I rarely write reviews. It isn't until you come somewhere like this that you realise you aren't feeling compelled to write anything for mediocre experiences. This is somewhat different.
We arrived (late) on our bush flight from Nairobi and were collected by our guide, Jimmy. More on Jimmy later. When we arrived at camp (about 45-60 awe-inspiring minutes later), Sammy and Colin were there to greet us and take us up to camp. We'd missed lunch but had food brought out to us and offered drinks. Just what we needed after a bumpy and sweaty ride on plane and jeep. With profuse apologies (with absolutely no need) for the quick turnaround, off we went on our first afternoon's drive.
You get one morning drive (roughly 6:30am - 12pm) with breakfast in an amazing location, followed by lunch outside with the rest of the visitors, then siesta until 3.30-4pm, when you set out on your afternoon drive, complete with sundowners. Driving back in the dark just adds another dimension to your experience - something I understand not all the camps and lodges do. After a quick freshen up, it's back up to the main tents for drinks around the camp fire and dinner, before more drinks and bed.
Tent - we were in Kongoni, one of the nearest to the camp entrance and the main tents. The tent itself is well laid out (we had a family tent, so two twin beds we used for bags, clothes, general dumping ground) with a bed in the middle of the room and the bathroom at the back. We were warned about the bucket showers but I don't think we ran out of water and one night, when I was faffing about too much, they refilled the bucket in case it had gone cold. You do need to keep the zips shut at all times though - from a bug, bushbaby and monkey perspective - which is a pity but it's better than being eaten alive or being mugged by a monkey. We were pre-warned about the bush babies using the tent as a trampoline and, sure enough, it was quite noisy at night. However, each of the tents have their quirks and I'd rather an exuberant bush baby having a jump about than the tent who had the amorous hippos outside! The camp is not fenced off, so you do have animals wandering through the camp, especially at night. A highlight for us was a family of zebra hanging out at our tent as we walked back from dinner one night. A word on after dark - you will have a guard with you at all times when it's dark and you're wandering about. Just to be on the safe side.
Food and drinks - it starts with your wake up call: hot drinks of your choice and biscuits. Breakfast out is fantastic and even enabled us to introduce our American jeep-mates to Marmite overlooking a hippo pool...! Lunch is a fantastic buffet (anything from bobotie to asian-spiced noodle salad. Desserts come with every meal, as does tea and coffee. Sundowners out on your drive come with snacks (always yummy) and then dinner is generally an informal sit-down 3 course dinner. Many people said they didn't expect to come away from a tented camp after 3/4 nights one dress size larger, but I think we all feared it! I had an allergy and it was carefully noted and I was brought a different dessert at lunch one day - fantastic.
Guides - our guide was Jimmy, a chap who clearly loves his job and the animals. He was great for anticipating animal movements ("He's going to yawn - get ready!") and getting the jeep into the best possible place to watch from. We saw just about everything it is possible to see, only narrowly missing a few kills. The timing was bad for the migration, but we still saw a group of stupid zebra cross the Mara River three times... My only thought about Jimmy was that while he was fantastic at knowing the usual places to see the animals and for listening out on the radio for great sightings to get us there, he seemed stumped at the times when the other jeeps had gone back to camp (on the two occasions we stayed out longer) and the sightings were more lean. Having said that, we had the most amazing few days with him and he showed us some great animals and birds. We knew we were seeing something special when Jimmy got his camera out!
Staff and service - impeccable. The mains staff knew our names and would bring personality and friendliness to their professional service. Colin and Sammy, the current managers, deserve special mention. Nothing was too much, they were so knowledgeable, friendly and organised, and they absolutely contributed to making this camp so special. They arranged a private dinner for us on our final night, which was magical up until the point we got freaked out at a large moving shape near us (a buffalo it turned out) so we scarpered back into our tent.
It's worth recapping on why you should come to a camp in a conservancy rather than the National Reserve. Firstly, you can go to the Mara NR - it's a fully day out but we did it and it was great. The conservancy is an area leased from the local people with the purpose of protecting the landscape and animals. The animals can come and go as they please - they don't know about the arbitrary line drawn on a map - so you see what you'd see in the NR. Secondly, there are restricted numbers of camps and vehicles in the conservancy, and restricted (and regulated) numbers of jeeps allowed at any one sighting. This is not the case in the NR and you can quite easily find yourself at a sighting in the NR with 10+ jeeps. Not ideal. Finally, the conservancy works directly with the local people - meaning a partnership that is more sustainable for all concerned.
I cannot recommend this camp highly enough and we do plan to return at some stage.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Our bush hideaway welcomes you to a different world, centered at the heart of the African wilderness. Experiencing a traditional luxury camp is a must on safari and, with Kicheche, one that is intimate, secluded and in an area surrounded by prolific wildlife. Staying in a bush camp doesn't mean compromising on comfort, the food and service are first class, as are the warmth and experience of Kicheche's staff making your safari an unforgettable experience. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Kicheche Mara Camp Hotel Maasai Mara National Reserve
- Kicheche Mara Camp Kenya/Masai Mara National Reserve