VOGUE Living Australia

Into the wild

Warm­ing sun­lit hues at dawn. Reg­u­lar run-ins with ele­phants and gi­raffes dur­ing the day. Calm­ing herb-scented baths by night. This is sa­fari in Kenya, the BATELEUR CAMP way.

- By Freya Her­ring Pho­tographed by Jeremy Si­mons Recreation · Iceland · Belarus · Austria · Kenya · Somalia · Africa · South Africa · Belgium

At six in the morn­ing, our win­dows are open and the sun is ris­ing in vivid reds and rushes of yel­low over the sa­van­nah. Cool air flows in. A hot-air bal­loon drifts by in fiery bursts as our but­ler, Benson, drops off hot cups of de­li­cious Kenyan tea and crumbly discs of but­tery short­bread on a sil­ver tray. We’re at &Be­yond’s Bateleur Camp in Kenya’s Maa­sai Mara, a lodge so re­mote you have to fly into it by tiny plane. Bateleur Camp is sit­u­ated on the cusp of the jun­gle at the base of the Oloololo Es­carp­ment that ap­peared in the 1985 film Out of Africa, over­look­ing 1510 square kilo­me­tres of wild-an­i­mal-pep­pered plains. Each day, we go out on sa­fari at dawn and dusk, hosted by our guide, Sammy Ocheng Akatch. At night, we are roused to the sound of li­ons roar­ing and the deep chuckle of graz­ing hip­pos. Herds of ele­phants plod by the camp. Bateleur has been open since 1999 but re­cently un­der­went a re­vamp. In­te­rior de­sign­ers De­bra Fox and Chris Browne of South Africa’s Fox Browne Cre­ative over­saw the re­design. “We al­ways cre­ate a leg­end, or per­son­al­ity, around our de­signs,” says Browne. “And this is re­ally an ex­plorer who came with all his lit­tle Euro­pean trin­kets and set up in this en­camp­ment. It’s about that clas­sic sa­fari feel.” There are two camps at Bateleur, each fea­tur­ing nine rooms, pools and an el­e­gantly de­signed com­mu­nal din­ing area and bar. The camps sing with age and his­tory, adorned with old, crooked chests and pe­cu­liar ob­jects of mis­cel­lany.

The rooms — which are, in fact, gi­nor­mous tents — fea­ture mar­ble bath­rooms and shiny brass baths set within their own pri­vate glasshouse­s. An­other cor­ner sees two plush arm­chairs with sherry housed in a crys­tal de­canter and an or­nate, pri­vate bar. Ev­ery­where you look, ex­trav­a­gance is bal­anced with na­ture. “You don’t ever want the de­sign of a place or a build­ing to dis­tract from the wilder­ness out there, be­cause that’s re­ally why you’re here,” says Fox. “It needs to give you that sense of re­con­nect­ing. We want peo­ple to fall in love with the world again.” In the cen­tre of the bath­room is an aged leather ot­toman. “The leather over the ot­toman is ac­tu­ally a beaded Maa­sai wed­ding skirt made from goat skin,” says Fox. “We wanted to in­cor­po­rate that sense of Maa­sai in the de­sign, so there are clay-toned mud walls and Maa­sai arte­facts thrown be­tween English an­tiques and old-world trea­sures. There’s that feel­ing that you are in Maa­sai land but with all the com­forts of home.” At night, we drink Ne­gro­nis by the fire­side to the cho­rus of the an­i­mals, be­fore sit­ting down ››

‹‹ to four-course feasts of dishes such as Kenyan crushed veg­eta­bles (called irio) with smoky grilled steak, or crème caramel dusted with co­conut and served with pas­sion­fruit (the Bateleur team grow much of the pro­duce in their kitchen gar­den). Drinks, laun­dry, meals… ev­ery­thing is in­cluded here. “Wel­come home,” we are told each time we re­turn from sa­fari.

There’s no need to worry about those an­i­mals, ei­ther. They are one of the rea­sons you come to Bateleur. Around 70 per cent of the staff here are Maa­sai — “the most coura­geous tribe in Africa,” our (nonMaa­sai) driver tells us. From a young age, the Maa­sai are trained to pro­tect them­selves against the wild an­i­mals they en­counter day-to-day in this dan­ger­ous part of Africa, and so they travel with you from the restau­rant down a star­lit path, across a stream, to your room at night. They are armed with spears, in case any hip­pos (ex­tremely dan­ger­ous beasts, it turns out) have de­cided to wan­der in. You couldn’t feel more pro­tected. At the on­site spa, we are scrubbed with herbs, our bod­ies ten­derly mas­saged for hours — as if we weren’t al­ready re­laxed enough. An op­tional hot-air bal­loon ride over the sa­van­nah at dawn is the stuff of fan­tasy. The sun rises and we land on top of a moun­tain to laid ta­bles set in the long grass, where we are served Cham­pagne and hot waf­fles with honey and but­ter. On game drives, a pride of li­ons cir­cles our jeep. Star­ing up at us, the two daz­zlingly

Around 70 per cent of the staff here are Maa­sai — “The MOST coura­geous tribe in AFRICA”

maned males laze as the li­onesses saunter past, their ba­bies trot­ting along by their moth­ers’ heels. There are ele­phants, ze­bras, buf­fa­los and cheery warthogs at ev­ery turn, and cum­ber­some rhi­nos trudge up to our jeep. A jour­ney of some 18 gi­raffes sur­rounds us right af­ter we’ve stopped for our sun­downer cock­tails, over­look­ing a river full of hip­pos, bob­bing up and down, in and out of the murky wa­ter.

Un­like many camps, &Be­yond has its own range, the Kichwa Tembo pri­vate con­ces­sion, so there are fewer rules here — we can go off-road and right up to the an­i­mals. Akatch knows where to find them. One day, we watch li­ons heave them­selves up into tall, spindly trees, their paws dan­gling down from the branches, tails twitch­ing. With an­other sun­downer (drinks in the bush are daily events at Bateleur, each evening in a dif­fer­ent spot), a team of Maa­sai war­riors sur­prises us to demon­strate their ad­umu dance, jump­ing and singing haunt­ingly. It’s an hon­our to watch the con­tin­u­ance of this an­cient cul­ture, which has re­mained largely un­changed for cen­turies.

All of this is ex­hil­a­rat­ing and ex­cit­ing, but it’s also tir­ing. “Sa­fari is ac­tu­ally quite hard,” says Fox. “You’re out early, your hair is dusty, you feel hot and sweaty.” Bateleur of­fers relief, a balm for the thrill. “It needed to feel like a sanc­tu­ary when you came home — an oa­sis where you can re­cover.” On our fi­nal night, we re­turn from our game drive to a hot run bath. Herbs scent the wa­ter. We don’t play mu­sic. We barely talk. It’s hard to take in — and to put into words — what a plea­sure and a priv­i­lege it is to be here in this spe­cial, spec­tac­u­lar place. The staff sings as our jeep leaves for the plane that will take us away from here, their wel­com­ing voices fil­ter­ing through the jun­gle as we trun­dle down the hill. VL

Vogue Liv­ing ex­pe­ri­enced Bateleur Camp as a guest of Travel As­so­ciates Vir­tu­oso. travel-as­so­ciates.com.au/vir­tu­osoand­be­yond.com

 ??  ?? THIS PAGE the view from a hot-air bal­loon sa­fari of the plains of the Maa­sai Mara Na­tional Re­serve. OP­PO­SITE PAGE lo­cal li­ons are known for climb­ing trees.
THIS PAGE the view from a hot-air bal­loon sa­fari of the plains of the Maa­sai Mara Na­tional Re­serve. OP­PO­SITE PAGE lo­cal li­ons are known for climb­ing trees.
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 ??  ?? THIS PAGE the swim­ming pool at South Camp. OP­PO­SITE PAGE, FROMLEFT the sky can be seen from this bath­tub due to an atrium-like set­ting in the guest suite bath­room; a wood­land king­fisher.
THIS PAGE the swim­ming pool at South Camp. OP­PO­SITE PAGE, FROMLEFT the sky can be seen from this bath­tub due to an atrium-like set­ting in the guest suite bath­room; a wood­land king­fisher.
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