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Big Five In RWANDA

Our journeys change lives….That’s the brand line for Wilderness Safaris and they are totally right!

 

 

Magashi Camp (Wilderness Safari’s newest Rwanda masterpiece)

Magashi Camp is situated in the productive and phenomenally diverse north-eastern corner of Akagera National Park, overlooking scenic Lake Rwanyakazinga. Akagera comprises some of the most scenic savannah in East Africa – open plains, woodlands, lakes, swamp and grassy low mountains – and is home to one of Africa’s highest hippo densities, large crocodiles, as well as the rare sitatunga and almost 500 species of birds. Teeming with plains game, Akagera also boasts a healthy population of lion which were introduced by African Parks in 2015 after a 20-year absence; black rhino were reintroduced in 2017. Magashi – the only exclusive-use area in Akagera – also harbors a good density of leopard.

Wilderness Safaris’s core purpose in Akagera is to help conserve Rwanda’s last protected savannah ecosystem, and regenerate species like black rhino and the rare and elusive shoebill. 

Due to the sheer acreage of Akagera National Park, game drives can turn into big adventures with the distance being covered in all types of terrains. Like any safari experience it can boil down to luck if you spot the Big 5 but Akagera offers a huge possibility, with elephants strolling by your camp, hippos in the lake in front of your tent, the big cats and buffaloes roaming across the savannah.

During one of our game drives we unexpectedly came across two leopards playing and most likely mating in some of the rockiest terrain possible. The male ran off but the female was not in the least affected, in fact she was very confident and playful and even put on a little show for us, posturing and posing, which is actually very rare for a leopard to act this way. Even Bosco, our game drive guide and ranger of over 20 years of experience was totally flabbergasted by the audacity of the female leopard. Nature will never cease to amaze.

One day after our boat safari we came back to land and spotted two female lions relaxing in the tree. I’ve seen lions on many safaris but never relaxing in a tree. They looked like they were literally balancing on the branches and one wrong move and they would fall down. They chilled on the branches for a while and we also waited patiently as we knew when the sun went down they would be on the move again in the cooler temperature of the night. It was fascinating as we essentially went into “lion time”, animals have a totally different rhythm to life in the wild and it can be very therapeutic for us ‘hurried’ humans.

 

Once our stay at Magashi had ended we were on our drive back to the main gate and the team radio came through with the announcement that approx. 50 elephants had come to visit the camp. Again, Mother Nature does not care about our human schedules!

 

The Camp

What I really loved about Magashi was the fact you could enjoy a boat or land safari. On arrival we were driven from the main gate on an hours drive and then we hopped on the boat with refreshments heading to the camp

Our welcome to the property was by boat with the staff all signing from the jetty.

The jetty leads up to the main dining, a living area, pass the pool and the boma (fire pit)

Magashi has 6 tents either side of their central dining area. They are all one bedrooms and spread along a 1km wooden bridge that snakes through the entire property. All the tents face the lake which provides the most incredible views of the mountain range. Be it lying in bed or sitting on your terrace you have a great view of the hippos basking in the sun or bobbing their heads out of the water.

The rooms are spacious with a large bathroom. As they are tents we left the canvas cover off the zipped doors facing the terrace so we could listen to the sounds of nature in the night. This can be noisy with the sounds of lions or hippos but its totally safe and so incredible to listen to while you drift off to sleep or when you wake up in the morning.

The camp is an all inclusive with private cars so game drives can be done at any time that suits you. After a long morning game drive, we would have lunch then sit by the pool, get ready again for a sunset boat cruise. The cruise is great to enjoy sitting on the top deck of the small motor boat as you get to see wildlife you wouldn't normally get close to by land. I’m not a fan of crocs but you would see them lying on the waters edge with a bloat (group) of hippos close by. You can even crack open a bottle of wine and enjoy the journey before heading back to camp for dinner. Rwanda truly at its most magnificent.

 

Guide

Our guide was called Bosco from Zambia, he was so amazing to chat to with a wealth of knowledge about Africa and wildlife. Having worked with Wilderness Safaris for many years he’s worked all around Africa specially Zambia. I would recommend him to all my clients; he adds that level of originality and authenticity that makes the trip even more special.

 

 

RwandAir

I have to say my experience with Rwandair was pretty amazing.  We flew business class which is really affordable, very comfortable, fully reclinable seats, the latest movies on touch screen and excellent service.

Flights direct to Kigali only 5 hours from Dubai. The absolute best way to start your Rwanda adventure.

 

Rwanda

From the remains and ruins of a brutal civil war and the horrific genocide of over 800,000 human beings, rises a new country. Rwanda is not only a symbol of hope for Africa but a shining example for the world - when peace, tolerance, forgiveness, respect for rule of law and compassion and dignity for your fellow human being become cornerstones for a vibrant, growing and creative new community.

This was all on display as I traversed through the raw, natural beauty of Rwanda. Rwandans are exceptional people. They wear the lesson of the genocide with care and understanding, using the pain and suffering of those frightful days to keep striving towards a better society. It shows in the gentle words they speak and the love they show through their smiles.

The energy is palpable. You can feel that this is a country on the move, they have found the right path and they’re not looking back.

 

 

Rwanda Conclusion

From the jungles in the north, the bush in the east and the lakes in the west, it is easy to see why Rwanda is fast becoming a new tourism favorite. The rawness of the natural beauty combined with the vibrancy of a new community is intoxicating. Whether you are on game drives spotting lions and leopards, making that ‘bucket-list visit to the famous mountain gorillas, or just taking in the incredible natural vistas of mountains, jungles, savannahs and bush, Rwanda has so much to offer. As those American ladies we met at Bisate, who literally make annual pilgrimages to the gorillas, can attest, one visit to Rwanda is simply not enough.

 

 

Watch my Bisate video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_45bG_gH_sc&t=121s

 

Watch my Gorilla Trekking video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YPx2D4I1Y58&t=3s

 

Read my experience trekking the Mountain Gorillas:  http://www.uniquefamilytravels.com/2022/04/08/gorilla-trekking-rwanda/

 

 

To book your  bucket list experience, please contact:

Danielle@uniquefamilytravels.com

www.uniquefamilytravels.com

 

Dani
Family Friendly Couple
Lead Gorilla image

Gorilla Trekking RWANDA

 

Trekking with the gorillas has been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember. I was supposed to go pre-covid so this was really an eagerly awaited trip.

Having sent many clients to see the gorillas in Rwanda, I thought I knew what to expect but in reality the experience was more than I could have ever imagined!

 

A towering, gentle giant of a man, Edward, was our guide for my journey of a lifetime. I was finally on the way to meeting the gorillas. In our initial meeting, Edward explained in his gentle voice, the initial parameters of what we were about to experience. We were guests of the gorillas and we needed to act accordingly. An understanding of the protocols was important – no sudden movements, no touching no matter how close they got, a respect for their space, no staring and those special guttering noises we needed to practice - verbal signs that showed the gorillas that we come in peace.

The plan was to trek into the mountains for approximately 90 minutes and meet a gorilla family that they called Amahoro Family, (meaning peace) which had 21 members. The excitement was palpable as we started the trek. First we walked parallel to a long wall, made with help from the WWF, that separated the Volcano National Park and its inhabitants (gorillas, monkeys, elephants, buffaloes) from the village people that inhabited the other side – a vivid reminder of how human beings, no matter how basic, were still continuing to encroach into the homes of our fellow earth dwellers. After about 30 minutes we reached a bridge and made a hard right straight into the jungle. The atmosphere changed. We were tracking gorillas now. The environment also changed dramatically. We were deep into jungle/forest territory. The mud was thick, the trails were tricky, the altitude was gripping. It was starting to dawn on us that for us to experience the joy of seeing gorillas we first had to work for it. Now I understood why our main guide Edward had a team of 6 porters and guides with us. The one with the rifle always led the convoy. The rest of the porters and guides gently guided us through the terrain. One of the porters was actually called Gentle. He was my rock as the physical aspect of the trek, along with the altitude, started to challenge me.

After an hour we reached our final meeting point. Here Edward was liaising with the trackers who had left much earlier in the morning to actually find the exact physical location of the gorillas. Gorillas are always on the move and they never sleep in the same spot so trackers have to literally track them down every day from where they had made their nest the night before. Most of these trackers are actually ex-poachers who have been rehabilitated by the Rwandan government and taught that killing them is not the solution to their survival, instead, becoming guides and helping gorilla tourism is a much more sustainable, prosperous and meaningful way to live.

Our trackers had found our gorilla family but we had a problem. They were situated in a crater in the mountains, meaning it would be very difficult to access them.

Reluctantly Edward resorted to Plan B – trek back to where we started and then go deep into the jungle in a different direction and find another gorilla family.

This was turning into an endurance event. Needless to say my ultramarathon loving husband was now in his element. I, on the other hand, was starting to wilt with the relentless intensity of altitude hiking and sickness. But there was no way I was opting out. This was my dream – we were going to see gorillas no matter what.

The trek continued. The terrain got harder. The trekking became more difficult. It was almost like the gorillas were seeing how badly we wanted our moment with them. They kept moving and we kept tracking. After what seemed hours and just after we had navigated a giant ant hill that had all of us scampering, we got word that we were very close, about 100 meters away but we had to climb, almost vertically to get there. A final challenge before the promised land.

8,000 feet up I was weak, dehydrated, legs shaking and then… I finally saw them. A giant silverback male, a couple of females and a few babies. All around me. I started crying. It was an unbelievable moment.

We were now in front of the Umubano Family which had 14 members, 2 silverbacks, 6 females and 4 babies with the youngest only 1 year old.

The rawness, the beauty, the gorillas. It was something else, it was truly magical.

Just as our hour with the gorillas was ending, the male got up and decided to walk straight towards me and Akbar. We slowly got out of the way, and as he passed us almost brushing against us, he grunted. Edward translated, the gorilla had said, “its ok…”

For a few precious moments we had been guests in their home and they had accepted us.

A powerful and beautiful moment that I will cherish forever. This experience will be forever sketched in my memory and heart. It had no longer become a ‘gorilla trek’ for me. It had became a pilgrimage to seek and find the best humanity, our humanity and their humanity (which is basically the same), had to offer. A huge thank you to my porter Gentle who held my hand throughout the 8 hour experience, rubbing my back when I vomited and providing me with the strength I needed.

This is Africa, this is rawness, beauty and nature!

 

 

Location: Volcanoes National Park

Bordering the Democratic Republic of Congo, but primarily in Rwanda, and set high on the jungle-covered slopes of the volcanic Virunga Mountains, the Volcanoes National Park is best known as a sanctuary for the region’s rare mountain gorillas. A three hour drive to the nearest town, Musanze from Kigali the capital -where you will initially fly into. We can also arrange helicopters which is a much shorter 30 minute transfer direct to your hotel.

 

The Gorillas

People have asked me if the gorillas are tagged, the answer is simply NO. Gorillas in Rwanda are left to roam freely in the wild alongside elephants, buffalo and many other animals in the jungle.

In 1963 when the legendary Dian Fossy starting her Gorilla conservation program, the Mountain Gorillas were nearly extinct with only 200, but now due to the incredible work the conservation does in her name and the support from the community and government to date in Rwanda there are now 1,050 gorillas. Still a long way to go but its heartening to see that when there is focused determination and inspiration, humans can learn to preserve this earth that we inhabit.

 

The Experience

You can chose the experience you would like – a short hike or a medium hike all within 1-3 hours in order to find the gorilla family which you have been assigned to. Once with the gorillas, as per government law in order to preserve the well being of the gorillas, it's a one hour experience up close and personal.

 

 

The Cost

Only 96 permits are issued a day at a cost of $1500 per person which includes your guides and porters. Please don't think this is expensive as the money really does go back into conservation and the local communities in order to keep these incredible mammals alive and out of harm. The government introduced an extensive educational campaign about the importance of the gorillas and the countries conservation, with education the poachers who are now guides and porters learnt that keeping the gorillas alive for tourism would support their families and earn them more money. Spending 8 hours with these people and I saw how wonderfully kind and caring they were. Many times they thanked us for visiting Rwanda.   

 

Please note children under 15 are not permitted to visit the gorillas.

 

How to plan your gorilla trek

Unique Family Travels works with Thousand Hills in Rwanda who will assist you with all your transport logistics, issue your gorilla permit and arrange a covid test which needs to be taken the day before. Masks must be worn when you are with the gorillas.

You must have your car and driver with you to take you to the gorilla briefing where you will meet your guide. Once the briefing is done you will drive to the nearest point of the mountains to start your trek. Our trek basically started from outside our hotel – Bisate Lodge.

 

Prep for your trek.

The night before your trek you will receive a little briefing on what to expect the next day and arrange your wake up call.

The morning of the trek you will have breakfast and you will be given gators to wear over your shoes and trousers.  You will also be given a pair of gloves and before the walk a wooden hiking stick.

Your hotel will also provide you snacks/lunch and water.

 

What to wear.

The weather during our trek was amazing, warm but not hot and only rained for 10 mins so my little travel rain mac came in handy. Wear light clothes and light safari colours. Good walking boots is a must, pack a thin scarf as its good to have around your neck incase like us you walk through thick jungle where the ants are. Have a hat or cap too. Sanitizer, wet wipes and tissues (ask the hotel for paper bags and remember to put everything back in your bag once done!)

 

Please do have cash with you in order to tip everyone involved in your experience. The porters and trekkers are from the local village and this is their income and how they support their families. Once you meet them, you will have so much respect for the work they do and just how much they have supported you during the experience. 

 

How to get to Rwanda

We flew with the national airline Rwandair and I have to say the service and comfort was excellent. The business class cabins are very comfy with full incline seats.

Business class fares are also very reasonably priced so if this is your bucket list holiday then splurge a little.

Unique Family Travels will arrange your meet and greet so it's a smooth transit through the airport into the waiting lounge as on arrival you will need to have an antigen test and a PCR test. Your results will then be emailed to you.

 

The Ellen Degeneres Campus of the Dian Fossy Gorilla Fund

The campus only just opened at the end of Feb 2022 and is a must visit. It’s located near the many entrances of the Volcanoes National Park.

I didn't understand the connection between Ellen and Dian Fossy but then I learnt that Ellen had always been inspired by Dian’s conservation work with the gorillas and had visited Rwanda many times. For her 60th birthday her wife Portia de Rossi funded the campus along with other donors which was honored in her name.

 

It's a wonderful, interactive centre which not only educates you on the life and legacy of Dian Fossy but also gorillas behavior, how to track the gorilla movement, what happens when 2 gorilla families cross paths! And learn which famous gorilla has the same personality as you. Mine was most like Digits…

 

Dian Fossy’s favourite Silverback was named Digit who she met in 1967 and over the years developed a special bond with him, referring to him as her “beloved Digit” His name was given to him as his middle finger was twisted. When Digit was killed by poachers in 1977, Dian’s grief was extreme. In his memory she founded the Digit Fund to raise funds for the protection of gorillas. In 1985 after Dian was murdered by suspected smugglers/poachers, she was buried next to her beloved Digit.

 

The Campus is also a wonderful way to educate children about gorillas in Rwanda and for them to understand that Gorillas still need a lot of protection.

Do watch this video to understand and appreciate just how much this campus means to the people and the protection of mountain gorillas: https://youtu.be/Ac2uYXtAnlI 

 

Rwanda Conclusion

 

From the remains and ruins of a brutal civil war and the horrific genocide of over 800,000 human beings, rises a new country. Rwanda is not only a symbol of hope for Africa but a shining example for the world - when peace, tolerance, forgiveness, respect for rule of law and compassion and dignity for your fellow human being become cornerstones for a vibrant, growing and creative new community.

This was all on display as I traversed through the raw, natural beauty of Rwanda. Rwandans are exceptional people. They wear the lesson of the genocide with care and understanding, using the pain and suffering of those frightful days to keep striving towards a better society. It shows in the gentle words they speak and the love they show through their smiles.

The energy is palpable. You can feel that this is a country on the move, they have found the right path and they’re not looking back.

 

 

From the jungles in the north, the bush in the east and the lakes in the west, it is easy to see why Rwanda is fast becoming a new tourism favorite. The rawness of the natural beauty combined with the vibrancy of a new community is intoxicating. Wether you are on game drives spotting lions and leopards, making that ‘bucket-list visit to the famous mountain gorillas, or just taking in the incredible natural vistas of mountains, jungles, savannahs and bush, Rwanda has so much to offer. As those American ladies we met at Bisate, who literally make annual pilgrimages to the gorillas, can attest, one visit to Rwanda is simply not enough.

 

Watch my video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YPx2D4I1Y58&t=3s

 

Read about Bisate Lodge here: 

https://www.uniquefamilytravels.com/2022/04/08/bisate-lodge-by-wilderness-safaris-rwanda/ 

 

To book your “gorilla” bucket list experience, please contact:

Danielle@uniquefamilytravels.com

www.uniquefamilytravels.com

 

Dani
Family Friendly Couple
LEAD

Bisate Lodge RWANDA

Have you ever come across a property and instantly falling in love?  Five years ago while planning a client’s trip to Rwanda I stumbled upon Bisate Lodge by Wilderness Safaris. Bisate is built by the local community, its elegantly perched on the edge of the Volcanoes National Park in the North West Of Rwanda and it offers a type of sustainable and eco-luxury that is truly the next level.

 

Until arriving at Bisate there had only been two other properties that had made me emotional once I saw it for myself and now I can add Bisate as the third.

 

Driving down the bumpy road past the local village you finally see Bisate Lodge nestled in the mountain and its even more incredible than in pictures. Bisate is a real life version of nests built into the gorgeous green mountain. Pictures simply don’t do it justice.

Welcomed by the wonderful staff and their warm African singing, we walked up the winding steps which take you up to the property and even through it via the wine cellar/private dining room, stopping mid way at the dining and living area, and then continuing to the highest room, room 6 at the very top.

 

There are only 6 luxurious en suite forest villas and each one of them are so beautifully designed, each elevating above one another and offering the most dramatic vista views that provide a diffenet picture depending on the time of day. The mornings are misty and open up into the picturesque beauty of the mountains where the mountain gorillas can be found.

 

Managed by husband and wife duo – Ally and Jason, this is a property you instantly fall in love with. So many aspects of this impeccable hotel come with that ubiquitous ‘wow’ which to a seasoned hospitality insider like myself is a ‘wow’ onto itself.  But it’s true because Bistate very elegantly adopts an extremely high level of top-end luxury yet purposely keeping very true to its environmental principals and passionately reflecting the culture of rural Rwanda, including its surrounding local villages.

 

From outside our room – room 6, is where the nature trail starts which can take about 45 minutes to enjoy and a guide can accompany you on request. Obviously my husband had to try it out the minute we arrived and twice the morning after our gorilla hike and in record time (17 minutes!), which he’s very modest about!, and that includes asking Patience (another beautiful member of Ally and Jason’s team) to make it a point to share with all future guests!!

 

The Suite

Six conically shaped thatched forest huts blend traditional and modern interiors providing comfort and warmth while making the most of the scenic views. Each 91 square meter room consists of a generous yet intimate combination of bedroom, reception space and large bathroom with a central bath tub, all warmed by a fireplace that divides the bathroom and bedroom along with breathtaking views out across your private deck facing the Volcanoes Mountain range.

 

The mini bar is stocked with every drink you desire, with a large choice of coffee and tea along with a cutting board with lemon and ginger – just what you need while sitting by the open fire.

 

The rooms provide an intoxicating mix - an earthly, nature feel yet oozing luxury, sophistication and elegance. The little touches are very sweet such as the wooden gorilla at each door way – lay on its side for Do Not Disturb!

 

Dining

Given the intimate nature of Bisate, there is only one ‘nest’ that acts as the common area, holding the bar and restaurant and on the lower floor, a wine cellar that can also host movie nights and private intimate dinners. Holding true to its roots, Bisate’s food menu is a ‘farm-to-table’ dream. Even the simple Margherita pizza delivered to the room was simply divine.

 

Bisate Give Back

As a company I have always loved and admired and wanted to focus on sustainable luxury properties that showcase the best in luxury while giving back to their environment (ie) a very well thought out conservation policy that has a meaningful and consistent impact on our planet, starting in their own back yard. Bisate does just that. Each guest contributes to Bisate’s biodiversity conservation and local community projects including a far-reaching impact on an iconic Critically Endangered species: the mountain gorilla.

 

Bisate’s giving back is endless and while at the property, talking to the staff from the gardener to the dining staff – everyone is local, from the neighboring villages. The gardener was in fact involved in physically building Bisate which took 8 months. He is from one of the local villages and proud of his 10 minute commute! While sitting on your room balcony you can hear the singing and laughter of the villages nearby, who are proud to welcome tourists to see the gorillas and share their admiration for Bisate.

 

Planting a Tree

To date Bisate has planted over 60,000 trees in order to preserve conservation and offer food to the local wildlife.

A simple yet beautiful touch is that every guest can plant and name their tree, and given a certificate with the tree coordinates so as you can monitor the growth of the tree. Ally told us that during Covid, guests would request her to send pictures of their tree to monitor the growth since they last visited the property. Not only does this have a positive feedback on the environment but also means that every Bisate guest has a little piece of their heart on the land.

This to me is what luxury is all about. I say it time and time again as I really believe luxury is about living freely in wide open spaces and having time to be in the moment.  We can never get time back and how we spend our time is not only a privilege but a luxury.

 

Kwanda Lounge

It would be hard for me to name check many properties that offer a day lounge for guests who arrive early for check in or leave late , quite like the Kwanda Lounge.

Just below the entrance to Bisate, closer to the villages, meaning we could hear very clearly the Sunday church service in full swing and set in a stunning organic garden designed by the same local gardener mentioned above, Kwanda Lounge is less a day lounge and more of a monument to the brilliant history of this part of Rwanda, including the gorillas and Dian Fossy’s legacy. But along with its tribute to the past, Kwanda Lounge also offers a wonderful window to the future, showcasing Bistae’s partnership with the neighboring schools and their student scholarships- as I said, this is the new type of luxury guests can expect, their tourism dollars having an immediate impact on the local environment and community. Relax in the living room around the open fire, a full dining area and also private rooms to relax in with full showers and amenities.

 

Bisate Conclusion

The greatest compliment I can give Bisate is that I can talk about it forever and keep writing and writing..

It truly is a very special place.

But it needs to be experienced for yourself. My words or my pictures can never replicate the memories I made, from meeting a gorilla family and fulfilling a long life dream to soaking my very tired legs from the gorilla trek in a heavenly hot bath, then sitting by the fire in my room with a organic bowl of warm soup.

True heaven – in this small part of Rwanda.

 

Rwanda Conclusion

From the remains and ruins of a brutal civil war and the horrific genocide of over 800,000 human beings, rises a new country. Rwanda is not only a symbol of hope for Africa but a shining example for the world - when peace, tolerance, forgiveness, respect for rule of law and compassion and dignity for your fellow human being become cornerstones for a vibrant, growing and creative new community.

This was all on display as I traversed through the raw, natural beauty of Rwanda. Rwandans are exceptional people. They wear the lesson of the genocide with care and understanding, using the pain and suffering of those frightful days to keep striving towards a better society. It shows in the gentle words they speak and the love they show through their smiles.

The energy is palpable. You can feel that this is a country on the move, they have found the right path and they’re not looking back.

 

 

From the jungles in the north, the bush in the east and the lakes in the west, it is easy to see why Rwanda is fast becoming a new tourism favorite. The rawness of the natural beauty combined with the vibrancy of a new community is intoxicating. Wether you are on game drives spotting lions and leopards, making that ‘bucket-list visit to the famous mountain gorillas, or just taking in the incredible natural vistas of mountains, jungles, savannahs and bush, Rwanda has so much to offer. As those American ladies we met at Bisate, who literally make annual pilgrimages to the gorillas, can attest, one visit to Rwanda is simply not enough.

 

Watch my Bisate video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_45bG_gH_sc&t=121s

 

Watch my Gorilla Trekking video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YPx2D4I1Y58&t=3s

 

Read my experience trekking the Mountain Gorillas:  http://www.uniquefamilytravels.com/2022/04/08/gorilla-trekking-rwanda/

 

Read about Magashi Camp, by Wilderness Safari's in the Agagera National Park, where we saw the BIG 5

 

To book your  bucket list experience, please contact:

Danielle@uniquefamilytravels.com

www.uniquefamilytravels.com

 

Dani
Family Friendly Couple
LEAD

Mango House Seychelles

“Welcome home”, is the motto of Mango House and after spending a couple days at this incredible resort, it does become crystal clear like the surrounding Indian Ocean, that this certainly can be your home away from home while the most friendly, warm and chatty staff makes you feel like you are back with your family.

 

This is a new property, having opened in 2021 so the fresh lush grounds and the sounds of the waves makes you feel escapism from the moment you enter the grounds.

 

Location

 

Carved into a hillside on Mahé, the largest island in the Seychelles archipelago, Mango House seeks not to impose itself on the landscape so much as bend it to its comforting will. Nestled deep in the south of Mahé, a 40-minute drive from Seychelles International Airport, Mango House was originally built as a family dwelling by celebrated Italian fashion photographer Gian Paolo Barbieri who fell in love with the island and made this his home for many years.

 

Mango House

 

The heart of Mango House is the stunning “Main House” which is all open plan and offers floor-to-ceiling windows looking out onto the infinity pool, which is one of the hotels three pools and then onto the bay. On the ground floor is also the Muse, the breakfast area which turns into a Fine dining Italian concept in the evening. On the upper level you will find the luxurious spa, a well-equipped gym and Kokoye, the Indo-Seychellois bar inspired by the Spice Route.

 

 

Rooms

 

Forty-one guest rooms, suites and villas offer uninterrupted views of the bay and are split between three areas into the Cliff House, Bay House and Beach Houses.

 

We stayed in a stunning suite at the highest point of the property in the Cliff House. They have two large bathrooms and a large balcony from the bedroom to the living room. The Family connecting rooms in the Bay House are very spacious with a large terrace or balcony and opens up directly onto the swimming pool. For larger families book the 3 bedroom villa with pool which is located next to the Main House.

 

Each room category offers floor-to-ceiling windows with a pearly white, beige and blue colour scheme subtly emulating the natural beauty of the island.

 

The beach houses are standard rooms next to the main house and restaurant area that open up on to a garden and the beach.

 

Swimming Pools

 

The Main House offers a large infinity pool. The Cliff House is elevated and nestled in the cliffs. The pool is smaller and private which is great for those who don't want to be disturbed except for when the waiter brings your cocktail. Bay House has a large family pool with a bar and water sport facilities.

 

 

Dining

 

Having experienced the food at Mango House it is obvious why the entire island is talking and visiting the five dining outlets as its no less of a culinary treat. For a boutique property the F&B outlets are actually something you will find in a major city.


Breakfast at Muse is a homestyle affair with platters of fruit and cold cuts served as you wait for your al la carte order.

 

By night Muse is transformed into a fine dining Italian. Headed by Michelin star, Neapolitan Chef Carmine Faravolo, Mediterranean meets Creole in the sharing plates of carpaccio, pasta, and grills. Unmissable is the chef’s Napoli-style pizza and his tiramisu. The dishes were not only mouth watering but left you feeling satisfied and not bloated.

 

Moutya, ran by equally brilliant Chef Ralph Ernesta offers authentic Creole cuisine. Dishes are cooked on sustainable coconut shell charcoal and served on the waters edge.

 

Thirty-two years in Japan have made Chef Alejandro Moranda at Azido (‘Azi’ meaning taste and flavour, and ‘do’ meaning every time), a legendary expert on contemporary Japanese culinary art. Indulgent sushi platters teeming with seafood from local coves are enjoyed alongside a breathtaking view of the circuitous coastline.

 

For a laid-back lunch by the pool, head to Soley, the vibrant poolside bar where delectable bento boxes can be customized with everything from sliders to sushi.

 

Unique Family Travels Verdict

9.1/10

For a boutique property that's recently opened Mango House is the talk of the island. The comfortable rooms, picturesque views and amazingly friendly staff make this a “Must Stay” destination.

For first timers visiting Seychelles, Mango House is a no-brainer as it gives you everything the island has to offer in a nutshell. For Seychelles old timers, Mango House will make you fall in love with this place all over again.

 

 

Top Tip

Rent a car and experience what Mahe has to offer with many amazing hiking trails. All the beaches in the Seychelles are public so tour the island and make sure you visit one of the most beautiful soft sand beaches - Petite Anse.

 

Take a trip to Cap Lazare, a nature reserve home to tortoises, untamed beaches and drinking and dining experiences, or spend an afternoon touring and tasting at Takamaka Distillery, built on the site of a former plantation with historic ruins and fascinating endemic species

 

 

PCR Tests can be taken at Centre Clinic, Eden Island and are Euro 75

 

 

Contact Unique Family Travels for our exclusive rates and concierge services.

Watch video of the island here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L2tL0nypoQE

Dani
Family Friendly Couple
m lead

One&Only Le Saint Geran

Be immersed in authentic Mauritius at the timeless One&Only Le Saint Geran, from lazy days on your private terrace to one of a kind Indian ocean adventures.

N LEAD

One&Only Nyungwe House

Captivating wildlife, dramatic mountain landscapes blanketed with greenery, and our own working tea plantation; see natural wonders flourish at One&Only Nyungwe House.

Gorillas nest LEAD

One&Only Gorilla’s Nest

One&Only Gorilla’s Nest awakens a wild spirit of adventure. A place that encourages you to gaze into the mirror through eye opening encounters with majestic mountain gorillas and experience the story of Rwanda.

Lead Mara

Mara Plains, Masai Mara

I’m an island girl at heart but my other favourite kind of holiday has to be a safari vacay.   Having previously experienced a couple of safaris in South Africa and Kenya I really do feel extremely grateful to have just come back from the most incredible  8 days on safari  in Kenya staying at three luxury camps – Mara Plains and Mara Nyika in two conservancies in the Masai Mara and then Ol Donyo in the Chyulu  Hills.

All three being the only Relais & Chateaux camps in Kenya – a real stamp of approval for the amazing experience which you will receive..

 

Mara Plains

A 40 minute flight from Wilson Airport to the landing strip in the 35,000 acre Olare Motorogi conservancy or a leisurely game drive between two of Great Plains luxury lodges in the Masis Mara - Mara Plains and Mara Niyaka.

   

Mara Plains is a 7 room luxury tented suite which includes a private honeymoon tent and a 2 bedroom Mara Plains Jahazi family tent blending the finest in wildlife and the absolute best in safari hospitality.  Fitting in with the eco system this camp is solar powered and sustainable living at its best. Don't worry about wasting water while at Mara Plains as the water is desalinated and distributed back into  the eco system.

 

Suites

We were staying in a one bedroom suite which was incredibly spacious, all open plan offering either a view of the hippos basking in the river or out onto the open plains were you can witness the sun setting.

We were facing the river and from our private terrace we could see the hippos below. But don’t worry as the rangers secure the property 24/7 so you are perfectly safe – enjoy the lions roaring and the hippos grunting from the comfort of your room.

 

On one end of the canvas tent there is a large open bathroom which can be closed off by drawing the curtains – a separate loo, stunning shower with large Arabic door as the back drop and a deep copper free standing bath which sits next to the large window where you can simply relax and take in the views.

 

The two bedroom Jahazi suite is tucked away under a canopy of trees providing ample space, privacy and home comforts. Central living areas flow nicely from the large veranda with two large bedrooms and bathrooms either side.

 

In your wardrobe you will find a yoga mat and work out bands to use at your perusal.

 

Mara Plains offers 24 hour complimentary laundry service to all guests – every evening it was so nice to return back to the room with your laundry neatly folded and a hot water bottle placed in your bed.

 

Grounds

As you arrive at the secluded camp you are warmly greeted by the team while you walk over the wooden floating footbridge above the hippos and crocodiles in the river below – the entrance can’t get more African safari than that!

 

The welcome guest area opens onto the enthralling views of the endless savannah while the beautiful interior which elegantly mixes colonial, Swahili, and Masai traditions, makes you feel instantly comfortable – leather sofas, wooden furniture, brass fitting and wildcat photography on the walls.

 

Cuisine

Being a Relais and Chateaux member the title speaks volumes for the food served. But what you wont expect is the incredibly mouth watering dishes lovingly prepared by Chef Ben with no dietary requirement a restriction to his amazing array of recipes.

With his deep understanding of food and what our bodies require, Chef Ben provides you with all the fuel and nutrients, leaving your mouth watering and eagerly anticipating your next dish.

Lunch is all served as sharing portions

An example of lunch:

Chilled Avocado & mint soup

Spicy baked mountain beef mince with sweet chilli

Roasted roots and vegetables

Leek & onion tart with mozzarella toppings

Middle Eastern Shakshuka with poached quail eggs

Apple, radish & pecans with cranberry and arugula leaves

Cheese board and desert

 

During the day the team will let you know what is for dinner in order for you to choose your three course meal. If you go on an afternoon game drive, dinner will be served anytime from 7.30pm and for late night game drives dinner will be served earlier.

An example of dinner options are:

Starter:

Plant based basil & coconut milk panacota with parmesan

Nori seaweed wraps with vegetable and wasabi sauce

Carrot and ginger soup served with sweet corn fritters

Main Course

Duo of grilled lamb chops and lamb breast with garlic and mint jus with veggies

Pan seared teriyaki wahoo fish with lemon mango salsa with turnip puree, spinach and veggies

Baked stuffed eggplant with yogurt and pomegranate

 

There are many options for kids too. In fact anything your heart desires will be cooked especially for you.

 

I can honestly say the level of cuisine was incredible, nothing was too much and everything you ate was an explosion of flavors. I couldn't praise Chef Ben enough he’s a true master in the kitchen and his love for food is addictive.

 

Dining

With many private areas around the property you can dine in the library, wine cellar, on the terrace or out in the bush. You can also enjoy sitting around the open bonfire for early drinks and nibbles watching the animals in the distance as the sun sets. 

Champagne bush breakfast and lunches can be arranged and one morning we took a full Chef Ben’s picnic out on our drive and found a wonderfully shaded spot under an acacia tree where we enjoyed a large selection of dishes.

 

Wildlife

The Olare Motorogi Conservancy is home to the highest concentration of big cats anyway in Africa and I was grateful to be witness to this.

From the minute we were in the vehicle going to the lodge the wildlife was abundant. And every game drive was an incredible experience. We saw two female leopards with 5 of their cubs, two male cheetahs patiently waiting for their next meal and a pride of female lions with her cubs. The zebra, wilder beast, giraffes, elephants, hyenas and other small animals were abundant.

 

What the conservatory has achieved is pretty incredible as you can watch this untouched wilderness where Maasai herdsmen live in total harmony with nature which is awe-inspiring. This truly unique entity boasts a relationship between conservation and livelihood, as you see cows grazing on one side and on the other lions, hyenas and wildebeest.

 

Experiences

The beauty of where Mara Plains is that its located in a private conservancy which means that the wildlife is abundant, there are minimal safari vehicles as only lodges in the conservancy are permitted in this area and you can get extremely close to the animals.  We literally had a pride of lions lying on the ground around the car and we parked next to the tree where the leopards were taking shade.

 

You can also experience a game drive in the Masai Mara National reserve, which I personally found too busy with other cars and a little too commercial. However driving up a mountain we could see vistas which went on for miles with the Serengeti (Tanzania) to our left and the Masai Mara (Kenya) to our right.

 

As with all three Great Plains Camps guests have the use of a Canon camera with multiple lenses and a pair of binoculars. At the end of your stay all your images will be downloaded on a memory stick.

 

Each tent is given a dedicated guide and vehicle to use during their stay. Our guide, Duncan was incredible and could literally sniff out the animals location. Its mind blowing how these wonderful guides know every single kilometer of the area like the back of their hand.

 

Guests can also enjoy a hot air balloon experience but this does need to be pre booked in advance. Last time I was in the Masai Mara my husband and I enjoyed a hot air balloon early morning which was incredible as we watched the migration from above and then a champagne breakfast.

 

 

Conclusion

Mara Plains does an absolutely brilliant job of combining thoughtful conservation with sustainable luxury. It really is the perfect combination for a mindful traveler who wants to take in the beauty of African wildlife but with a minimal footprint as possible. A safari holiday should show respect to the animals that we are visiting and be cognizant of our role as temporary guests and I really believe Mara Plains delivers on that.

 

Watch my video here:

 

 

The founders and visionaries

 

In collaboration with National Geographic, award winning filmmakers, photographers and conservationists Dereck and Beverly Jouberts have been helping to save wildlife and their habitats for over 30 years.

Mara Plains is owned and run by their company Great Plains Conservation.

 

To find out more visit about the camps which are located in Kenya, Botswana and Kenya and are members of Relais & Chateaux: www.greatplainsconservation.com

 

To understand more about the foundation : https://greatplainsfoundation.com

 

Who are Dereck & Beverly Joubert?: https://www.nationalgeographic.org/projects/explorers/joubert/

 

Read our other Great Plains Safari posts:

 

Mara Nyika - http://www.uniquefamilytravels.com/2021/10/22/mara-nyika-masai-mara-kenya/

 

Ol Donyo - http://www.uniquefamilytravels.com/2021/10/07/ol-donyo-lodge-kenya-safari/

 

 

For a bespoke itinerary and exclusive rates contact Unique Family Travels.

 

Dani
Family Friendly Couple
dani-footer

About Us

As an avid traveler, pre and post my three children, and a lover of boutique hotels, I have been fortunate enough to travel extensively, stay at unique properties and take adventures off the beaten track.

I've been lucky to see and enjoy so much that I think now is the perfect time to share my travel experiences, so I have created Unique Family Travel - a company where my team and I can develop bespoke, wonderful and unique travel experiences for you and your family. I can guarantee our experiences aren't available on the likes of large booking websites as we take you on a tailored journey which caters to your specific needs.

Each destination and journey should be a timeless memory, created for you and your family and captured in fantastic memories to keep forever. We can help with this simply because that's how I would do it for myself, my family and friends!

Do get in touch with us, drop us a line and lets get you going on your next amazing, unique travel experience.

Happy Travels

Love Dani

PS. All photos on this site are taken by me, mostly on my iphone :)

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