Richard Branson’s Safari Lodge
Richard Branson’s spectacular 12-tent camp, Mahali Mzuri (meaning ‘beautiful place’ in Swahili) on the Motorogi Conservancy on the northern edge of the Maasai Mara will create an experience that becomes part of your family folklore. Not only is there the colourful array of animals that will capitvate your children, but it also gives kids the chance to properly interact with the Maasai Mara tribes people – who are expert wildlife guides – at the camp, or take a visit to their bomas (villages) to learn about the importance of bore holes or see how basic but effective their one-room school houses can be.
Who is it good for: Children must be over eight to stay at the camp. They are able to join their parents on game drives, but must be 12 years to go on a walking safari. The amazing thing about this camp is that you can see so much from its setting over the valley (where the Ntiakitiak River eventually runs into the River Nile). We saw a lion fell a wildebeest whilst enjoying a glass of crisp white wine.
As well as game drives there are children’s treasure hunts to test tracking skills around camp, photography lessons and cooking. The semi-alfresco lounge with its tartans and squishy sofas has kids books, TV, DVD player and games console, plus a fabulous telescope. Every child is given a welcome backpack stuffed full of goodies, and at bedtime there are stories featuring African animals read round the communal fire or a viewing of the Lion King. Cool off in the gorgeous infinity pool where you can watch the game while having a dip, and parents will love the Nasaro Spa tent and treatments using Africology ethical skin care products.
Food: Aussie operations manager, Liam Breedveld used to be head chef on Branson’s Necker Island and is a dab hand at suggesting the most delicious food tailored to you and your kids’ tastes. There’s a fabulous communal table overlooking the valley, or you could be treated to a lantern lit dinner in the bush with famous Maasai jumping around a bonfire (there is child-minding by members of staff if parents want an evening off).
From a distance the 12 high-tech tents look like space-age sting rays hovering on the valley ridge, set cleverly just above the path of animals including the world famous annual Great Migration (July to October). Two tents are especially adapted for families with a separate enclosed sitting room converting into a second bedroom. Kids will love the Maasai rubber duck on the roll top bath overlooking the valley and the ‘do not disturb’ spear outside the tent; whilst parents will relish the stylish interiors where stripy ticking meets African prints. Beds are four-posterand vast decks fit all the family. The decadent bottle of Moët Chandon (plus tea and coffee and soft drinks) also goes down a treat.
Top tip: Getting to Mahali Mzuri can be arduous for kids as it involves an overnight flight to Nairobi, a drive across the city to Wilson Airport for the 45-minute flight with SafariLink to the Mara North Conservancy Airstrip (though this is hugely exciting in a 18-ish seater Cessna or DeHavilland where you can see game from the skies), followed by a good hour’s drive to get to Mahali Mzuri. So take the opportunity to break up the journey and stay a night or two at Giraffe Manor in Nairobi, a 1930s English-style manor house which kids adore as real live giraffes stick their heads through the windows as you’re having breakfast.
Fabulous fact: Did you know that Richard Branson is a Maasai Elder?
Price: Three nights in Mahali Mzuri with Virgin Holidays, including scheduled flights with Kenya Airlines from London Heathrow direct to Nairobi, accommodation at the 5V Mahali Mzuri on an all-inclusive basis with transfers included starts from £2,049 per adult and £1,325 per child.
Price is per person based on two adults and two children (under 12) travelling and sharing an individual tent, including all taxes and fuel surcharges (which are subject to change).