Out of Africa, Chapter Two, The Lodges – Cottars Safari Lodge

The advantage of flying over Kenya with a private charter, is the joy of landing on an airstrip for an impromptu brekkie or lunch! Our amazing Scenic Air pilot, Kim, prepared a superb soundtrack for each route! Swooping low over volcanic landscapes, miles of untouched sand dunes, small village bomas, and of course, all the wildlife! It’s the only way to fly, Scenic Air lives up to its name! Contour Flying – literally soaring and following the contour of the landscape.

Strafe the runway to alert stray animals to make a smooth landing at Cottars Safari Camp. Nothing more delightful than a Maasai greeting on landing! VIP Red Carpet, mimosas, and snacks. Heading off to the lodge, the exhilaration begins as we spot a family of eight lions barely visible under the brush, each taking turns gnawing on the rib cage of a luckless animal, lion lunch! We are in the bush!

Cottars Safari’s is family owned since 1919 and is situated in the untouched exclusive Olderkesi Conservancy bordering the Maasai Mara, Serengeti and Loliondo reserves; the area guarantees privacy and an abundance of wildlife.

The 1920s Camp provides the romance of safari under nine cream canvas tents, spacious and luxuriously furnished in the style of the bygone era of the twenties. The private Bush Villa boasts 5 en-suite bedrooms, amazing views over the Masai Mara, a 25m private pool, a private chef, and guides.

Luxurious Tents

I love sleeping in safari tents, although I am always a teeny bit apprehensive – my safari sleep mantra is from FDR – The only thing we have to fear is fear itself. Cottars Tents are glorious, enormous screens with outside rollup if you prefer darkness, I wake with the light. Private expansive bathroom with a real hot water shower, no Maasai outside with a bucket on a rope! Big comfy bed, encased in white mosquito netting, or in my case beetle netting! Museum quality beetles in Africa!

Cottars feels like a step back in time, the tents are very comfortable and spacious, with room to sit and nap. Each tent is a different size, accommodating families as well. All are private, mine had a pleasant deck for morning coffee or a cocktail and my portable bubble bath! An open-air bath was the ultimate in luxury, a pop-up tub overflowing with steamy bubbles accompanied by a bottle of chilled bubbles. Bush Bath, with uninterrupted view of flowering acacia trees and the setting sun – what could be more extravagant?

Two game drives each day – the exquisite dawn sunrise makes it worth getting up from my cozy warm bed with two hot water bottles tucked under the sheets. Coffee delivered to my tent at 5am.  Unzipping the screen and canvas door, I ask the guard what was that astonishingly loud grunting – a lion?  No, Ms. Gwen, a male antelope was saying good morning to a female antelope… ohh, an encounter.

Still dark, the guard returns to walk me to the drive vehicle. Gazelles and springbok literally prance in joy from surviving a night in the wild. Morning drive under a stunning sky. Cape buffalo, my favorite little wart hogs or pumba, tiny 6 foot tall, giraffe babies, days old… Zebra sighting followed by an elegant Bush Brekkie! And one extraordinary luxury, a portable tent loo! No squatting while looking for a predator!

Dining at Cottars is not confined to regular mealtimes.  Bush breakfasts, al fresco lunch in the pavilion by the pool, take a dip before dipping into a sumptuous lunch. A safari is not good for a diet. Afternoon drive always includes an elaborate sundowner around a bonfire, appetizers roasting on grills and served with a full bar!

The Dining Tent is a glamorous throwback to the golden age of safaris. Set up as a sumptuous salon. In between drives, curl up on a comfy plush sofa, leather wing back chairs, while the most attentive staff hover with snacks, chilled drinks and never forget how you like your Rye Manhattan – up with a brandy-soaked cherry! Honestly, I had to beg William, no more bread! An elegant bar separates the dining area and the salon. In the evening, a bonfire surrounded by camp chairs is the perfect after dinner resting spot.

Staff: If you need an immediate family, Cottars is the place for you! Warm engaging, funny, and always smiling – Peris manages guest experiences with quiet elegance. Grace does everything else, with grace, they are Gems, always there for every little need, I’m sure they must never sleep! Crack of dawn, wandering the dining tent, tucking you into the game drives with blankets and coffee, and wishing you sweet dreams at midnight!

Oh William, Please no more bread! Ms. Gwen, your Rye Manhattan is ready!

When you’re too tired or a little too scared to take a walking safari to Sundowner Cocktails, your Maasai tracker drives you and just like that, a lion encounter! Eight lions, mom was out hunting!

Amazing sunset, even more marvelous cocktails, and roasted appetizers around a bonfire!

Village Visit! Nothing better than a visit to a local Maasai village… the kids are forever enthusiastic and enthralling, we were greeted by the beautiful radiant women in vibrant shukas, eagerly wrapping us in colorful Shukas, held our hands and serenaded us with song and dance. The kids are curious, never tire of looking at their images on your camera or shouting JAMBO in unison.

A half circle of village women displayed their beautiful collections of handmade beaded boxes, bracelets, leather and wood items, the creativity and talent are amazing! Remember there aren’t any supply shops in the bush, these talented women create jewelry by hand. The chief of the village has three wives who each have their own manyatta, home … kids are shared with each wife and the community… it takes a village! Delightful morning! Asante Cottars for sharing local life, one of my best-loved events on safari.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is IMG_5302-768x1024.jpg

Serene Soaking at Cottars Lodge, exceptional staff, glorious meals …Highly Recommend!

Double Bubbles! Champers and Bush Bath with a view… died and gone to heaven

Out of Africa – Karen, Kenya A Safari, Chapter One

My first safari was over 25 years ago. One of my lasting memories is the vast wide-open blue skies and the infinite horizons. The seemingly edge of the earth thrusting itself up to graze the pale sky. The sky in Africa always seems bigger than anywhere else in the world, an endless horizon stretches forever. Occasionally peppered with billowing pristine white clouds, it’s like IMax scenery!

I’ve enjoyed numerous Journeys to Kenya, a last-minute invitation on a business Safari, known as a Fam, was impossible to resist! A Fam is industry vernacular for a Familiarization trip to explore hotels or lodges – with a small group of like-minded agency owners – usually an arduous schedule to enjoy ten days of adventure jam-packed into five days! Morocco was already on my schedule, change flights and I’m in Kenya.

My month in Morocco allowed a few days of down time before meeting the Fam group. Arriving in Nairobi at 3 am via Istanbul, I woke up in a familiar property, Hemingways in Karen, Kenya. The suites are enormous, terraces open to the expansive always green garden, a pond gurgles and swells with dragon flies, mynah birds speak their own language – coffee delivered to my sunny terrace – a marvelous way to wake up in Kenya!

Agenda: repack Morocco bags, safari gear into green canvas and leather satchels, swim and run a few errands with Sammy, my local driver. Sammy intent on reteaching me Swahili!

Who can complain about African November heat, follow the sun, avoid winter. Two days of Hemingways, move to Manzili House to meet the Fam, after a few days, FAM could have been altered to FAMILY.  I rarely go on Fams, if I want to visit a property, I go. One must play well with others for a week or so, and there is no escape! Turns out this group was beyond swell, hugs and tears upon departure!

Karen, Kenya properties are primarily reserved for pre and post safari. I’ve stayed at all the five-star options, Manzili House was new to me. Owned by a local family, Vanessa and George Roumeguere,  it’s a comfy luxury homestay – home away from home. Karen is a leafy quiet Nairobi suburb, Manzili House is on a family property, designed and built by the owners. My arrival with four 60-pound bags raised eyebrows – a month roaming Morocco was my only explanation! One of the guests arrived with a small duffel, the look…Uh oh – she didn’t get the safari bag memo.

Manzili House proved to be an enchanting choice for our group, as each traveler wandered in from international flights. A charming 4-bedroom home with individual suites and a separate 2-bedroom house with a full kitchen separated by a pool and garden, the ideal location for a small group. Acacia trees, flowering vines surround the garden property.

Perfect central base for exploring, it’s a stone’s throw from Nairobi National Park and the local must-see galleries, shops, Sheldricks Elephant Orphanage, and the Giraffe Center.

The main house is light and airy, beautifully decorated in distinctive Swahili architecture and impressive accessories- I felt at home! The owner’s son, Louie, plays host with the butler – who does anything and everything at a moment’s notice! Hospitality is in their genes.

I asked about the antiques and art – I mentioned we could be friends- I have a few of these pieces! Relaxing at the pool, a charming woman with tiny puppy greets me, I assume one of our Fam group. It’s Vanessa, the owner of Manzili House. Within minutes, we are fast friends! She’s French, married a French man whose French anthropologist mother married a Maasai, and he grew up with 100+ step brothers and sisters in Kenya. This is Karen, Kenya, after all. Google the legendary history of Karen…it’s quite interesting!

We chat and Vanessa exclaims, we must go visit my artist friend – let’s go, you will adore him! Puppy in tow, we traverse a few blocks through rural Karen – think Montecito or Beverly Hills landscaping, although you can’t see homes behind the massive shrubs and enormous trees and substantial gates. Some gates have local tribesmen as guards.

Indeed, we visit her friend, the artist Anthony Russell, in his over-the-top studio. Truly, it is more like a museum of antiquities merged with his enormous expressive art collages and photographs. Anthony, engaging and amusing, is a local legend, it turns out he owns a property formerly known as Shampoli, I stayed on one of my first Kenyan safaris. After an hour studio tour, he asked what are you doing in Karen?  I’m meeting a group of agency owners- he ponders and says – you are coming here tomorrow to meet me! Sneak peek with Vanessa! He also has a Masai Mara based Art Camp, no talent required, he is inspirational!

Vanessa and Louie and team host cocktails at the pool; bush babies leap from leafy limb to limb above. It’s Africa, after all! They are screechers, my first BB encounter was in a tree house lodge in Tanzania, I was terrified assuming they were the size of lions, preparing to invade my tree house and eat me.

Henry and their private chef serve a divine dinner, Vanessa, her husband George, and Louie are our hosts. Fire blazing in fireplace, dessert and after dinner drinks, we all linger despite some travelers having flown overnight.  Manzili House feels like home, with charming and engaging hosts.  

Manzili House Karen Kenya

We spent a delightful day visiting my favorite Karen haunts: bead shops, antiques, art, Giraffe feeding, and a scrumptious lunch at Cultiva!

Morning, we are Wheels Up from the private Wilson Airport. Our Fam is hosted by my dear friend and her teams: Scenic Air, Cottars Safari Camp and Ol Jogi Lodge.

The advantage of flying over Kenya with a private charter, is the joy of landing on an airstrip for an impromptu brekkie or lunch! Our amazing pilot, Kim, had a superb soundtrack for each route! Swooping low over volcanic landscapes, miles of untouched sand dunes, small village bomas, and of course, all the wildlife! It’s the only way to fly, Scenic Air lives up to its name!

Highly Recommend Manzili House!

Go To Chapter Two The Lodges.