Queasy from the turbulence, touching down to Olekiombo airstrip in Kenya's Maasai Mara and feeling uneven earth beneath us, was the highlight of our 45-minute afternoon flight from Nairobi. Storm clouds were rolling in, but the sight of our safari-abled vehicles, and our eager host with light bitings and chilled champagne, made me silently beg Mother Nature to hold off on the approaching rains.
The clouds continue to roll above us. Churning. Rumbling. We drive through the rolling landscapes of the Maasai Mara to higher ground, where we will catch the brilliant sun cast its final rays for the day, before seeking refuge in the horizon.
Chased by nightfall and threatening clouds, we began our drive back to camp. In pitch-dark, the African wilderness seemed intimidating. With hardly any moonlight, our headlights could barely cut through the pounding heavy rain. A loud roar echoed in the stillness of the night. Our guide reassured us it was only one of the resident lions. Wrapped snugly in our Maasai shukas, the chill in the air was eerie, like the smell of death.
We slow to an abrupt stop. Our wipers struggle to keep up with the rain. Where our headlights beamed, a spec of reflection pierced straight back at us. Slowly rising from the tall grass, there she was, panting, a lioness sucking the warm blood from her fresh kill - it was like being on a David Attenborough film-set.
Karibu Olare Kempinski Masai Mara
If a great adventure begins with a journey, then the flight and drive to Olare Kempinski Maasai Mara in the 30,000 acre Olare Orok Conservancy, nestled by a river, home to resident leopards and other big cats, is the ultimate appetizer.
Every time I have visited the Maasai Mara, the experience has always been different but just as unpredictable, humbling and inspiring as the first. Limited to five camps and with a policy that only up to three vehicles can be at any one wildlife sighting at a time, the Olare Orok Conservancy's exclusivity ensures that your bush experience is always unique, majestic, magical and rich in unspoilt wildlife.
Officially launching in mid-January 2013, Olare Mara Kempinski Masai Mara promises to offer guests an authentic bush experience with the unique luxurious European touches Kempinski is known for.
Finer pleasures in life
The twelve 80 square metre tents of Olare Mara Kempinski feature an expansive patio, built from wood endemic to Kenya. Inside, plush Turkish rugs line the hardwood floors, a seating area faces out to where zebras and wildebeest often graze, a tall inviting king-sized bed with crisp linens and over-sized pillows claim the center of the tent - looking on to the French doors that open to the wrap-around patio - and beyond the wooden writing desk, a folding wooden screen shields the vast bathroom from the rest of the soothing tent. A rain-shower, luxurious vintage-looking classic clawfoot tub and organic spa products wait to pamper you.
Wake up from a restful evening of dreaming to the distinct sounds of the bush and the warmth from not one, but three hot water bottles nestled in between the crisp white sheets and your toes.
In the morning sun, time underneath the outdoor shower will refresh you as the soft rays warm your skin.
Next, be driven to an idyllic location next to another river, home to numerous hippos and crocodiles for a delicious bush breakfast. Basked in sunlight, your table is set perfectly with flower centerpieces and lavish crockery. "How would you like your eggs Miss?" asks the Chef.
For lunch and dinner, head back to the camp and make a stop at their organic farm - the largest in Maasai Mara - and pick fresh produce for the kitchen to prepare to your preference.
Best of all, enjoy an afternoon in the Conservancy, home to the highest concentration of wildlife in Maasai Mara, linger in the sun next to the pool, or enjoy a good book in the library as the sun sets. The safari experience has truly never been as indulgent, splendid and authentic as this.