Mahali Mzuri: An Unforgettable Stay at Sir Richard Branson’s Safari Camp in Kenya

Welcome to the 348th Metamorphosis Monday!

What comes to mind when you hear the phrase, “Going on safari?” For the next few minutes, erase all the pre-existing ideas, thoughts and concepts you have about what it’s like to go on safari. If there’s anything I’ve learned from my recent trip to Africa, it’s that safari camps and safari experiences can all be completely different. No two safari camps or safari experiences are ever the same.

I had zero preconceptions when I first started researching a trip to Africa and a possible safari experience. I’ve never known anyone who has traveled to Africa and I’ve never known anyone who went on a safari. I had never even watched a movie about an African safari. I almost watched “Out of Africa” before leaving for this trip, but the reviews I read online made it sound really sad. So, I knew absolutely nothing. Sometimes I think ignorance is bliss, but then sometimes it can bite you in the tush. In this case, it was bliss.

I blogged about this trip a little in advance of going, and in reading the comments left on posts and on Instagram, I began to realize the idea of going on safari conjures up different ideas for each person. I guess what most folks think of when they hear the word “safari” is based on what they’ve seen in movies or what they’ve heard from friends or colleagues who may have gone on a safari sometime in the past. Or, maybe it’s from their own past experiences.

Erase it all! Honestly, if you’ve ever wondered about what it would be like to go on a safari, clear your mind of any past ideas or concepts and don’t listen to what anyone, including Hollywood, tells you.

I lucked out, the fates must have been watching out for my naive self.  It all started with one obsession, my desire to visit Giraffe Manor. In reading reviews on Trip Advisor and other places online, I discovered that most folks who visit Giraffe Manor, do so as part of a safari experience in Africa. Ummm, I thought, maybe I can do that, too. See what I mean…had no idea what I was doing, just figured it out as I went.

Next I googled for safari trips that included a visit to Giraffe Manor. I stumbled across a company called Mahlatini. I completed the “contact” form on their site and heard back from them the very next day. They recommended a stay at Mahali Mzuri and our timing was perfect because Mahali Mzuri was offering “low season” pricing even though it’s still high season (migration is still going on) AND they had a special where you could stay three nights for the price of two. Plus, the flight over was about half of what it normally costs. Awesome! Sign me up!

Mahlatini Luxury Safaris

 

My Visit To Mahali Mzuri

A vacation to Mahali Mzuri, pretty much ruins you for life. Since I’ve been home, I’ve actually been having to cook for myself, make my own bed and do my own laundry. Life is just not fair, ya know! 😉

After arriving in Africa and spending my first night in Nairobi, I took a 45 minute flight from Wilson Airport on this plane. We were supposed to be traveling via a Safarilink plane, but I guess they didn’t have one available. I didn’t really care for this plane because there was zero head room, unlike the Safarilink planes that are much more spacious. Fortunately, the return flight was via Safarilink.

Notice those tiny little luggage holes at the bottom of the plane. That’s why I couldn’t take a bag that rolled and had to take my small duffle type Pendleton bag. I think some folks cheated, though.

Airplane_wm

 

I saw them weigh my bag and my camera/laptop bag together when we were still inside the terminal, so I’m glad I stayed under the weight limit.

Packing for African Safari

 

The view below was always changing during the flight. Kenya has a varied landscape from mountains to savannahs to acacia forest to almost desert-like conditions. To quote Dorothy, “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore!”

Kenya from the Air_wm

 

We landed on a grass landing strip. I took this photo just as we were about to touch down.

Grass Landing Strip_wm

 

Once we landed, I was met by a Mahali Mzuri guide who welcomed me with a cold glass of champagne and a lovely beaded bracelet made by one of the local Maasai ladies. On this particular day I was the only one arriving. Each day is different as folks fly in, stay for a few days and then move on to their next adventure.

Champagne Greeting For Guests of Mahali Mzuri

 

After enjoying my champagne and completing a short registration card, we hopped into the safari vehicle and headed off on a bumpy, exhilarating ride to camp.

Ride from Airport to Mahali Mzuri Safari Camp

 

That first ride is really an impromptu safari as it’s possible to see lots of different animals in route to camp. On that ride I saw quite a few animals including wildebeest and zebras. You may remember seeing this photo I shared on Instagram.

Zebra on drive to Mahali Mzuri

 

So, you know those dusty tents you’ve been hearing about, the ones you supposedly stay in while on safari. At Mahali Mzuri, you do indeed stay in tents, but the tents look like this.

Mahali Mzuri Tents Along Ridge Overlooking the Olare Motorogi Conservancy

Photo from MM website

 

This really is a tent, it’s just a tent gone hi-tech!

Mahali Mzuri in Africa 07

Photo above from MM website

 

Life is so hard on safari, but I “made-do” with the accommodations. 😉

Mahali Mzuri Tent With Canopy Bed

 

See, it really is a tent. It takes a little getting used to because on super windy days, the walls flex, moving in and out. At first it’s a little distracting, but after a while you hardly notice it. It becomes your new normal, and it’s wonderfully exotic.

Mahali Mzuri Tent Construction and Design

 

The way the tents are built is amazing, really beautiful in their design.

See that little bottle by my bed? Each night when I turned in, it was filled with water for the night. I asked the camp manager if I could purchase one. It has the Mahali Mzuri logo on it and I thought it would be such an awesome souvenir to keep in my refrigerator at home.

Sadly, she said no, they didn’t have them available for purchase. She added that they do disappear all the time, though. Was that my cue to help myself? lol Tempting, but I resisted, not being one to take anything I’m not supposed to. Dang, being honest is so inconvenient sometimes, ya know!

Inside a Tent at Mahali Mzuri

 

A lovely “Welcome” awaited me on the bed.

Welcome Letter Awaits at Mahali Mzuri

 

The tent I stayed in was designed with three separate spaces: the bedroom, a living room and a bath. This deck was right off the living room.

Mahali Mzuri Tent with a Large Deck for Lounging

 

On the website they show this picture of giraffe and zebra down in the valley just below the tents. When I saw that photo on the website, I thought, yeah-right, that probably happens once in a blue moon.

Mahali Mzuri in Africa 08

 

I was so wrong. I was there three nights and each day I was treated to a safari right from the deck outside my tent. Giraffe came to play and dine on the trees.

Giraffe in the valley below Mahali Mzuri_wm

 

African buffalo and elephants stopped by.

Wildlife in the valley below Mahali Mzuri_wm

 

And Plains Zebra and Thomson’s Gazelle dined on the grasses below. All these photos were taken from the deck at Mahali Mzuri. This is only a small sampling of the animals we saw each day right from the decks of the camp.

View from the bath at Mahali Mzuri, Zebra and Thomson's Gazelle_wm

 

This was my bath (photo from MM website). I totally took advantage of this clawfoot tub and beautiful view several times during my visit. There’s also a shower with a “rain” style showerhead for those who prefer to shower.

Bathing in Mahali Mzuri

 

I didn’t try any of the products provided (brought my own) but I think they are all locally produced. One thing I really like about Mahali Mzuri is how Richard Branson has gone to great lengths to make this camp a true positive for the community. Mahali Mzuri provides income/jobs for those who live in the area and for the other businesses in this area.

Mahali Mzuri Rubber Ducky

 

Each guest is given a rubber ducky to take home, dressed in Maasai tribal costume. 🙂

Mahali Mzuri Rubber Ducky Dressed in Masai Dress

 

The rest of the bath is just as lovely. Remember how I was so worried about drinking the water because of all the stuff I’d read online? Again, each safari adventure is completely different. At Mahali Mzuri they have a very sophisticated water filtering system that uses reverse osmosis, so the water is fine. You can drink, rinse your toothbrush, etc…with no fear of getting a sick.

Mahali Mzuri Bathroom Vanity

 

Each night a staff member would come around and close down the flaps over the screens of the tent so you had complete privacy. This was usually done while we were at dinner or on a nighttime safari, so we normally never saw this happen.

The night I took this picture below, we were dining in the bush a bit later so I was actually present to see the lowering of the flaps. You can see one of the staff there in the window, lowering them. He knocked on my door to let me know he would be out on the surrounding deck before he began with the process of lowering them.  It was wonderful to see how the tent magically changed each evening for the night.

The flaps they pull down and secure also help keep the tent warm at night. It can get down into the 50’s at night in Kenya. Each morning, while we were out on our morning safari drive, another staff person would come around and raise all the flaps back up so the rooms were bright and sunny upon our return. It made for am amazing transformation each day.

Bath in Mahali Mzuri

 

This is how the bed looked each evening. I appreciated the slippers since I had no room in my small bag to bring them from home.

Bed prepared for evening at Mahali Mzuri

 

Staying warm at night was never a problem since one of these was always waiting under the covers. Amazingly, they really work! I was shocked by that, never having slept with a hot water bottle before.

Hot Water Bottle

 

Clothes placed in a small basket in the wardrobe were always returned by evening, washed and pressed.

Clothes Washed and Ready, Mahali Mzuri

 

I think each tent has a comfortable living room, this was the one in my tent.

Living Room, Tent Mahaliz Mzuri

 

Notice the small refrigerator over in the corner.

Mahali Mzuri Tent Living Room

 

The fridge was well stocked. Whatever I used was always replaced by the next day. There are those coveted water bottles again! The ones in the refrigerator were filled with sparkling water and it’s the best I’ve ever tasted!

One evening before dinner, I cracked open the little bottle of champagne and the orange juice and made myself a Mimosa.

Stocked Refrigerator in Mahali Mzuri Tent

 

As I was sipping my Mimosa out on the deck, this invite was hand-delivered to my room, along with more champagne. I’ll share photos and video soon (if I can upload it) from this gathering under the stars.

Mahali Mzuri Invite to Dinner Under the Stars

 

I’ve also videotaped a little walk around camp and hope to get that uploaded soon. Remember this funny little guy I shared on Instagram? He’s a Rock Hyrax and he and his buddies live all around the camp.

Rock Hyrax, Kenya_wm

 

That photo above was taken here in the tree that’s just outside the back door of my tent. These little creatures love to sit in the tree and as you walk by, they jump down and scamper off. I managed to snap that pic just before he hopped down to run hide. You can tell they are kinda used to people, but a bit wary of getting too close.

Boardwalk outside Mahali Mzuri

 

To make sure there’s no negative impact on the environment in this area, the camp is mostly run via solar power. Between 1 AM and 4 AM each night, the lights go out and the generators all recharge for the upcoming day. Pretty amazing how this place was designed!

Mahali Mzuri Solar Panels

 

This was a view of my tent overlooking the valley below, while standing on the boardwalk leading to the other tents and the main tent/lodge for the camp. That looks like either Wildebeest or African Buffalo down in the valley. Such a gorgeous, gorgeous place!

Mahali Mzuri Tent and View_wm

 

We’ll be dining under the stars and going out on safari in some upcoming posts. I can’t wait to share the rest of this adventure with you!

I know this wasn’t exactly a typical “Before and After” but it was definitely a metamorphosis from my everyday life. 🙂

Looking forward to all the fabulous Before and Afters for this Met Monday!

Metamorphosis MondayMet Monday

 

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Comments

  1. Susan, your trip sounds wonderful! Some day… 🙂 Thanks for hosting the party too. Liz

  2. Wow, Susan, I can’t even believe the experience you had! Looking at your photos is so amazing. It looks like you were on safari in style 🙂 Good for you…what a dream come true!
    Oh, and thanks for another great party.

  3. Amazing Susan! I read your post on Giraffe Manor and I am wondering, did you travel alone? I don’t think I would be so brave to head off to safari by myself! The accommodations look lovely…the trip of a lifetime for sure! 🙂

  4. Oh my word Susan…those tents are 5 star accommodations! What a wonderful trip and stay you had! Now I want to go on safari!
    P.S. You should have taken the hint and pilfered a bottle 🙂

  5. Quite the metamorphosis indeed! After your next two trips, you’ll will be travel weary/travel wise 😉 You break your trip down into perfect chunks, with a nice length and selection of photos–enjoying them immensely.

  6. Now that is the kind of glamping I’d like to do. That tent is extraordinary! Oh my gosh, that bed, that bath, the deck, those views. I might not have ever joined the mobile safari with those kind of views from my deck. Okay, so what happens if you are bathing when they decide it’s time to close the flaps for the night? Thanks for hosting.

    • They always did it while we were at dinner or out on safari. Sometimes we didn’t get in from our evening safari until an hour or so after dark. That one night where he came around and I was in the room, we had gotten back before dark and they were preparing a special dinner out in the bush for us. He knocked first to let me know he was there. I guess that’s their standard process so they don’t “surprise” anyone. The first night I was there, I couldn’t tell if the windows were covered or if it was just very dark out, so I went to the bathroom in the dark. The next morning I could see that something was covering all the windows. 🙂

  7. I swear, Susan, you were already a person I admired before this trip, but now….I’m so impressed with your planning and execution of this lifetime adventure. Your impressions become mine, and so does your get up and go attitude! What an amazing experience with amazing details! Thank you for sharing it all (and this platform for all of us to share our own corners of our own little worlds).
    Rita

    • Thanks so much, Rita! I appreciate that so much! I’ve just reached the age where I crave a little adventure. I think it’s emboldened me to try some new things. 🙂

  8. Susan – This trip looks absolutely amazing! If you had asked me before reading this if I wanted to go to Africa I would have said NO! But, after reading this it makes me want to investigate a trip there. I can’t wait to read more about your experience. What a wonderful visit you must have had!

  9. Those MUST be 5 star tents Susan lol – just gorgeous !
    It’s not a vacation I’d ever considered – not once – until now………
    xox

  10. Hi Susan, thank you for sharing your wonderful trip! Talk about luxury, your “tent” was fantastic! Have a wonderful week and thank you for hosting!… Christine

  11. Your trip looks wonderful. I have been enjoying your travel tips! I am interested in the Bose sound reduction ear buds. I knew that they had headsets…but the ear buds, I really like those! Also…the wash in the sink undies! So glad you are back safe and sound!
    Sheila

    • Sheila, I love the Bose in ear headphones. They are worth all the hype! I love how small the case is that they come in because it easily fits inside a purse or coat pocket. After reading some of the reviews on Amazon, I knew I had to get them since I had several overnight trips coming up. They are so comfortable, too. It took me a few times putting them in to figure out exactly how they went on each time, but once you get that, you’re set.

  12. Thanks for sharing your pictures, Susan. I never would have expected anything like that, and I was fascinated! 🙂

  13. Susan, you wrote and shared this so well I felt like I was there too. It sounds like a remarkable trip! I am so happy for you that you ‘went for it’!

  14. oh boy these pictures are amazing, what a trip!!!

  15. Susan, your trip looks like an absolute dream!!! What an incredible place. Thank you for the party! Take care, Tara

  16. Truly the trip of a lifetime, Susan! I think even I would be willing to endure a long plane trip just to stay in one of those luxurious tents and find myself surrounded by so much exotic wildlife (and I truly dislike flying these days). I can’t wait for your next installment!

  17. How beautiful, Susan! I am enjoying my vicarious safari, thanks to you! Hugs…Debbie

  18. Hi, Susan,
    Another morning with my morning tea and my computer to enjoy your wonderful travel adventures! Your travel accommodations on safari were superb!! I was wondering how many others were on site with you. Were all the “tents” occupied? Did you meet nice people from other parts of the world? That’s my favorite part of traveling. Can’t wait to continue the adventure with you. Thanks for sharing all this! Rosie

    • Rosie, I did! I met several folks from Great Britain and from Australia. I was told that Africa is a popular vacation destination for folks living in Great Britain. I had no idea!
      You’ll see a photo of some of the folks I met in the post that goes up later today.

  19. Well, I must say, this was not what I would have expected from a “safari.” Now I want to go! This might be my favorite metamorphosis of all time. Looking forward to dinner under the stars!

  20. What a beautiful place! You truly were one with nature. It seems like a truly magical experience!

  21. What a trip!!! Thanks for sharing such beautiful pictures and memories.
    ~Lori

  22. rattlebridge farm says:

    Susan, I loved seeing this adventure through your camera lens and your words. Your philosophy about travel (not letting advice or pre-conceived notions influence your goal–and taking a brave leap of faith) resonated all the way to my soul and applies to everything…including life itself.

  23. What fabulous photos, Susan. Thanks so much for sharing this part of your safari adventure. :0)

  24. A-MAZ-ing!
    I’m SO happy for your experiences -jealous- but glad you’re doing all these incredible things, not just hangin’ around doin’ the same ole same ole!
    Would LUV to be your travel companion-
    Catherine

  25. Oh, my! Susan – how fabulous! When I saw Sir Richard Branson’s name attached to the Lodge I figured that it would be a wonderful experience. He knows how to do things “right”. This is definitely the safari experience I would want to enjoy. I can’t wait to read more about your trip.

    • Does he ever! He comes there regularly which I think is wonderful. They told me he was just there in July and is due to visit again in November, I think. I would love to have been there when he was there, just to meet him. Originally, I had planned to go in November but realized that’s getting into the short rainy season, so I decided to go now. Thanks, Melinda!

  26. Wow! Your trip seems like a dream come true! Your tent is beyond anything I can comprehend since I used to tent camp a lot in my younger days. Susan, I enjoyed seeing all your pictures of the different animals. They were soooo pretty and exotic! I can’t wait to hear your stories and see all the pictures. Girl, you did well in planning this trip! Thank you for sharing your trip with us.

  27. I enjoy your blog the most. You tell a story with every article that you write. I felt I was on the Safari with you. I would love to know what foods you ate, and if there were any strange things you tasted but enjoyed.
    Thanks for going, I always wanted to go on a Safari…

    • Thanks, Rosie! I took some photos of food when I could remember. lol I need to think of a way to fit those into a post. Maybe I can post those when I post about the bush dinner. 🙂

  28. Your trip looks amazing! Thanks for hosting.

  29. So nice to see how great your trip was for you. I would say you truly had beginner luck. Everything was so special and done so well. Looking forward to seeing more of your trip.
    Smiles

  30. Do you know HOW MANY times I *sighed*…on the verge of hyper-ventilating! *SIGH!* franki

  31. Amazing!!! What an experience!! Something to cherish for a lifetime…….thanks for taking us along…….love the ‘tent’ and the wildlife…..can’t wait for more!!!

  32. What a trip! An incredible experience. I am so happy you went and are sharing all of your adventures with us!!!

    Big Texas Hugs,
    Susan and Bentley

  33. Marilyn in Mt. Vernon, VA says:

    Going on a Safari is something that has always interested me, and something I probably will never do. Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing these amazing and beautiful photos with us. Breathtaking, all.

  34. I was eating up all the details you shared today Susan, I’m so glad your trip was so fantastic. The animals are incredible, and the tent stay sound so luxurious! Can’t wait for more!

  35. Thanks so much for the party!! Your photos are stunning!!

    Hugs,
    Deb

  36. I love the rubber ducky! I hope you brought yours home with you. Your pictures are amazing and your room is unbelievable! The night time picture of your bed just makes me want to crawl in it! Your room was beautiful. I am so glad that you took this adventure. I can tell that you had an amazing time. But you should have snagged a water bottle!!! lol

  37. These are incredible pictures! What an amazing adventure you had! Once in a lifetime for sure! Thank you for sharing! Lynn

  38. Debbie Hanna says:

    WOW!!!! Thanks for sharing. Those are some tents. Wow. Never seen anything like it. Love it. I want to go now.

  39. bobbi duncan says:

    That’s what I call going in style. The more pictures I see the more convinced I am that this sure isn’t what I thought a safari adventure would be…what an amazing experience, Susan!

  40. Susan….what an AMAZING place you stayed and yes, you were in a 5 Star safari camp! So happy you had such an amazing trip…can’t wait for the rest of your posts…..it is such a once in a lifetime experience and I’m so glad you got to go!

  41. Hi Susan,
    Wow…I never would have imagined a safari being so glamorous!! Everything looks just amazing, even the cute rubber ducky!! You have definetly captured some beautiful pictures and memories. Thanks for sharing this incredible adventure!

  42. Marsha Yeager says:

    Wow Susan, I have been away from reading your posts for so long. I’ve been collecting them in my InBox knowing that someday, life would slow down and I would have time to catch up. WELL, I just happened to open one of your posts while cleaning out other emails and saw that you went to Africa. I too had the wonderful opportunity to go on a tour to So. Africa, Zimbabwe, and Botswana which included a garden tour and a safari. It has indeed changed my life. Africa is a beautiful country with beautiful people. I highly recommend it to everyone.

  43. I so want to return to Africa and experience it just like this. I am so glad you shared your adventure.

  44. Wow Susan! It looks like the vacation of a lifetime and I can’t wait to see what you share next. 🙂

  45. Absolutely B-E-A-U-T-I-F-U-L! It’s a post I will come to again and again! Your pictures and descriptions are stunning!!! 🙂

  46. Susan, your trip sounds just amazing! I have never thought I would like to go on a safari, but I think you have changed my mind! Your Instagram pictures and posts have been fabulous. I have enjoyed every minute of your planning and actual trip. What an adventure! That tent, the bath, all the champagne…oh, my! Thanks for sharing it all with us.

  47. Hi Susan,
    Your trip looks amazing & arent the tents gorgeous ?
    In Australia we have Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo which has the similar kind of accomodation, I went last year with a friend & we just loved it.
    I figure it’s the closest I’ll ever get to Africa & I really felt I was there.
    So glad you loved it what with all your preparation etc, it’s nice to feel it’s worth it, isn’t it?

  48. Whoever planned and created that place sounds like they put a lot of thought into it. My only question is, can any of the animals or bugs get in to the tent home?
    I have stayed in yurts here in Oregon and they have a hard plastic like canvas and seemed so secure. Just wondered about those.

  49. Thank you for sharing your adventures in Africa. Wow. I am envious. Though I will, in all likelihood, never travel to Africa, every day I go on safari. If you haven’t heard or read about them, go to:
    http://www.wildsafarilive.com/?sf8932556=1
    Every day from 9:30 to 12:30 est. the guides are out giving people at look at South Africa.
    Thank you again for sharing. I have thoroughly enjoyed your travel.s

    • Peg, what a great site! I could spend hours on there every single day. Thanks for telling me about it. I loved watching the sleeping leopard. We got to experience that and they are gorgeous animals!

  50. Oh my word, the most amazing trip. Great pics and such a great post. Can’t wait to see more.

  51. Oh how wonderful! I feel like i’ve been there to some degree! I think of safari’s like Clark Gable tromping through on trails with hired hands carrying everything from tents to food and they always had their rifles/shot gun’s ready just in case! Glad to see it’s not quite so primitive! Ok Ok I keep thinking….how do you go potty if you’re out long enough that you need to relieve your bladder??? I worry about things like that!! 🙂 As far as the movie Out of Africa- it’s a love story with challenges! It’s a great movie and worth watching.

    • Well, the few times folks had to answer the call of Mother Nature, the guide backed our vehicle, which is totally closed off in back, up to woods and a person could go around and do their business back there. Fortunately, the drives were normally only around 3 hours long so that was pretty rare. We all carried kleenex with us though, just in case.

  52. This is a beautiful retreat to recharge. Those views are simply amazing

  53. Linda Palmer says:

    Hi, Susan! I didn’t think your posts about your trip could get any better but after this one I’m REALLY looking forward to future ones. Reader comments are interesting and some things we all wonder about have been included. It’s so exciting to be with you on this journey. Thank you!

  54. Such great pictures! It all looks wonderful!

  55. Cyndi Raines says:

    How totally awesome! Those “tents” are just over the top! And I love how your laundry came back in neat little baskets! Too much! To be able to see live animals and not in a zoo would be just incredible. Loved the pictures. Can’t wait to see more. When you finally come down from this high, you MUST watch “Out of Africa” – one of my absolute favorites! The music alone is so hauntingly beautiful and the rest is epic.

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