In the late 1990s, safari expert Geoffrey Kent set out to establish his own high-end lodging. To do so, the co-founder of Abercrombie & Kent looked to the place in Africa he knew best: his home country of Kenya. It was a natural fit for the first Sanctuary Retreats resort: Home to some of Sub-Saharan Africa’s most wildlife rich expanses—not to mention a collection of private concessions offering truly exclusive ways to explore them—the country’s Maasai Mara National Reserve ticked off all the boxes for Kent’s ambitious project.
Decades later, the eco-friendly Sanctuary Olonana is once again proving its mettle as Kent’s Kenyan gem. Last month, the safari flagship unveiled an extensive transformation that brings a spectacular level of luxury to the banks of the Mara River.
Olonana’s main building—resembling a traditional Maasai home from the outside—is decorated with handcrafted spears, patterned prints, and Edison-bulb pendant lights, mixing African elements (many of which were custom crafted by local Maasai women) with contemporary details. Doubling as a dining venue and recreation room, the space is outfitted with a bar, fire pit, and library, as well as balconies that hang over the rushing waters below.
But as inviting as the lodge may be, the accommodations manage to be even more sumptuous. Once-rustic canvas tents have been replaced with 14 spacious suites, each with a deck so perfectly positioned, it comes with daily views of the river’s resident pod of hippos. Canopied king-size beds face sunken living areas where floor-to-ceiling glass doors fold open to expose more of Olonana’s unspoiled surrounds.
Of course, Kent’s camp isn’t all about lounging in bed. In addition to daily game drives throughout the 260,000-acre private concession, the lodge also offers a myriad of other activities, including nature walks, trips to Maasai villages, and visits to Enkereri Primary School, which receives contributions from the Sanctuary Retreats Philanthropy initiative, providing children with meals, safe drinking water, and enhancements to their learning environment. Otherwise, arrange a bush dinner, book a hot air-balloon ride, or schedule an in-room massage, because, really, why not make the most of your gorgeous digs?