Breathtaking. The Masai Mara in Kenya is simply one of the most breathtaking places in the world. I was blown away by the beauty of the the people, the land, and of course the wildlife I discovered during my first African safari trip last summer. I was also blown away by the incredible accommodations available in the “bush.”
Luxury camping, also referred to as glamping, totally changed my outlook on camping and my standards for sleeping in a tent. I had the opportunity to stay at three luxury camps on the Mara, each offering distinctly different experiences at a first-class level. The Mara Plains Camp – one of only five camps on the Olare Motorogi Conservancy – exudes a simplistic extravagance that compliments the splendor of its world-famous setting.
What Works For Families
- Spacious family tents that can accommodate two children under 15 sharing with two adults.
- All inclusive accommodations with meals and laundry service (except undergarments).
- In-tent bathrooms.
- Ideal for families traveling with older kids – late teenagers or young adults – as well as multi-generational adult trips, i.e. taking your mom away for her 70 birthday.
- Romantic for adult getaways – honeymoons, vow renewals and anniversaries.
- Good for girlfriend getaways, too.
What Doesn’t Work For Families
- No children under 8 years old.
- While families with children over 8 are accommodated, it’s better suited for adults or mature teenagers.
- No television – which most kids are accustomed to in hotels.
- WiFi is available but not reliable.
- It’s an unfenced property. Animals do go through the camp – especially at night – so there’s no nighttime walking around without a guard.
- Families with children under 16 have to book a private vehicle for game drives unless there are more than six people with them.
Price: $$$$. This is a high-end luxury camp and I definitely received high-end accommodations. Each tent includes a pair of Swarovski HD binoculars and a professional Canon camera for use during your stay. Pending on the season, the per person rate starts at $850 a night. It’s fully inclusive including conservation/park fees, meals, laundry airstrip road transfers, non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages (except champagne). Specials and deals are frequently offered.
Mara Plains Camp was definitely the most posh of the camps that I visited. Not over the top, but subtly fabulous with a this-is-how-superstars-must-travel feel. The camp is a part of the Great Plains Conservation whose mission is to find the right formula of conservation, communities and commerce that would make a lasting, sustainable difference to the world’s iconic wildlife and wildernesses. This intimate Eco-friendly camp has an exclusive location in the 35,000-acre Olare Motorogi Conservancy allowing access to the private conservancy land as well as the Masai Mara National Reserve.
The camp offers seven tents and can accommodate 14 people at one time. The tents are on raised decks and boast beautiful hardwood floors and an expedition-style decor that has a luxurious rustic feel. A desk, quaint sitting area with leather chairs, a king-size bed, ample storage space and spectacular views almost made me want to spend the day in my tent. It was difficult to choose between soaking in the beautiful brass bathtub or enjoying the openness of the overhead shower. The view from the bed in my tent overlooked the Mara with countless wildebeest and zebra roaming freely. From the outside, the zipper entrance does not allude to what’s behind it – a tent disguised as a suite at a high-end five star hotel. Make sure to hook the zipper closed or you might have uninvited guests. Apparently, the monkeys like complimentary cookies as much as I do.
With the meals and game drives included, it’s easy to relax and enjoy. Balloon rides above the Mara are available for an additional cost and local village visits can be arranged, too. The guides at the Mara Plains Camp are phenomenal. My guide, Daniel, had an extensive and impressive knowledge of the area, the culture and the wildlife. He knew exactly where to take us to get up close and personal with some of the most illusive animals, including leopards and cheetahs. The camp uses 4×4 open vehicles stocked with traditional blankets (for cool temps), food and drinks.
Meals are served family style at the main tent. The night we arrived at the camp we enjoyed dinner under the stars. Sundowners, drinks by campfire, are the perfect way to wind down the day. Make sure to sit back and look up at the stars – the view is so clear you just might think you’re in a planetarium. Food can be packed and taken for breakfast or lunch on the Mara during drives – and for Sundowners, too. The food was a mix of traditional and western dishes and was phenomenal. The chef will accommodate food allergies and requests.
For more information, visit greatplainsconservation.com.