Our final stop was Angama Mara
, a very special new safari lodge created and operated by Steve & Nicky Fitzgerald, legends in the luxury safari lodge industry, and good friends of our good friends, Will and Brandy Taylor (Khashana Adventure Travel
). We’d been following closely the development of this dream – the beauty and history of the Angama Mara site drew visionaries Steve and Nicky out of retirement – and we felt like we were coming to a friend’s home by the time we were greeted with warm hugs on Angama’s private airstrip.
Aerial shot from www.Angama.com. The Fitzgeralds had excelled at luxury safari lodges for over 30 years – creating and operating over 60 lodges across Africa and India – before building Angama. Hard to imagine a more exquisite curtain call.
Inspired by the Swahili word for ‘suspended in mid-air’, Angama Mara teeters on the edge of the Oloololo escarpment high above the floor of Africa’s Great Rift Valley and overlooks Kenya’s Maasai Mara
, considered by many as the loveliest game reserve on the continent. (Note
: From www.maasai-association.org, “Maasai is the correct spelling not Masai. Masai with one ‘A‘ is incorrect. In the future please spell Maasai with double aa. We prefer Maasai, not Masai. The title Maasai derives from the word Maa. Maa-sai means my people.”
So that’s what we’re going with 🙂 )
The Maasai Mara Reserve is in the southwest corner of Kenya, just across the border from where we watched the wildebeest migration in Tanzania in 2013.
Making it even more special, Angama Mara is the location where some of the most memorable scenes from Out of Africa were filmed. One of our highlights was a magical afternoon picnic overlooking the Mara in the exact spot where Karen Blixen (Meryl Streep) and Denys Finch Hatton (Robert Redford) picnicked.
Picnic scene from Out of Africa, a 1985 romantic drama starring Robert Redford (in the role of Denys Finch Hatton) and Meryl Streep (in the role of Karen Blixen). The film is based loosely on Blixen’s autobiographical book published in 1937. “He even took the gramophone on safari. Three rifles, supplies for a month, and Mozart.” Cue the Mozart.
We cannot rave enough about the hospitality we received at Angama Mara.
The deck of our suite overlooked the saddle where Robert Redford and Meryl Streep had their picnic.
Nicky’s personal, and seasoned, touch shows through in so many small, and big, ways: the rooms had us with the floor to ceiling glass façades showcasing the Mara, including showers with a view; roll-top tubs and retro furnishings; made to order cappuccinos delivered as our early morning wakeup call; our favorite refreshments and Angama’s special roasted cashews stocked daily in our room; we even had pretty steady wifi – no small feat since we were the furthest tent from the main lodge. Tyler & Shannon Davis, the husband/wife team who serve as regional directors and are responsible for the performance of the lodge, are doing an outstanding job.
Shauna escorted to our “tent” by Azei Lago, one of the two camp managers.
Tent is obviously a misnomer for our beautifully furnished tent suite. There are many nods to Out of Africa scattered throughout the camp. “The bath, inspired by the one in Nairobi’s Karen Blixen Museum, set the story for the interiors of the lodge: the lovely John Vogel screens, the Rampel chair, the single red rose; the books in all the guest tents and of course not forgetting Denys Finch Hatton’s yellow Gypsy Moth.”
Kenhamman greeted us morning, noon and night with a huge Kenyan smile and superb service. He got to know our preferences and made sure we were well taken care of. It was hard not to smile around Ken; his joy was contagious.
Dawn’s light at Angama. Each morning started with the sunrise over the Mara and beautiful light thrown on the camp.
On an early morning game drive down in the Mara.
Complete with a gourmet picnic breakfast.
Looking up to the top of the escarpment, upon which Angama Mara is perched.
A majestic way to experience the landscape and wildlife of the Maasai Mara.
It was love at first sight between our godson Rhys and… well, everyone he met. Our guides, Sophie and Daniel (Daniel is the head of 14 guides at Angama), were especially great with him. Well-trained, knowledgeable, and suited to us perfectly, Sophie and Dan worked tirelessly to accommodate every request, provide special experiences and share their amazing Mara with us. We enjoyed every outing with them immensely.
The hippos and crocs watch with amusement as Shauna practices yoga along the banks of the Mara River, which runs through the National Reserve.
Every evening we were treated to something special: torch lit bush dinners, Maasai cultural events, and here, campfire happy hour with dawas, stirred (with a dawa stick), not shaken.
Local Maasai giving Shauna a dancing lesson.
Frank-Paul gets into the swing of things, scopes out his competition for the warrior jumping contest.
The warriors compete to jump the highest (and hopefully impress the ladies by doing so.)
The early morning found the Maasai Mara covered in a blanket of clouds.
Enjoying a cappuccino while overlooking the Mara cloud blanket.
In Angama Mara’s craft studio, guests can try their hand at Maasai crafts such as beading. These skilled ladies created unique Christmas ornaments for our grandchildren.
Fred (Fredrick Kerika Ole Sinoni), a naturalist, wears a typical Maasai warrior ceremonial outfit for our walking tour. He told us he splits his time wearing traditional and more modern attire. The beading was all completed by the special women in his life: his mom, sisters and girlfriend. He explained how the Maasai men command the attention of others by being in control of the ‘talking stick’. Mark bought one to try it out at home… good luck with that!
Fred loves to teach visitors about the flora and fauna of the Mara; our ‘walking safari’ took us past this riverbed that eventually feeds into the Mara River.
On our last day, we had a long picnic on what we dubbed the Redford/Streep saddle, Out of Africa style.
This “picnic” turned into an all-afternoon affair. One of those iconic memories that we take from our travels.
The girls toast a fantastic stay at Angama Mara.
Mark and Shauna in a picnic pose.
We finally catch up to our cute little godson Rhys (aka the “Croc”) after hiking up to a point overlooking the Mara.
The rain showers were beautiful to watch from Angama Mara as they moved across the Maasai Mara.
And the rain showers brought rainbows. There really is gold – Angama Mara gold – at the end of these rainbows.
Many thanks to Khashana
and to Nicky and Steve at Angama
. Safari lodges are abundant in this part of the world; people make the difference between a good experience and a magical one. Nicky and Steve and the entire staff at Angama
have the magic touch for sure.