On one of our first game drives at andBeyond Bateleur Camp, my partner Oscar was struggling to take decent pictures of the animals on his old iPhone XR (a model from 2018). “See, I told you that you would want a better camera for this trip,” I said, as I snapped photos on the mirrorless Leica I had gotten a few months prior. By Samantha Lauriello
Noticing Oscar struggling, our guide Jeremy pulled out what looked like an oddly shaped phone case and said, “Try this.” It was an adapter that could connect an iPhone camera to an ordinary pair of binoculars, giving it a telephoto lens. Suddenly, Oscar’s old iPhone could take better close-up photos than my brand-new camera.
Jeremy is both a guide and wildlife photographer, so he’s used to helping guests level up their photo game while out on drives. Sure, I might have been slightly bitter that my photography-clueless boyfriend one-upped me, but that’s beside the point. We didn’t know going into the stay that our guide was also a photographer. That’s the kind of surprise we encountered often while at Bateleur; we were constantly amazed by the unexpected extras that took the experience to the next level.
Animals up close and personal
We arrived at andBeyond Bateleur Camp around noon on our first day, so after getting settled in our room, we went straight to lunch. About five minutes after we sat down to dine, a family of warthogs (or Pumbas, as they’re often called) wandered into the outdoor dining area and began grazing a few feet away from us. They ate their lunch and we ate ours like we were all dining at the same restaurant.
Warthogs aren’t the only animals that live on the property. One afternoon in between game drives, I was sitting on our tent’s deck talking to a friend on the phone. As I was telling her about the trip, I screamed, “Ah, there’s a monkey!” It was climbing in the trees right next to our tent, cute as can be. That money was the first of quite a few I saw around camp. Every time I noticed one, it was a good reminder that this was their home first.
andBeyond Bateleur Camp’s conservation efforts
andBeyond Bateleur Camp is located in Kenya’s famous Maasai Mara, and it’s just one small piece of andBeyond’s footprint. The conservation-led luxury travel company has properties across Africa, Asia, and South America. Its tagline is “leaving the world a better place,” which comes down to three pillars of impact: people, land, and wildlife. When learning about these efforts at Bateleur, I especially admired one of the ways the camp gives back to the local community.
The women of the Maasai tribe have traditionally had to rely on their husbands’ income — most didn’t have a way to earn money themselves. To work toward changing that, andBeyond supplied a group of women with beehives and taught them how to maintain the colonies and extract honey. andBeyond now buys the honey from the women for use at camp, providing them with a stable income.
The Maasai people do travellers a great honour by letting us enjoy their land, and I felt it was important to understand some of the ways in which they benefit. Thankfully, andBeyond made that easy.
As we arrived back at camp after our last evening game drive, I headed straight to the tent, excited to warm up in the bath before dinner. It was a rainy night, and it had been chilly on the drive. To my surprise, the bath had already been drawn, complete with both kinds of bubbles (the kind you bathe in and the kind you drink). It was as if our butler William read my mind, though I’m sure he had simply anticipated his guest’s needs — a mark of impeccable service.
That’s just one example of andBeyond Bateleur Camp’s ultra-luxe amenities. There’s also a gin bar, infinity pool overlooking the plains, and massage sala with the same incredible view. It’s a true oasis tucked away in the African bush.
Saying goodbye was sad, as it always is at the end of a vacation, but it was a little easier knowing I had found a place I’d recommend to others for as long as the memories live on, which I’m sure will be a lifetime.