Modeliste Magazine

Cottar’s 1920’s Safari Camp



Olderkesi Community Wildlife Conservancy
South East Maasai Mara, Kenya, East Africa

100 Years of Safari Adventures, Cottar’s 1920s Safari Camp

Dawn breaks on the Maasai Mara, the hush broken by our Safari Land Cruiser bouncing across the grasslands and through the brush in search of wildlife in the coolness of early light, our spotter seeking lions sheltering after a successful night hunt, morning herds of zebras and wildebeests, antelope and buffalo, sightings of giraffe or elephant, the grazers and browsers who have survived another night. There is always a sense of anticipation, the breathless excitement when there is a sighting, our remarkable Maasai guides detecting a faraway flicker of movement and instantly we are off across the famed Maasai Mara, the safari dream a realization.  The sense of adventure we are hoping to capture has been replayed in safari history by the Cottar family for over a century, since Charles Cottar brought his family to Kenya from Iowa in 1909 inspired by Theodore Roosevelt’s tales of hunting adventures. Established in 1919, the Cottar family celebrates a legacy of 100 Years of Hospitality in the oldest continuing safari company in Africa, founded as Cottar’s Safari Service. Since 1919, the original ethos of providing the top guides, best tented camps, and extraordinary safari wildlife experiences, begun by Charles Cottar and sons, has evolved across decades of recognized excellence from top hunting safaris and filmed expeditions throughout remote areas of East Africa, to the current luxury Safari Camp and photo safaris, and Cottar’s renowned land preservation and conservation partnerships with the Maasai communities.

Across generations, Cottar’s has continued the family legacy of excellence, the passion and respect for the land, its treasured wildlife and the Maasai peoples who are its stewards and share its history. Beginning in the ‘60s, grandson Glen and his wife, Pat, established the first award winning Cottar’s Safari Camps, pioneering the exceptional photo safari tourism Cottar’s continues to provide discerning adventure travellers under the proud and passionate guidance of their son, Calvin Cottar, at Cottar’s 1920s Safari Camp.  A stay at Cottar’s 1920’s Safari Camp transports guests into the romanticized past of safari adventure with all the modern comforts of a luxury tented camp, exemplary service, and the promise of discovery and wildlife encounters Kenya’s Maasai Mara offers. The invitation to an authentic safari experience feels different at Cottar’s. The camp manager, Micah, when asked, expressed the difference as “soul”. Cottar’s family history conveys a special soul connection with past, present, and future, with nature and humanity. It captures the wonder that transcends time with an allure of amazing wildlife experiences with top rated guides in Africa, attention to personalized service with its longtime dedicated staff, and a laudable commitment to sustaining the environment and the cultural heritage of the Maasai Mara. At Cottar’s you are truly welcomed as family.

Our Safarilink flight flies low from Nairobi, revealing the beauty and diverse landscapes of Kenya. In less than an hour, we land at the Keekorok bush landing strip, welcomed by our Cottar’s guides. Our adventure began within minutes with a heart stopping cheetah sighted poised regally on a termite hill. We were at once entranced, cameras capturing startled gazelles and hartebeest, zebra mothers paused to nurse their foals, dashing warthogs tails held high, and a tawny eagle high on a dead tree branch, our guide introducing us to the wonders as he skillfully navigates the terrain to ensure best views. We are in awe of every aspect of this realm, realizing this is only the beginning with so much more to come.  Approaching Cottar’s Safari Camp, the white tents beckon from afar, barely visible dots on the remote verdant green hillside near the Tanzanian border with Kenya. Arriving to a warm welcome, we come first to the Business Center tent, its period furnishings, photo history, and  book collection a nostalgic retreat. Next comes the Dining, Bar and Lounge tent, its seating area opening to a grassy expanse extending the view to a water hole and the panorama of the Maasai Mara promising a beautiful evening sunset. Meals are served at a communal table accompanied by lively conversations, though couples or families may choose to have a private dinner in their tent or another picturesque location. Breakfast is served in the bush on safari, always accompanied by stunning views. In camp, there is a breakfast buffet for stragglers and a lunch buffet awaits after safari with freshest produce from the extensive organic garden, definitely worthy of a guided visit with the professional chef, Sylvester. Dinner is a set healthful menu, delicious with lovely presentations, luscious desserts, and accommodations made for dietary needs and allergies. Sundowners are the finale for late afternoon safaris and the cocktail hour before dinner ushers in a welcoming social ambience that brings guests together at the firepit outside or inside at the fireplace or bar lounge, inspiring a wonderful sense of comradery in shared adventures.

Each of the 10 tented accommodations is individually designed featuring inspired 1920’s decor stylishly reflected in fabrics and furnishings that extoll comfort and relaxation. Antiques, artifacts, and photo reminders of Cottar’s history enhance the 1920s era romantic atmosphere, from the honeymoon tent, spacious double tents, and family suite tents, all with wide furnished verandahs open to the stunning Mara vistas, netted four poster beds with sumptuous mattress and pillows, nightly foot warmers, ensuite modern baths featuring open rain showers with unique stone mosaic tiles. The family tents include your dining area for catered meals on request, cozy living room and fireplace, two ensuite bathrooms, antique desks, and zipper closures.  Cottar’s Bush Villa is the most recent addition to the property, a dazzling unique 5 bedroom villa with astounding views of the Maasai Mara, a private 25 meter infinity pool, dining room with private chef and kitchen, living room, bar, exercise and massage room, library reception area, and a luxurious decor blending period and contemporary, natural elements and heritage pieces, fabrics and design that make each room unique and intriguing. For a group of family or friends, Bush Villa is ideal, an award winning indulgence. Safari luxury, each bedroom has a designer theme and ensuite. The master is huge, fireplaces and seating are designed to create perfect cozy retreats, and the feeling of home is inestimable within the spectacular natural wonders of the Maasai Mara.

The Cottar’s Spa massage experience is exceptional, enhanced by aromatherapy, therapeutic oils and a perfect degree of pampering. The professionally trained therapists meet each individual traveler’s needs with the desired pressure, relaxation or deep tissue, and attention to specific areas. Swimming in the sparkling stone infinity pool, fed by natural spring waters, is a delight under the immense blue African skies. Accompanied by attentive service, the pool bar and loungers offer complete relaxation. Finally, as the sun sets, a steamy relaxed bush bubble bath on your tent terrace accompanied by a bottle of champagne is a romantic visit to a time long ago.  The hallmark of Cottar’s philosophy is “Creating Mutually Beneficial Relationships Between Wildlife and Local Communities” and the opportunity to visit one of the local Maasai villages is an unforgettable cultural experience. The relationship of the Cottar family and the Maasai people has extended over generations. Their mutual respect and love of the land they share and commitment to the preservation and responsible sustainability of ecotourism has led to the establishment of the Olderkesi Community Wildlife Conservancy within the Mara. Water, schools, health care, provisions for grazing, wildlife protection and maintaining cultural integrity are central to this partnership. As guests we are contributing to this exemplary program, enjoying its wondrous benefits, promoting its success for future generations, and carrying memories for a lifetime.

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