mahali-mzuri-featureI recently traveled with Micato Safaris to Kenya and Tanzania to do an African safari. This, I knew even before I left, would be the trip of a lifetime … and it was. Along the way, we stayed at three different safari camps/lodges, including Sir Richard Branson’s brand new Kenyan safari camp Mahali Mzuri. The camp officially opens to the public in August and I was one of the lucky people who got to check it out in advance. Here’s a sneak peek at this stunning property in the heart of the Kenyan savannah.

Despite appearances, the focus at Mahali Mzuri isn’t merely glamour, but rather goodwill.

The property: Mahali Mzuri means ‘beautiful place’ in Swahili and this simple name is perfect in its precision. The natural land surrounding Mahali Mzuri is lush and green, rising hills soar to the skies, then dip into rugged valleys. Mahali Mzuri, part of Virgin Limited Edition, a collection of luxury properties around the world, is located in the Motorogi Conservancy in Kenya’s Masai Mara, at an elevation of about 1,700 metres above sea level. Mahali Mzuri has 12 futuristic-looking tents and can accommodate up to a maximum of 24 guests at any given time. But before I go on, let’s be clear that I’m using the word ‘tent’ loosely. These luxury, grey and terra-cotta ‘tents’ feature all the creature comforts you could possibly want out in the wilderness. The bedrooms are tranquil, with dark wood floors, luxurious linens swathing four-poster beds and free in-room WiFi. You’re hardly roughing it out here. Rates start at $590 per person per night.

Why to stay here: The views! From the elevated location of the camp’s tents, guests are treated to picture perfect vistas and if you’re lucky like we were, amazing animal sightings while you’re eating lunch. A large herd of elephants meandered lazily through the valley below us and the sight of these animals in their natural habitat was astonishing and unforgettable. At Mahali Mzuri, you barely need to go anywhere to witness the incredible wildlife that inhabit the surrounding areas. They come to you. But of course, the twice daily game drives are the best way to see the animals, or, try an afternoon bush walk with any of the property’s friendly and knowledgeable guides.

Eat: The kitchen at Mahali Mzuri is run by Liam Breedveld, who used to be Sir Richard Branson’s personal chef on Necker Island in the British Virgin Islands (and who has a resume that’s impossibly impressive, though he’s charmingly bashful when you inquire about it.) The gourmet dishes he prepared for us each day and night, made from fresh, local ingredients, all belied the fact that we were eating out in the bush and not in a five-star restaurant in a bustling metropolis.

Most noteworthy feature: At most hotels, noteworthy features tend to include things like ‘the spa!’, ‘the Michelin-star restaurant!’, ‘the incredible deep-soaking bathtub!’ (although, the claw-foot tub in my room at Mahali Mzuri, overlooking the plains below was one of the highlights of the room.) But at this safari camp, the most noteworthy feature is the passion of the people behind this labour of love. Yes, the camp, in true Richard Branson style, is large and luxurious. But despite appearances, the focus isn’t merely glamour but rather goodwill. Giving back. There’s a commitment to conservancy and the people at Mahali Mzuri work with local communities to support them and improve living conditions in nearby villages. The tents, which look almost like spaceships, were designed specially for Mahali Mzuri by Kenyan manufacturers Canvas by Design. And inside the rooms, guests will find fabrics, prints and furniture, all sourced from local markets and made from indiginous resources. Locally made items, from jewelry to housewares, can be found in the gift shop. The care that has been taken to minimize the camp’s environmental impact, while simultaneously maximizing its efforts to support and improve the surrounding areas, is apparent to anyone who visits.

To see more photos of Mahali Mzuri, check out!

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