Renowned safari journalist and expert Lisa Grainger recommends her favourite African camps, from savannahs teeming with Big Five, to star-lit desert wildernesses.
Recommended place to stay:
Loisaba Tented Camp by Elewana
Loisaba Conservancy, Kenya|www.elewanacollection.com|
Official star rating:
There is no other spot like this: set on an escarpment above 60,000 acres of Kenyan bush.
The stone and thatch lodge feels unpretentious and homely, but has luxuries from tennis courts, croquet lawns and a pool to star beds and a spa. A wilderness in which one can indulge the soul – watching stars, treating the body in the spa, and working off excesses on bike rides, camel treks, canoe trips and bush walks.
There are three accommodation options – luxury bedrooms in the main lodge, the tented camp, and ‘star beds’ – four-poster beds you can wheel out onto viewing platforms. The star beds feel safe, and let you enjoy bush sounds, smells and sights.
As well as the main lodge, Loisaba has a private house (once the home of an Italian countess and beautifully decorated with locally-made furniture), suitable for two couples, and a cottage that sleeps eight. Each has a private pool, staff and vehicles.
All ages are welcome. Malaria risk is low.
Much of the camp is angled around the views: dining is on a deck with a 180-degree panorama; rooms in the main lodge have French windows that open onto a private deck; and the spa has treatment tents and pools from which to contemplate the landscape.
The property looks south to Mount Kenya, and over the waterhole below. There can be few places with views as spectacular as those from Loisaba’s escarpment. And somehow, from a bubble-filled tub or a lounger after a relaxing massage, they seem even more inspiring.
Game & game viewing
The conservancy is home to more than 260 bird and 50 mammal species. The Big Five are here, although they’re not as easily seen as in the Maasai Mara, plus cheetah and wild dog.
There’s a rhino sanctuary nearby where you can see rhinos up close, and the rare Beisa Oryx is also sometimes spotted.
The Maasai and Samburu guides here have lived in the wilderness all their lives, so are excellent at spotting, tracking and identifying game. They don’t have the same standard of tracking skills as Zambian or Zimbabwean guides – but are culturally very interesting.
Camels can be saddled up to take guests into the bush to fly-camp for the night. Alternatively, short camel safaris can be taken too – a fun (if rocky) way to game view.
In season, the camp offers rafting and fishing on the river, fly-camping, walks with camels, quad-biking and even mountain biking. There’s a helicopter and helipad here; within 15 minutes you can be on Mount Kenya – or, if you’re splurging, Lake Naivasha, or even the coast for the day.
Local community & conservation
The camp employs only local Maasai and Samburu people, to ensure they benefit from tourism and pass conservation messages on to their villages. This is a true wilderness where you can indulge the soul by stargazing and spa pampering, but also up your heart rate on bike rides, camel treks, canoe trips and bush walks.
It’s a 45-minute flight from Nairobi, then a 20-minute charter flight or 2.5 hour drive (you can also drive the full five hours from Nairobi).
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