Camp Olonana Sanctuary Retreats…Photos…An ethereal dream of perfection…

Upon our arrival at Camp Olonana, we were greeted by a Masai warrior playing a welcoming tune on his flute. Following him and our concierge Christine, who oversees the flow of their guest’s experience to the edge of the deck overlooking the Mara River, we knew we’d chosen the perfect environment to fulfill our dreams of a safari combined with exquisite accommodations and service.

After the other guests arrived at the landing strip, we began the 25-minute drive to the camp.  Our combined enthusiasm and the sightings along the way, had all of us, including Anderson, chattering on simultaneously.

The fast flowing Mara River is muddy due to erosion and lack of man’s intervention. The local Masai tribes are dependent upon its waters as well as the wildlife and vegetation. It is this river that the Great Migration crosses over and again as it makes its way from the Serengeti to the Masai Mara. We missed the crossing of the millions of wildebeest but we did travel to Tanzania to see the tail end.  By the time we made that journey, we were so satisfied with our safari experience that we hardly gave it a thought. Someday, we will return to see it at the right time and more than anything go on safari once again. Tom suggested we return the year of my 70th birthday, a little over 4 years away. 
After our welcoming ceremony ended, we were escorted to lunch on the deck.  Within minutes of being seated, our chef, Ambrose came out to introduce himself and to proudly explain, he was well prepared for my special diet. 
We’ll be including food photos, a description of meals, quality of service, and a detailed review over the next several days. With over 600 photos to manage, it is a step by step process which we are striving to present as it occurred.
Ambrose, our well-trained chef, stopped at our table to get feedback on my special meals. Often before preparing my dinner, he’d stop by to assure me that my meal fit within the criteria I had sent them weeks before arrival. Not only were my meals the best prepared and tasting since beginning this way of eating, but the presentation was mouth-watering. Tom thoroughly enjoyed the same meals as presented to the other guests. My meal was always a variation of the main choices, leaving me wanting for nothing.
The all-inclusive camp consists of 3 meals daily, appetizers, snacks, beverages, high tea in the afternoon, and alcoholic drinks at any time of day or night.  Glass bottles of purified water were presented at our table at all meals and in our tent for drinking and brushing teeth. I was so excited I failed to take a photo of our delicious GF chicken curry lunch.
All produce at Camp Olonana is organically grown in their on-site garden. A certified ecologically friendly resort, the care is given to the food, and the use of water, fuel, and electricity were refreshing in this distant setting. For example, all electrical outlets were shut off (lights stayed on) from 10:30 am to 6:30 pm and off again during the night.  In consideration of our need to recharge our equipment, we were given a power strip connected to the generator that was available 24 hours a day. Many more measures were implemented to maintain the ecological integrity of the camp, which consisted of 14 tents, a spa tent, the lodge, gift shop, offices, and housing for staff.
The organic garden located at the camp, left unlocked for us to peruse at our leisure.
Our tent was #4 a short jaunt down this stone-paved walkway. The Camp Olonana, 5000 feet above sea level and cool at night had few mosquitoes and insects. The cool nights were heavenly, requiring a down comforter to keep us warm. That was a rather pleasant sensation!
Continuing along the tree-lined path to our tent, it was comforting to know our bags were already inside with little to unpack with a short time to unwind before taking off on our first official game drive at 4:00 pm.

We arrived at our tent, grateful for the walk after sitting on the plane, the vehicle, and the restaurant for the past several hours.  The word on the sign is #4 in the Masai language, not the usual Swahili spoken in most of Kenya, a few words of which we’re learning.  Here in Kenya, Tom accidentally says “grazie” for “thank you” which is Italian. When in Italy he said “gracias” which is “thank you” in Spanish.  He says he’s always one location behind in his thank-yous.  In Swahili, thank you is “asante” the language of most of the staff at the camp, which I couldn’t say often enough, occasionally correcting Tom on his “grazie.”

The veranda to our tent.  Approaching, it took our breath away.

The view of the Mara River from our veranda. We would like to have spent more time sitting here, but with our busy safari schedule, we had little time left for lounging. We didn’t mind a bit! We came to Camp Olonanato safari and that, my friends, is what we did, hour after hour. We’ve yet to show the very best of the photos, beginning tomorrow.  You know, the old adage, “saving the best for last?”

The comfy furnishings made is tempting to lay here and watch the wildlife to saunter or swim past from time to time. Actually, we only had time to sit here for one hour during the three day period. 

Although we were escorted to our tent the first time, Tom wanted to handle the long, sturdy zipper to ensure we had no issues. Of course, it was a breeze, opening to a virtual paradise of tent interiors.

Soon, we were unpacked, with our equipment plugged in, anxious to write here to begin sharing the experience. With no Internet connection in the tent and neither of our WiFi devices able to connect, we comfortably sat in the lodge to go online to post. As we’d mentioned the connection was poor, preventing us from posting many photos until returning to Diani Beach, where still the connection isn’t strong. We slept in the bed on the left, keeping our electronics plugged in on the bed on the right.  For the first time ever, my camera ran out of juice on safari forcing us to use the 2nd camera which Tom used less often.

Shortly after getting situated, we needed to get going for the afternoon game drive, taking one last shot in the daylight of the veranda view. Exquisite.

Additional view of our tent.
Our stone bathroom in our tent after we’d unpacked. The toilet is behind the door to the right and the shower is to the left as shown below in the next photo.
The stone shower in the tent, permanently built into the tent as were the closets. The walls in the tent as shown are actual tent material, tent windows, and tent exit as shown.

Tomorrow, we’ll share the beginning of our best safari photos with many unusual sightings in the wild, animals on the hunt, animal kills, dining in the bush, gorgeous scenery, and eventually, our trip to Tanzania.

Also, interspersed, we’ll include our communal evening barbecue with entertainment by a local Masai tribe. And, we’ll share our unbelievable visit, on our last day, to a nearby Masai village where we were welcomed and toured by Chief Richard learning the way of life for the Masai, so far removed from our own reality and so rich in its content.

Wildlife photos tomorrow…

Comments and responses Camp Olonana Sanctuary Retreats…Photos…An ethereal dream of perfection…

  1. Anonymous Reply

    You and Tom sure know how to travel in style. And you talked about returning on your 70th birthday. I will be 70 next year and would never be brave enough to travel like you are. The most adventurous thing that I have done was taking 3 different transatlantic cruises. If I were younger, maybe.

    I loved your veranda and the view from the river. I also loved your stone bathroom and shower, and the beds looked so inviting. But were you ever afraid that the animals could come through your tent if they wanted to?
    Also, you talk about the food being very good at almost everyplace you have been. Have you not had any stomach issues with the food? And in Diani Beach are you able to make your own ice cubes with the bottled water for your ice tea?

    I think your photography is fantastic. I can't imagine taking so many pictures on the bumpy roads and in the heat and have them turn out so good. I don't think you give yourself enough credit.

    Your picture yesterday of the leopard, my daughter says it is a cheetah. What do you think?
    Looking forward to more pictures. Glad you made it back safely. Do you feel let down now?

  2. Jessica Reply

    You're daughter is absolutely correct. I realized it after posting it. In the next few days I'll post the leopards and note the correction under the photo. We saw lots of cheetahs and leopards. It's the black tear line that differentiates the cheetahs.Thank her for reminding me. Good eye, Pat's daughter!

    Luckily, we haven't had a single intestinal bug. The produce is washed in purified water at the resort restaurants and they serve only purified water and ice. Plus, we take probiotics everyday which I think helps as well. We make our ice tea and ice with purified water also. Plus we have bottled water in the bathroom for teeth brushing and rinsing our toothbrushes. We've so adopted these habits we no longer have to think about it. Also, I think in time one builds up an immunity for the potential germs that may be accidentally ingested when out and about.

    Pat, a few years ago, I would never have conceived of doing any of this. With my renewed health from my diet and a latent adventurous nature, here we are. Yes, we have aches and pains and we don't move as quickly as when we were 20. But we constantly surprise ourselves. When we had to climb down from the safari truck, it was quite a jump, several times a day. Each day I was more and more surefooted and by the end, I could jump with my eyes closed. For most of us our bodies are willing to adapt when we gently encourage them along.

    Thanks for great comments about my photos. The reason I never attempted to play golf or take photos: I wasn't naturally good at either. Here I am, attempting to tackle something I have no natural inclination toward, photo taking. Its a real stretch but I'm working on it. I suppose if we ever settle down, I'll want to tackle golf as well. Ha!

    You're comments are the first thing we read in the morning. You may have just gone to bed but we're thinking of you, writing back as soon as possible.

    Thanks, again.
    Warmest regards,
    Jess & Tom

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