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Shompole, Masai Mara National Reserve 

Masai Mara National Reserve
Tel: 254 20 884135
view web site ›'s insider take:

Since opening in 2000, Shompole has been at the cutting edge of eco-chic in Kenya, turning a harsh, remote region into one of the country's hottest destinations. The lodge's six stylish rooms sit beneath towering thatched roofs on the edge of the Nguruman Escarpment, which overlooks the sun-scorched plains of the Great Rift Valley, an hour's flight from Nairobi. The style draws heavily on the local environment: The walls are cut from white quartz stone, the stairs fashioned from fig wood, and the graceful curves of each room meant to blend into the hillside. Plunge pools, rock gardens, and gurgling waterfalls give each room a Zen-like calm while you take in the expansive views: Think Kyoto ryokan meets Out of Africa. In case the main lodge isn't secluded enough, you can hike to ultraexclusive Little Shompole at the top of the hill, where two luxury suites—graced with gourmet chefs and butlers—encourage a bit of pampering in private. The lodge's eco-efforts have won it much praise (including the United Nations Development Programme's prestigious Equator Prize in 2006), and Shompole has helped to bring water, medical supplies, and schooling to the local Masai. The resort has also worked with the community to bring back much of the wildlife that was chased off by human encroachment years ago; now, lions, zebras, and antelopes often are seen in the area. You won't get the big-game experience of the Masai Mara, but there's plenty to keep you busy when you're not chasing your next animal sighting. Walking safaris, mountain biking, and seasonal canoe trips down the Ewaso Ng'iro River are all included; shell out extra for a bit of spa time, or a visit with a local Masai healer, who will bestow his blessings on you.

Closed May.

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