This year the gathering of annual visitors on the grassy plains of Kenya’s Masai Mara was quite remarkable. Driven by an insatiable need to seek out new lands, perhaps hunger for so-called greener grass, they arrived in record numbers. Crammed together noisily, sizing each other up for strength, they jostled for position on the riverbanks. Waiting anxiously for just the right moment to surge forward and claim their place as players in the world’s greatest migration.
But no, I’m not talking about the wildebeest. Nor the antelopes that brave the swirling Mara River waters and the sharp crocodiles’ teeth. Rather the safari tourists whose resurgent numbers and poor behaviour have brought over-tourism to Africa and made a safari in the Masai Mara as far from an immersive natural experience as you could imagine.
Together with neighbouring Tanzania’s Serengeti, the wide-open grasslands of the Mara have long been the flag-bearer for safari travel in East Africa. But as travellers tire of fighting with, well, other travellers, in their search for a restorative wilderness experience, the savvy safari-goer’s eyes are looking elsewhere. North to Lake Turkana and Mount Elgon, perhaps, or east to Mount Kenya National Park.
But in 2024 it is Amboseli National Park that looks to be the hot new ticket in the region, and that’s thanks to the November 2023 opening of Angama Amboseli.
Anyone with an eye for design and a love of luxury travel will know all about Angama Mara, the drop-dead gorgeous lodge set on a ridge line overlooking the Great Rift Valley. This year that same aesthetic attention to detail and sense of authentic hospitality moves southeast to the Amboseli region, setting up camp in the Kimana Sanctuary — a 2,300-hectare community-owned conservancy that is a showcase for the trickle-down economic benefit of high-end nature-based tourism.
Amboseli is famous for two things: elephants, and Kili. Often, you’ll find both in the same frame, with Amboseli’s herds of famous ‘super-tuskers’, named for enormous tusks often dragging the ground, marching single file against a backdrop of Mount Kilimanjaro in nearby Tanzania.
And Angama Amboseli has been created to let you soak up these highlights — and much more — from almost every corner. Of course there are the usual game drives, often venturing out for a full day in Amboseli National Park (45 minutes from the lodge) or as early-morning excursions and walks within the Kimana Sanctuary. While a visit to the forested marshlands of Amboseli is well worthwhile, there’s no need to spend all day, every day, on the back of a safari vehicle. Rather let the wildlife come to you.
Each of Angama Amboseli’s 10 under-canvas suites offers expansive private space, gazing out between the trunks of a fever tree forest to dish up memorable Kili views. You can also expect a passing parade of pachyderms and other wildlife. The Kimana Sanctuary is part of a crucial wilderness corridor that links Amboseli National Park with the Chyulu Hills and Tsavo protected areas, offering the region’s wildlife a migratory lifeline between increasingly populated areas.
The wildlife and landscape were the palette that informed the design of this newlybuilt lodge, with textures of canvas, concrete and rattan complemented by a swatch of natural tones. In the ochres and sandy sweeps, the colour scheme is a nod to the harsh environment beyond the suites; a true sanctuary from the elements.
True to Angama’s sense of ‘slow safari’ there is no scarcity of considered creature comforts here, whether it’s the sustainability-minded food concepts by chef Sarah Saleheen of Nairobi’s Boho Eatery, or the sumptuous guest areas of the main lodge. In your suite, the drinks armoire will, of course, be stocked with personal favourites on arrival. But if you change your mind the separate butler’s lobby allows for discreet service any time of day or night.
And there are indulgent amounts of personal space, from the double shower in the bathrooms to the private patio reached through the floor-to-ceiling screened doors. The pair of outdoor rocking chairs is something of a calling card for Angama, and all but beg for a lazy afternoon.
But it’s not here that you’ll find me, but rather at the Mnara, a purpose-built viewing tower set close to Angama Amboseli, offering spectacular 360º views of the Sanctuary and Mount Kilimanjaro. It’s a quiet space for contemplation, for feeling a connection to the wild landscapes of East Africa. While there may not be the herds of wildebeest, there are certainly no herds of tourists here either.