January 25, 2016
Through the support of the local Maasai community and Kenya’s President Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta, the entrepreneur, adventurer, and Virgin Group founder RICHARD BRANSON opened a tented safari camp in 2013 in the heart of the Kenyan bush. A recent visit to the camp, Mahali Mzuri, further bore out his reason for establishing it.
“A few years ago I had been told by a friend that the great migration was in danger of being choked by development; I wanted to do something about it, as I truly believe that there is nothing more magical than witnessing the grasslands of the Maasai Mara begin to rustle as millions of migrating wildebeests head for the plains of the southern Serengeti.
“Opening Mahali Mzuri, which means ‘beautiful place’ in Swahili, has given me access to the best wildlife viewing in the world. I recently went with my Uncle Charlie—he’s the ultimate safari partner: full of wisdom and jokes, and has plenty of stories to tell during late-night dinners in the bush or sundowners on our balcony.
“A typical day on safari starts bright and early, at 5:30 am, with a strong cup of coffee before you set off on a morning game drive. Our wonderful guides took us exploring in the bush in open safari vehicles. It’s incredible to be so close to the wildlife in their natural environment; we spotted so many beautiful animals—from leopards to lions, elephants to giraffes—it’s impossible to pick my favorite.
“The camp offers game drives twice a day, but I love to spend afternoons visiting the Maasai villages. On this trip, we visited the village that is only 10 minutes’ drive from Mahali. Our guide showed us around, introduced us to the families, and taught us about how the women of the village build the houses. The children love having visitors, as they have very little exposure to the world outside of their village. Although be warned if you try and take photos: They love to photo bomb!
“After visiting the village, we returned to camp for a relaxing spa treatment and dip in the pool before having a sundowner on the deck. This particular trip was right before I became a grandfather, and Uncle Charlie spent the evening giving me his top tips. We joined all the guests for dinner followed by entertainment from the Maasai dancers, who put on an incredible show. As an honorary ‘Maasai elder,’ it’s my duty to get involved and show them a few moves, too.
“There’s something about Kenya that makes you feel like there’s magic in the air, wonder at every turn, and an ever-present sensation of oneness with nature. I always come back with a clear mind ready to take on my next challenge.”
Do It Yourself
You can witness the great migration of wildebeests, zebras, gazelles, eland, and topi as they pass through Kenya on their way to Tanzania typically from July through November. Mahali Mzuri (mahalimzuri.virgin.com) hosts guests in 12 luxury tents. Prices range from $800 to $1,540 per person per night.