Unperturbed, a buffalo wallowing blissfully in a hollow of muddy water gazes at us as we drive past, and a group of agitated hartebeest watch as two hyena slope away into the nearby thicket.
Iced lemon and ginger and cool face cloths are pressed on us as we arrive at camp – a riverine forested thicket by the Intiakitik River, a small tributary of the Mara River.
Mara Expedition Camp is like having stepped back into Karen Blixen’s Africa – all one imagines a small luxury tented camp should be. There are just five spacious tented rooms dotted under the trees all facing the river, with fittings reminiscent of the past – leather seats, antique wooden trunks and canvas hanging wardrobes.
The central mess tent is welcoming and intimate with piped linen sofas and a book filled coffee table showcasing the wildlife adventures of owners Beverley and Derek Joubert – who still live to tell the tale after being gored by a lone buffalo in Botswana!
Lunch is set up for us in the clearing under the shade of a giant mahogany tree, with mango and avocado salad, crisp, spicy peri peri chicken and herby freshly baked ciabatta, homemade relishes and chunky chutneys. Siesta time! The luxurious day bed by the river beckons as the stillness of the hot midday sets in.
With renewed vigour we set out again and very quickly see a lion pride on the move with their seven young cubs loping purposefully along a green river course – playful bat eared foxes dart in and out of a hollow ant hill that is their den – elephants pause to strip saplings as they slowly head to the river to drink. John shows us how to use giant lensed canon camera equipment at hand to capture some of these moments.
Back at camp, we wash off the day, using the intricate copper bucket showers which hang over the antique wooden slats in the spacious bath tent adjoining – steaming hot water at the pull of a lever. This is luxury camping with no compromise – fluffy towelling robes at hand hanging from the silver towel stand.
Replacing Mara Toto Camp which was irrevocably damaged by floods in 2016, Mara Expedition Camp is the answer to where to stay to see the world’s greatest show on earth. Unique and personal, due to its small size – with no set schedules imposed, this is your safari, with 15 amazing staff to make it happen. Their policy is one of low volume, low impact - benefitting the local communities, and conservation is their passion.
Activities include morning and evening game drives, visiting the epic river crossings where thousands of wildebeest plunge and tumble across the crocodile infested Mara River during the great migration –just 30 minutes’ drive away - and sunset drinks set at gorgeous viewpoints.
For the adventurous, spend half a day riding from their nearby stables, cantering alongside game with heart stopping close encounters. Walks can be taken from their sister property Mara Plains by request using specially trained guides, but for the ultimate experience, sail above the acacia blotted landscape - the sunrise lighting up herds of grazers in a thrilling balloon ride followed by a hearty Kenyan breakfast in the bush.
You will never feel so sad to leave a place as you clamber out of the freshly laundered sheets to that early morning brew on your verandah… or savor that last steamy blueberry speckled pancake for breakfast before waving goodbye to your newly found friends. “Tuonane tena” – see you again – I HOPE!