Safari for the Conscious Traveller
In October 2017 I returned to Little Governors’ Camp (LGC) in Kenya’s Masai Mara National Reserve, full of anticipation and memories of a family holiday there over 20 years earlier. As we hopped off the little boat that takes you across the Mara River and into the camp, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that so much was just as I remembered it. The tents had been updated, but, beyond that, it felt largely untouched. A rare treat in our ever-changing world.
Life in “the Mara” is simple. Simple, but by no means boring. It’s anything but boring. From the moment we touched down I was immediately taken by both the peaceful serenity and the sheer abundance of raw, untamed life that surrounded us.
Little Governors’ Camp is one of 7 luxury safari camps and lodges that make up the Governors’ Camp Collection. All the comforts of home are within easy reach - a hot shower, warm bed and even WiFi - but I decided to take the opportunity to unplug and fully embrace the African safari experience.
So what does that look like? The day starts just before sunrise to the friendly call of, “Jambo!” (Swahili for “Hello”) outside your tent, accompanied by a pot of freshly brewed Kenyan coffee and homemade ginger biscuits. At 6.30am it’s time to head off on the first of 3 game drives that gets you back to camp in time for breakfast or, if you opt for a packed breakfast and longer morning drive, for lunch around midday.
Lunch is followed by a couple of hours of relaxation time before the final drive of the day at 3pm. Witnessing the circle of life up close is both captivating and surprisingly confronting at times, but never disappointing. New discoveries at every turn have you on the edge of your seat in excitement, anticipation, wonder and pure awe. The day ends with the buzz of fellow guests sharing stories of their game sightings at dinner and by 9pm it’s time to turn in and get ready to do it all again the next day!
As a regular traveler I really appreciated the simplicity of this routine. Not having to wake up each day and work out where to visit and how to get there provided a much-needed mental break as well as a physical one.
All Governors’ properties are unfenced so animals roam freely creating an authentic yet super comfortable experience. Guards keep an eye out for four-legged visitors at all times and we were only ever disturbed by the concert of insects or the odd hippo grunt as they passed by on their way to the river.
A hot air balloon ride on one of the days was definitely a highlight, giving us uninterrupted views across to the Serengeti, and of the enormous crocodiles and hippos in the Mara River below.
An impressive level of care has been taken by LGC to respect and preserve the surrounding environment, earning them a silver eco-rating certificate from Eco Tourism Kenya. On check in, we were gifted stainless steel water bottles and encouraged to fill them with water filtered through a reverse osmosis system instead of using bottled water. Little notes politely requested that we use the eco-friendly toiletries provided, and all waste is sorted, with recyclable material being processed into briquettes for camp fuel as part of their zero-waste policy. Just this month, solar panels have been fitted and LGC is now 100% solar powered.
Aside from these onsite initiatives, the group also supports many community and conservation projects from animal protection to education and healthcare programs. It’s clearly important to them that the local community benefits from tourism in the area. The company supports two local schools and funded the construction of two bio gas plants in a nearby traditional Masai homestead. This provides a free source of carbon neutral energy, helping to reduce the demand for firewood and therefore deforestation.
Another programme, The Governors’ Tree Planting Project, has overseen the planting of an average of 45 trees per month since 1998.Read more about these and other projects on their website.
Tips for packing for your conscious safari:
Pack light: aside from the fact that you’re only allowed 15kg on the internal flight from Nairobi to the Masai Mara, there is a free laundry service (all hand washed and line dried). Even though I had packed light I only ended up wearing about 30% of what I took.
Pack smart: to protect against mosquitoes and the evening chill thin cotton trousers and long-sleeved cotton t-shirts became my go to. My organic, fair trade Turkish towel was invaluable as a towel, scarf, sun/dust shield when out on game drives. Don’t forget a good book or two, especially if you plan to opt for a digital detox like I did (highly recommended!).
Pack for a purpose: another incentive to pack light is leaving space to squeeze in some supplies for the Mara Rianda Primary School. Check out Little Governors’ profile on the Pack for a Purpose website for a list of suggested items from dictionaries to sports equipment and much more.
If you do make the trip to the Mara, you’ll find the simplest pleasure of all is just to sit back and marvel at Mother Nature and the everyday miracles she’s capable of when left to her own devices. I’d call it a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but the chances are that as you say “asante sana” and goodbye after your first visit, it won’t be long before you’ll be planning your next.