For those who do finally decide to turn in, an askari – a Maasai warrior armed with a big stick – is there to lead you to a tent the size of a small house, decked out with an en-suite bathroom, a desk, a wardrobe and a big, soft bed into which some angel has placed a hot water bottle. The hypnotic bleeps of a scops owl will likely be the last sound you hear as you drift off – a speck of humanity blissfully asleep in one of Africa’s wildest places.
Kicheche Bush Camp lies in the Olare Motorogi Conservancy, one of 15 protected areas that, together, cover around 1,820 sq km of the Greater Mara ecosystem in south-western Kenya. This is not to be confused with the Masai Mara National Reserve, a government-run park open only to day trippers; the conservancies are contiguous parcels of private, unfenced bush leased by safari companies from 14,528 local landowners.
Biodiversity thrives under this arrangement. The Mara’s ecosystem is home to 25% of Kenya’s wildlife, with megafauna such as lion, leopard, elephant, giraffe and zebra among the 95 species of mammal and 550 bird species found within its borders. Without the revenue from tourism, landowners would have little choice but to use the plains to graze cattle, with devastating consequences for the habitat and its wildlife.
Remember this when the camp’s askari returns to wake you up. He’ll likely ask if you heard whatever wildlife (elephant, lion, wild dog) that came though camp last night. Of course you didn’t. You were dead to the world. And as you’re handed a hot tin mug of strong Kenyan tea while waiting for your ride into the bush, you’ll vow to turn in early that night. But I bet you don’t.
Booking information: A five-night stay at Kicheche Bush Camp costs from £4,055pp, including meals, drinks, safaris, fees and flights to/from Nairobi; book at aardvarksafaris.com