After a bumpy 40-minute propeller-plane flight from Nairobi’s Wilson Airport, I’m met by my guide Stephen and spotter David at the stretch of dry sand that makes up Keekorok Airstrip. The safari begins – throughout the 17-kilometre drive to camp, they point out scatterings of wildlife. With a stash of cold drinks at the ready, we pull over midway and I’m invited to “mark my territory”. Arriving at Sala’s, there’s a wet towel and welcome drink ready and waiting.
The Maasai Mara Nature Reserve is perhaps the best-known national park in Kenya, with more than 100 camps and lodges spread in and around its 1,000 square kilometres. While most of the accommodation is based in the north, Sala’s has a prized spot at the southern tip, overlooking the border with Tanzania. The closest neighbouring camp is 7km away, and there are just three others within a 25km radius. Such a position means Sala’s can claim first sight of the frantic, peak-season wildebeest migration in July and last sight of the return journey in October. Daily game drives are part of the package, and in three days, I spot napping lions, a prowling cheetah and elephant families.
Sala’s is spread overlooking the small, calm Sand River, into bordering Tanzania. It’s based inside the reserve, with no fences in place, so it’s not uncommon for animals to wander between the tents. I’m told elephants, hippos and hyenas all happily walked a few metres from my bed while I slept. Guests aren’t allowed out at night without a guard – flash your torch for attention.
I might be sleeping in a tent, but this isn’t the Boy Scouts. They come with 24-hour electricity, including lights (six in total), two power sockets, full toilet, desk and a cosy double bed. Hot showers are available for about two hours in the evening, but can be booked at any time on request, while laundry is fast and free. Nice touches include a sketch pad and paints, and a hot water bottle when you return at night. Sala’s has been overhauled in time for this summer, replacing the current stock with eight markedly more luxurious new accommodation options, further pushing the definition of a “tent”.
All of the staff I encounter are friendly and attentive, without being intrusive, and always ready to greet me by my first name with a smile. Rooms and four-wheel drives are well-stacked with mosquito repellent, sun lotion and water.
Meals are served three times daily from a rotational set menu – there’s no choice, but dietary requirements are taken into consideration. Breakfast is typically served in the bush, midway through your game drive. Lunch is usually a light cold buffet, while the evening meals are of a high standard. The bar is open to help yourself for hot and cold drinks alike.
Daily game drives are why you’re here, but it would be hard to deny such luxury in the wilderness wasn’t appreciated.
City types might find the intimacy claustrophobic and the culinary offerings repetitive.
If you have the means and the will, this is the way to do safari.
The bottom line
Tents at Sala's Camp (www.thesafaricollection.com/properties/salas-camp) cost from Dh1,705 per person, per night, including airstrip transfers, guided game drives and other safari activities, meals, non-premium drinks and laundry.
This review was done at the invitation of the hotel.