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Why does Kenya's Angama Mara Lodge offer such a unique safari experience?

Nicola Shepherd By Nicola Shepherd
03 Dec 2019
Kenya Maasai Mara villa overlooking plains - Angama Mara.jpg

Angama Mara is ‘suspended in mid-air’ over the Great Rift Valley with the most spectacular views of the legendary Maasai Mara. Everything about this place is impeccable; the perfect luxury five-star hotel experience in the bush!

Why Angama Mara?

On my recent return to Kenya I was privileged to be able to revisit The Maasai Mara region and explore in detail. I can certainly recommend the exceptional Angama Mara for a classic wildlife safari to Kenya! I could come here again and again for the breath-taking views over the Mara, the ‘a la carte’ safari experience and the fantastic warmth and skill of the staff.

 

 

This part of Kenya is world-renowned for its exceptional wildlife and diversity, as well as the year-round cycle of the Great Migration, the endless cyclical journey which takes place in the Serengeti-Maasai Mara ecosystem. Angama Mara offers perfect access to the Mara whilst being located in a 2000-acre private concession which allows for privacy and depth of experience.

Angama Mara itself comprises two private camps each with 15 tents which are located along a ridge line on the escarpment walls. These are part of the Ololooloo escarpment which were selected for the location of filming Out Of Africa and fans of the movie can soak in the scenery and the little details that have been included in the lodge design.

 


What can you expect from a safari to Angama Mara?

The welcome when we arrived at Angama Mara was huge and warm! The energy and enthusiasm of the team was infectious and as I entered the extraordinarily designed pavilion I was greeted by the most phenomenal views out across the Maasai Mara!

One can spend hours just taking it all in, sitting on the deck around the fire-pit wrapped in a Maasai blanket or inside the sitting room looking through the floor-to-ceiling fold-away glass doors.

 


We were shown to our villas, each of which faces out across the plains to keep one engaged with that wonderful view. There are binoculars provided and lovely warm Maasai blankets and I enjoyed several hours during my stay taking an ‘armchair safari’ from the comfort of the red rocking chair on the verandah, using the binoculars to spot birds and even some wildlife on the valley floor.

The concession is unfenced with the Mara so wildlife roams freely between them and I saw giraffe, zebra and impala on the concession, though they have been known to have lion and elephant close to the lodge too!

 


My favourite thing about Angama Mara was the flexibility they have to the guests’ requirements. My daily activities were completely at my own choice – there is no ‘set itinerary’ here! You arrange with your private butler and the camp manager what you would like to do each day, and your requests are fulfilled effortlessly by the super-efficient staff.

This is not normally logistically possible unless you take a safari lodge or house exclusively, yet here almost anything is on offer; from arranging drinks and canapés in the boma with Maasai dancers, sundowners in the bush, picnic breakfasts lunches out on game drive, to special BBQ dinners in the bush – it’s all there and it’s all possible and elevates your safari from the ordinary to the extraordinary!

 


I had asked to take a morning game drive so my butler James (who was simply superb!) gently tapped on the door of my tent early in the morning and left me some steaming hot coffee as I had requested. My guide and I then drove around 30 minutes through the concession before we reached the Maasai Mara, spotting the birds and wildlife along the way.

My guide was Watson who is a charming chap and an excellent guide – he has a passion for birding and pointed many different species out to me on the way. In the Mara we saw several herds of elephant, lots of zebra, giraffe, impala, topi, warthog and three male lions who had just killed a buffalo! The following morning we also saw a pride of three lionesses stalking a topi, as well as many other species.

 


In the afternoon I took a walking safari into the concession with Watson and Leoporre, to look at plants and learn more about the Maasai culture. We came across a herd of around 30 giraffe - many with young calves - grazing on the trees.

Watson also pointed out to me a narina trogon, a greater honeyguide, a ground hornbill taking three frogs back to the female, a tawny eagle, sunbirds, shrikes, pipits, larks and a multitude of other wonderful birds!

 


Each day the food that was prepared by the chefs was a complete delight, whether it was a picnic breakfast of fruit, granola and yogurt with fresh fruit juices whilst out on game drive, or delicious chilled soup and salads lunch served in the lodge itself.

One afternoon I was feeling tired and requested to eat in my room; as with everything else nothing was too much trouble and a delicious supper was delivered which I enjoyed whilst watching the sun set over the Mara plains – perfect!

 


Caroline the masseuse was excellent and a massage was the perfect way to unwind after a busy afternoon on a walking safari. Additionally one can swim in the open air swimming pool at the pavilion or work out in the gym, which has foldaway glass doors so can be open to the bush and those magnificent views.

Angama Mara also employs a group of Maasai ladies who come to the lodge to do beadwork and will make anything for you – you simply have to say what you would like! Children always love to sit with them and see how they work and even try to their own creations.

 


Family safaris at Angama Mara

Angama Mara will accept children from 6 years old - and children love it here! The way that they operate fits seamlessly around families; their completely flexible approach to activities means that you can do exactly what suits you on each day.

The South Lodge is the closest to the main pavilion which houses the swimming pool, gym, library, shop and central verandah, so if your family would make use of these then the South Lodge would be the best of the two camps in which to stay. They can offer some interconnected suites so that children can have their own room but still be connected to the adults’ tents.

 


 

Angama Mara allows children to fall in love with the wilderness of Africa whilst staying in a comfortable and safe home-from-home. Children and teenagers love not only seeing the wildlife but also connecting with the local communities.

The children are always kept very busy and the staff will keep them entertained for you while the adults can relax or go on a game drive – childcare is included in your stay. Additionally the chefs tailor-make the children’s favourite foods for each meal!

Some of the children’s activities that the staff will entertain them with include:

  • Fishing, tadpoling and frogging in the dam,
  • Nature walks with Maasai guides to look for bugs and animal tracks,
  • Beading with the Maasai ladies,
  • Learning how to throw a spear with a Maasai warrior,
  • Making bread and ice-cream in the kitchen,
  • Visiting local village schools,
  • Stargazing with toasted s’mores by the campfire,
  • Reading in the library, watching DVDs and playing board games.

 


What else is on offer at Angama Mara?

The staff are some of the warmest people I have had the pleasure of meeting and nothing is too much trouble, so if there is something that you want to do, just ask them! Some of the most popular activities include:

  • Swimming in the infinity pool,
  • ‘Out of Africa’ picnics on the nearby kopje that is featured in the Out of Africa movie poster,
  • Sundowners in the traditional Maasai boma and watch a performance of Maasai singing, dancing and jumping,
  • Bush BBQ out in the lantern-lit forest clearing. This is fun, relaxed and delicious,
  • Visiting a Maasai village and gain a deeper understanding of their everyday lives,
  • If you wish, the camp manager can arrange with a partner company for you to take a hot-air balloon ride over the Maasai Mara, drifting across the plains as the sun rises.

 


  • Viewing the Great Migration when the wildebeest and the predators that follow them pass through this section of the Maasai Mara,
  • Walking safaris on the concession with your expert guides,
  • Game drives,
  • Picnic lunches, breakfasts or dinners on game drive,
  • Taking a private Shamba-to-table lunch in the Angama vegetable gardens, picking your own ingredients which the chefs will use to create the freshest salad imaginable!
  • Working out in the gym which can be open to the bush and the marvellous views,
  • Swimming in the infinity pool,
  • Beauty and body treatments in the privacy of your tented suite,
  • Taking an ‘armchair safari’ from your own deck, sitting in the rocking chair with your binoculars watching the wildlife on the plains below,
  • Spending time in the photographic studio with the resident professional wildlife photographer for advice and tuition on snapping the best safari images.

 


Sustainability and Philanthropy at Angama Mara

Angama Mara take their responsibility to the environment and to local communities very seriously. I was delighted to learn that they have a strong relationship with the local communities and contribute to local conservation schemes.

Local and sustainable procurement: Last year, they opened a Shamba (Swahili for garden), which is a one-acre fruit and vegetable garden where we grow our own produce. What they can't grow on-site, Angama Mara buy in from local grassroots suppliers, supporting local small businesses.

Environmental footprint: Angama Mara initiated a single-use plastic policy two years ago. A reverse-osmosis water plant coupled with reusable drinks bottles are given to guests which has prevented nearly 100,000 plastic water bottles being disposed of in four years. Any unavoidable plastic waste is used to create eco-bricks which has then been used to create raised beds in their new Shamba. Other recyclable waste is sent to Nairobi for recycling.

 


Work Force: Of the 129 lodge staff, all but three are Kenyan, and further to this, 80% are Maasai and from the neighbouring communities. Angama Mara train and upskill their staff wherever possible and indeed, 23 of their current staff started as builders when the lodge was constructed in 2013.

They reskilled the builders and employed them as askaris (security), chefs, butlers and even a fully qualified safari guide. Furthermore, eight Maasai women from the neighbouring community are employed to work in Angama’s Beading Studio.

Community Support: Since the establishment of the Angama Foundation, they have built an on-site clinic to service guests, staff and the surrounding community. Medical outreach is run in neighbouring communities working with the Anne K. Taylor Fund.

800 community members have recently undergone screening and received treatment for medical conditions.

The lodge has also built classrooms, teachers’ accommodation and ablutions at nearby schools, and also run a scholarship programme for the top students from three nearby primary schools. 

 


Conservation and Biodiversity: Angama Mara are currently taking part in three main conservation projects.

  • The lodge funds a rhino anti-poaching vehicle for the Mara Conservancy and pays for all the ongoing staffing and operating costs,
  • Working with the Anne K. Taylor Fund they are contributing to the predator-resistant boma project which are built to last and have a 99% success rate in protecting livestock. To date, seven bomas have been built near Angama Mara, with a further four currently under construction and more to come in the future. In the rare instance that an animal is lost to predation, the community member is compensated financially for the loss of their cattle to avoid killing of predators for retribution,
  • Most recently, they have begun to support the Mara Elephant Project (MEP) by providing the funding for collaring and ongoing tracking of a 25-year old male elephant which MEP has since named "Fitz” after Angama Mara’s late co-founder, Steve Fitzgerald. This data will be used to manage human/elephant conflict in the area. 

 


I have to say, Angama Mara took me by surprise! The combination of those views (frankly, the best in the Mara), the staff’s warmth and efficiency (I have never come across such as slick operation in my life!), the fantastic food and wine and of course the proximity to the wildlife of the Maasai Mara made for an astoundingly enjoyable experience. Please do contact me you would like some more information.

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