Incredible experience! It truly felt surreal to be in Africa and see/experience what we did. We so lucky and truly changed forever after seeing and being a part of this incredible country for 2 weeks.
Kenya exceeded expectations. I was impressed with how safe and clean everything was (especially in regards to precautions taken for COVID-19). The people we met along our trip could not have been nicer and Kenya's landscape and animals are breathtaking.
So convenient, easy and comfortable! Very clean also as we came in from the airport - I was impressed with all COVID precautions in place. The perfect stop to regenerate after 18 hours of travel, before heading out to our first safari camp.
What a perfect first stop. Not too far from Nairobi and just an adorable set up. We loved the tents and even the silly monkeys who still somehow got in despite our following the camp guidance. Very sneaky and adorable! The service here was perfect, always there to bring you a glass of wine and help you relax after being out in the bush! Even treating us to some special champagne when we arrived and a candlelit romantic dinner - we felt very pampered.
We loved the fire pit and the beautiful watering hole close by - we saw a family of elephants every night come to play, which was so cool. The food and vibes in the main areas was excellent as well. We made a few friends here and it was so comfortable and easy to social distance while still being social. Loved Amboseli - what a treat to spend time with the elephants the way we did and all while having a beautiful view of Mt. Kilimanjaro.
The vibe at Kifaru is one in a million. The dark wood, fireplaces and amazing paintings/decor were just stunning. Being on our honeymoon and the only guests at the camp was so special. The cabin/cottage they had us in was gorgeous - the outdoor shower was so unique and something we'd never experienced. And having the infinity pool to ourselves in between our game drives to relax at was amazing. I LOVED that pool! The view was so lovely everywhere you looked and with a very close by watering hole - we had a group of elephants join us for lunch - so cool!
We also cannot speak highly enough of the the staff we had with us! From our guide, to the managers, to the bar and dinner servers (learning what we liked and even learning how to make a new drink for my husband!) and the chefs amazing meals (the food was incredible here), we felt so pampered.
Our guide associated with Kifaru, Tom, will always hold a place in my heart - he was so incredibly thoughtful and knowledgable about the animals and we had the best time talking and driving with him. One night we were late to our sundown drinks (which our wonderful bartender was still there waiting for us with the most gorgeous set up) so we ended up having the coolest experience of stargazing the African sky (very special for us city folks!) with Tom, our guide, busting out his astronomy skills, using his flashlight pointer to show us different star formations. A favorite (non animal) memory for sure!
Cannot speak highly enough of the experience here and with Lewa conservatory. So very cool to be there in a non-busy time and feel like we had animals and park almost entirely to ourselves. (though we hope the tourism ramps back up soon!).
5 stars for this AMAZING location. This was one of the nicest accommodations we have ever stayed at and it was just what we needed for our last safari camp stop. Everyone here was so nice and I just loved all the little thoughtful touches - the drawn bath after a long and rainy day out in the bush, the wonderful song/dance and cake celebrating the guests who were there for special occasions! The room was so clean and the air conditioning was a treat! Oh and the amazing river/hippos right outside our door was so magical. The Mara did not disappoint in the drawn out landscapes, seeing infinite wildebeest/zebra looking to cross and finding big cats to photograph.
My only reason for the 4 stars overall is on a guide situation which we addressed with Claire our agent and the Olonana manager - and they were wonderful about handling and being very discreet! I wish we would have asked for the switch sooner, because our guide on the last 2 days was above and beyond great and knowledgable and fun! My thought is that maybe in the future that the guides are kept up with education and/or are trained yearly on engaging with their guests (or as needed? Such as for new or different situations, like not having as many guests or vehicles out in the park - like our situation, etc.)
The hotel itself is lovely. Very clean and steps away from the gorgeous beach. And a sweet painting on our door for our honeymoon + a champagne treat. We loved the boutique nature and the staff as very friendly!
A few downfalls: Would have been great to have more suggestions on what to do in the area- it didn't feel accessible to leave or walk around (we could have asked the manager, so that was on us, but would have been nice to have options/suggestions upon arriving - we were brain dead after safari and used to having someone provide ideas, so it was a more transition to get used to). We were hassled on the beach if we left the hotel grounds and even laying close to the beach were often called to over and over even after saying 'no thank you' which made exploring not as fun. The service was also a bit slower than we had been accustomed to coming from safari camps. We were often waiting for beverages for more than 25 minutes after ordering. I would have also liked to see at least 2 water bottles a day + some alcohol included in the accommodation (breakfast and lunch included but not water/alcohol not included). Lastly, the wi-fi was questionable which really wouldn't have been a problem, but we were needing to change flights on a day it was out for 8ish hours, causing a bit of stress.
Claire did an amazing job planning our original honeymoon and then pivoting as we navigated the ever changing world during a pandemic. I can't believe we got to go on such an amazing trip despite all the craziness this year! We are so so lucky to have had Claire right by our side and throughout the entire process to make us feel comfortable and taken care of! From making sure we had all the proper documentation to enter Kenya, to what to pack and setting us up with an amazing itinerary and helping us with any bumps along the way - she's been a complete legend. I can't speak highly enough of her communication and thoughtfulness throughout our trip. We also loved the ground transport company Akorn who was with us in Kenya. Fiona being a constant from when we landed until we left to go home was very reassuring. She took care of us and always made sure we knew when/where we needed to be! I need a Claire and Fiona in my everyday life back home in Chicago!
I'll be recommending Mahlatini (and specifically Claire if you can request an agent) to anyone I know looking for a luxurious, yet adventurous trip. We hope to travel with Mahlatini again in the future!