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Many safari lodges draw on the iconic movie Out of Africa to paint a picture of what it will be like to stay the night: sweeping landscapes, endless skies, abundant wildlife, and the romance of an African adventure. The brand new Angama Mara, which opened on June 14, can be specific in its references to the 1985 movie in ways that no others can: the kopje (a small hill) that was the backdrop of the Out of Africa movie poster and where a number of scenes were filmed is part of the lodge’s property.
Before even laying eyes on our African safari camp in Kenya's Masai Mara region, we had quite a few beliefs and expectations for the property. We had heard so many terms to describe them - "glamping" comes to mind - and given the price tag that sits between $500-$1000 a night, we figured we would be completely out of touch with the wilderness, whisked away from reality and into another world as it tends to go at high-end luxury hotels in cities.
But that turned out to be far from the truth, and a few things surprised us about our stay at Mara Plains Camp.
There is a process that goes along with writing about a hotel, and the photos we present on the site are a big part of it. We always strive to use original photos that we personally took, but because the most important thing is to show the hotel as accurately as possible, this travel writer also peruses the website of the property as well as the rest of the Internet to see if there is something that would better accomplish that goal.
So with a story in mind about the Giraffe Manor Hotel in Kenya, I made my way onto social media to look for some good photos.
Yet the problem most of the time with stock photos of hotels is that they don't represent reality, typically involving dramatized situations, like a woman whipping her hips across the edge of an infinity pool, a rose-petaled bedspread, or a picture of a random plant. They try to tell a story, but you can just feel the phoniness. The same goes for a hotel's social media pages since most hotels just repost whatever is on the website.
When I began to browse the Giraffe Manor's Facebook page, the interaction between the guests and the giraffes seemed so overdone. Until I looked up towards the right hand corner and realized the photos had all been posted on the hotel's wall by guests. When I figured out that they are real and taken by a regular person and not a photographer hired by the hotel, I had trouble holding back a smile. I am not a big supporter of zoos or animal captivity, but it helps that the manor was originally set up as a breeding center for the endangered Rothschild Giraffe.
Safari Hotels / Kenya Hotels / Africa Hotels / Laikipia Hotels / Sanctuary at Ol Lentille / → All Tags
The first thing you'll notice upon arrival at the Sanctuary at Ol Lentille is the panoramic view of the Northern Kenya landscape. Filled with rolling hills and acacia trees, the camps of the Laikipia region offer travelers the chance to look down on a safari region, an incredible perspective that differs greatly from the scenery found on the flat savannas of the Masai Mara (see our bro Jaunted's breakdown of the two regions).
Because Laikipia is dry and hilly, it is unsuitable for many animals, such as lions. But what it lacks in wildlife it makes up for with sweeping views and cultural experiences not as easily accessed in other safari regions. Specifically, we're talking about the direct connection between the Sanctuary at Ol Lentille and the Maasai Tribe that inhabits the area.
Earlier this week, we gave you a look inside the Medina Palms on the coast of Kenya, showing photos of its beautiful property and relaxing rooms.
The sight of the ocean through the arch beyond the pool is impressive and could be considered a killer view, but the best view as far as the ladies are concerned is found inside the small fitness center at the north end of the property, where a former "Mr. Kenya" bodybuilding champion, Salim Kazungu, helps guests stay in shape.
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During our trip to Kenya, we stayed in a variety of safari camps in the Masai Mara, Laikipia, and Nairobi reserves. As you'll see next week when we begin to highlight them, each camp is a little bit different in terms of what it offers in design, decor, service, and food.
Despite those differences, one amenity was common and consistent throughout. Because the camp rooms are all open air and the nights can get chilly, a hot water bag is placed in the sheets during turn-down service. The bag is soft and covered with a liner that keeps it insulated, welcoming those who return to their rooms after dinner with warm sheets. Depending on your preference, you can either lay on it, next to it, or simply remove it and enjoy the heat it has already created under the covers.
The mention of "Kenya" understandably raises thoughts of a safari vacation for travelers from the States, but the country's coast is also a popular destination amongst locals and European travelers, from Lamu in the north down to Kilifi in the south. Our recent adventures took us to a town just north of the latter, Watamu, where we made our home at property called Medina Palms, designed after the atmosphere of an ancient walled village.
The property's primary focus is a residential one with privately-owned villas and suites, but when the owners are not there, the units are rented out to visitors. The decor is very clean and modern, the rooms featuring highlights of color against a mainly white backdrop. Room types include garden-view suites, penthouses with inner courtyards, and beach villas. All accommodations have separate kitchens, lounge areas, a veranda, and wifi.
This week, HotelChatter's Will McGough is touring around Kenya to check out the latest happenings at some of the safari camps throughout the country. The tour started and will finish in Nairobi, but there will be visits to the Laikipia, Masai Mara, and Watamu (Mombasa) regions along the way.
Next week, we'll feature a few properties and give you the scoop on what to expect in terms of lodging within the different regions. We'll also pass on anything unique about specific properties, from service to decor, and of course have plenty of photos. But for now, feast your eyes on this incredible view from the Sanctuary at Ol Lentille.
Just as the Great House on Necker Island is open again for business, is Richard Branson expanding his exclusive Virgin Limited Edition collection of billionaire-worthy escapes and toys (Necker Nymph anyone?). The place is called Mahala Mzuri, in the Maasai Mara region of southern Kenya, a name that means ‘beautiful place’ in Swahili.
The traditional Maasai ceremony to celebrate the opening took place at the end of last month, and Branson participated as recognised Maasai Elder, which he became six years ago. Who knew?
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It sounds like breakfast at Giraffe Manor is well worth getting up for—and not just for the coffee. Located in Nairobi, the 140-acre estate is home to eight endangered Rothschild giraffes, which are apparently some of the rarest on earth. And in the mornings, they like to put on a little show.
Guests are discouraged from approaching the animals as they roam the land, but it's a whole different story at 9am when the giraffes show up outside the hotel, poke their heads in through the windows and eat directly off the table like humans. Apparently, the protein pellets the kitchen serves up are some of the best in the area.