Luxury Explorer Review

5-Star Hotel Review

&Beyond Bateleur Camp

Kenya

Kenya's polished 5-star safari jewel

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&Beyond Bateleur Camp
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&Beyond Bateleur Camp

Location

Overlooking the vast Masai Mara plains, &Beyond Bateleur Camp is situated beneath the wonderful Oloooloo escarpment, on the western border of the Masai Mara National Reserve.

Travel Information

40 mins direct flight from Nairobi to Mara Serana Airport. Anti-malaria pills are advised. The best wildlife viewing is from late June to October, with wildebeest migration starting in July.

Top Tips

Take a good pair of binoculars, a warm wrap for cooler evenings, and mosquito repellent. Stay at least two nights, preferably four.

5-Star X-Factors

The tented suites are the most spoiling we have ever experienced. The vintage explorer-style hits the 5-star safari spot like nowhere else. Top nosh with a silver service. The location is resplendent.

Bateleur Camp

Bateleur Camp, in the Masai Mara, was our final stay in our fly-me-around-Kenya 5-star safari trilogy. It has always been hailed as a beyond luxurious jewel in the &Beyond crown, but just how amazing would it be now, following it’s pristine overhaul? Well, it didn’t disappoint.

Spoiling is instant with &Beyond. After a picturesque 45-minute flight from Samburu we were greeted by staff with open-arms at their private airstrip, only 15-minutes from the camp. A small fleet of smart, open-sided khaki-green off-road Toyotas were lined up in perfect unison, all upholstered in caramel leather with a red tartan blanket folded on each seat. They gave us a sparkling “karibu” (Swahili for welcome), offering a glass of bubbles before we set off for our final adventure.

If it seems corny to coin the phrase ‘Out of Africa’ then I apologise, but the words exactly capture the feeling of having ‘been there’ when you arrive at Bateleur. It offers the warmest of receptions with the most hospitable and caring staff imaginable, while you reside somewhere that really does feel like the film set of “Out of Africa”. That said, modern comforts are well implemented, even if they are discreet. Much of Karen Blixen’s book was actually based just outside Nairobi in the Ngong Hills, but the sweeping views filmed for the 1985 blockbuster are of the Mara plains, and, especially, the dreamy view from Oloololo escarpment, which sits above Bateleur.

Having not visited Bateleur before its refurbishment I can’t make comparisons, but it now sets standards for all other 5-star safari camps. In terms of uber-luxe it sits with the best of Aman, however its genuine authentic spirit has resided here for some time and, of course, &Beyond know how to get the very best out of the wild. So, not being out of place in any way, the luxuries and comforts make your stay cossetting, deeply comfortable, and for most of us - after bumpy bush-drives, adrenalin surging brushes with Nature’s wonders, sunrise starts, walking with guides, hot-air ballooning, and more adventures still - this level of comfort is a real treat.

The open plan sitting room and dining area, with views across the entrancing ochre shaded planes, leads onto a wooden terrace with teak tables and chairs and a very ‘Crusoe’ wooden banister; an al fresco option for enjoying downtime, or any mealtime - especially the phenomenal Victoriana composed banquet at high-tea. We went in March, a few days after it re-opened, and the climate can be cooler at this time of year, so it’s good to have the outdoor/indoor option. Plus there’s a great fireplace inside. The style is not opulent; it’s a blend of highly skilled African craftsmanship, complemented by original Kenyan chic and old-world influences, in an inviting palette of stone, faded pale rose, cream and burgundy.

The vintage traveller’s trunks, tripod lights, hanging lantern chandeliers, chessboard, brass and copperware, alongside the crystal decanters and embossed crystal glasses, all mixed with eclectic mastery. The modern tweaks are fabulous, too, such as the mirrored chiffonier where they cook your bespoke breakfast, including outstanding omelettes filled with a personalised combination of fresh herbs, vegetables, cheeses and a variety of the full-English breakfast ensemble. A wooden dresser behind showcases their fine wine selection, and there’s a tall glass cabinet with spirits of a worldly kind, topped with a polished mound of silver awards from the travel industry. All this splendour is nestled in an old fever tree forest, directly facing the golden planes of the Masai Mara.

Optimum ‘glamping’

Our private butler led us to our new suite at the far end of the camp, passing the swimming pool, along a newly paved pathway dotted with uplighters for the evening. The thrill is opening your door and entering what is, or are, now the most exquisite, spacious, tented suites. They actually feel more like an organic Robinson Crusoe retreat, but with world-class finishes. Where to begin? First off, the doors onto the terrace are floor-to-ceiling glass, so you are always totally immersed in the view. There is a private decked terrace beneath a sweeping canvas canopy with comfortable sunken seating and a table and chairs for private dining, all facing the Mara. The newly planted grounds of Bateleur are still in their infancy but will flourish in no time, while beyond the camp are the plains. These are the plains that witness the Great Wildebeest Migration.

The king-sized bed facing the terrace has a low leather headboard and foot-end beside which are two plump leather armchairs and an hexagonal easy table dressed with a silver tray and complimentary sherry for two, all in crystal, along with some cut flowers. The fabrics are the same wonderful rouge striped with cream. There is a mirror-backed tallboy dresser with a beaten copper shelf with half-full decanters on a silver tray, as well as gin, ice and fresh limes, packaged snacks and a kettle for tea or coffee. By now you are thinking that you don’t want to leave your suite.

Then, once you’ve discovered the bathroom, you know you don’t want to leave. The bathroom is encased by glass within a high walled garden for privacy. A large central copper and ceramic freestanding tub sits on immaculate stone tiles with a Persian rug for softness and a long ottoman for dropping your robe. Nestling in discreetly, are a massive shower on one side, and a closet on the other, with holistic products that will leave you soft-skinned and spa scented. It’s spoiling, deeply romantic, stylish and safari superior with a polished pioneer feel, which sits perfectly with the Masai adventures that await you.

The exploring spirit and our drives

Charity was our guide and driver. She was passionate, knowledgeable and very connected to the conservancy and beyond, while also being extremely mindful of our ‘please stop’ and ‘what’s that’ and ‘can we’…her patience is commendable. Going out for drives is always thrilling, even if you don’t see the ‘big five’. Our takeaway on our drives here were most definitely hippo and crocodiles wallowing in the Mara River or sunbathing on the clay banks. We also found a new respect and fondness for hyena, saw many elephant including little ones, a pride of lion (which were lying low in the camouflage of the swaying savannah grass), giraffe, zebra, many buck, mongoose, birds of prey, and many, many, other bird species; while we fell in love with the ever-changing shades, the captivating light and the dramatic tones of the entrancing landscape.

The caring ethos

&Beyond has a genuine commitment to its core value ‘Care of the Land’. Together with their community development partner, Africa Foundation, they implement sustainable strategies across four key areas; Education, Healthcare and Water, Small Business Development and Conservation. Projects which are delivered all require long-term sustainability and it is very clear when staying here that the need to build lasting commitments within local communities helps not only the value of human life but has a positive impact on the natural environment and the wildlife. There is a tangible bond and committed collaboration between the camps, Kichwa Tembo (the sister to Bateleur) and Bateleur, and the local communities.

Dining and other adventures

Sundowners on the Oloololo Escarpment were an experience of a lifetime. Not only is the vista breathtaking, but the delivery was beautiful too. Facing a view that leaves you spellbound, with a sky that, quite literally, evolved into a Turner painting, delivered an unprecedented backdrop. Our Dawa’s (vodka and honey cocktail) and bush banter were punctuated by a surprise visit from nearby Maasai Warriors, who danced and sang around the blazing fire.

Back at camp we enjoyed a sensational dinner under the stars, beside the pool. Lanterns were hung on branches and placed around the pool, while candles flickered on the table. It was a magical and romantic setting complemented by excellent cuisine, a combination of Swahili and European dishes with several flame-grilled options. House wine flowed well into the night; our last before returning to Nairobi on our final leg home. The service, throughout, was impeccable.

Waking up on our final morning to a sorbet lemon dawn with a single hot-air balloon rising gently into the pale blue, we both had one thought: next time.

Sophie Marchant
Sophie Marchant


Luxury Explorer
Luxury Explorer

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