Elsa’s Kopje is easily one of the most romantic and storied safari lodges in Kenya, part of the Elewana Collection, which operates luxury lodges in Kenya, mainland Tanzania and Zanzibar. The hotel is carved into the Mughwango Hill just above the original site of famed Kenyan wildlife conservationist George Adamson’s original camp dedicated to raising orphan lions – Adamson’s life immortalised in the 1999 movie Born Free. The luxury safari lodge is credited with reviving tourism in the remote Meru National Park, hidden in 215,000 acres of African landscapes where sightings of rhinos, elephant herds, hippos, lions and birdlife are almost a given, spotted on guided walks, game drives, day excursions to the Tana River and while enjoying private bush breakfasts and sundowners. There are six spacious cottages to choose from, honeymoon suites (two with outdoor baths), a two-bedroom family cottage and, for large groups and a two-bedroom private house with a private swimming pool.
Double occupancy cottages from about AED2,250 green season, AED3,445 mid-season, AED4,620 high season; elewanacollection.com
Angama Safari Camp, Maasai Mara
“Between heaven and earth” is how Angama Safari Camp describes itself, a luxury safari site that opened in September 2020 in the Great Rift Valley overlooking the Maasai Mara. Named after the Swahili word for ‘suspended in mid-air’, the intimate camp is an extension of renowned sister lodge Angama Mara and comprises just four safari olive-coloured canvas en-suite tents – hosting a maximum of eight people on an exclusive-use basis. The design-centric luxury ‘campsite’ is the work of renowned South African designer Annemarie Meintjes – contemporary and full of life with splashes of Maasai red, patterned headboards, brass touches and furniture – including a charming writing desk – by master-weaver John Vogel. Red rocking safari chairs sit just outside the tent for morning coffees, sundowners and front-row viewing of zebras and wildebeest herds, and a main dining tent serves hearty cuts of meat cooked over a firepit. What makes Angama Safari Camp so special is it’s a nomadic camp – thanks to its light-footprint design that allows it to pitch up wherever the animals are – particularly special during the annual migration. Add on a stay at the original Angama Mara for a truly memorable vacation.
Special offers from about AED21,000 per night (exclusive use), standard from about AED25,525, peak from about AED39,500; angama.com
Sasaab’s soothing neutral interiors, organic curves and pale blue swimming pools are an acolyte’s dream – that, and the stunning river views, tented ceilings and natural wood beds with billowing white cotton drapes. Located on the banks of the Ewaso Ng’iro River in northern Kenya, Moroccan-inspired Sasaab Samburu is truly unique in its location, with its nine luxury lodges the only ones in the area. It’s not uncommon to see a herd of elephants gathering at the riverside to drink, a spectacle that happens right in front of your lodge. Guests can also immerse themselves in the locale with 4×4 safari drives and visits to local markets with the on-site guide. As with owner Mikey Carr-Hartley’s three other properties, Sasaab’s devotion to conservation is applaudable. Staying at this luxury Kenyan safari lodge helps contribute to the future of the 600 families that make up the reserve.
From about AED3,490 per person based on double occupancy low season, AED4,855 high; thesafaricollection.com
Mahali Mzuri is nestled in the private Olare Motorogi Conservancy in the majestic plains of the Masasia Mara and is part of Richard Branson’s Virgin Limited Edition portfolio. Its name means ‘beautiful place’ in Swahili, and apt is it: twelve luxury safari tents with their far-reaching decking double as the best home seats to the wildlife roaming this great conversation land. But it’s not just about animal encounters, as the resort is full of creature comforts: a cosy lounge with open fire and a 12-metre infinity pool. This is luxury small-scale safari at its very best.
Doubles from about AED3,635 per person per night low season, AED6,245 peak, AED5,875 festive; virginlimitededition.com
Set in its own 15,000-acre conservancy, Mara Bushtops stands out amongst the impressive array of five-star tented camps in Kenya thanks to its impressive facilities and experiences extending beyond the myriad of surrounding wildlife. A dozen luxury tents are spread out across the conservancy, each with a wooden deck that overlooks the plains fitted with a telescope and sunken jacuzzi, and round-the-clock butler service to cater to guests’ every need. Outside of game drives, guests can dive into an impressive fine wine cellar, snuggle up with a book in the library, enjoy a dip in the infinity pool or retreat to the Maasai village-inspired spa.
Doubles from about AED3,930 per person based on double occupancy green season, AED4,590 high season, AED5,325 peak; bushtopcamps.com
Loldia House transports guests back to a simpler, slower time, a time of intimate hosting and personal experiences, where days were spent enjoying activities like croquet on the lawn, sipping tea and nights were spent around a roaring campfire. The luxury lodge has just four rooms housed in a grand and historic country home on a ranch in north-western Lake Naivasha in central Kenya, alongside one cottage with three rooms and one with two rooms. Life here is about connecting with nature and fellow guests and there’s a distinct communal vibe – though eating alone isn’t frowned upon. The lodge itself is charming and old-worldy and in reach of dormant volcanoes, canyons, lamps and the hot springs of the Hell’s Gate National Park. Guests can enjoy day and night game drives with friendly, knowledgeable guides, seeing animals like colobus monkeys, white rhinos, lions, leopards, and, from June to August, a million pink flamingos feeding in Lake Nakuru. On the farm, there’s tennis, golf, angling, swimming and croquet, alongside sailing and horse riding excursions.
Doubles from about AED2,830; governorscamp.com
Lewa Safari Camp
Guests at Lewa Safari Camp experience some of the most enchanting animal experiences that exist in the luxury safari world. The pint-sized resort lies in the heart of the 65,000-acre Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, home to 200 black and white rhinos plus many lions, leopards and the largest amount of Grevy’s zebra in the world. The site itself has just 11 suites and 13 family suites all done up in a traditional African safari aesthetic: thatched roofs, savanna tones, wooden roofs and private verandas with views onto the Lewa Plains. Activities are traditional too: game drives, guided walks, sundowners, bush breakfasts, and horseback rides.
Doubles from about AED1,810 green season, AED2,590 mid, AED3,990 high; elewana.com
Guests flying into Nairobi and venturing on a luxury safari in Kenya can’t miss a night or two at Giraffe Manor, the now world-famous estate just outside of the capital on the cusp of the Nairobi National Park. Even the most seasoned safari-goer will be amazed as a small herd of half-a-dozen Rothschild’s giraffes share their breakfast with you, wander, or join you in the garden for afternoon tea. A true bucket list hotel, Giraffe Manor itself looks like something out of a British storybook – a beautiful turn-of-the-century stone mansion in a leafy Nairobi suburb surrounded by 12 acres of private land. The mansion’s proximity to the National Park means game drives and safaris are also popular, and it’s possible to spot lions, black rhinos, cheetahs and more giraffes. Just 12 rooms means a waiting list as big as the Massai Mara, so it’s best to get a booking now.
Doubles from AED3,900 per adult sharing; thesafaricollection.com