The short safari in Maasai Mara had to be the fulcrum of our journey for the twentieth wedding anniversary. In February there isn’t the famous migration (it seems to me that big herds are moving in Tanzania), but we were not interested in an astonishing event. It was our first safari, and I was searching for an unforgettable stay, not in a popular lodge, but in a romantic, high-end tented camp.
I immediately spotted Asilia Africa camps; they are very beautiful and made with attention to the smallest details. Especially Naboisho Camp is a new little camp, not situated in the National Park, but in a neighbouring, not crowded conservancy, densely wooded with acacia.
In these conservancies it is possible to make walking safaris, unlike the National Park, packed by cars with a lot of “paparazzi”…
I contacted a responsible of Asilia Africa, who suggested me to address to True Africa Tanzanian agency, for booking flights and stay. The general manager Tom was very precise and accurate in booking, and he added the “Flying doctors” insurance for emergency evacuation. He sent me all the travel informations and answered all my questions. The only mishap was the confirmation of the return flight from Malindi, booked in advance and then cancelled because there were not enough passengers, but I think it was a problem caused by the airline company Mombasa Air Safari.
So we changed flight and we choosed to leave from Diani (Ukunda airstrip) and return to Mombasa, because I had already booked the hotel in Watamu, for the last three nights.
The outward flight leaved on time, indeed half an hour early.
It was an aircraft of 32 seats, very well piloted (we did three landings in the Mara). The journey took about 2 ½ hours, with a breathtaking view of the region, including the snowy peaks of Mount Kilimanjaro and the Natron, a saline lake in a lunar environment ...
Third landing, Olkiombo airstrip. We were received by the huge smile of Benjamin, our guide, with Christine, a girl twenty years old, who is doing a training in Naboisho, because she studies at the local school for the guides, the meritorious Koiyaki Guiding School.
Benjamin and Christine belong to the Maasai people and they are great: smiling, helpful, capable and competent. It's been an honour to make their acquaintance and a pleasure to travel with them on the comfortable and well equipped jeep. During our trips we chatted about everything: from habits of elephants, zebras and buffaloes, to the mozzarella PDO (!); from the behavior of melting lions , to the the Shakespeare's drama “Romeo and Juliet”...
The journey to the camp lasted nearly two hours, but it was a real game drive, with stops and turns to find the lioness that Benjamin had seen while coming to pick us. For us, everything was new and wonderful. The close encounter with the lioness, quiet and sleepy, was exciting. From an open, flat land, we arrived in the area of Naboisho Camp, more undulating and shaded by acacia trees.
The welcome was warm and friendly. All the staff was introduced, and while our luggage was placed in the tent we had a little chat with Helen, the wife of Roelof, manager of the camp. The young couple come from Johannesburg and have a very particular way of life. They host this wonderful camp, living there with two adorable young daughters.
We made a pleasant discovery: we were the only guests, for those three days. The largest tent has been assigned to us and we had all the staff at our disposal. We felt pampered and protected, but the most important thing was the feeling of being welcome visitors, not "bwana" tourists, only served and tolerated because they paid for.
This feeling has been with us throughout our stay, and we have to thank Roelof, who made his best to organize all the excursions we prefer, though his little daughter, just 14 months, had a high fever and had to be transferred by air to hospital in Nairobi, with his mother. Roelof is very friendly and competent. And the habit of sharing meals in the dining room or under the trees is nice; you can talk about everything, practicing your English, and also receive some useful lessons in photography!
The tent: superb, just look at the pictures. There is nothing for granted, everything is perfect: the plaid on the chaise longue in the verandah, the shower gel, shampoo and body lotion geranium-scented, enclosed in aluminum bottles decorated with shells, the hot water bottle under the covers at night, the washing line decorated with little pearls, the thermos always filled with hot water on the sink, the perfect shower, inside or outside the tent, with cold, warm or hot water, specially prepared after a phone call by the guide, prior to our arrival at camp. Every desire is not satisfied: it is simply anticipated! And will remain in the memory the sweet smile of Jackson, welcoming us after the safari with wet and warm towels for the hands and the face, and preparing tea in the comfortable living room, accompanied by fainting brownies…
First evening. After a pleasant game drive, during which we meet giraffes, buffaloes, elephants, gazelles and antelopes, dik-dik and many types of birds, we get closer to a small hill to enjoy the last light of the sun. Benjamin hears a strange cry of jackals, and soon he realizes that nearby there is a big predator. Down the jeep and filled the glasses for drinks, we see the two jackals and a hyena approaching cautiously. Benjamin immediately spot the leopard, jumping on a big tree with a gazelle in its jaws. We come back in the jeep and get closer. We did not see the sunset (but there is a great sundown every night, and even more spectacular sunrise every morning), but seeing one of the "big five" just the first day was absurdly beautiful.
First night. A concert, a symphony. The verse of the hyena and the roar of lions: unforgettable.
Day two. In the morning, a beautiful walking safari, accompanied by Roelof and by a ranger with a rifle. We did not do special sightings (the lions were not far away, but well hidden in the bushes), but it was great to walk on this wonderful land, breathe the fresh air, hear the swishes, look for tracks. A small gazelle ran like a rocket toward us, chased by a jackal who could not take her. An old elephant was giving lessons to his pupil, while he protected him and helped him. Vultures hovered silently above us. The bees made quietly their honey, on the top of acacia trees…
In the afternoon, we crossed by car a beautiful meadow, with zebras, wildebeest and ostriches. We had a close encounter with a huge elephant, a "big bull”, as they call them. He was lying under a tree, appeared to be dead. We approach them with the jeep. He gets up and pretends nothing has happened, then he turns around, waving the enormous ears and comes closer menacingly. Benjamin back up like a rocket, awesome! It was there that I explained the importance of the proverb: "Don’t wake up a sleeping dog"…
The aperitif at sunset, along the bend of a small river, was truly romantic. There was also our sparkling white wine from South Africa, exotic fruits-scented… The return by the dark, with the headlamp carried by Christine, allowed us to see the bright red eyes of small bush-babies among the acacias, and the hyenas moving in the bush.
Day three. A full day game drive in the National Park. The entrance fee to the Park was not included in the arrangement, but it was offered to us, as well as all the extras. It's been a long journey in the savannah, on the banks of the Mara River to see hippos and crocodiles, warthogs, marabou storks, zebras, elands... We saw a lonely, hurted lioness , by her sweet look of resignation. We peered through binoculars between the roots of a tree, to find mother leopard with her cubs. We were looking for the rhino, the only one of the “big five” that we had not seen yet, but we had no luck. It was hot and he did’nt come to wallow in the mud. We had lunch under a lonely acacia in the middle of the prairie, evicting a family of poor warthogs overheated. In the afternoon, to return, we met three young brothers cheetahs, however a little pressed by the presence of other jeeps. Then the lions during the siesta. What can I say? The "melting lions", the big male in abstinence from food because of this loving period, and his beauty, a little difficult and simpering, gave us romantic and spectacular pictures.
Day four. Visit to a Maasai village and to the local primary school. I very much enjoyed this excursion, because we went to visit a family of three brothers, with their wives and their many children. We were visitors, not tourists. Nobody had anything to sell, but we were greeted simply and with dignity in a home of cow dung, we picked up some of their tools, we admired their cattle, and laid our hand upon the heads of their children, as a sign of greeting.
Benjamin and Christine were fantastic. They explained many things. They are a sign that it is possible, for the Maasai people, to grow and advance in the knowledge that their precious land needs to be protected, it needs educated people who do not go to Nairobi or on the touristic coast, lost in painful trade like drugs, weapons or prostitution. The development of tourism in Kenya can be a great resource if it don’t becomes overexploitation of territories and people.
And the work that the local primary school is doing, is really important. We met the children, divided in their classrooms, sitting at their desks, with their uniforms a little worn, their books, pens and notebooks. Benjamin is thirty years old, and says that his school was under the trees, with simple crock to write on the ground. The teacher of Benjamin, Robert, is now the director of the school. They have a kitchen garden to grow vegetables to feed their children. They have plenty of space for recreation, children can safely play football and they can race breathlessly. They are trying to complete all of the primary classes, building two apartments for the teachers, who must live at the school. It 'a real mission, a challenge for the future of these people.
Return to the camp, quick lunch, trip on the big jeep with Roelof and his blonde little girl (it's the first time we see her, because the father did not want to disturb the guests!). We are going to the airport. A small plane of 14 seats is expecting for us; it is leaving just half an hour early, driven by an energetic veiled woman. We're leaving, with a lump in our throat. They are waiting for mummy and healed sister.
Thanks, it was an unforgettable experience.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Set in the 210 km² private Mara Naboisho Conservancy, Naboisho Camp offers spectacular game viewing, from the herds of antelope that dot the plains of this wilderness corridor throughout the year to the high concentrations of predators, including lion and cheetah. But the real magic of Naboisho is its sheer exclusivity - you'll experience a level of safari solitude and serenity simply unheard of in the busy Serengeti and Maasai Mara reserves. With just nine spacious tented suites, Naboisho is an intimate and elegant safari camp that balances your wilderness experience with discreet creature comforts. Even better, it is one of just two Asilia camps where you have the option of fly camping. If you have a truly adventurous spirit, don't miss out on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to immerse yourself in the magic of the African bush. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Naboisho Camp, Asilia Africa Hotel Maasai Mara National Reserve
- Naboisho Camp, Asilia Africa Kenya/Masai Mara National Reserve