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6 Kenya Safari Lodges That Promise Views of Kilimanjaro and Wildlife Encounters

This collection of six Kenya safari lodges features some of the best East Africa has to offer from views of Kilimanjaro to encounters with wildlife.

When I began planning my trip to Kenya, I knew I wanted to see one thing — cats. I had dreams of spotting lions, cheetahs, and leopards. We had just arrived in the Maasai Mara from our previous tent camp in Tsavo West National Park, a lush jungle in comparison to the rolling plains and dust of the Mara, without a single sighting. We were already a week into our trip and I was beginning to think I would go home without seeing the big cats when our guide pointed. “Look!” I didn’t see anything, but his expert eyes, which have spent years spotting lions on the Kenyan savannah, knew right away we were approaching two big-maned brothers cleaning up after a warthog feast.

Dreaming of unlocking your inner Karen Blixen and planning a once-in-a-lifetime safari adventure? This collection of six luxury camps in Kenya features some of the best East Africa has to offer from unobstructed views of towering Kilimanjaro to face-to-face encounters with wildlife and top-of-the-line service (think custom meal plans and cocktails on demand). Apply for your travel visa now and start planning.

Safari Like Sir Richard Branson

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When Sir Richard Branson was choosing a location for his next Virgin Limited Edition property, the Kenyan bush was calling. Situated in the Olare Motorogi Conservancy, part of the greater Maasai Mara ecosystem, sits Branson’s luxury safari camp — Mahali Mzuri, which means ‘beautiful place’ in Swahili. Aptly named, this 12-tented luxury property is perched atop a cliff, which provides unobstructed views of the migrating animals from neighboring hills into the deep valley below. Each tent includes a seating area, en suite bathroom, and large deck to enjoy the peaceful the surroundings, and comes equipped with bathrobes, a complimentary mini-bar, sunscreen, insect repellent and ponchos (the mornings and evenings can be quite chilly).

The camp offers a laid-back atmosphere, with all-inclusive meals and drinks, as well as a “help yourself” open bar, which fosters the ‘home away from home’ feeling Branson hoped to achieve. Two times per day, expert Maasai guides take guests on 4×4 game viewing drives through the conservancy, complete with coolers packed full of Tusker (a local beer), champagne, and complimentary snacks. Sitting in the seat behind the driver will offer the best position for hearing your guide, but the seats in the back offer the best vantage point.

With a maximum of 24 guests at any time, Mahali Mzuri is an intimate safari experience that defines luxury in Africa’s most famous wildlife park for adults and children over six.

Mahali Mzuri All Inclusive

Top rated
Narok, 13.7 miles to Masai Mara National Reserve
8.6 Excellent (12 reviews)
Excellent Service 9 / 10
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Out Of Africa

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If you’ve read Out Of Africa, Finch Hatton might sound like a familiar name. At the base of Chyulu Hills in Tsavo West National Park, Finch Hattons is an eco-luxury safari camp rich in history and committed to conservation. After an extensive renovation in 2015, the camp features 17 luxury tented suites including a pair of two-bedroom suites and a presidential suite. If possible, book the Finch Hattons Suite, which comes equipped with a private plunge pool and a direct view of a watering hole where resident hippos and elephants come to bathe in the morning hours. The decor of the camp fuses rustic African design with curated modern amenities, creating a feeling of luxurious charm without being over-the-top. An eco-forward bonus? The entire property runs on a generator that is switched off for a few hours per day to foster sustainability.

Because Tsavo West is naturally lush, the animals on game drives and bush walks are not as easy to see as in other parks, but it makes spotting one more rewarding. Be on the lookout for Iltilal, the oldest male elephant in Tsavo West, and his clan of younger male bodyguards as well as the wild dogs in the neighboring Rhino Valley.

While your focus will inevitably be on the wildlife spotting, Finch Hattons puts care into each and every detail — namely your meals. Bush breakfasts (breakfast served in the park), sundowners (a traditional sunset happy hour), and rooftop dinners served under the stars all come custom-prepared by Chef Kennedy and his staff to suit dietary desires.

Finch Hattons

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Travel Like Teddy

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Situated on its own 7,000-acre game concession, Cottar’s 1920’s Safari Camp is owned and operated by the Cottar family, whose strong safari roots date back to the early 1900s when Charles Cottar, inspired by President Theodore Roosevelt’s accounts of big game hunting expeditions, moved his family to Kenya. Eight decades later, Cottars was born.

The luxury camp features four 1920s-style ensuite tents, a honeymoon tent that boasts a private veranda, four tented family suites that include two bedrooms, a sitting room and a dining room, as well as a private bush villa, which can accommodate up to 12 guests in five bedrooms. Set amongst the hills adjoining the Serengeti and Maasai Mara game reserves, Cottars’ decor is a nod to traditional African design with neutral and earthy shades. And thanks to the communal dining policy, you can discuss these memorable aesthetics with fellow camp guests and share stories of what animals you spotted during drives.

Make time to do a bush walk or experience a drive with Cottars’ highly-qualified guides, two of whom are Gold-level KPSGA (Kenya Professional Safari Guide) certified, a distinction that takes nine years to achieve to ensure well-grounded knowledge supported by practical experience. Unlike other luxury camps, Cottars welcomes families with children of all ages to visit and encourages family safari by arranging early meals, children’s activities, and offering an on-site nanny free of charge for parents seeking to recharge.

Cottar´s 1920s Camp

Narok, 32.4 miles to Masai Mara National Reserve
Excellent Service 8.8 / 10
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"Red Rocker Safaris"

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Located high above the floor of Africa’s Great Rift Valley, Angama Mara overlooks Kenya’s famed Maasai Mara, and is the crowning achievement of husband-and-wife duo Steve and Nicky Fitzgerald, who’ve built and operated more than 60 lodges across Africa and India before Steve’s death in 2017. Angama Mara serves as Steve’s legacy and today, Nicky acts as a hands-on CEO, helping to map each guest’s stay into the bespoke safari adventure of their dreams.

In planning the luxurious property, architects Silvio Rech and Lesley Carstens designed each of Angama Mara’s 30 tented suites (separated into two 15-tent camps) with floor-to-ceiling glass fronts — granting guests 180-degree views of the animals, sunrises, and hot air balloons floating by — while allowing for complete privacy with canvas walls on the remaining three sides. Forgoing traditional muted decor colors, the Fitzgeralds wanted pops of red throughout the camp, an ode to the revered Maasai hue, including red rocking chairs on each tent’s deck, dubbed “red rocker safaris” since guests have a superior vantage point of the game from their suites.

Families traveling with children (six years of age and older are welcome) are encouraged to book the interconnecting tents, which allow kids to run freely between two connected tents safely (and in total privacy). For parents wanting some alone time, on-site childcare is available.

Foodies visiting Angama Mara should get ready to eat. Guests can expect epicurean delights up to 12 times per day ranging from a welcome snack of spiced cashews and cookies to lunch by the pool, afternoon tea, cucumber sandwiches, and a sunset toast with bitings (a word used for snacks throughout East Africa).

Angama Mara - All Inclusive

Narok, 7.5 miles to Masai Mara National Reserve
Excellent Service 8.8 / 10
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Eco-Luxury

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Part of the distinctive Elewana Collection, 15 boutique lodges and camps renowned for their unique accommodations in iconic locations throughout East Africa, Tortilis Safari Camp is situated in the heart of Amboseli National Park. Home to more than 1,500 elephants and with the world’s highest free-standing mountain, Kilimanjaro, serving as a backdrop, Tortilis’ location almost appears too majestic to be real at first glance.

The camp was the first eco-luxury camp in Kenya when it opened in 1994 and features 16 tents, all with direct views of the snow-capped mountain. Guided by principles to minimize their ecological footprint, Tortilis adheres to strict environmental policies and became the first boutique property to be 100 percent solar powered.

Because the elephants of Amboseli are celebrated across the country, Tortilis guides are intimately familiar with individual elephants, and their family relationships as well as the territory of resident lions and other local game. Bush walks are led by knowledgeable Maasai guides from the local community who have been walking the plains of Amboseli since childhood and are able to identify details that might be otherwise overlooked, like tracks and dung beetles to identify animals.

Tortilis Camp

Excellent Location 8.7 / 10
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Where Lions Roam

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Spacious tents with indoor and outdoor showers and game-viewing decks, campfire cocktails, and in-room spa treatments are just a few of the details that make Olare Mara Kempinski so unique. That said, the real draw to this luxury camp is the location in Olare Orok Conservancy, which has a higher density of lions than any other area within the greater Mara region due to the nutrient-dense soil. Because the rich soil produces a lush grass that attracts a high number of herbivores, predators like lions and other cats, are drawn to the area, making this protected conservancy an optimal location for visitors to enjoy a flourishing ecosystem.

Olare Mara Kempinski

Narok, 10.4 miles to Masai Mara National Reserve
7.3 Default (13 reviews)
Excellent Cleanliness 8.7 / 10
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Feature image courtesy of Ron Dauphin, Unsplash