When we walked into our room in the lodge at Maasai Mara, I was simultaneously enchanted and mildly disappointed. Enchanted, because of the balcony which looked over a seemingly endless plain, with the Mara river faintly visible in the distance, and mildly disappointed at the size of the room, compared to the “tent” we had in Amboseli. Later, when we heard lions roaring at night, the sturdiness of the door which you see in the featured photo would become a major point of concern for The Family. As it turned out, we spent very little time in the room, and I thought I was quite satisfied with it.
I can’t say that experience of two safari lodges has given me any insight into the design of such facilities, but what I did notice was the effort that is made to blend in. This one sat on top of an escarpment, and was surrounded w=by giant masts for antennae. Someone had the interesting idea of disguising them as trees. It is laughable, because the masts were so much higher than trees, but at the same time, the idea was charming. The artificial lines of the lodge were almost hidden by the artfully placed trees around it. The disturbance to the local ecosystem was small enough that we could do a bit of bird-watching at breakfast.
I liked the colour scheme that had been chosen. The aesthetics of the earth colours was local, and the design elements of wavy lines and spots was also something I’d seen used by local artists many times. This skylight at the reception was eye-catching. This lodge was the closest to the equator that we’d spent: it was 1 degree, 24 minutes, and 9 seconds south of the equator, according to a board outside the lobby. The reason I was comfortable in a jacket after sundown was because we were also 1625 meters above mean sea level. Most of Kenya seems to have much more pleasant weather than India.
The Family and I agreed that the dining area was nice. The bright colour scheme and large doors made sure that there was always enough natural light during the day. If you wanted, you could take your food out into the balconies. The grasslands of Africa are not home to monkeys, so there was no chance that your food would be stolen, or worse, that you would be held hostage by a tribe of monkeys. Birds hopped on to the table as we ate, but they didn’t seem to be particularly interested in our food. This was a lodge we wouldn’t mind going back to.
When we came to Amboseli national park, I was looking forward to my first experience of a safari lodge in Kenya. I’d read about some really nice parks, and also browsed a few websites and seen some really basic ones listed as well. Eventually I’d left the local arrangement to Father of Niece Tatu, because he said his travel agent had always found decent places to stay in and decent wildlife guides. On a stop during the drive however, he looked a little worried and said that he hoped the food was good. The road had been extremely dusty, and there was a pall of dust hanging in front of the hotel’s gate.
Most of the hotel was set some way back from the gate, behind a dense screen of acacia trees. The dust did not penetrate far. When we checked in the reception told us that they have deluxe tents for us. In India we have stayed in tents now and then, and they tend to be a little crowded. It was just one night though, I told myself. But Kenya is different. The tent looked like a big stand alone room from outside; I could see a well painted wooden framework and lath. “Tent?” I asked The Family as our little luggage was deposited in an enormous room of which the four-poster bed took up less than half the area. I forgot to take a photo until we returned in the evening, when the staff had already unfurled the mosquito net. I’m used to the Indian and Chinese style of nets, which are tucked under the mattress. These netted curtains make me nervous, since they seem to have many chinks through which mosquitoes can enter (as indeed one did that night).
The bathroom with its enormous tub was larger than many hotel rooms I’ve stayed in. The photo above also shows why this is called a tent. If you look at the roof you will see that there is canvas there. Why would you have a little touch of a tent in a room which is essentially a stand-alone cottage? It could be a touch of romance, like the not-very-useful mosquito curtain. Or it could be something about taxes levied on classes of rooms. I forgot to ask, and it does not seem worthwhile to work through Kenya’s tourism codes to figure this one out.
We were happy to find that FONT’s misgivings about the food were baseless. The buffets were excellent, as was the bar. One excellent extra were the large number of birds that you could see while sitting in the dining area or the bar. The photo above shows several blue Superb Starlings (Lamprotornis superbus), with their white eyes and a chestnut breast. The other bird is one I haven’t been able to identify yet. If you are an expert on the birds of East Africa, I would really appreciate your help.