At a Glance
This is definitely more for those who hanker after the golden age of safari rather than an experience that reflects modern-day Kenya, but the beautifully outfitted tents, opulent furnishings and air of casual elegance make this a luxury-in-the-wilderness experience par excellence.
- The trove of antique treasures, natural specimens and stacks of books, housed in the Explorers Tent—also where guests can learn to bead with Mama Nashiro
- The deep roots that the Cottar family has in the Mara, their commitment to social responsibility and conservation and goal to be carbon positive by 2025
- The exceptional guides and trackers who are from the local Maasai community and are encouraged to share their culture with guests
- The beautiful swimming pool and dining pavilion
Cottar's 1920s Camp, as the name implies, is a safari lodge that recaptures an idealized glamour and romance of an earlier era of African exploration.
Also as the name implies, and unlike many other camps, Cottar's has a deep history in the bush. Owner Calvin Cottar opened the camp in 1996. He is a fourth-generation Kenyan whose great-great grandfather founded the continent’s first safari outfitter, Cottar's Safari Service, in 1919 (in what was then British East Africa). Over the next eighty years, the Cottar's literally dedicated their lives to exploration in the Mara—a family chronology lists which members died from rhino tramplings and black water fever. Today, Cottar's Safari Service is consistently ranked as one of Africa’s top outfitters, while the lodge is the only permissible operator on a 22,000-acre private land concession. So while some areas of Kenya seem to contain more tour buses than lions, Cottar's has a remoteness that would still inspire Hemingway and Blixen.
While one might expect these roots to produce a stuffy vibe, the fun-loving staff shatters Cottar’s traditionalist reputation and the spirit of the place feels anything but old-fashioned. This is a camp to let your hair down and really interact with the best-in-class staff who clearly love what they do and don’t take themselves too seriously.
The eleven secluded canvas tents, set into the hills of the property are split between the original design—with canvas flooring, antique rugs and walnut furniture and large canopied beds—and a new, more contemporary design still reminiscent of the 1920s glamour with tents that are slightly elevated on dark hardwood platform flooring with moss green velvet chairs, hardwood furniture and a bathroom with wallpapered accent walls, a modern glass walled shower and double vanity with brass wash basins. Other elegant touches include each evening’s private dining set-up in the main tent, and an explorer’s tent for bookish adventurers or conservation enthusiasts, the option to experience their famous canvas bush baths and private butler service.
The soul of this camp extends far beyond safari alone: Cottar's 1920s Camp emphasizes a commitment to conservation, sustainability and community preservation. It was recognized as a Long Run Global Ecosphere Retreat thanks to its acute attention to incorporating local culture into the guest experience through their hiring practices, dining program and activity offering.
Accommodations to book: Families or those desiring a bit more privacy should consider the five-bedroom Bush Villa, with its private pool, staff and spectacular views of hillside sunsets, is perfect for buyouts and the only one of its kind in the Mara. And for a fully off-the-grid experience, the Cottar's Conservation Camp's seven tents offer a special experience in a glade near a trickling stream.
Who Should Stay
Fun-loving families (they accept children of all ages), social couples, and groups of friends
Written by Melissa Biggs Bradley