Kenya : Masai Mara
Kenya's Masai Mara, bordering the Serengeti in Tanzania and lying adjacent to the Great Rift Valley, is one of the very few areas left in Africa where wildlife can be seen in the large numbers that existed a hundred years ago with some of the best game viewing in Africa. There is a mass of resident game but a particular highlight is the Great Migration, 'the greatest wildlife show on earth', which takes place between July and October. During these months, the plains darken with wildebeest and zebra, millions of them passing through on their hazardous annual journey in search of fresh pastures. There is particularly good predator activity at this time, as lions, leopards, cheetahs and crocodiles earn their prey. As well as the prolific wildlife, the dramatic landscapes provide photo opportunities at every turn, from soaring escarpments to acacia-dotted grasslands, and blazing sunsets to towering rain clouds. Despite its popularity, there are plenty of small camps and lodges hidden in concession areas adjacent to the reserve and away from the madding crowds.
Rekero Tented Camp is probably one of our most favourite camps in the Masai Mara. The main reason is that it is situated in an area where there are not many other camps or lodges, and though it is practically impossible in the huge flat areas of the Mara not to see another vehicle, the guides from Rekero, if they see another car, will drive in the opposite direction and will give you as an exclusive a safari experience as possible. The guides are excellent, all local Masai and incredibly knowledgeable about the game, birds and flora of their homeland. The camp (which is set up seasonally from June to October and December to March) is a simple safari camp but with all the luxuries you will need. Situated on the Talek River, it is owner-run by Gerard Beaton and Jackson Ole Looseyia of Big Cat Diary fame, and sleeps up to just eighteen. In August/ September time when the migration is passing through you can sit and have lunch and watch the wildebeest crossing the river just upstream.
Kicheche Mara Camp is a classic luxury bush camp hidden in a grove of wild olive trees in Mara North Conservancy, a private concession area on the edge of the Masai Mara. The wildlife wanders freely around the camp, and the camp is ideally situated to enjoy the famous migration between July and October. There are eight comfortable tents with big cedar-wood beds and each with an en-suite bathroom with cold running water, bucket shower with hot water and flush toilet. The experienced guides will take you out on day game drives in the conservancy and the Mara, and as it's a private concession area, you can also go for walks with an armed guide and learn about the flora and fauna of the area and track game on foot, and on night drives. In the heat of the day you can siesta in a hammock or put your nose into the reference books in the lounge in preparation for your afternoon activity. In the evening, you will have drinks around the camp fire and dinner out under the stars. Kicheche is a good value, small and intimate camp. Travel writer Brian Jackman, said “At last, I've found the best camp in the Mara, if not in Africa.''
"Kicheche Camp was the perfect camp for myself and two 11-year-olds. I have been to other camps previously which would not have suited us nearly as well."
"Could not sleep a wink from the sounds of the lions all night! The game drives were absolutely fabulous, especially seeing leopard and the Mara crossing."
Elephant Pepper Camp is a small, semi-permanent tented bush camp in a private concession adjacent to the Masai Mara game reserve. A welcome peaceful haven away from the larger camps which dominate the Mara, it has eight tents set in a quiet area under some shady trees, and interspersed with bushes and trees between each tent to ensure complete privacy. There is also one honeymoon/family tent with its own sitting area. The tents are all en-suite with flush loos and bucket showers with plenty of hot water on call at any time of the day. There is a small mess tent where you can relax with the library of books or just watch the wilderness outside. On game drives in the Mara, the guides will keep you well away from the other vehicles and minibuses, and you will enjoy some spectacular game viewing. Being in a concession area, you can go on walks with an armed guide, the most peaceful way to view game and learn about flora and fauna of the area, and a welcome contrast to game drives.
“Elephant Pepper Camp was our highlight in every way. The honeymoon tent was perfect. The whole atmosphere at camp, service, food and people were amazing.”
Caroline and Finlay, Bathgate
"Sophie & Calum were absolutely wonderful. They made Elephant Pepper Camp perfect and ensured my first trip to Kenya was incredible."
Main Governors' Camp is one of the original camps in the Mara with 37 tents set along the winding banks of the Mara River. The setting is magical, perhaps the reason it was once reserved solely for Kenya's colonial governors and their royal visitors. Some of the tents overlook the Mara River, while others look out to the sweeping plains. Every tent has an en-suite bathroom with a shower and basin, running cold and hot water as well as a flush toilet. Gas and paraffin lamps are used for lighting throughout the camp. This is an excellent camp for families.
Little Governors' Camp is more intimate than the main camp, with 17 tents set around a small lake. You reach it by boat and then an escorted walk through riverine forest. The en-suite tents, which have been recently refurbished, are very comfortable, with plenty of hot and cold running water. You can sit at the bar or on the large veranda of you tent and watch the elephant bathing and drinking in the lake. At night the hippo come up to feed around the tents and you can hear them grunting through the night. The camp has no fence around it and animals can walk through camp at any time, so there are askaris (guards) to walk you from your tent to the dining and bar areas. The guiding here is excellent.
Il Moran is Governors' luxury camp, with only 10 tents set among ancient trees along the winding banks of the Mara River. The tents are furnished with hand-made olive wood beds, and the bathrooms have Victorian claw footed baths where you can soap the day's dust away. Every tent has a large veranda from where you can watch the birds and butterflies, as well as the elephant wandering through camp. There is a main mess tent with a bar and dining room, or you can dine under the stars on your veranda.
Cottar's 1920s Safari Camp is situated in an exclusive concession area between the Maasai Mara, Serengeti and Loliondo reserves, an area untouched by any kind of tourism or development. Bought by the Cottar family in the 1920s, the eight luxuriously furnished white canvas tents exude the style and decadence of this era. There are private en-suite dressing rooms and bathrooms with old-fashioned styled tubs as well as showers and flushing loos. Another unique factor is that the game drives can be in either an authentic, old wooden car or in an oxen pulled wagon, as well as in a modern 4x4. As the concession is outside the game parks, guided walking and night drives are also possible. You can also go fishing or swimming in a natural plunge pool, and back at camp there is a spa offering a range of treatments.
Saruni is a new lodge set in a private conservation area outside the Masai Mara National Reserve. Set in remote 'secret' valley at the heart of the most exciting wilderness of Kenya, it sleeps just 12 guests in six luxury tented cottages. The cottages offer guests the comfort and safety of a permanent structure combined with the thrill of sleeping in close contact with nature. The atmosphere at the camp is informal but the cottages are stylishly furnished with polished wood floors, colonial antiques, Persian carpets and African art. All the cottages have large bathrooms with elegant Italian bathroom fittings and hot and cold running water, and the canvas front can be totally open to offer you an amazing shower with a view. Your safari actually starts on the massive cedar beds, from where you can watch elephants, leopards, waterbucks and impala walking freely in the camp. Saruni also has a luxury fly camp, with three Bedouin tents, where you can enjoy a couple of nights getting closer to nature and exploring the area on foot.
Naibor Camp is a lovely luxury tented camp on the banks of the Talek River, at the heart of the world famous Masai Mara Game Reserve. Its nine spacious pale canvas tents are set in a riverine forest, and all have a shady veranda overlooking the river and an en-suite bathroom with flush loo, his and hers washbasins and a bucket shower. The tents are elegantly furnished with a king-sized fig wood bed and large sofas, the perfect retreat after exciting game drives or walks in the conservancy. Naibor also has two exclusive suites, Little Naibor, set slightly away from the camp with their own bar and campfire areas secreted among trees on the banks of the Talek River, which offer complete privacy and have wonderful views. These suites can be booked on an exclusive use basis or in conjunction with the main Naibor facilities. The Camp offers day and night game drives guided by professional guides, bush walks, overnight walking safaris with fly camping and long walking safaris. You can also visit the Ol Kinyei Masaai to learn about the Maasai culture and way of life.
Offbeat Mara take you to the true wilderness of Africa, whilst maintaining the high standards of a traditional safari camp. Their exclusive, seasonal 12-bed Mara Camp is set on the Olare Orok River in an unspoilt part of Masailand full of wildlife but far from any lodge. Being on a private concession, you can enjoy night drives as well as day drives, with full access to the game reserve, the Mara River and perhaps an early morning hot air balloon trip. The spacious tents are all furnished with large, hand-made cedar beds, made up with the finest linen. There is 24-hour solar-powered lighting, and the en-suite bathrooms have hot bucket showers and flush loos.
Richard Roberts and his girlfriend, designer Liz Fusco, turned the Roberts' family home into this small and exclusive tented camp in 2000. The camp is set on the edge of a beautiful forest in the Masai Mara conservation area that his father Willy Roberts helped to create with the local Masai people. It has six very comfortable, individually decorated en-suite tents, 24-hour solar power, heated showers, wonderful food, open four-wheel drive vehicles and a truly traditional tented camp atmosphere, making it an excellent base for exploring the Masai Mara.
Entim Mara Camp is a small tented camp in a great game-viewing area close to where the Mara and Talek rivers meet and very close to the main wildebeest crossings during the migration. There are seven nicely decorated tents which blend into the woodland surrounding them, and each has an en-suite shower and flush loo and a large, secluded veranda with lovely views overlooking the plains and the Mara River. There is a cosy main lounge with a small library area and a separate bar area which is open at the front so you can watch the game. Like the sleeping tents, they are powered by generator or solar power. Entim is a small and intimate camp, away from other camps and in a lovely spot.
Entim Mara is offering unique new photography and film-making safaris with Big Cat Diary cameraman Warren Samuels.more info >
Mara Intrepids is a 30-tent camp located in a special leopard spotting zone of the Masai Mara, and is just a short drive from the Mara River, where over a million wildebeest and zebra make their perilous migration crossing every year. The raised classic safari tents are spread out along the riverbank, and furnished with huge four-poster beds and reproduction furniture. They all have modern en-suite bathrooms with hot showers and flush loos. It’s a great camp for families with an Adventurer’s Club organising a variety of activities for children. The camp is run on strict eco-principles and channels profits into local community initiatives.
Kicheche Valley Camp is the smallest luxury camp in the Masai Mara’s newest conservancy, Naibosho Conservancy, which was created in 2011 to add vital habitat to Africa’s most admired eco-system. It is incredibly good value for this calibre of camp. A classic bush camp with an opulent (though not over the top) feel, it has six eleganty decorated tents with huge wooden beds, raised decks and an elevated stone lapa. Valley Camp is unfenced and wildlife is free to move down the valley. The conservancy, with its classic open plains, forest, permanent water and rugged low hills, offers the best of both worlds, with easy access to the reserve during the migration months and private game viewing year round straight from camp.