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Masai Mara: Bateleur Camp at Kichwa Tembo

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Website, also a member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World
Bateleur now has two separate camps, each with 9 tents (so maximum 36 guests at one time), but each group of 9 tents has it’s own central lobby/dining area, so the guests from the two Bateleur Camps don’t really mingle.

Common Areas: There is a nice pool, which we didn’t have time to use. There is nice comfy furniture in the lobby area, and there are tables set up on the deck for breakfast and dinner. Lunch tables are set nearby at the edge of the property so that you can observe the passing parade of zebra, giraffe, cape buffalo, and wildebeest. There are resident warthogs on the property, within the electric fence, but they seem quite tame (we had a mother “Pumba” beneath our wooden verandah who had given birth to 4 babies the day before our arrival; they looked like little piglets, even squealing at times; momma had them out walking already on day two--very cute!!).

Kichwa Tembo: We walked over to Kichwa Tembo. The tents did not seem as luxurious as ours, but the pool was quite nice (recently opened; they were filling in the older, not-as-natural looking pool). I thought that the lobby and dining areas of Kichwa were superior to Bateleur (albeit more traditional, even having a bar), but certainly not the lodging. There is a nice curio shop at Kichwa but none at Bateleur.

Tents: We stayed in the “older” camp, and although we were invited to see the newer one, we didn’t walk over (they are supposed to be very similar, however). We were in tent 6, which was centrally located. Number 9 was closest to the lobby, with number 1 farthest away. They are located very strategically for maximum privacy (which is good, because in a tent, there’s not much privacy at all). “Tent” is a loose term--I certainly didn’t feel like I was camping for a second amidst all the luxury. It seems that they first built a hardwood platform, upon which 2/3 would be used for the tent accommodations and the other 1/3 for the verandah. There were two leather club chairs outside on the deck, along with a wood stump “end table”. Smoking is allowed anywhere on the property (tents, dining area, lobby lounge area). Then they seem to have built a stone back for the tent, with a separate stone water closet and stone shower (very attractive). There was a double sink area in between these two rooms. The bedroom area separated the bathroom and the deck, featuring a king-size poster bed and large writing desk. There were luggage stands on either side of the bed (hurray for more than one luggage stand for two people!), and robes and flip-flops (like those disposable pedicure shoes) were provided. There is an electronic safe, and plenty of room to charge laptops, camera batteries, etc. There are no alarm clocks in the room, no radio, or television, or even a phone (I think we had a whistle to blow if we ever needed something, which we did not). Toiletries are provided in these neat, refillable glass bottles with cork stoppers (shampoo, conditioner, body lotion, bath salt scrub, shower gel). Insect repellent towelettes (like wet naps) were provided, but we didn’t need them. There was also a “gym in a bag” here, with stretching bands and weights if you wanted to work out. Full-size umbrellas are provided, which we didn’t need. There were three mason jars of candy/snacks in the room in case you got hungry (which just wasn’t possible).

Electricity and Water: Don’t forget an adapter (you will need the 3-prong English/Great British adapter for all of Kenya and Tanzania--not the Africa adapter); a converter was not necessary. There was 24-hour hot water here, but the electricity was turned off from 12:00 midnight through 3:30 am (or thereabouts). There is a torch (flashlight) to use during these times, but I found that my Petzl headlamp came in handy also, so that my hands were free for using the bathroom rather than having to hold a flashlight in one hand.

Butler: When the brochures from CC Africa mentioned a private butler, we weren’t expecting him to be such an important part of our stay. Butler is an understatement: this man (nearly all service positions were filled by men) functions as your waiter, wake up caller (complete with a tray of drinks and cookies), room service deliverer, and jack-of-all trades. There was also a man assigned to clean our room and carry our bags, but we can’t recall the name of that position (valet, perhaps?), as well as a host (like a general manager, but one who’s always around inquiring about your stay and comfort).

Laundry: Free laundry service is included (hand washed and line dried here, so allow 24-hours for return).

Food: The food was amazing: lunches and dinners began with soup (we never had the same kind twice through about 10 meals at all the C C Africa camps), followed by a starter (salad or appetizer), entree, and dessert. We had one really uniquely presented lunch on a tower, and one unique dinner where the chef made individual stir fries right in front of us. Great variety with the food and presentation--I can’t rave enough about the food! None of the ingredients was wacky or off the wall, yet the food was different enough to remind us that we were “not in Kansas anymore”. China, crystal, silver was used, cloth napkins and tablecloths--everything very proper (and just the way I like it!).

Game Drives: The morning drives were from 7:00 to 1:00 or so (even though the brochures claim them to be much shorter, perhaps 7:00 to 11:00); the evening drives were from 4:30 to 7:30 or so. Back from the morning drive at 1:00, a leisurely 2-hour lunch, an hour to refresh, then back out again. Dinner was probably over around 10:00 or so; we would get the most sleep at Bateleur of all our camps. You are able to go off-road in the Mara, which means you can get really close to the animals. Roads are bumpy--be prepared! The vehicles are open-sided, with a canvas canopy on top. This is the best type of vehicle to have, in my opinion. Most were Toyota Land Cruisers, with a few Land Rovers. Our vehicles had bench seating, three rows of three, although there were rarely more than 4 people in the car at a time, and sometimes only 2. You keep the same driver/guide during your entire stay, and you keep the same partners (other guests) as well. But since everyone’s arrival/departure is different, if your other partners depart on the night you arrive, you won’t be assigned other guests before you leave, giving you a private safari during most of your stay (but this really is the luck of the draw and circumstances). The three seats are staggered in height, and you can most definitely take photos out the other side of the vehicle even if someone is sitting on the other end of the bench. Despite the bumpy roads, I was NOT able to use the seat cushion that I purchased for the trip. There isn’t much of a railing separating the bench seat from the edge of nowhere (outside the vehicle), and I thought that the cushion would add another inch or so to my height, making me think I could topple outside. But I see how the cushion might be valuable if you are travelling by road in enclosed vehicles between camps. We flew, which I would highly recommend if your budget allows. The roads really are terribly bumpy, and flying is a time and comfort saver.

We stayed at Bateleur for two nights, which seemed the perfect amount of time. On our second night, the evening game drive went from 4:30 to 6:30, at which time we were driven to a lovely spot atop a hill with sweeping views of the Masaai Mara. All the other guests (which probably numbered 10 total) were also there. There were nice grills set up, and we were served appetizers of beef kabobs, chicken drumsticks, and other simple snacks (nuts, chips), along with our favorite drinks. There were even nice tented latrines with chemical toilets set up, one for ladies and the other for gents, along with a table with boiling water and cloth towels for washing hands. The local Masaai put on a short performance for us, with their traditional dancing and jumping. Guest participation was encouraged. We spent about an hour at this special sundowner, and then another surprise followed. Upon reaching our room to freshen up before dinner, we found that we would be having dinner on our private verandah, surrounded by rose petals on the floor and hanging lanterns in the trees. Really romantic and lovely! I normally have a rule about eating in my room (it seems to attract bugs), but in this case, I couldn’t refuse, and was glad that I wasn’t given the option. The dinner was amazing, in a unique setting, and not a bug to be seen. A really great ending to the day! Your bed is turned down at night with a hot water bottle under the covers. They also lower flaps over most of the screened windows, with the exception of the main end of the tent (zippered screens cover every opening, and I didn’t see ANY bugs inside--or outside--my tent during my stay). There is a ceiling fan, which we used at night for air circulation until the power cut, and the room was the perfect cool temperature for us (we are fans of icy air-conditioning, and this was a great equivalent).

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