Built at the site where Sydney Pollack chose to film his stunning “Out of Africa,” an adaptation of Isak Dinesen’s (aka Karen Blixen) renowned book of the same name, Angama Mara, a glorious safari lodge, sits atop a promontory that overlooks the Maasai Mara. With romantic drama and soulfulness, the retreat pays homage to the terrain and to Dinesen and her words. The resort references her throughout, whether via quotes on bookmarks or simply with a copy of her book thoughtfully left on the bedside table. As a guest here, I sense a kinship with the author, a connection to her love of Kenya. I walk through my suite, a stand-alone, tent-like safari fantasy. I’m still dusty from my game drive, so I look longingly at the big soaking tub but grab the book and head out to my immense terrace, a floating space that hovers above the golden plains, a vastness mottled with Acacia trees and kopje, those characteristic mounds that punctuate the grassland. Plopped in a rocking chair, opening the book, I look out to discern herds of elephants gathering in the distance —as if waiting for me to read to them. I’ve heard what I’m doing dubbed a “rocking chair safari,” and, indeed, I pick up some binoculars and gaze out, attempting to identify a group of antelopes, looking for towers of giraffes. A battalion of silly warthogs, their tails pointing skyward, gallop by. Everything feels in harmony.
I flip through the pages and snippets appear with miraculous serendipity. Every sentence I read matches what I feel. I note a kindred connection with Isak Dinesen, her joie d’vivre— and her Kenya. “The views were immensely wide,” I read, looking out to see it for myself. “Up in this air you breathed easily, drawing in a vital assurance and lightness of heart,” I say aloud, breathing in the sweet air, fragrant with a vague spicy wildness. “You know you are truly alive when you’re living among lions,” I whisper, thinking of Kenya’s poetic duality, the primal tension that prevails in the bush: joy and danger, intensity and calm, endings and beginnings. The landscape echoes the words back to me, and I ponder it all in awe.
Most travelers to Kenya return home with a feeling of having been transformed. It’s difficult to put into words, but something about the landscape’s vastness awakens some part of the soul. There’s no better place to embrace this experience than Angama Mara, set above the Mara Triangle, on the verge of the Great Rift Valley. Here, you have the chance to gain a deeper hold on the meaning of life.
What we love:
- The backstory: The hotel is a labor of love created by African hoteliers who understand the transformative powers of their continent and its ancient nature.
- The vibe: The retreat is intimate, with two nearly identical camps, each holding 15 standalone, tent-inspired suites that bookend a central community area. Service is personable, customized and stellar.
- The location: Teetering on a ridge above the least touristed part of the renowned Mara reserve, Angama embraces expansive views, the sort that melt into infinity, the way the ocean flows to a limitless horizon. The resort has its own road into the Maasai Mara park.
- The safaris: Brandishing the best guides, the getaway presents year-round wildlife viewing.
- The surprises: Expect guides to whip out a gourmet picnic in the middle of the grassland, cook you breakfast at cliff’s edge or lead you to a romantic spot and regale you with a dance program.
- The connection to community: Deeply entrenched in the culture and supporting the local community, Angama provides guests with many ways to immerse with locals.
Need to know:
- Angama has its own doctor and medical facility on property.
- Angama grows much of its own food organically and works at being highly sustainable.
- This is one of the only safari lodges I’ve visited that provides such a robust safari experience that one need not move around to other camps. It simply offers the gamut.
- Angama sports a lovely pool, workout room and cultural center, where you can learn local crafts and photography education under the tutelage of a resident expert.
Each room/tent, with a polished floor, soaking tub and floor-to-ceiling windows along one wall incorporate contemporary, African-made furniture, all designed to be subtly stylish and minimal so as not to compete with nature. The interiors use red accents that suggest the Maasai culture, and neutral tones, indicative of the surrounding bushland. The exteriors, though tent-like, have secure, sturdy doors and a separate closed-in foyer, ideal for pre-safari coffee delivery before dawn.
Fly to Kenya via New York on Kenya Airways. It offers a fantastic, comfortable, affordable business class and immerses you into Kenyan culture the moment you board.