This was also an amazing camp (we were in east Africa for a month), and almost tied for first place with Kicheche Laikipia... we actually liked the setting better, because the camp isn’t fenced, and animals wander in and out. While having lunch our first day we were looking out at zebras, buffalo and giraffe. How cool is that? In bed in the middle of the night I could hear big animals chewing grass just beside my head, about two feet away. Zebra? Buffalo? Who cares, as long as they’re vegetarians! When I giggled, they all stopped, it must have really startled them.
All animals are free to roam the camp, so they have Masai guards escort you to and from your tent in the evenings, complete with spear. This is the real deal. One afternoon they also had a Masai warrior come to camp and show my son how to shoot arrows, throw a spear, chuck wooden stick-things and start a fire with two sticks and grass.
Our driver/guide Stanley picked us up at the airport, and the camp host Barbara was there to greet us on arrival with cold towels and juice. She is a ‘relief’ manager, as regular camp managers were on holiday. We really liked her. She’s professional yet casual, very efficient and organized, but approachable and fun.
There were a few more people here, but not much, never more than 7-8 during our stay. Given that the camp employs 30 people, you can imagine how great the service was!
Bucket showers aren’t as bad as I thought, you just need to be efficient with your time. Also, if you don’t turn the water on ‘full blast’ you can really make it last quite awhile. Shower caps would be a good idea, for when you want a quick rinse but don’t have time to wash hair. There is a little slit in the side of the tent by the sink, so at the requested time in the morning (or any time, I suppose) someone will slip in a big jug of hot water onto the counter beside your sink.
Our driver/guide Stanley is bronze certified and very knowledgeable. He is quiet, humble and unassuming. Not as outgoing as our guide at the previous camp, not as chatty... more the strong silent type. He has worked for Cheli and Peacock for 25 years, and is their longest serving employee. I suspect he is very knowledgeable, but just not as outgoing. Because we learned so much from our last guide, it was okay that he was quieter, he was certainly able to answer any questions that we had. He could spot game that to us was a mere blur on the horizon. Stanley was really nice, and clearly it was very important to him that we had great drives, saw lots of stuff and enjoyed ourselves. We saw animals we hadn’t seen in Laikipia, like the topi, wildebeest, masai giraffe, dik dik and hartebeest.
We had an awesome walking safari here that took most of the afternoon. We went out with a ranger/guide and also a masai warrior guide, the camp manager Barbara came with us, and also another guest. Being out of the vehicle gave us a whole new perspective, and we learned all the different dungs/droppings, and the animal tracks, different flowers, fauna, trees, bushes. Between the two guides they had some neat stuff to say about just about everything. The masai guy was hilarious, he kept stopping for everything... a rock, a hole, a web, a feather, a mound. But in a good way... we got to see details that we would otherwise overlook in the vehicle. It turns out that Barbara had planned a surprise sundowner for us, but just as we were approaching and could see it all set up in the distance under an elephant pepper tree, it started pouring rain, really really heavily. We ran and jumped into the vehicles, soaked. What a shame, they had gone to quite a bit of trouble.... campfire, chairs, little bar area. We saw them taking it all down as we ran to the cars. Oh well, we grabbed a vino and snack in the car instead, and watched the sun go down from inside the vehicle.
We really had a lot of FUN at this camp... there were some really great guests staying here, and the humour kind of snow-balled. I suppose it didn’t hurt that there was an open bar for guests to just help themselves to at any time!! Seriously, it was a nice touch, for the kids too... this way they didn’t have to ask someone every time they wanted a juice or soft drink, everyone could just go to the Dining Tent and help themselves to whatever drinks they wanted, and they always kept ice and glasses out. Alternately, if you’d prefer the bartender to mix you a cocktail there was always someone handy for that too. Interestingly, I thought only wine was included in the package, yet they had about 20 types of alcohol in the open bar, and I was never charged. I don’t know if this is regular policy, or if it was a holiday season thing, or maybe in the evenings we were all just having so much fun that it was overlooked.
We really enjoyed sitting around the campfire in the evenings.... before dinner they’d serve appetizers and drinks, and it was very social. After dinner, we’d sit out there and look at all the eyes looking at us in the dark! As mentioned, we had a lot of fun at this camp, all the staff and guests seemed to be very jovial and have great sense of humour. Lots of laughter and jokes, and a great group of other guests rounded it out nicely.
The dinners at this camp were awesome, definitely on par with Kicheche. However, their ‘packed’ breakfasts and lunches were a little lacking. Don’t get me wrong, they were fine, but very basic. I likely would not have thought anything was lacking if I hadn’t just left Kicheche where they were so imaginative and over the top. Also, we ate on the hood of the vehicle, not a little table/chairs.
A few small holes in the screens in our tent. I patched them with tape, which I had brought with me just for this purpose. Again, lots of spiders, I think I’m just getting used to them now.
We did do the ‘masai’ village visit... Our travel agent warned us against it, I should have listened. But quite frankly, they looked so cool and I wanted to take pictures. It was $15 each, pretty short (maybe we were there 30 minutes or so), they sang and danced, showed us their homes, and then tried to sell us the highly priced jewellery. I really don’t like to bargain, although I know it’s a way of life there, but instead we just ended up not buying anything.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Elephant Pepper Camp is situated within the Mara North Conservancy. Small and exclusive, the camp is located in the heart of the African Bush. Our spacious canvas tents are comfortably furnished, featuring en suite bathrooms with flush toilets and traditional safari showers. Nothing rivals sitting around the campfire enjoying the sounds of the African night. Elephant Pepper Camp brings people back to nature – no traffic, no permanent structures, just the sights and sounds of the African bush. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Elephant Pepper Camp Hotel Maasai Mara National Reserve
- Elephant Pepper Camp Kenya/Masai Mara National Reserve