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What does the perfect vacation look like? To me, it would have to include a high level of out-of-the-ordinary. Something extremely unique with scenic natural surroundings, cultural experiences, and an exceptional thrill of adventure! The service and of course the cuisine would have to be excellent as well. In short, the perfect vacation looks like Sir Richard Branson's Mahali Mzuri in Kenya.
Photographer: Misha Gillingham
Definitely qualifying as 'out of the ordinary' and scenic, this 12-tent safari retreat is a part of the Virgin Limited Edition hotel collection. The name itself translates from Swahili as 'beautiful place' and it definitely lives up to its name. Even before our plane touched down we had a surge of surprise and delight as we watched elephants, giraffes, zebra and baboons running across the airstrip.
This modern tented camp is a luxurious oasis in the midst of over 33,000 acres of wildlife conservancy land. Rivers flow through these verdant planes drawing an abundance of stunning animals. With the tents built into a hillside, they boast sweeping views of the valley upon guests. Several times daily (right from our tent) we enjoyed a panoramic view of zebras, giraffes, and elephants, going about their daily business.
Guests will definitely find an exceptional adventure in the incredible safari game drives and game walks with Mahali Mzuri's expert local guides. Further activities include day trips into the Maasai Mara National Reserve, heavenly massages out in the bush, and visits to local markets or a local Maasai village. Hot air balloon safaris available for those who want a spectacular aerial view of the wildlife activity. Game drives are offered twice daily and they try to cater to any special requests that guests might have. For me, I wanted to see a cheetah, since I hadn't seen one on any of the previous safaris I had been on. I mentioned this to my guide, and thanks to his expertise, about an hour later he came running announcing that he had located one. We jumped into our vehicle and were off to the perfect vantage spot where we could watch a graceful and magnificent cheetah moving about in the beauty of the setting sun. Priceless!
As far as comfort is concerned, Sir Richard has quite the knack for making accommodations that positively pamper, even out in the African bush! First, there is the eye pleasing distinctive architectural design of the tents which are set on raised platforms. I've never seen anything like them. Inside, guests will find comfortable beds with mosquito netting, en-suite bathroom (with a spectacular view from the tub), and a spacious outdoor viewing deck. Lovely and vibrant African printed textiles highlight the interior, and all basic amenities and toiletries are included. I loved the Africology skin and hair care products provided. 2 of the 12 tents are designed to accommodate families, while the other 10 accommodate 2 guests.
Situated between the guest tent suites is a main tent for common use. It includes a comfy lounge with fire place, tv/dvd player and ipads, a small library, boutique gift shop, outdoor dining deck, and gorgeous 39-foot infinity pool. All of these areas offer views right over the savanna activity below. There is also wifi throughout the tent camp.
Not surprising for a member of Virgin Limited Edition hotels, the service I received during my stay was superlative. I found each member of the staff to be warm, friendly and expert in their field. The staff even introduced me to one of the best ways to stay hydrated the Rock Shandy! This is a refreshing beverage made from lemon juice, ginger ale or soda water, angostura bitters, lemon slices, and ice. Delicious!
Speaking of delicious, the food served at Mahali Mzuri was fresh and delish! Not what you'd expect for being in the middle of the Kenyan wilderness! All food and drinks are included in the cost of your stay and guests can dine when they please. An extensive breakfast buffet is offered in the mornings, including freshly home-baked breads and pastries. Guests can enjoy lunch and dinner on the main deck, by the pool, in their own private rooms or as a sumptuous picnic spread out in the bush. The chefs use locally sourced produce and spices in a variety of African and international dishes. They're also able to accommodate dietary restrictions if informed in advance.
I've created a short video of my once-in-a-lifetime experience at Mahali Mzuri, which can be watch below.
Misha Gillingham Wildluxe.com
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