For interior and exterior photos of our tents, veranda, and the grounds, please see our post from October 10, 2013.
|It was hard to say goodbye to the staff at Camp Olonana Sanctuary Retreat after the extraordinary stay and safari.|
The lodge was an invited place for us to sit, sip beverages and post our photos and stories.
With no Internet access in the tents but available at no charge in the lodge,
we spent most of our limited spare time in here.
The library in the lodge also had a fire going each night creating a warm environment.
The dining room's ambiance was easy going and welcoming.
The lounge area in the lodge was a short distance from the dining room provided
a homey feel, eased us into a relaxed state after a busy day on safari. Notice the
beaded plate decorations, most likely handmade by the local Maasia.
One evening as we were busy posting after dinner, the staff and guests began dancing
around the lodge to celebrate a couple's anniversary. It was an intimate group
with no more than a maximum of 28 guests at any given time, 16 on site
while we were there. With a little prodding from staff, we joined in the line.
The singing and laughter filled the air as all of the diners stood up to dance.
The tables were always set with the local flair.
When the cost to dine in a restaurant, stay in a hotel, resort or, in this case, a safari camp exceeds one's preferences and budget, there's an expectation of perfection that is rarely achieved in the finest of establishments.
After all, the unexpected is to be expected, whether it's dust on a window sill, a lack of fresh towels or an inexperienced server fumbling a food order, perfection is unrealistic.
Windblown, with hat hair, at dinner each evening we wore our daytime safari clothes,
feeling too tired to change. Also, arriving from safari between 6:30 and 7:00 pm, food
was more important than fresh clothing.
And yet, us humans lie in wait, with the best of intentions, to observe a wrongdoing that may potentially burst that bubble of expectation. Then we think or say, "Ah, that wasn't worth it, for the extra money we paid."
When we began our travels almost one year ago, we mutually agreed that we'd temper our expectations in order to have the best possible outcome without whining, complaining or looking for compensation to offset an infraction, except in the rarest of cases.
The gift shop had a wide array of souvenirs and gifts, none of which we purchased
with no room in our bags as we continue on our world travels.
|More gifts and souvenirs in the gift shop.|
There were jackets, hats and clothing in the shop.
|Outside the gift shop was a Maasai shopping area, displaying the many well made and |
colorful items typical of the Maasai.
For example, when we had little to no running water during our first week in Belize, giving us no alternative but to leave, we did ask and expect a refund for the unused portion of time that we'd paid in advance. It never came.
Again in Belize at our new location, a lovely ocean front resort, the steps collapsed under our feet causing us both to fall resulting in injuries taking weeks to heal, we asked for nothing.
The Maasai villagers were in attendance to sing and dance before or dinner as
we all sat in a half moon of comfortable chairs, enjoying appetizers and beverages, sharing
our various safari stories.
The well built and maintained property had wooden steps to our unit that had deteriorated due to the close proximity to the ocean with the raging heat and humidity, unnoticeable to the eye under normal inspection. Management was very concerned over our injuries and asked what they could do for us. We asked only that the steps be repaired immediately, which was completed the next day.
In the US, this may have resulted in an ambulance ride and a potential lawsuit. In Belize at our remote location, a treacherous four hour car ride to a medical facility prevented us from seeking medical care when we knew we had no broken bones. We'd decided to wait and see how we felt in a few days. It wasn't easy but in time with self care, we healed.
|Look at my plate at the "bush dinner!" It was exciting to know that most of the meat and vegetables were within my dietary constraints, all prepared to perfection, seasoned |
with local spices. Once again, great job Chef Ambrose!
Taking these experiences with us, confirmed our notion that optimism and a pleasant attitude would serve us well, even if the servers do not. (No pun intended).
When booking our expensive ($5000 for two, all inclusive) 3 day stay and safari at Camp Olonana Sanctuary Retreat, once again, we tempered our expectations. If our tent was clean and comfortable, if the WiFi was working, if the meals complied with my restrictive diet (which information I'd sent in advance by email), if the staff was friendly and helpful and, if we saw most of The Big Five, we'd be happy.
Little did we know that literally every aspect of this safari experience at Camp Olonana Sanctuary Retreats including activities, meals and accommodations far surpassing even our wildest dreams of perfection.
They had it down to a science to not only include the systematic flow for each guest from event to event, location to location but they excelled by adding a unique personal touch never to be found at any facility of any type thus far in our travels, if not in our lives.
In minutes upon our arrival, every staff member knew our names. Within an hour they knew our preferences, our preferred drinks, our unique needs and special requirements.
|My salad at dinner on the second night was drizzled with an olive oil|
balsamic dressing Chef Ambrose made for me. It was divine.
Knowing we were writers with considerable electronic equipment, they'd set up a power source in our tent available around the clock, although outlets normally were turned off most of the time, only leaving lights working. This consideration meant the world to us, especially with the necessity of recharging our cameras and computers.
The staff seamlessly and discretely observed ours and the other guest's actions and comments with the hope of discovering a way to further enhance our stay. This was unique. From William, the booking rep; Joseph, our tent attendant; Ambrose, the chef; Conscientious Concierge Christine; restaurant server, Philip. and of course, our guide Anderson, the service was impeccable.
With no phones in the luxuriously designed and spacious tents, a personal visit from staff informed us of any events or event changes. Communication was imminent and well spoken always friendly and warm.
The grounds were spotless, the vegetation prolific. An eco friendly environment with multiple systems in place to save energy costs and wastefulness, Camp Olonana Sanctuary Retreat had few bugs, few mosquitoes, and no refuse or clutter to attract them.
At night, there were guards to escort us to our tents, a fairly long but refreshing walk from the lodge. Holding flashlights, they led the way, expressing interest in the quality of our stay. Never for one moment, did we feel unsafe, not at the camp or on safari. The utmost of precaution was exercised at all times, leaving enough freedom for creativity and challenge.
The food? As fine as any upscale restaurant but made fresh each meal using produce from their garden, grass fed meats and freshly caught fish. Nothing was spared in the careful and creative presentation as was in the finest use of local spices to enhance flavors.
|This was Tom's dinner on the last night, pork chops piled high atop a pile of sautéed vegetables, fresh green beans and baby corn.|
Chef Ambrose went overboard in ensuring my meals were safely within the range of my restricted diet while ensuring that I never felt my meal was inferior in any manner to that being served to Tom or other guests. (He splurges when we're out, eats as I do when we're cooking).
As for the safari itself, what more can I say that we haven't already said in these many prior post? Anderson...a gift from the safari Gods! If we'd have made a list of a what we'd expect in a perfect safari, we'd have shortchanged ourselves. We got so much more.
From the fluffy pillows and soft blankets on our seats in the Land Cruiser to the ice cold cooler always filled to the brim with our preferred beverages, nothing could have been more to our liking.
To Conscientious Concierge Christine greeting us each time, on time, as we returned from safari, handing each of us an iced cold tightly rolled wash cloth to wipe the dust from our hands and faces, to Anderson, not only providing a mind blowing safari twice a day but to his obvious joy to take us out one more time.
|My nightly dessert of fine cheese and Kenya grown cashews and macadamia nuts.|
The night of the "bush dinner" Chef Ambrose had remembered to bring these items
for my dessert, as the only guest in camp unable to eat the traditional desserts. Wow!
At night the sound of the hippos outside our tent as they languished in the Mara River was music to our ears. The cool nights at 5000 feet above sea level, left us warmly wrapped in the finest of down comforters encased in high count Egyptian cotton sheets.
The over-sized fluffy bath towels, the robes, and the organic toiletries for our use only added more luxury to our stay. The glass bottles of an ample supply of purified water was always at our fingertips. Joseph delivered fresh coffee to our tent early each morning to also serve as a subtle wake up call for our 6:30 am safari time.
|Tom's homemade brownie dessert topped with a caramel sauce and dollop |
of real whipped cream. He said it was fabulous!
To simply say that we recommend Camp Olonana Sanctuary Retreat, does a disservice to those seeking this life changing adventure. For many, a safari is a once in a lifetime experience with memories that will last forever.
One must not take the risk of choosing anything less than an opportunity to fulfill that dream with the utmost of expectation, the utmost of amenities, the utmost of service and to our surprise, the utmost of perfection.
|One last photo as we drove away. Goodbye Camp Olonana Sanctuary Retreat.|
Thank you, Camp Olonana Sanctuary Retreat. Thank you for making this dream a reality. We still can't wipe the smile off of our faces.
Note: Tomorrow, we'll be wrapping up our final safari post with new photos, our return flight in yet a smaller single engine plane and some amazing scenery photos that Tom took using the little camera.
In the interim, more photos and stories are backing up as life continues on, while living in Diani Beach, Kenya. We're looking forward to sharing these with you beginning on Saturday, October 19, 2013 at which time we'll have exactly 6 weeks until we pack once again and make our way to Mpumalanga, South Africa.