A memorable journey to the golden age of safari

February 18, 2019
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A wedding is an extraordinary occasion that deserves to be complemented with a fittingly extraordinary honeymoon. Nowhere is such an experience more surely guaranteed than at Cottar’s 1920s Safari Camp in the Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya. While all trips can bring you to a different place, few can transport you to a completely incomparable world of Cottar’s Safaris.

From the moment your wheels hit the rugged dirt runway, you quickly realize how far away from home you are. And, at Cottar’s, it’s not just the geographical distance that’s striking, but the journal back in time. With its signature 1920s theme, you immediately feel like you’ve walked into a different era—one that’s characterized as much by its simplicity as it is by its charm. As you tour the Cottar’s camp grounds, you’ll appreciate the detail and intent of its design at every turn. Artifacts such as colonial maps of Africa, stately Persian rugs and antique phonographs provide an authentic vintage appeal. The team behind Cottar’s is attentive and charismatic, ensuring the entire experience is at the level of luxury that is rarely offered.

The camp’s location is unmatched. Being in the Maasai Mara and so close to the Serengeti National Park of Tanzania means you are in the centre of it all, among the largest concentration of terrestrial wildlife on earth. Animals are constantly meandering between both parks, the most famous journey being of course The Great Migration.

The award-winning camp is owned and operated by the oldest established safari family in Africa—fifth generation in fact—and was started by one of the great explorers of East Africa. It is no surprise then that Calvin Cottar is sought after by A-list celebrities and die-hard safari goers alike for private game drives. His knowledge of the area, the animals and their behaviours is among the best in the world. Visitors to the camp are in for a treat regardless of their guide, as all of the camp’s guides are among the best in the area. Watching them navigate the roads and track animals is an exhilarating joy. One of the greatest luxuries of the safari experience is time, and time is never better spent than watching the animals rest, sunbathe and, if you are lucky, playing or hunting—all of which require patience and appreciation for the marvel before us.

We noticed that safari cars from other camps zoomed in around the animals they found, allowed a few minutes at most for their guests to snap pictures, and off they went to the next experience, missing many of the most memorable moments. Indeed, it felt like a privilege to witness nature and wildlife from just a few feet away. In fact, no matter how close we were, we always felt safe, knowing we were in the best hands. This was the case even while on foot during a bush walk, which we highly recommend.

Cottar’s camp comprises four 1920s style, en-suite cream tents, four family-tented suites (two bedrooms, two full bathrooms and a shared living/dining area), one honeymoon tent and one extraordinary Bush Villa for 12 guests. While honeymooners should certainly book the honeymoon tent, we can say with confidence that any tent at Cottar’s will be perfect and highly luxurious, and that the Cottar’s staff will go out of their way to up the romance in celebration of your special getaway. While anything you need is only a walkie-talkie message away, each tent area is also fully privatized, so that couples or families can lounge in what feels like their own private safari camp.

Communal dining is encouraged at the camp and is a wonderful way to get to know your safari mates. Every night, we looked forward to meeting other couples, hearing what they saw that day and learning whether this was their first safari or, in one case, their twelfth. Coming immediately off your wedding, there is something to be said for going from spending time with so many loved ones to a shared-experience on a small scale on a safari. For an evening where you’d prefer to simply dine with your partner, private dinners are also available upon request. When not on a game drive, honeymooners should also prioritize two of the Camp’s signature treats: a canvas bath and a Sundowner. The canvas baths, set right outside your tent, are filled with lavender essence and relaxing salts, and are served with wine and a few snacks for your leisure. While the sunsets in the Mara are stunning anywhere, it is a magical experience to witness it at a spot chosen by the Cottar’s team with a drink in your hand. Once the sun has set, the show isn’t over as the fire pit keeps you warm, underneath the truly mesmerizing starscape.

We would be remiss to not talk safari-fashion, which is some of the most fun to plan for any trip. We learned that the old advice of neutral colours is actually not entirely necessary unless you are on foot on a bush walk, where blending in is important. Whether it’s necessary or not, the chic outfits certainly look great in photos and in the plains. A white short-sleeved button down is flexible and pairs well with khaki or green bottoms, and leaves room for beautiful locally made Kenyan accents that you can get right at the Cottar’s shop.

Planning a safari honeymoon can be a touch intimidating because of its unique nature, while conflicting advice and online reviews complicate the initial phase of research. While the connotation of the term “all-inclusive” feels inappropriate for a stay as personalized, private and luxurious as Cottar’s, all-inclusive is the only way we can describe the ease of planning this trip. Guests are in the best hands from A to Z, and will be rewarded with a life-changing trip among the richest biodiversity of mammals, birds and vegetation in the world, as well as some of the most dramatic vistas in Africa. The combination of adrenaline and comfort will be something you never forget, and will keep Cottar’s in your memories and in your hearts forever.

Photography by Nadia MK Weinstein and John Weinstein.

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Story by Nadia MK

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