If you can only visit one place in Kenya, make it Angama Mara.
There’s a reason why going on safari is at the top of your bucket list–seeing the majestic animals and breathtaking landscapes of Africa is one of life’s greatest joys. And while not all safari experiences are created equal, there are some magical places in the world that are everything you could have possibly dreamed of–and more.
Kenya’s Maasai Mara feels like one of those places that’s too good to be true. It’s a lush and verdant playground for elephants and lions, where luxury lodges will welcome you like family and the art of picnicking becomes a new favorite pastime. Kenya has inspired writers and travelers for centuries, and once you’re here, you’ll realize why: incredible wildlife opportunities, jaw-dropping natural landscapes, and food and culture you won’t find anywhere else in Africa.
The Maasai Mara borders Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park, creating a massive transnational wildlife area that’s home to some of Africa’s most incredible creatures. You’ll find the “Big Five” (elephants, buffalo, rhino, leopards, and lions) here, but you’ll also find cheetahs, hippos, crocodiles, giraffes, zebras, and countless other species of the winged, finned, and four-legged variety. But what makes the Mara unique is that beyond the famous great migration, it’s a year-round destination for wildlife viewing, with “off-season” months offering a reward that nobody seems to know about: lush green landscapes and fewer crowds.
The Mara’s biggest draw is the incredible biodiversity, but what makes it such a special place to visit are the lodges and people that call this place home. Angama Mara is a luxurious yet simple and stylish lodge with tented suites suspended on a cliff overlooking the verdant landscape of the park. It’s a hotel that’s more than just a place to lay your head, with an all-inclusive rate that lets you experience the best of what the Maasai Mara has to offer without having to worry about the details. From epic picnics and impeccable design to brilliant Maasai guides and a philanthropic ethos that permeates the entire property, Angama is the kind of rare gem of a hotel that makes you feel at home even when you’re halfway around the world. It’s so good that it defies comparison–it’s a hotel you have to experience in order to believe and one that will leave you in tears when it’s time to go home.
The Chicest Picnics in the World
There’s never a dull moment on safari (and even the moments without animals are full of beauty) and meals are no exception. On a four-day safari, you probably won’t eat in the same place twice, and you’ll barely eat a meal indoors. A regular full-day safari starts with coffee or tea at the lodge before sunrise, followed by a sit-down breakfast in the bush complete with tablecloths, silverware, and Angama’s signature passionfruit tea. You’ll be served more coffee and tea alongside your meal, which comes in a silver lunchbox. Typical breakfasts include a breakfast sandwich or “Rolex” wrap with chapati and eggs, alongside an assortment of pastries, fresh fruit, and granola with yogurt. Everything is packed back into the cars for a few more hours of wildlife viewing before a stop for picnic lunch with sandwiches, quinoa tabouleh, and a tomato and pepper salad. Don’t forget the South African rosé and local Tusker beer.
Even though there’s only one dining room back at the lodge, dinner is never predictable. Every few days there’s a bush barbecue, where guests are driven to Angama’s outdoor kitchen and dining room and served a selection of grilled meats, fish, and veggies. If you plan ahead, Angama can create special dining experiences all over the property, from a romantic candle-lit dinner in the library to a group dinner by the pool to in-room dining.
For daytime eating adventures, there’s the on-site organic garden with a deck overlooking the Mara or what might be Angama’s most special on-site experience–an Out of Africa-inspired champagne brunch or sunset cocktail atop the knoll where one of the movie’s most famous scenes was filmed. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime romantic dining experience that has inspired countless marriage proposals.
But the regular dining room at Angama is nothing to scoff at–the main guest area is beautifully designed with a wall of glass doors that open onto a deck with an incredible view of the Maasai Mara below. There’s a central fireplace with cozy couches and plenty of nooks for cocktails or afternoon tea. The menu changes nightly, offering a few varying selections of crowd-pleasers (roast chicken, pasta, burgers) alongside Kenyan and African dishes (fish curry, pumpkin soup). There’s always something for vegetarians, and if you don’t see something you like (or something your dietary restrictions allow you to eat), they’re happy to whip up something just for you.
Modern Design in a Timeless Setting
While most safari lodges in the Maasai Mara and the Serengeti go with a colonial design that evokes Hemingway and Dr. Livingston à la antique cameras, green khaki fabrics, and vintage trunks, Angama does something different. Drawing inspiration from the local Maasai culture, the hotel puts a more modern design spin on the traditional safari tent, with bright splashes of Maasai red and locally-made woven furniture. Traditional Maasai blankets and textiles are everywhere, and the tented suites have a design that feels timeless and modern all at once.
The simply designed one-room tents all have a wall of glass windows leading out to a balcony, where you’ll find the room’s greatest asset: the breathtaking view of the spotted plains below. If you have a good eye, you’ll even be able to peep herds of elephants or water buffalo from your room. The focal point of the tented suites is the over-the-top bathtub, the perfect place to watch the sunset over the Mara while reading West with the Night and making plans to become a bush pilot.
Luxury is in the details at Angama Mara, where every need is anticipated and taken care of. The hotel provides guests with anything they might possibly have left at home–and even things they didn’t know they needed. Practical safari clothes and brimmed hats are sold at the gift shop alongside scarves, caftans, and gorgeous souvenirs. The on-site photo studio offers full-day camera rentals (one of the few things at the lodge that comes with an extra fee), so you don’t need to lug your own equipment halfway across the world. Binoculars, blankets, and glass water bottles are provided in every room, along with a completely free and fully-stocked mini-bar and luxurious soaps, shampoos, and all-natural bug spray by Africology.
Onboard the safari vehicles, there’s a fleece wrap (in signature Angama red) designed in a way to keep your hands free, and a traditional Maasai shuka blanket for your lap. In case of inclement weather, there’s also a heavy-duty poncho that will keep you dry, even in a downpour. (I do hope you get to experience a downpour while you’re there–the dramatic dark skies, the sound of fat raindrops on the roof of the car, and the cozy feeling of being swaddled in fleece and drinking wine while your guide tells you their wildest safari stories is the stuff of lifelong happy memories.)
Beyond Game Drives
Agama Mara is inspired by local Maasai culture, which permeates many aspects of the hotel from the decor to the menu to the outdoor adventures. The signature red plaid Maasai shukas are available for sale in the gift shop, alongside a beautiful selection of intricate beaded jewelry and artwork made on-site in the beading studio. Visitors can take a beading class to make their own creations or have the artisans create a custom piece of jewelry or clothing for the perfect souvenir.
Every few nights, Angama hosts a sundowner party where Maasai staff and members of the community come dressed in traditional outfits and join guests for a semi-cheesy but undeniably fun dance.
To truly immerse yourself in Maasai culture, join an early morning guided walk that shows you the parts of the Maasai Mara you’d never get to see from a safari vehicle. A guide dressed in traditional Maasai clothing will show you the fascinating minutiae of the landscape: termite mounds, anthills, tree bark, and scat from the tiny dik-dik deer. On the walk, you’ll also learn about medicinal herbs and Maasai culture, giving you a completely different kind of education than what you’ll get on a game drive safari.
If your schedule and budget allow, make a reservation for a sunrise hot air balloon above the Maasai Mara. The hot air balloon ride with Governor’s Camp will take you high above the mara for a floating safari. You’ll get a completely different view of the landscape from above and get the chance to see hundreds of hippos.
Giving Back to the Community and Environment
Angama treats its guests like long-lost family members, and the staff and community surrounding the lodge feel like family, with half of the staff consisting of members of the Maasai community. Everyone lives on-site and everyone seems happy (TBH, working at a safari lodge in the Mara is probably one of the coolest and most fulfilling jobs in the world). The hotel is a philanthropic endeavor in addition to being a luxury resort, with $10 from every room going directly to the Angama Foundation, which supports community-led local initiatives. Typical projects include building classrooms, supplying local schools with Lifestraw equipment for clean drinking water, and making sure kids and teachers have a safe way to get to school. Angama’s onsite medical clinic serves the entire local community with basic medical consultations, medications, and minor surgeries.
In addition to caring for the community, Angama cares for the environment. One thing visitors to Angama will notice immediately is the complete lack of single-use plastics. The hotel’s famous picnics are served in metal tiffins or glass jars, with pastries or sandwiches wrapped in wax paper and tied with a ribbon. There are glass water bottles for guests in vehicles, in rooms, and in all the guest areas, with an unlimited supply of still and sparkling water that’s treated and purified on-site.
You’ll find few items on the menu that are sourced from outside of Africa, with some surprising delicacies like a local ash-rind cheese from a nearby farm and local greens grown in the beautiful on-site garden.
INSIDER TIPIf you’re taking a day off from game drives, try and schedule a tour of the garden and a vegetarian lunch onsite with a view overlooking the Maasai Mara. (Included in your room rate, of course).
When you arrive at Angama, you’ll be in awe of the wildlife, the view, the design, and the awe-inducing feeling of being at one of the most beautiful locations in Africa. But when you leave Angama, you’ll be in awe of what truly makes this one of the best hotels in the world: your friendly hosts who feel like family. Angama is about good old fashioned Kenyan hospitality, with huge smiles, lots of laughter, and friendship that transcends borders. As soon as you leave, you’ll be saving every last penny for your imminent return.