Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson opened the tented safari camp, Mahali Mzuri in the heart of the Kenyan bush, with the support of the local Maasai community and Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta in 2013.
In an interview conducted last month, he explained why he decided to open the lodge and why Kenya is, in his opinion, the best location in the World for wildlife viewing.
“A few years ago I had been told by a friend that the great migration was in danger of being choked by development; I wanted to do something about it, as I truly believe that there is nothing more magical than witnessing the grasslands of the Maasai Mara begin to rustle as millions of migrating wildebeests head for the plains of the southern Serengeti.
“Opening Mahali Mzuri, which means ‘beautiful place’ in Swahili, has given me access to the best wildlife viewing in the world. I recently went with my Uncle Charlie—he’s the ultimate safari partner: full of wisdom and jokes, and has plenty of stories to tell during late-night dinners in the bush or sundowners on our balcony.
“A typical day on safari starts bright and early, at 5:30 am, with a strong cup of coffee before you set off on a morning game drive. Our wonderful guides took us exploring in the bush in open safari vehicles. It’s incredible to be so close to the wildlife in their natural environment; we spotted so many beautiful animals—from leopards to lions, elephants to giraffes—it’s impossible to pick my favorite.
“The camp offers game drives twice a day, but I love to spend afternoons visiting the Maasai villages. On this trip, we visited the village that is only 10 minutes’ drive from Mahali. Our guide showed us around, introduced us to the families, and taught us about how the women of the village build the houses. The children love having visitors, as they have very little exposure to the world outside of their village. Although be warned if you try and take photos: They love to photo bomb!
“After visiting the village, we returned to camp for a relaxing spa treatment and dip in the pool before having a sundowner on the deck. This particular trip was right before I became a grandfather, and Uncle Charlie spent the evening giving me his top tips. We joined all the guests for dinner followed by entertainment from the Maasai dancers, who put on an incredible show. As an honorary ‘Maasai elder,’ it’s my duty to get involved and show them a few moves, too.
“There’s something about Kenya that makes you feel like there’s magic in the air, wonder at every turn, and an ever-present sensation of oneness with nature. I always come back with a clear mind ready to take on my next challenge.”
Mahali Mzuri was one of the locations used in the recent tourism initiative, Kenya Live and for more information, or to book, please visit the lodge’s website.