It’s funny how a little missing feature on the bedroom door spoke volumes about the staff at Sarova Mara Game Camp. As I was leaving my room the second morning, I turned around to lock the door behind me only to find there was no way to do so. I searched the frame of the door, not exactly sure what I was looking for. There were no chains, padlocks, or keys. All I was given at check-in was my room number. My first reaction was to hide my valuables or store them in the provided safe. By the end of the second day, I was leaving my laptop and valuables lying around my room. As I got to know the staff at the camp, I realized there was no lock because there was no need for a lock. Everyone here is family, and once you’re at the game camp, you’re welcomed into that family with arms wide open.
The best time to see some game is during the early morning or late evenings, the temperature cools and the animals come out of hiding. It’s also when the scenery is cast in a soft golden glow from the rising/setting sun. It’s a breathtaking sight.
When we headed out into the park at 6AM, we managed to see elephants, giraffe, lions (!), buffalo, and other smaller game.
I was surprised to find that going on the game drive had worked up my appetite. After the previous day, I was sure I wouldn’t be hungry for at least 24 hours.
We went back to the hotel and indulged in an extensive breakfast. During breakfast, the dining room is filled with everything you could possibly want and food you didn’t even know you want: fresh fruit, cereal, yogurt, fresh bread, eggs, creamed spinach, grilled tomatoes, roasted potatoes, sausage (beef & pork), bacon, made-to-order crepes, jams & syrups for said crepes, made-to-order omelets, mahamri, mandazi, chai maziwa, Swahili coffee, donuts, danishes, I mean… It’s endless. There I was, in the middle of the dining hall, eyes hungrier than my stomach, and food piled high on my plate.
I’m sure most of you will agree that buffet meals can be hit or miss. It’s difficult to maintain freshness and quality when preparing large amounts of food and keeping them on the burners for several hours. The food in the Sarova Mara buffet didn’t taste over done or like it had been sitting out for a long time so I asked Chef John a little about how their kitchens operate.
Firstly, Sarova uses temperature controlled transport to send food items to all their lodges. When you’re on the grounds sometimes you’ll catch a glimpse of the “Kitchens of Sarova” truck driving around… It’s beautiful.
Sarova keeps their food warm on induction plates (electric copper coil plates) with digital readouts to ensure food safety and precise heating. They put small portions to warm at a time and continually cook in batches to ensure the food tastes fresh. Not to mention, this method is more environmentally friendly than petroleum-based warmers.
Lastly, every Sarova has a garden on premise. This allows for them to cultivate fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs and also emphasis they’re desire to have a focus on local ingredients.
Safe to say I really enjoyed the buffet! For the three days I was there, the buffet menu was different for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
After a hearty meal I headed to the pool… Food baby and all. Jacquie and I lounged on the pool beds basking in the warm sun and dipping into the ice cold pool to cool off.
“Excuse me” we heard a man call, “I have some drinks for you here, maybe you’d like to try them?” a bartender holding four cocktails approached us… Of course we quickly agreed. We tried their Big 5 cocktail (a long island iced tea), and a pretty pink watermelon cocktail.
I couldn’t have been happier.
We wound up the rest of our day enjoying the grounds of the hotel and relaxing. Ken offered to take us on another game drive but we were exhausted after a couple late nights and early mornings. Plus, we wanted to save our energy for our early morning bush brunch the following day. Jacquie and I headed back to our rooms to lie down and chill.
You know when you’re on vacation and your room is ten times more comfortable than your room at home? Maybe the bed feels like you’re sleeping on clouds, or the bathtub comes with bubble bath and soft cotton robes to wrap yourself in, or there’s a HD TV with every DSTv channel imaginable; whatever the case, you want to spend your entire day in there soaking it all in. That was what it was like with my bedroom at Sarova Mara. I had to make the extra effort to leave my room and get out of bed every morning.
The bush brunch was the last activity we had planned before flying back to Nairobi. Unbeknownst to us, the best was definitely saved for last. We woke up at around 6AM to begin our journey into the bush and after a forty five minute drive (again, filled with animals) we saw a small tent and table set up in the distance.
When we got closer, we noticed an ENORMOUS breakfast spread in front of us. As we hopped out of the car, Chef John was waiting with coffee, tea, and champagne. I could have cried. I LOVE BRUNCH. Seriously, when else is it socially acceptable to begin drinking before noon?
On our plates was an array of freshly cut fruit and a side cup of yogurt. There was also a light blue glass plate with every pastry you could possibly want.
I gasped when I sat down and looked at the plate before me. There was a little unexpected surprise sitting there. I asked Chef John if it was on purpose to which he laughed and said “we’ve read your blog”. On the side of each dish were three Oreos and these guys knew that I LOVE Oreos. It’s this kind of attention to detail and service that makes the Sarova experience so unique and special.
The fruit platter was just the beginning. Next, a plate came out with eggs, sausage, bacon, crepes and baked beans.
It was such a juxtaposition to be enjoying a luxurious breakfast in the middle of the Kenyan bush. We could see animals on the horizon and when things quieted down all we could hear were the birds chirping and a few buzzing insects. It was really peaceful.
Our breakfast, much like the other meals we had had, was fantastic: flavourful, filling, and with generous portions. Sarova clearly understood my passion for food and ensured that I was always fed with great meals and snacks. It is no surprise that they were this years winners of the 2015 Luxury Hotel Awards in the Luxury Tented Safari Camp category.
I want to take a moment to thank everyone on the Sarova Mara Game Camp team from the bottom of my heart. As our Land Rover pulled away from the camp and headed to the airport, I glanced over at Jacquie to see her furiously blinking back tears. She caught me looking and broke a smile, “I don’t know why I’m crying” she laughed “I know” I reassured her “I feel it too man, it’s actually kind of funny when you think about it… Why are we crying about leaving a hotel?!” We both burst into laughter. It really was absurd. We had never felt such sadness leaving other vacations either. I think it really boils down to the team at Sarova Mara. The team treats each other, and their guests, like family. We had gotten to know Ken, Chef John, Kioko, and Emelda like they were long lost friends and as I think of them now, I really do miss them. They’re genuine in their care and truly want you to feel at home with them. For all of this, I thank the Sarova Mara team. My experience would not have been the same without your warmth and kindness. I hope to see you again soon. 🙂
All photos taken by J. Mwai Photography