The Mara Serena Safari Lodge in the Maasai Mara region of Kenya was one of our favorite accommodations, and it certainly has one of the most interesting histories of the places where we stayed.
|We loved these signs that gave us our precise location on the planet.|
We were greeted as a rafiki (friend) by our hosts:
No, it's not a light fixture made of golf clubs, but one ornamented with traditional Maasai walking sticks. A Maasai man never goes anywhere without his stick.
This woodcarving could be 21st century art, or it could be based on an ancient African design:
There were dozens of fun touches:
|Photo by J. Mirau|
In a feat of impressive strength, the porters picked up our heavy bags and carried them to our rooms on their shoulders:
View of the rooms from the back:
The soft, rolling lines of the main lodge were repeated in our "huts":
. . . and the view from our bedroom window was just as striking as the one in the lodge:
Our balcony was a great place to sit with binoculars or a telephoto lens:
A bonus (according to my husband) was that the room came with its own friendly resident gecko sitting motionless on the wall, waiting for a bug to come by:
A trail just beyond our room led us up the hill towards a viewpoint. Along the way, we caught sight of this beauty, an agama lizard:
He reminded me a lot of this guy:
Along with the animals, the vegetation at the lodge was photo-worthy:
Ouch! Not what I would consider a good spot to go during a game of hide-and-seek:
At the top of the short trail we came upon a nice bench and table, although to me the table looked a little too much like a sacrificial altar:
. . . especially with that skull propped up on the ledge:
The Mara Serena Lodge is part of the 31-strong Serena Hotel chain developed by the Aga Khan and, according to a friend of ours, named for his daughter Zahra (or Serena in English).
|His Highness Aga Khan IV, the |
current leader. Picture from here
Our guide Steven told us that the Aga Khan has invested heavily in Kenya--hospitals, banks, and a media corporation. He has done the same in Tanzania and Uganda and is very respected by East Africans.
In addition to his for-profit businesses, which include several hotel chains and a very successful race horse breeding enterprise, he is known for his impressive charity work, spending up to $600 million a year mostly in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. Some of his goals are to reduce poverty, create better schools, advance the status of women, promote Islamic art and architecture, improve the environment, provide health and education resources, restore historic sites, develop rural areas, promote tourism, and stimulate the private sectors of developing economies by providing microfinancing. He also seeks to improve understanding of Islam and advocate for world peace. He's just an average guy, right?
Anyway, the Aga Khan personally chose the spectacular location for one of his Serena hotels, and I have to say that he has a pretty good eye.
One dramatic incident occurred at this hotel that my husband and I aren't likely to forget. After our early morning drive on our second day in Maasai Mara, we went back to our room for a bit of rest and relaxation. We opened the screenless balcony door to enjoy the fresh African air, and while Bob read/dozed on the bed, I went into the bathroom to wash out some clothing in the sink. All of the sudden I heard Bob crashing off the bed and yelling, "YOU GET OUT OF HERE!" I ran into the bedroom just in time to see two large baboons jumping off the table about four feet from the bed:
Not too far from our room, the burglar stopped to examine his loot. He peeled back the seal and picked at the wet wipes. Disgusted, he discarded his lackluster prize, and he and his accomplice went in search of better loot.
Later that evening we saw one of the lodge porters walking around behind our rooms with a gun in his hands (always wary of wild animals, those Africans). He was looking for the shoe that the baboons had stolen from another guest's room. I guess we were pretty lucky that all we lost was our Wet Wipes!
No post on a lodge is complete without a photo of the food, which was especially good at the Mara Serena:
We also enjoyed the entertainment in the lobby, a talented young musician playing (who would have guessed it?) John Denver tunes, "This Land Is Your Land," and his favorite, "Know When to Hold 'Em":
All of it--the room, the walk, the view, the food, the music, even the monkeys--was just about perfect.