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“Fancy lodge, but a terrible guide...could not recommend this place”

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Great Plains Conservation Mara Expedition Camp
Reviewed 16 September 2013

There is no question that the camp facilities were very nice, fancy and comfortable, but that was pretty much the nicest thing I can say about this camp experience until the very last day of our three night stay. We got stuck with a HORRIBLE guide (named Edwin) and I felt cheated and disappointed that we spent so much time and money for this camp since it was exactly the over-crowded, animal-harassing experience I thought I had paid enough money to avoid. I really wish I could have my time and money back from this portion of our trip. I felt like the guide resented us and his poor treatment of the animals and his use of his cellphone, texting while driving, and chatting up the other camp employee/visitor who was added to our party, really made me feel unhappy, stressed, and unsafe. He made no effort to explain what we were seeing beyond proudly exclaiming the name of an animal every once in a while and was always seemingly impatient, racing off to something "better". We seemed to spend an extraordinary amount driving aimlessly with no explanation of where we were going or what we were trying to do/see. I spent so many miserable hours sitting there wishing I had not come to the over-crowded Masai Mara to disturb the animals. Finally, after a most unpleasant experience of chasing down a lion (this was after previously chasing an injured hippo, chasing a baby gazelle and separating it from its mother, chasing some giraffes and many near misses with wildebeests among other unpleasant animal encounters) I decided to speak up and ask the camp manager Kim about switching guides. I'm so glad I finally worked up the nerve because that last afternoon after some negotiations we were taken out by a guide from the other Mara Plains camp named Jackson and he was extraordinary! It was like a breath of fresh air, keeping respectful distances from the animals and he actually took the time to teach us about what we were seeing and why the animals were doing what they were doing. The contrast to our experience with Edwin was shocking and the next morning after forcefully declining the offer to go out with Edwin, again expressing my dissatisfaction, we had another nice but brief outing with Richard, the manager of the Mara Plains camp in which he brought Edwin along and seemed to be trying to teach him how to be a guide. I find it hard to believe the person we had distractedly driving us around is the same one spoken of in the rest of these reviews and to get such small and disproportionate glimpses of what our experience could have been like was nice, but was also very discouraging and frustrating.

Room Tip: All the rooms seemed pretty equivalent, close to the river, with an equal amount of night animal noi...
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  • Stayed: September 2013, travelled with friends
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2  Thank RashmiB_12
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
GreatPlainsConserve, General Manager at Great Plains Conservation Mara Expedition Camp, responded to this reviewResponded 30 September 2013

Thank you for your feedback which we also received from your agent upon your departure. We have, since then, tried to reach out to you numerous times (via your agent ) to discuss your experience as it is not at all consistent with the reputation and ethics of our founders, company, guides or general staff. As you note, other Trip Advisor reviewers have had consistent positive experiences at Mara Toto, and its sister camp. We certainly take your feedback very seriously, and have solicited input from our staff, your fellow guests as well as our senior management, and would hope for the opportunity to discuss it with you.

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28 - 34 of 37 reviews

Reviewed 31 July 2013

Kim, the manager, and Edwin, our guide did everything perfectly when my 3 daugthers (ages 15, 11 and 8) and I visited the Mara. Tent was fabulous, high "ceiling" with lots of bathroom space and place to put our gear, plus internet connection in both our tents and the dining/sitting area. Hammocks for each tent by the little river. And you could hear the "music" of the wildebeest (we were there during the migration.) Laundry service impeccable - such a change from the 9 other places that we stayed at. And each night Kim watched with us DVDs of lions and leopards that the owners of the camp had made in collaboration with National Geographic. Food - what can I say - the first meal we had in the sweltering heat had mango ice cream for dessert! And it just got better. Kim also loaned us a really good camera and we took awesome shots. Edwin made sure we saw everything we wanted to see. The elusive leopard (which I had not seen despite going on safari many, many times) and we stalked a cheetah mum and her 2 cubs as they made their kill, following them from 6:30 in the morning when they "woke" to 8:00 when they took down a baby wildebeest. (Hint: just when you think that wow cheetahs can run really fast, they put on a burst of speed and disappear from the camera view screen). Totally wonderful place.

  • Stayed: July 2013, travelled with family
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Thank JasJaq
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 28 July 2013

This what I call camping! Not one for traditional camping (I like my little luxuries, thank you!) this is the way to go. What a beautiful location, wonderful staff, great food and all the game viewing you could ever wish for. Our guide, Edwin, had fantastic knowledge and a great sense of humour! Kim, our camp manager, also with a great sense of humour, could not do enough for us - we had to tell her on more than one occasion she didn't need to run everywhere to get things for us. We were on holiday after all and had all the time in the world!

The camp itself is small and intimate, 5 tents only ( if you can call them tents!) which are more than comfortable and spacious. You dine at night communally in the main tent with other guests, with pre dinner drinks around the open fire, with the local family of hippos providing their own kind of background music! The food was lovely with the option of choosing what you would like in lieu of what was on offer.

As for game viewing, well what more did we need to see! The great migration, numerous families of cheetah, lion and leopard, elephant, hyena, crocodile, various species of antelope, bird life, hippo and the list goes on!

The only downside to our trip after six nights of staying, was we had to leave!

  • Stayed: July 2013, travelled with friends
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Thank CarolynT149
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 26 July 2013

Game, game and more game, we saw it all. Edwin our guide made sure we saw everything possible during our 6 night stay. We wanted for nothing thanks to Kim – our Camp Manager who made sure every little detail was perfect. The food was wholesome and tasty and our 10 year old was offered her own personal meal choices which made her feel very special. Our room was spacious and very comfortable for the 3 of us over our 6 night stay. With only 5 tents it is intimate and homely which we loved and shared heaps of laughs. We have stayed in in other camps and compared to Mara Toto, the intimacy was sadly lacking in most of them. Thank you Kim (and Sten) for a wonderful time.

Room Tip: All the tents are the same.
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  • Stayed: July 2013, travelled with family
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1  Thank Sondra290
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 8 July 2013

We spent three days at the very eco-friendly Mara Toto and loved it. The safari experience for us isn't solely about the game. We enjoy nice accommodations, great food, and having time to interact with and get to know the managers, and also getting to relax and sit in the hammock, listening to the birds and soaking up the atmosphere. Toto exceeded expectations on each front. It is small enough that it is really intimate, but doesn't cut corners in any aspect of their operation. Our guide, Duncan, was fantastic, and his love for and commitment to wildlife and conservation was apparent, as was the case with everyone with whom we came in contact from Great Plains Conservation, the owners of this camp and a nearby sister camp Mara Plains, which is re-opening after a retrofitting.

We weren't there during the peak season for the great migration, but it really didn't matter, as there was plenty of game to see, including all the big cats.

This camp provided us a great set of binoculars and top quality camera equipment during our stay, meaning that we didn't need to lug this gear with us. Lorna, one of the managers, was always really happy to provide any assistance or advice on how we could get some great shots.

She, along with Kim and Richard, the other managers when we were there, are lovely people and did everything they could to make us feel part of the family. Nothing was too much trouble. Having expressed our interest about the cultural/social side of things in the Mara, we visited a Maasai village and school one day, which as promised was an unforgettable experience.

Food was wonderful, with a vegetarian choice available at each meal.

The only shortcoming for us is that we had to leave after three days. Thanks to everyone who made our stay so enjoyable.

  • Stayed: June 2013, travelled as a couple
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1  Thank jiaotze
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 14 May 2013

Tenting like you've never tented before! Its canvas and its outside but thats about the only link to my childhood camping i can think of. This was just beautiful, you feel at one with the Mara. At night we listened to a hippo have an argument with a monkey in the next tent to ours, well we think thats what was happening, thats what it sounded like anyway. In the distance you can here the lions grumbling and the hyenas laughing. This is what being on safari is all about. And then of course theres the luxury that surrounds you, making you feel secure and comfortable. This may not be your thing if you like airconditioning and long hot baths and i wouldn't recommend it if you don't like bugs and bats, but then what are you doing on safari if you don't like all animals.
A special mention here for Kevin, our driver and guide, he was magnificent, his knowledge was second to none and he gave us the most wonderful cheetah experiences 3 days in a row. He definitly deserves his Silver Level Membership. If I'd had the choice i would never have left, but i will be back.

  • Stayed: April 2013, travelled as a couple
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1  Thank ausgeordie
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 7 March 2013

What an amazing experience. After a quick flight from nairobi we arrived in the gorgeous Masai Mara and realized our safari had begun. Mara Toto camp in about 35 minutes from the nearest airstrip

The camp managers, Richard and Lorna along with several staff members were on hand to greet us and we were shortly shown our tents, had lunch and were on our way. I had mentioned that we planned to be out before first light and get back after dark each day, taking with us a packed breakfast and Richard & Lorna offered to send us lunch wherever we were.

First impressions of the camp were very good. We were the second guests the camp had with the first group leaving the previous day. The location of the camp is excellent, by a beautiful small stream just inside the main park border with the Olare Orak Conservancy (OOC) a mere 500m away and Mara Plains camp that is currently under construction exactly 1 km away. The camp has a significant advantage over other camps in the Mara in its transversing rights- they presently have access to Mara North, the OOC/Motorogi conservancy and of course the main park. This is a huge area, and while access to the OOC is temporary until Mara Plains opens on June 1st, gives Mara Toto guests plenty to do for an extended period. In addition, as we found out on a few occasions, the wardens are very strict about enforcing the 7 pm curfew in the main park, meaning you need to be in your camp by then or past the park gates or risk a minimum 10k shilling fine. For Mara Toto however, if you happened to be 90 minutes away while watching developing action in the park, provided you were not very far from the Mara North or OCC border, you could always head north and cross several entry spots outside of the main gates and get into the conservancy at night (around 7 pm), make your way to the OCC/ Mara Plains location and cross the 500m into the main park to Mara Toto

The camp itself was perfect for our needs. The brand new tents were designed personally by Dereck Joubert and I cannot imagine a more practical, yet tasteful, design. You have two tents, with the bathroom in the second tent, but fully integrated. The bathroom is large with a huge shower area with wooden slats that prevents shower water from wetting the rest of the bathroom floor. Most importantly, there are several plug sockets in the bedroom tent for charging camera batteries and other paraphernalia. The main light switches are conveniently located on the bed headboard so they can be operated from the bed. Tea and coffee self service is in a beautiful picnic chest with steaming hot water in a flask that was amazingly hot early morning several hours after it was placed there.

All tents are very close to main area, which is a simple large tent with a rustic dining table with 10/12 chairs, a bar armoire, and a small sitting area for about six people with worn leather couches and old safari related books etc. That’s it, except for a bonfire area with chairs outside. Perfect for our needs, but limited for anyone who is looking for an elaborate in-camp seating area, pool etc. Food was three courses at dinner with a vegetarian choice and consistently very good. Lunch and breakfast were sent/taken to us and were also very good, and they accommodated any requests.

At a time when the term eco-friendly is overused, my impression is that Mara Toto is the real deal and the footprint it leaves in the wilderness is minimal. No cement was used and all camp operations are closely monitored to be environmentally appropriate (I was told by Richard the same approach will be used at the new Mara Plains).

We will be back!!

  • Stayed: February 2013, travelled with friends
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3  Thank AKR1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
GreatPlainsConservat, Director of Sales at Great Plains Conservation Mara Expedition Camp, responded to this reviewResponded 28 March 2013

Thank you so much for taking the time to write about your recent stay at the brand new Mara Toto Camp in the Masai Mara Reserve of Kenya

We are very confident that this being the newest addition to the Great Plains Conservation stable will continue to sought after by those guests looking to experience the best that the Masai Mara and Mara North Private Conservancies can offer

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Additional Information about Great Plains Conservation Mara Expedition Camp

Address: | on the border of the Olare Motorogi & Mara North Conservancies, Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya (Formerly Mara Toto Camp)
Region: Kenya > Rift Valley Province > Masai Mara National Reserve
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Beverage Selection Free Breakfast Free Parking Children Activities (Kid / Family Friendly) Restaurant Shuttle Bus service Airport Transportation
Hotel Style:
Ranked #89 of 146 Speciality Lodging in Masai Mara National Reserve
Price Range: £751 - £1,839 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
Number of rooms: 4
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Just a few kilometres downstream from Mara Plains, in the world famous Masai Mara Reserve, lies Mara Expedition Camp. Only open from June - October annually, the camp is tucked away in a small bend in the Ntiakitiak River, where thick forest meets savannah and offers a perfect blend of comfort, adventure and intimacy making this a gem in the otherwise confounding matrix of camps in the Maasai Mara Game Reserve. Mara Expedition Camp positions itself squarely in the heart of magnificent predator country, and the camp's traversing rights of both Mara North Conservancy and the Maasai Mara Game Reserve give guests the flexibility to explore far and wide in search of arguably the finest wildlife sightings on earth. This site was handpicked by National Geographic Explorers-In-Residence Dereck and Beverly Joubert. After searching tirelessly for hours in search of the 'perfect spot' for this magical camp,they ended up for a sundowner on the very spot where Mara Expedition is located today. They looked around and realised 'this is the place'. The camp itself consists of four custom-designed tents of light-colored flowing canvas open on the horizontal side with canopied ceilings. Set at ground level, and shaded by the riverine forest, this camp is designed for those who want the particulars of a Great Plains Conservation property inside the Masai Mara Reserve. En-suite facilities including flush loos, bucket showers and tapped hot/cold water ensure utter comfort along with 24-Hour electricity, fine dining and exceptional hospitality. Each of the tents is decorated with a nod to the style of early exploration and discovery - an eclectic yet coordinated assembly of what early travelers may have carried - items such as brass chandeliers, old Indian chests, local natural materials - hand-picked by us at markets throughout Africa. The camp's aura is refreshing - of romance and exploration. Mara Expedition Camp is, despite its romantic appeal, a place for the ardent safari-goer. One does not beget the other and in fact we believe they both make for a spectacular experience. Spend your days out - all day - exploring deep within the famous Maasai Mara Game Reserve. You'll not have to look far for wildlife - the glade of trees surrounding the camp is prime leopard territory, and the camp is a superior location to witness the great wildebeest and zebra migration from your tent. The new open-sided vehicles are custom designed by Dereck & Beverly Joubert (National Geographic Explorers-in-Residence, acclaimed filmmakers and Great Plains Conservation co-founders) allowing for the very best equipment for photographic opportunities. Mara Expedition Camp offers among the widest range of activities anywhere in the greater Maasai Mara - extensive game drives, balloon safaris (at extra cost), local village visits (authentic) and unrivaled access to superior wildlife habitat as well as visits to local schools and Great Plains Conservation community projects in the surrounding area. ... more   less 
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Also Known As:
Great Plains Conservation Mara Expedition Camp Kenya/Masai Mara National Reserve

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