When we landed on the small patch of dirt which constituted the Maasai Mara airstrip, we were kindly escorted to Angama Mara, a beautiful hotel consisting of wonderfully private safari “tents.” However, the rooms were far more sophisticated than any generic tent. The walls were canvas, yes, but a large portion of the walls were composed of bricks. In addition, there existed large glass windows equipped with a sliding door that led to a balcony overlooking the plush mountains that bejeweled the flat and grassy Maasai Mara.
Each room included a large bathtub and open shower with beautiful vintage gold faucets. The toilet was located in its own little enclave with brick walls and a window that revealed the natural beauty of the Mara, but because each room was so private, one never feared the presence of prying eyes. The amenities were also impeccable. All-natural Africology products including bug spray, bubble bath, lotion, soap, shampoo and conditioner added to the luxurious atmosphere of the room.
At Angama, the small details were what truly made it special. In the privacy of each room, one could read Karen Blixen’s Out of Africa, or delve into a book covering animal behavior or indigenous plants of the Mara. There were stamped postcards ready to be filled out and sent to loved ones, a whistle to be used to summon a guide should one feel the need for an escort, and a blow-horn for any potential (but highly unlikely) emergency.
All of the food was spectacularly fresh and healthy. Buffets were happily absent, and at each meal, guests had the opportunity to choose from a daily menu of wholesome dishes. For breakfast, one could pack a scrumptious picnic to be taken with them on the morning game drive. Dining in the open-air lobby was also available. I really appreciated their breakfast because there was a selection of fresh fruit, yogurt, muesli, smoothies and juices brought to the table, but also a menu complete with warm dishes. I ordered egg shakshouka which was absolutely divine–two baked eggs in a skillet of spiced tomato sauce with feta and Middle Eastern spices. From chilled avocado soup to tabbouleh salad with grilled halloumi to a selection of fresh salads, lunch was a delightful respite after a long morning game drive. As for dinner, a simple and unfussy menu was prepared with few–but perfectly executed– options. For me, fewer options ensures greater quality. My family and I also had the opportunity to participate in a traditional Swahili barbecue which was located at a site a few minutes away from the hotel. Among a small grouping of trees, the staff had set up wooden tables with padded benches. String lights zig-zagged among the tree tops and kerosene lamps added to the magical ambiance. Appetizers such as chapati, local cheese, hummus, a garden salad, traditional Swahili tomato “salsa”, avocados, tomatoes, and more commenced the delicious meal. Then we chose between chicken, prawns, or beef as a grilled-to-order main course. The night was truly magical.
Though the amenities and meals were incredible, the staff at Angama made the entire experience far more memorable. It is difficult to articulate just how kind, hospitable, welcoming, and caring they were. Each party of guests had their own “butler.” I don’t like to use this term because it demeans the staff members. For my family and I, each staff member treated us like a member of their own family. Rather than referring to them as “butlers”, I believe that “dear friends” is a far more accurate descriptor. They knew all of us by name, and we learned theirs as well . This special first name basis added to the familial culture of the hotel. Calling it a hotel even seems inappropriate, as it was more like a home away from home.