Amboseli National Park, Kenya

Photo: Elewana Collection

The thought of camping makes you cringe. Sleeping in a tent sounds awful. Eating on the ground would be miserable. Plus going the bathroom outside seems downright disgusting. Nope, you are definitely not a camper.

There’s an exception to every rule, though. You may not be willing to sleep outside a few hours from home. You might not be game to go on an overnight hike on one of Europe’s well-trodden trails. You probably aren’t even ready to backpack from hut to hut on one of New Zealand’s epic walks. But you can probably be talked into an African safari.

Kenya’s Tortilis Camp is far from roughing it. Its 16 strong tents are spacious enough for double beds and private bathrooms. They feature cozy striped blankets and large wooden verandas, as well. The nearby lounge, restaurant, and bar are in an open-air, thatched-roof building. It’s where sundowners and bitings (canapés) are served before homemade Italian dinners each evening. A garden provides most of its vegetables. There’s a small spa for massages and a pool to cool off during the midday heat. It all overlooks snow-capped Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest free-standing mountain in the world.

Photo: Elewana Collection

Tortilis Camp is in Amboseli National Park. The 151-square-mile park sits in southern Kenya along the border of Tanzania. The Maasai land—it’s covered with swamps during the wet season and dusty volcanic soil in the dry season—was first named a reserve in 1906. It became a national park in 1974, and UNESCO status followed in 1991. It’s now the second most popular national park, after Maasai Mara National Reserve, in Kenya.

That’s because of 1,500 African bush elephants. The park is one of the best places to see the massive, free-ranging elephants up close. Cape buffalo, East African lions, Masai giraffes, and Grant’s zebras live here, too. While crakes, hamerkops, and 47 types of raptors descend on the park when the land floods. The camp’s game drives, using specially fitted 4×4 Land Cruisers, put you right up close to the animals. Its walks, led by Massai guides who have been roaming these plains since childhood, teach you about micro-ecosystems, animal tracks, and acacia tortilis, the flat-topped trees for which the camp was named. Additional cultural visits introduce you to local Maasai homesteads with their semi-permanent huts, bright red shukas (blankets worn as clothing), and beautiful beadwork.

So do you think you can handle Tortilis Camp? You’ll be met with a hot washcloth, a cold drink, and a reusable metal water bottle upon your arrival. You’ll be given a tour of the eco-friendly property, which is completely solar powered. You’ll have time for a swim before gin and tonics are served as the sun sets. You’ll eat spaghetti bolognese, freshly caught perch, and chocolate roulade as you listen to other guests get excited about the elephants they saw earlier in the day. Then you’ll fall asleep—and dream about your own animal encounters tomorrow—in your very comfortable tent. You might be a camper after all.


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