, have bow and arrow lessons from the enigmatic Jackson and go to the village and meet the ladies who do amazing beadwork and see the new water plant which has been provided by the Lodge. Olarro is super comfortable, beautifully decorated and with probably the best food I have ever eaten and, trust me, I ate a lot! The staff were also lovely and mixed a mean cocktail! Happy days!
I have included Oliver’s Camp in Tarangire in Tanzania as I loved the remoteness of the setting and, if you want to see elephants, this is one of the best parks. It was also the first camp we went to as a family, my son having not been to Africa before, and driving through the dark to see a few faint twinkling lights in the distance was a magical experience. We were so warmly welcomed and our tent was spacious and very cosy. The tents here are very well spaced out and afford a lot of privacy and it is situated in a remote corner of the park allowing for exceptional game drives and walking without the presence of other people. Fond memories!
Having a Boxing Day birthday, it has never been much of a celebration due to the excesses of the day before so arriving at Richards Forest Camp in the North West of the Masai Mara in time for a late lunch on my Birthday was truly special. This intimate, cosy and luxurious camp is everything one could wish for. Situated in the Ol Choro Conservancy, close to a hippo filled river means that there is exceptional game viewing, night drives – on one of which we sat drinking mugs of delicious soup just a few feet from a pride of lions listening to hyena whooping and calling over a kill! Amazing! I genuinely did not want to leave ever. There are so many reasons why – wonderful days with Richard, genuinely lovely staff and guides, incredible game viewing, fishing and opening my presents with a cocktail in hand on the open plains of the Mara. Life does not get much better than that!
And then there is Saruni Samburu! This extraordinary camp is situated high on the rocks above the Kalama Conservancy – a place that no-one in the community thought it would be possible to build on. But they did and from everywhere there are the most incredible views in every direction. The enormous tents are fabulously comfortable with lots of kelim rugs and cushions and huge decks to lie on during the day taking in the view if you don’t want to be by the pool, gorgeous bathrooms with baths and outdoor showers and massive stone walls. Super delicious Italian influenced food, the enigmatic Samburu, elephants and big cats galore, breathtaking sunrises and sunsets – probably the most extraordinary place to stay in East Africa.
This is just a list of my favourite places to stay and just writing about them has brought back so many happy memories, lots of laughter and just really special times. It makes me feel very spoilt and since I first stepped off a plane in Nairobi nearly thirty years ago, everything about East Africa makes me smile. I cannot wait to be back!