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Mahali Mzuri - Sir Richard Branson's Kenyan Safari Camp
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Reviews (164)
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Reviewed 24 October 2013

This was our first safari. We had a great time and packed so much into our three full days that even the staff were impressed. We were met at Mara North with cold champagne under a tree by our guide, Jackson, and trainee Francis. They were our guides for all of our expeditions and for our return trip to the airport. It was such an exciting and social experience that we were carried through on a tide of adrenaline.. Our "tent" was one of the nearer ones to the central area, which we saw as a bonus. Everything was included, so the only costs were gratuities and purchases. We crammed in two trips a day for the three days, except for the 4:30 am pick-up on our second day for the drive to Mara for a balloon trip. We got back in time to freshen up and visit a local village for market day before the late afternoon safari. So, we totalled five safaris plus the balloon ride and saw everything we wanted to, with the exception of rhino, which are not common in the area. Lions, cheetahs with cubs, giraffe, elephants, hyena, buffalo, bush babies, dik-diks, a leopard, plus massive swathes of wildebeest, zebra, and gazelles, etc. We even witnesses a "Meerkat Manor" like mongoose fight right under the vista of our tent. For the last three safaris we were joined by new arrivals Dave and Sally, who have a great deal of experience of safaris. They had much better abilities than ours to spot distant predators and we nicknamed Dave "The Lion KIng." The evening social scene was really great, since our group contained some real extroverts to add to Tan, Kim, Leanne and Jonny from the staff. On what happened to be our last night we were treated to a surprise alfresco experience, which we followed by a session in the bar until after midnight, assisted by my slightly heavy-handed approach to creating authentic rum punches. My only caveat is to mention that, in common with other camps located higher above the plains, this location requires the guides to drive over short rocky patches to reach the plains lower down. It was not even close to an issue for us, but for anyone who suffers from extreme motion sickness this might be a problem.

  • Stayed: October 2013, travelled as a couple
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Thank CeriLondon
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 22 October 2013

We had an amazing time and were very sad to leave. 4 nights was definitely not enough! The staff made us feel really welcome, the food was amazing and the game drives were fantastic. In 15 years of visiting parks in East Africa, we have never seen so much game: lion, leopard and cheetah all on kills, a newborn elephant (hours old) and more Wildebeest than you can shake a stick at.

The kids were taken off by the staff to make bows and arrows, which they loved, and our bush walk was great, the surprise bush dinner was amazing! Betty our guide and Levi our driver made a great team; very knowledgeable, charming, great with the kids and a wonderful sense of humour: great company! We didn't miss one of our 8 game drives, no wonder we saw so much!! Ben W.

  • Stayed: October 2013, travelled with family
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2  Thank Ben W
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 3 September 2013

We just returned from an amazing time at Sir Richard Branson's new Kenyan Safari camp.
Everything was just specatular! The tents are absolutely stunning with a gorgeous combination of local fabrics, crisp clean white linens, and beautiful accessories. Sitting on the decks, whether from the dining area, or your personal tent is a safari all in itself! But most of all the staff were so attentive and interesting to get to know.
You will thoroughly enjoy the knowledgable game drives! It even gets better when they stop, and you have a little coffee and muffin break in the Mara.
Absolutely fantastic! Enjoy!

  • Stayed: August 2013, travelled with family
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1  Thank Courtney K
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 3 September 2013

We have stayed at other so-called “five-star” safari camps in Botswana, Zambia, South Africa, Namibia, and Kenya. None of them deliver the level of personal service and array of amenities that Mahali Mzuri offers. Things like: in-tent Wi-Fi (that always works seamlessly), in-tent hot water (that, again, always works seamlessly), hair dryers (my significant other particularly appreciated this), a proper bath tub (with a view), a massive, covered observation deck attached to the back of your tent, and wireless phones that allow you to call the office or even another tent.

But the quality and quantity of amenities are really only a small part of the entire story. The camp manager, Liam, has dedicated his life to creating this masterpiece of African hospitality and conservationism. Along with his brother, Tarn, he is genuinely committed to optimizing the quality of your stay. What exactly does that mean? I’ll give you several examples.

* He camped on a rock for a few years before construction of Mahali Mzuri even began. During this time, he groomed the site. He observed how the light hits different spots at all times of day, so that each tent would face the most optimal direction. He personally oversaw the site’s conversion from an over-grazed, rocky hillside to the picture-perfect vista that it is today. He was even struck by lightning. Though this left him temporarily fazed, it failed to slow his determination and drive to achieve the vision.

* He spent a week in Nairobi before the camp opened, personally tasting many different coffee options available. Using his professionally-trained culinary palate as a guide, he created several different custom coffee blends. At breakfast each morning, he personally grinds the beans, and perfectly prepares each cup. Which blend he uses depends on his assessment of your preferences, the time of day, etc.

* He sourced nearly all materials of construction from Kenyan suppliers, in order to be certain that funds remained local. During the construction phase, there were 160 local Kenyan workers who labored for an entire year to build the structures on the site. Even when non-local sources would have cost less, and delivered on a more timely basis, he remained true to the cause. For example, the interior of each tent is adorned in beautiful hand-fabricated textiles and decorative pieces created by local Masai women.

* He has recruited and hired only the absolute best Masai guides. And he has created a grooming process in which the next generation of guides is already in process of learning the craft. For example, our “apprentice” guide, Francis, rode along on each drive as part of his skill acquisition program. This actually benefitted us a great deal, as there were several occasions during which his fantastic spotting skills yielded highly desirable viewings. For example, the time he spotted a leopard high in a tree that the rest of us had completely overlooked.

* He is working with local conservationists and Masai leaders in order to create a long-term, sustainable land management effort that is inclusive of local tribes as well as wildlife.

* When we first arrived, I expressed concern about the fact that the style of vehicles used for drives at the camp did not properly accommodate my 12+ pound Nikon lens. Liam immediately devised a plan. “Plan A” involved fabrication of a platform type lens shelf that would be attached to the side of the vehicle. “Plan B” involved flying a pro-style filming rig into the camp from Nairobi. There were also Plans C through G. As it turns out, the staff worked overnight to impressively accomplish “Plan A.” Problem solved. Full speed ahead.

I could go on. But suffice it to say, his tireless efforts and obsession with the details of how this camp has been constructed – and is being operated – is entirely apparent to this OCD guest/observer. He functions more like a vested equity-holder than a “manager.” One could easily surmise that he’s got skin in this game. And if he indeed does, I’d say that’s brilliant strategy on the part of his most immediate supervisor, one Sir Richard.

The camp itself is like a Hollywood movie set. A splendid fusion of modernistic and organic, natural elements, it was designed by an innovative, young architect from Nairobi. The view is breathtaking. And the valley below is chock full of wildlife. You hear it, see it, smell it, live it, and breathe it. Exactly what you want for your visit to the bush. But yet, comfortably removed enough to not negatively impact your overall level of comfort.

That’s not to say that things can’t get up-close and personal. For example, the leopard that we heard quite loudly from our tent every night did haul an impala carcass up the tree immediately outside our front door. As well, you’ll have many encounters with “Sampson,” a zebra who has decided to take up residence inside the comfortable, unfenced confines of the camp. He greeted us multiple times each day, and added authenticity to the safari camp environment. Quite honestly, it couldn’t have been scripted any better. The fact that it has just happened naturally is really quite beautiful, and lends credence to the success of the camp’s conservation efforts.

My biggest concern before our visit was whether there would be adequate quantities of wildlife to provide the types of sightings we prefer while on safari drives. This concern stemmed from the fact that there are many Masai cattle herds that graze pastures surrounding the camp. And the location is undeniably removed from the beaten path of The Great Migration. As it turns out, my concern was completely unwarranted. We experienced just as many sightings in the conservancy as we did in the Masai Mara. From the comfort of our tent, we witnessed lion fights, wildebeest stampedes, leopards getting chased by lions, and packs of hyenas harassing other animals.

Even better, the density of other safari vehicles within the conservancy was far lower than in the Mara. There is a strictly enforced rule that prohibits more than four vehicles per sighting. This compares very favorably to the twenty-plus vehicles we counted on several sightings within the Mara. It fosters higher quality sightings, better photographic opportunities, and is less stressful on the animals and environment. Guides from all the camps in the conservancy adhere to this rule, as not once did we see any violators.

Speaking of which, our guide was excellent. Dickson is himself a photographer. This means that he understands light, and how to best position the vehicle for getting the best shots. As serious photographers, we really appreciated his knowledge and experience in this area. He was shooting right along with us from the driver’s seat – first using his own camera, then using my backup D800 that I loaned him during our drives. Having a capable guide is entirely critical to a successful safari. Dickson knew what we wanted, and knew exactly how to get it. That capability, plus his relaxed, friendly, helpful demeanor, was a truly winning combination.

The food was outstanding, and the dining environment was casual but quite elegant. The chef is in process of being prepared for his impending relocation to Neckar Island. In fact he’s not the only staff member with a Neckar connection. A few other staffers have either come from Neckar, or will soon be going there. We requested the chef’s recipe for his wonderful Amarula cupcakes. Said recipe was promptly emailed to us the very next day.

In the end, it’s the combination of these many different elements that create the overall experience. We entered Mahali Mzuri with high expectations. We were not disappointed. Upon our departure, we expressed as much to Liam. His reply was quite simple. He paused, looked us in the eyes, and quietly said: “It pleases me very much to hear that.”

Other safari camps promise, and some actually deliver. Mahali Mzuri and Liam casually over-deliver in such an exemplary manner that this camp stands apart from any other we have visited in Africa.

  • Stayed: August 2013, travelled with family
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14  Thank eilig
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 17 August 2013

Being picked up from the airport and greeted with a glass of champagne set the scene for a fabulous few days in the Mara. The view from the main deck is vast and spectacular and the whole ambiance is casual but very attentive. The tents look a bit strange at first, but inside everything is perfect, even wifi in the room! The best thing about the camp is definitely the staff. From the welcome, the fabulous food, waiters and guest services and especially the lovely send off when we left it was all very friendly and it all felt like family. On our last night we had our dinner served on our balcony which was very romantic and when we woke the last day we found a zebra had taken up residency just outside our tent. he looked very at home settled by the pool. Overall the game drives made the holiday very special. Although the shy leopard escaped us Jackson did a brilliant job in getting us to see some spectacular sights and sounds of the Mara. We had a devotion journey massage which was brilliant and such an amazing location. I think we really got the Eco bit by the end - it's not that obvious from the start but every aspect of conservation is considered. Lacking nothing I would thoroughly recommend the whole experience.

Room Tip: With only 12 tents, they are all equally well located.
  • Stayed: August 2013, travelled as a couple
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5  Thank ReadingTweds
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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