Yummy introduces a new exciting travel section. Each month, we will be heading out of Nairobi to discover the sights, sounds and of course food across the country. In this issue, Jewelry designer and yummy mummy Ami Doshi-Shah sets off on a road trip to the stunning bush oasis that is Olare Mara Kempinski.
There is always the night before an early morning road trip. Last minute packing and two energetic boys still playing lego at 9.30 pm with a 5:00 am wake up is never a good idea, but as with everything, I pick and choose my battles. They can sleep in the car. We set of early the next morning to make good time for our 5-hour drive to Olare Mara Kempinski. For almost 3 hours, the drive is effortless past Mai Mahiu and down the perfectly tarmacked Narok Road. The remaining 2 hours are slow, bumpy and challenging, as we traverse nonchalant herds of sheep, goats and cattle. We nally reach Ai- tong, the last Maasai outpost before the Olare Motorogi Conservancy and just 30 minutes away from the lodge.
Before the boys can ask, “Are we there yet?” we see the slate placard for Olare Mara Kempinski. We arrive covered in a lm of dust but not worse for wear and certainly energised to have nally reached our destination. Greeted by the hums and rhythmic singing of a group of Maasai warriors, and the warm smiles of the Mara Kempinski team, we clamber out of our car and take a few tentative steps into what can only be termed as a ‘bush oasis’.
The interior is considerately designed. Dark, polished wooden oors, with a high and open tented structure allows for a free ow of breeze and ventilation. The Main Tent is an open plan space with an elegant lounge area, a beautiful but simple water feature anked by pot- ted golden palms exposed to the sun and an open deck area for alfresco dining as well as a tented dining area for more formal dining. As we freshen up, we look out to the tree laden banks of the Ntiakitiak River.
The resident hippos grunt and converse as we are briefed by the a able Danson about the camp’s safety precautions and activities. There are a total of 12 tents in this luxury camp, including the honey- moon suite and one family tent. Each tent has been built on a metre high platform allowing for vertically challenged wildlife to access the river, which all the rooms ank. Our family tent is spectacularly appointed with a stand-alone Victorian style bath, walk-in shower, a small lounge area and a stunning balcony overlooking the Ntiakitiak River. I realise that with Kempinski’s reputation for luxury travel, this lodge is a representation of the more understated spectrum of the scale while remaining considerate in the finer details of hospitality. You will not find unnecessary extravagance but rather a beautifully designed and operated lodge that lets nature become the centrepiece, as it should.
As we feast on a family-style lunch of avoursome lentil daal, rice, leavened bread and fresh mixed green salad with juicy avocados, it occurs to me that the food is also a representation of Olare Mara Kemp- inski’s focus on exclusive simplicity. The avours are well balanced and the meal delicious and wholesome. This is rounded o by a rich choco- late mousse accompanied by a fan of fresh mango with strawberry coulis. We request to meet the head chef, David Too, who as it turns out, has had a long and illustrious career working with the late Rolf Schmidt (of The Horseman, Karen fame) and spent 11 years at the world- renowned luxury tented camp, Finch Hattons in the Tsavo. Chef David tells us that he has also been avidly working on sourcing and integrating some produce from his organic garden right here in the lodge. The next day, he personally takes us on a tour of his garden, a vast portion of which, unfortunately, had been trampled by grazing elephants the previous month, tempted by the deli- cious sweet bananas and sugarcane. His spirits remain unbroken. The organic verdant spinach from the allotment is picked daily and served as a tender and delicious breakfast accompaniment, or chopped and mixed with carrots and cauli ower then packed into scrumptious veggie patties that we enjoyed the following day.
With satiated bellies, we set of with our guide, David, for our evening game drive. The cars are kitted with refreshments and Maasai shukas (for the evening chill). David tells us that the Olare Motorogi Conservancy has only 5 camps, each with a maximum capacity of 12 tents across 35,000 acres. This means that the game is plentiful and easy to spot you also won’t be fighting 10 other cars to get a good view. Within the first hour of our drive, we spot a male leopard lurking in a tangle of bush, a solitary male cheetah taking a rest on an open plain and a pride of 21 lions, plotting to hunt down a wary, angry buffalo.
The following day, we see the camp’s resident leopard, Fig, bathing in the morning sun nestled in a rocky outcrop of dry river bed just 5m away from us, and again that evening, on the open plain staking out a group of impalas. Aside from rhinos, the conservancy host all of the ‘Big Five’ with opportunities for sightings being ‘up close and personal’. After our evening game drive, we drive up to a patch of savannah under a solitary acacia. The last glimpse of orange can be seen in the horizon and a long table laden with Maasai shukas and candlelight awaits us. As we sit on the khaki camp chairs, we sip on a warm and hearty cream of broccoli soup with freshly baked buns and lashings of butter and truly realise how magical this experience is. Olare Kempinski’s bush dinner is an experience that should not be missed.
The following morning, Danson and two other guides usher me for a nature walk around the open plains surrounding the camp and along the banks of the Ntiakitiak River. Here we see a group of boisterous hippos wading in the last remnants of water in the riverbed. The nature walk is a fantastic opportunity to see the ora and fauna of the savannah and understand this complex ecosystem. After an amazing bush breakfast, it is time for us to leave this paradise but not without memories of an enlightening, peaceful and eye opening understanding of the beauty that lies beyond our doorstep. Like many Kenyans, we are self admit- tedly lacklustre safari goers, taking much of the spectacular for granted, thinking it will always be there. Our trip to Olare Mara Kempinski has certainly changed that perception. Here is a destination that not only puts nature centre stage but also o ers a luxurious refuge from the maddening crowd that city dwellers are surrounded by. No traffic, no agenda… just peace and quiet, with a night sky brimming with stars, and probably the best night of sleep that you’ve had in a really long time.