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Kichwa Tembo: The Masai Mara's Cool And Contemporary Tented Camp

In the heart of the Masai Mara, Kenya’s 370,000 acre national park, lies Kichwa Tembo Tented Camp, the contemporary, tented residence with incredible views designed to keep its impact on the local environment minimal.

As your plane touches down on the dusty landing strip, the zebra and giraffe that were mere specks from the air are now within walking distance. Your guide will beckon you towards your safari vehicle – freshly-poured coffee and biscuits in hand – as the Masai Mara stretches into the horizon. Welcome to Kichwa Tembo Tented Camp

Part of the prestigious andBeyond group, the tented lodge is just a short drive from the air strip, and is one of the best spots in Kenya to witness the yearly Great Migration (July – October) when millions of wild animals thunder across rivers and through the plains of the Mara and the Serengeti, seeking greener pastures.

The Vibe

Located on a private concession, this is an intimate retreat within the Masai Mara National Reserve. Design elements play to a safari-chic vibe, with Maasai-inspired touches such as cowbells hanging on walls and wicker lanterns illuminating the dining area in the evenings. The sprawling grounds and wide-open architecture remove any barriers between guests and nature; you’ll hear the sounds of the Saparingo River and take in panoramic views of the savannah at every turn. 

Tembo is the Swahili word for elephant, and there’s no shortage of them at the lodge – just hours after we arrive, a grazing herd appears behind the rim flow of the camp’s swimming pool. The lodge also has its own resident warthogs, who are often seen laying in the shade or tending to the grass around the camp. 

From the welcome committee who greeted us with a song and dance on arrival, to the extremely knowledgeable guides who had personal stories and deep intel on every plant and animal we came across, it was clear that the staff was made up of people passionate about showing guests the true meaning of Kenyan hospitality.

The Rooms

The camp is made up of 40 Hemingway-style tents, all with fantastic views and private decks. Our tent was situated a short walk from the common areas, just on the edge of the Mara with the flowing Saparingo River beneath. The canvas tents are tucked within forest canopies, providing seclusion and ample animal sightings without the need to even get out of bed: one afternoon, we woke up from a nap to find three elephants feeding on branches a few hundred metres from our verandah. The wooden furniture and neutral décor ensure the tents blend into the surrounding foliage and, at night, guests can doze off to the sounds of the savannah.

The Food + Drink

Meals are served in an open-air dining area with an interactive kitchen that allows you to chat with the chefs about the day’s specials. The kitchen serves a mix of international and traditional Kenyan fare including grilled meats, stews, and fresh local cheese. There’s a vegetable garden on site, which the chefs regularly use for their dishes. Tusker Bar stands near the main entrance, welcoming guests with refreshments after a day out on safari – or with a nightcap before turning in. On telling our butler, Yaiell, that I had a sore throat, he introduced me to the Kenyan Dawa, a hot drink with ginger, lemon, and honey, which was an absolute lifesaver. 

One of the highlights of our stay was the bush breakfast – a continental buffet served on a beautiful viewpoint overlooking the Sarapingo and its resident hippos and baboons. The team went all out to provide a Bloody Mary station, omelettes to order, and an array of delicious breakfast fare to enjoy in the outdoors.

The Little Extras

Early starts offer the best chance of seeing the big cats out on the prowl, and here they were made more pleasurable with wake-up calls from our house keeper Dancan who came bearing fresh coffee, tea, and biscuits. A local Maasai tribe visit the camp several times a week to perform and share their music, dance, and culture with guests. We were invited to dance with the tribesmen, and also given the opportunity to purchase traditional souvenirs such as the traditional Maasai talking stick, jewellery, and homeware.

The To-Do List

There are two game drives a day, one in the morning and one in the evening, which will keep you busy. Depending on the time of year, you’ll see anything from the Big Five to the breathtaking wildebeest river crossings during the Great Migration. If you’d like to learn how to track animals and really get a boots-on-the-ground experience, bush walks with a trained guide are also available. 

When not on a game drive, unwind in the massage tent, see the Mara from new heights with a hot air balloon ride, or gallop through the savannah on a horseback safari. 

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