Africa Addict

Which concession in the Mara?

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I am leaning towards Kenya for next year, early July 2015. I am thinking of spending 4 nights in the Mara area and then 8 nights in Laikipia/Meru. I am struggling to decide which concession to stay in. I am hoping for lots of cats and elephants just in case the sightings aren't great in the other areas I will be in. I am partial to Mara North and staying at Serian since they assign a private vehicle but am worried it will feel a little too crowded. Any thoughts?

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Rather than begin by choosing a concession - there are a few great ones - I feel you would be better to begin by choosing a camp or operator that you have confidence in - that will determine which concession you stay in - and then let them find the game for you.

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@@Africa Addict - I'm partial to the Olare Motorogi conservancy.

 

Choices of camps, I personally would pick between Mara Plains or Kicheche (their guiding standards are very high).

Don't forget the options in the Main reserve ....... Rekero or Sala's camp ..... will be the top choices.

I think Serian can also offer you the option of fly camping in either the Mara reserve or the Mara Triangle - both options to me (personally speaking) appeal more than the Mara North.

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Oh - forgot to answer your Elephants question ....... I'm going to say, that my guess would be the Naboisho conservancy being the best for them from what I've read.

 

Maybe @@armchair bushman can help with more info if he gets to see this. I have not been to Naboisho.

 

The two main camps there with a good ethos would be Encounter Mara and the Asilia camp (forget the exact name).

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I am leaning towards Kenya for next year, early July 2015. I am thinking of spending 4 nights in the Mara area and then 8 nights in Laikipia/Meru. I am struggling to decide which concession to stay in. I am hoping for lots of cats and elephants just in case the sightings aren't great in the other areas I will be in. I am partial to Mara North and staying at Serian since they assign a private vehicle but am worried it will feel a little too crowded. Any thoughts?

 

Thanks @@madaboutcheetah for this.

 

@@Africa Addict, my two cents:

1. All the main conservancies (Mara North, Olare Motorogi, Naboisho, Ol Kinyei) are run pretty professionally and the operators are all held to a high standard, so no matter which camp you go to, you're going to be A). well taken care-of. B ). minimising your impact on the environment. C). not surrounded by too many other vehicles at sightings.

2. Having said that! Mara North is definitely the most crowded of the main conservancies. Naboisho is the least crowded. Olare Motorogi is somewhere in between.

3. Serian guarantees exclusive use of vehicle as part of the all-inclusive (quite high rates). Almost all (if not all) other camps offer Exclusive use of the vehicle as an added cost to their fairly cheaper rates. So it's a toss up. Some of the camps maybe that much cheaper that even with the exclusive use rates tacked on, you're still being charged less per day.

4. All the conservancies have great wildlife densities.

- Mara North is the largest, with some very large, wide open plains, and of course it includes famous places like Mara Buffalo Rocks and Leopard Gorge. I'd recommend Elephant Pepper, Kicheche Mara, Off-Beat Mara (and of course, Serian).

- Olare Motorogi now includes a larger area with the Motorogi section. Several safaritalkers will very highly recommend Mara Plains Camp. I would also recommend Kicheche Bush Camp.

- Mara Naboisho is just slightly larger that OMC, and quite different terrain from the rest of the Mara. Lots of sparce acacia woodland, rocky hillsides, sandy riverbeds and some very high domed plains offering 360 degree views of the whole of the Mara. very high lion and leopard density. and the highest giraffe density I've ever seen anywhere. Groups of 30 are not uncommon, and I have personally seen a group of 60 in less than a 1km square area. I'd recommend Encounter Mara, Asilia Naboisho, and Kicheche Valley.

- Ol Kinyei is by far the smallest and only has one camp, Porini Mara. Other than Ol Chorro Oiruwa, this is THE original Masai Mara conservancy, a model that has been built on and learned from throughout the Mara and Kenya. Porini Mara has some game drive rights in Naboisho, so you may venture in there as well. If you wanted to stay in a Porini camp, however, I would recommend Porini Lion in Olare Motorogi over Porini Mara in Ol Kinyei.

 

You should get your agent (or yourself) to compare prices in early July. Some camps will have already jumped to high season prices on the 1st July, while others don't change until the 15th. So if you go in the first 2 weeks of the month, you can get a cheaper safari while still being on the cusp of the migration.

 

Let me know if you want advice for Laikipia/Meru as well. Other than the mara, those are my two favourite areas of Kenya.

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Thanks @@armchair bushman and @@madaboutcheetah

 

This information is perfect, I really appreciate the help! I am now leaning towards Naboisho. Would 7 days be too long in one concession? I am sure one day could be spent going into the main reserve.

 

Yes @@armchair bushman if you have any advice regarding Laikipia and Meru I would love to hear it. I am thinking of spending 8 nights in that area.

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@@Africa Addict

 

I may perhaps allocate more than 8 days to Laikipia and Meru. The various ranches in Laikipia are quite varied, both in terms of landscape (some are hiller, some are more thickly vegetated, some got more open plains) and wildlife (species and density - f.e. LWC is ideal for wild dogs, Mugie possibly the best for volume of game, Lewa and Solio have unparalleled rhini viewing in Kenya etc....).

 

And Meru - my favourite park in Kenya - definitely warrants a 4 nights stay.

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I am leaning towards Kenya for next year, early July 2015. I am thinking of spending 4 nights in the Mara area and then 8 nights in Laikipia/Meru. I am struggling to decide which concession to stay in. I am hoping for lots of cats and elephants just in case the sightings aren't great in the other areas I will be in. I am partial to Mara North and staying at Serian since they assign a private vehicle but am worried it will feel a little too crowded. Any thoughts?

 

Thanks @@madaboutcheetah for this.

 

@@Africa Addict, my two cents:

1. All the main conservancies (Mara North, Olare Motorogi, Naboisho, Ol Kinyei) are run pretty professionally and the operators are all held to a high standard, so no matter which camp you go to, you're going to be A). well taken care-of. B ). minimising your impact on the environment. C). not surrounded by too many other vehicles at sightings.

2. Having said that! Mara North is definitely the most crowded of the main conservancies. Naboisho is the least crowded. Olare Motorogi is somewhere in between.

3. Serian guarantees exclusive use of vehicle as part of the all-inclusive (quite high rates). Almost all (if not all) other camps offer Exclusive use of the vehicle as an added cost to their fairly cheaper rates. So it's a toss up. Some of the camps maybe that much cheaper that even with the exclusive use rates tacked on, you're still being charged less per day.

4. All the conservancies have great wildlife densities.

- Mara North is the largest, with some very large, wide open plains, and of course it includes famous places like Mara Buffalo Rocks and Leopard Gorge. I'd recommend Elephant Pepper, Kicheche Mara, Off-Beat Mara (and of course, Serian).

- Olare Motorogi now includes a larger area with the Motorogi section. Several safaritalkers will very highly recommend Mara Plains Camp. I would also recommend Kicheche Bush Camp.

- Mara Naboisho is just slightly larger that OMC, and quite different terrain from the rest of the Mara. Lots of sparce acacia woodland, rocky hillsides, sandy riverbeds and some very high domed plains offering 360 degree views of the whole of the Mara. very high lion and leopard density. and the highest giraffe density I've ever seen anywhere. Groups of 30 are not uncommon, and I have personally seen a group of 60 in less than a 1km square area. I'd recommend Encounter Mara, Asilia Naboisho, and Kicheche Valley.

- Ol Kinyei is by far the smallest and only has one camp, Porini Mara. Other than Ol Chorro Oiruwa, this is THE original Masai Mara conservancy, a model that has been built on and learned from throughout the Mara and Kenya. Porini Mara has some game drive rights in Naboisho, so you may venture in there as well. If you wanted to stay in a Porini camp, however, I would recommend Porini Lion in Olare Motorogi over Porini Mara in Ol Kinyei.

 

You should get your agent (or yourself) to compare prices in early July. Some camps will have already jumped to high season prices on the 1st July, while others don't change until the 15th. So if you go in the first 2 weeks of the month, you can get a cheaper safari while still being on the cusp of the migration.

 

Let me know if you want advice for Laikipia/Meru as well. Other than the mara, those are my two favourite areas of Kenya.

 

Well, isn't this helpful. So complete and specific!

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@@Africa Addict, and @@Atravelynn, you're both welcome, glad I could be of help.

 

Masai Mara:

If you have 7/8 days for the Mara, I would break it up, if I were you. I would say do 3-4 days in one conservancy, and 3-4 in another OR the last 3-4 days in the reserve so you get a contrast. 7-8 days in one conservancy is doable, however, especially as most camps will take you into the reserve for full days 2-3 times during that time period, so you're not just seeing the same thing every day.

If you want to stay in the reserve, I'd recommend Rekero, Naibor, or Sala's Camp. If you're on a lower budget, I'd say go with Entim, Governors, or Mara Bush Camp. I would avoid camps that are OUTSIDE the National Reserve and OUTSIDE the conservancies. I would avoid camps based just outside any of the main gates (Talek, Sekenani, Olulaimutiak, Musiara).

All of my recommendations are based on a number of things:

1. Eco-friendly to an extent (some much more than others)

2. Good quality guiding - a guide can make or break your safari

3. Quality accommodation - but not over the top.

4. Location

5. Service, overall experience, and X-factor. (some of the budget camps in the reserve that I've recommended may lack the x-factor).

 

Laikipia:

My recommendations would be similar to that of Paolo, above.

- Laikipia Wilderness Camp: high quality experience, super guiding and hosting from Steve and Annabel, great location, a wide variety of activities, and probably the best place in Kenya to see Wild Dogs (and it's not nearly as expensive as some other camps in the area).

- Ekorian's Mugie Camp: similar qualities.

- Karisia Walking Safaris: if you're interested in doing a trek on foot with camels across some of the best scenery in kenya, this is a great option

- Wild Frontiers Kenya: same as karisia. Walk down the Milgis lugga - stunning scenery.

- Ol Malo: Family home atmosphere, horse riding, stunning views from the lodge, and a Black Leopard called Hussein.

- Lewa: several accommodation options on Lewa. Great game viewing in general, super rhino viewing. super views of Mt Kenya

- Ol Pejeta: This feels a bit more "tame" as it was converted from a cattle ranch not that many years ago. Game viewing here is some of the best in Kenya, though. I'd recommend Kicheche above all other camps in Ol Pej.

- Otherwise, look into Sabuk, Tassia, Il Ngwesi, and Borana as well. All have super scenery, a variety of activities, and good game (borana is probably the best from that list for game).

 

Meru: Yes definitely. Don't miss this. And as Paolo said, plan for 3-4 days. 2 just won't be enough. It's a BIG area, if you include Bisanadi, Kora, Mwingi, etc. I'd recommend Offbeat Meru, and certainly Elsa's Kopje, if you can afford it. Another safaritalker recently stayed at Murera Eco lodge and was quite happy with it. It's outside the park, but apparently that did not take away from his experience there.

Make sure you take a trip to Adamson's Falls at the very southern tip of the park, where it meets Kora National Park. The falls themselves are not really impressive, but the drive is nice and the scenery in that area around the falls is really beautiful, in my opinion.

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@@armchair bushman

Thank you for 2 very detailed, helpful posts. We are thinking of going to to Laikipia Wilderness plus the Mara area and possibly Meru so your thoughts are really useful.

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top advice @@armchair bushman

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@@armchair bushman

Thank you for 2 very detailed, helpful posts. We are thinking of going to to Laikipia Wilderness plus the Mara area and possibly Meru so your thoughts are really useful.

+1

@@armchair bushman, I was surprised you did it include Mara Toto, a camp I loved, on your Mara Reserve camp list. I actually preferred their location at the edge of the OMC ( of course we had access to OMC as well which is no longer the case) compared to Rekero and Naibor that are in a much more busy part of the reserve. Agree Salas camp has an amazing,isolated location near the Lamai wedge across in the Serengeti. Also interesting Cottars 1920s camp is rarely mentioned in best conservancy camp locations. Although I have not been in their concession, all accounts are its very good.

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Posted (edited)

Thank you @@armchair bushman - this is an excellent resource for those looking at Kenya, esp. the Mara...It can be very confusing to a first timer (as I was in 2010)

 

Fortunately came on board to ST (thank goodness) and received excellent advice for our 2 week safari. Of course on return I realized there were so many places I did not realize were so visit worthy; this will help define some of those areas to anyone traveling to Kenya. :)

 

FWIW, we stayed at Serian for 7 nights divided between the conservancy and their mobile property on the river, Nkorombo....a perfect way to explore - and no set times in and out. We stayed out all day, every day. Well worth the rate, which included not only a guide, but also a driver, who was a helpful spotter and of course, the private vehicle. Also Ol Malo, which was a great find; beautiful property, exceptional hosts; horses, camels, walks., plane (and now a helicopter!) ..Terrific way to see northern Kenya.

Edited by graceland

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Ouch! Can't believe I left out Mara Toto in my list above ........ Having just been there last month ....... it's easily one of Africa's best camps!

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Posted (edited)

+1

@@armchair bushman, I was surprised you did it include Mara Toto, a camp I loved, on your Mara Reserve camp list. I actually preferred their location at the edge of the OMC ( of course we had access to OMC as well which is no longer the case) compared to Rekero and Naibor that are in a much more busy part of the reserve. Agree Salas camp has an amazing,isolated location near the Lamai wedge across in the Serengeti. Also interesting Cottars 1920s camp is rarely mentioned in best conservancy camp locations. Although I have not been in their concession, all accounts are its very good.

 

D'you know, I completely forgot about Mara Toto when I was writing that list!

@@Africa Addict, you can add Mara Toto to your list of possibilities. It's run by the same people as Mara Plains (in OMC), but is just inside the National Reserve.

 

And speaking of Great Plains lodges, if you have time for a South Easterly jaunt from Nairobi, get yourself to Ol Donyo lodge in the Chyulu hills. It used to be called Ol Donyo Wuas, but the name was shortened when Great Plains took over. The Chyulu hills are very beautiful. With very long grass blowing in the constant wind, and very rounded rolling hills, it really feels like the hills are rollicking waves. Your mind begins to play tricks on you.

"The Green Hills Of Africa" by Ernest Hemingway, if I remember right, was based around the Chyulu Hills.

 

As for Cottars 1920's, yes, I had thought to include it. Olderkesi is not a well-known conservancy, but a very beautiful part of the Mara ecosystem. I've never been to Cottar's (I've not been to all the others either, but I know the properties/owners/managers well-enough to recommend them).

Edited by armchair bushman
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@@armchair bushman @@madaboutcheetah @paolo Thanks so much for the super information. I have a total of 14 nights not including the one night in Nairobi. I have decided to spend 5 nights in the Mara, probably Naboisho area. Just can't quite decide on how to split my other 9 nights. I really would like to do both Laikipia and Meru but wife wants to include a lodge that has a more cultural/scenery twist to it, either Tassia or Il Ngwesi. I just don't have quite enough nights to do them all justice!

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@@Africa Addict

 

My advice would then be to go to Sarara Camp in the Matthews' Range.

 

The cultural aspect relating to the local Samburu is quite compelling (especially, the "singing wells"), and the scenery is magnificent.

 

Besides you also have good wildlife. Sarara is excellent for leopard and Lesser Kudu. If it is not too dry, elephant viewing can also be rewarding. You can see wild dogs with a bit of luck (a friend of minehad wild dogs drinking in front of her tent last October).

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Look also at Kitich Camp in the Matthews Range.

 

I see no reason you can't do 3 nights at some very wildlife-centred place in Laikipia (Laikipia Wilderness Camp would be my suggestion), 3 nights at a more culturual/scenery-centred place (Il Ngwesi, Tassia, Kitich, or Sarara), and 3 nights in Meru (Offbeat or Elsa's).

 

Or do 4 nights Sarara and 5 nights Offbeat. Or some such combo.

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For scenery, you absolutely don't need to be anywhere special in Meru or Laikipia. The scenery is just there, especially if you want to concentrate on the scenery more than the wildlife for a couple of days. Same goes for cultural activities really. It depends what you want, but you can spend a day visiting locals going about their business from any of the camps being discussed. I am definitely not saying this would be better than Sarara or Ol Donyo or Il Ngwesi (areas I would absolutely love to visit). Just pointing out from my own experience that these are options if you can tear yourself away from the wildlife for a day or two and make it clear that you really want to do that sort of thing. Sometimes I can't tear myself away from the wildlife though.

 

Echoing others, this is a great advice thread.

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@@Africa Addict, and @@Atravelynn, you're both welcome, glad I could be of help.

 

Meru: Yes definitely. Don't miss this. And as Paolo said, plan for 3-4 days. 2 just won't be enough. It's a BIG area, if you include Bisanadi, Kora, Mwingi, etc. I'd recommend Offbeat Meru, and certainly Elsa's Kopje, if you can afford it. Another safaritalker recently stayed at Murera Eco lodge and was quite happy with it. It's outside the park, but apparently that did not take away from his experience there.

Make sure you take a trip to Adamson's Falls at the very southern tip of the park, where it meets Kora National Park. The falls themselves are not really impressive, but the drive is nice and the scenery in that area around the falls is really beautiful, in my opinion.

 

post-49296-0-80539900-1429296658_thumb.jpg

View to the Fire Circle

post-49296-0-86837400-1429296747_thumb.jpg

Path to My Room

 

~ @@armchair bushman:

 

I was a guest at the Murera Eco Lodge, not far from the Murera Gate of Meru National Park, in October, 2014 and again in January, 2015.

The second visit was a direct consequence of being highly satisfied with the service, accommodations, convenience and atmosphere of the Murera Eco Lodge.

The on-site manager, Joseph, and his dedicated staff enhanced my visits to Meru National Park.

Sitting in Beijing tonight, I miss the nightly bonfire, the bushbabies overhead, and the stars sparkling through the lush overhead vegetation.

I'd be delighted to return for a third stay at Murera Eco Lodge.

Thank you for your most helpful Kenya recommendations.

Tom K.

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The Chyulu hills are very beautiful. With very long grass blowing in the constant wind, and very rounded rolling hills, it really feels like the hills are rollicking waves. Your mind begins to play tricks on you.

"The Green Hills Of Africa" by Ernest Hemingway, if I remember right, was based around the Chyulu Hills.

 

~ @@armchair bushman

 

Your lyrical praise of the Chyulu Hills is a pleasure to read.

I hadn't realized that they were the area described in Hemingway's work. Thank you for telling that.

When I glimpsed the Chyulu Hills in January, I felt a timelessness which I seldom encounter anywhere.

I'm so glad that you like them and posted this comment.

Tom K.

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@@armchair bushman

If you want to stay in the reserve, I'd recommend Rekero, Naibor, or Sala's Camp. If you're on a lower budget, I'd say go with Entim, Governors, or Mara Bush Camp. I would avoid camps that are OUTSIDE the National Reserve and OUTSIDE the conservancies. I would avoid camps based just outside any of the main gates (Talek, Sekenani, Olulaimutiak, Musiara).

All of my recommendations are based on a number of things:

1. Eco-friendly to an extent (some much more than others)

2. Good quality guiding - a guide can make or break your safari

3. Quality accommodation - but not over the top.

4. Location

5. Service, overall experience, and X-factor. (some of the budget camps in the reserve that I've recommended may lack the x-factor).

 

 

As I'm in the process of building my first Safari (!!!!) I'm interested to know more about your opinion with Entim. My TA has suggested it or Serena Mara as my budget accommodations in Western Mara. My time in the Mara will be at the beginning of August.

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@@AmyT I spent a week at Entim in Sept' 2016.

 

The camp is tucked away in a small forested area (in fact I think Entim means forest in Swahili) with an out look across the Mara river. The position of the camp is a bonus if the migration is on and the wildebeest decide to cross in front of the camp. It means you can get a crossing(s) to yourself without any vehicles and you can watch from the river bank. This was the rationale for me & my travelling companion choosing Entim but there were no crossings at that point during my stay.

 

The tents themselves are comfortable though I thought they were a bit dark inside. There is a dining tent and library tent and wifi is available if that is a necessity for you.

 

The food is excellent, like most keen safari goers we took a picnic hamper on every morning drive and had breakfast out on the plains. You can opt to have breakfast back at camp though, why anyone would want to do this is beyond me. Lunch you can have anytime between 1:00 - 3:00 pm whilst dinner is served anytime between 7:00 - 9:00 pm.

 

I found the camp management a bit odd and the waiting staff tended to whisper. One of my friends described it as like something out of the Adams Family.

 

Guiding was so-so. To me the guiding in Kenya is amongst the worst in Africa. My guide was a good spotter and drove the vehicle well in (at times) very muddy & tricky situations. But his communication skills with clients was woeful. He was also forever on the radio or chatting on his cell phone (often both at the same time). The Maasai also seem to have this preoccupation with instantaneously reporting a sighting and when you start with a sighting all to yourself within minutes there are up to 20 vehicles with you and this can lessen the game viewing experience.

 

That being said you cannot argue that the Mara has beautiful landscapes and prolific wildlife. If this is your first visit I know you will have a fabulous time.

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