East Africa’s game-changing new openings

From safari lodges and camps to private residences in Kenya and Tanzania

In 1997, east African safari was redefined by the opening of Ngorongoro Crater Lodge (www.andbeyond.com; from £690; first picture) in Tanzania. The aesthetic – wooden textures, beaded chandeliers, leather-backed chairs – was conceived by the South African architect and interior design duo Silvio Rech and Lesley Carstens, who became the game-changers of the safari industry, designing North Island in the Seychelles (2003) and their most recent achievement, Chinzombo in Zambia (2013). Now the lodge has gone through a top-to-toe rehaul. The new design has upped the luxury quotient: a chandelier-bedecked dining room, wine cellar worthy of a French château, as well as crystal, silverware and crockery adorned with the lodge’s crest.

Image: Tyler Davis

Competing for most iconic cliffside perch in Africa is Angama Mara (www.angama.com; from £650; second picture), a new camp on the Ololoolo Escarpment overlooking the Maasai Mara in Kenya. This 300m-high eyrie was made famous in the 1985 film Out of Africa. While to some it might seem a pity such a pristine landscape is now punctuated by this luxury lodge – albeit sympathetically designed by, again, Rech and Carstens – there’s still every reason to visit Kenya right now, when tourism is dropping off a cliff because of the reputational crisis that has occurred post-Ebola, combined with al-Shabaab attacks in others parts of the country. At press time, there was no reason not to travel to the Mara, which this month picks up with the thundering of 2m wildebeest, zebra and antelope as the great migration advances through the plains in their annual loop north from the Serengeti.

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The wildebeest come from Tanzania, which next month will see the opening of Mkombe’s House Lamai (www.nomad-tanzania.com; from $625) – a private residence for families, with a chef, safari guide, vehicle (including car seats for children), pool and adjoining bedrooms. This will give Mara Bush Homes (www.asiliaafrica.com; from $2,790) – consisting of three authentic, exceptionally well-managed, exclusive-use houses on the Kenyan side of the giant Mara-Serengeti ecosystem – a run for its money.

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More awe-inspiring wilderness adventures can be created with the new mobile safari camps setting up from Kenya’s Northern Frontier to Ladakh’s Nubra Valley, while on Kenya’s Laikipian plateau, Enasoit safari camp is pioneering a new model for the wilderness experience.

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