Pamshelton3932

Porini Mara Camp-Kenya

21 posts in this topic

 

1) Name of property and country: (Please also include name of property and country as topic title and include as tags as well) Porini Mara Camp

 

 

2) Website address if known:  www.porini.com

 

3) Date of stay, including whether Green Season, Shoulder season or High season pricing (if known).   June 25-27, 2017 which I believe was still considered shoulder season but am not positive.

 

4) Length of stay: 3 nights

 

5) Why did you choose this camp or lodge to stay in? Based upon what?    We wanted something in a conservancy near the Mara and I had stayed in their Adventure camp last fall.  As I was traveling with a friend this time I thought maybe we'd prefer something larger and a little less basic. 

 

6) How did you book the property, direct or agent? Were your enquiries dealt with quickly and efficiently?  I booked through Wayne Hammond at Gamewatcher’s Safaris and he was prompt and efficient.

 

7) How many times have you been on Safari? This was my 7th.

 

8) To which countries? Tanzania, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Rwanda, Zambia, Namibia and 2 times to Kenya.

 

9) Which properties have you been to previously that you are comparing this one to?  Comparing to other Porini Camps

 

10) Was the camp/lodge fenced? No-this was another reason I chose this camp

 

11) How many rooms/tents does it have? I think it has 6 tents

 

12) What tent or room did you stay in? Did it have a good view? Was it overlooked or private? We were in tent #3 I think-the view wasn’t panoramic but there were lots of birds and monkeys and across the river was a peekaboo view of a plains area where there were usually antelope to be seen.  It was on a small river where there was a resident hippo, Simon, who we heard but never saw.  The tents were well spaced and privacy was good.

 

13) How comfortably furnished was the room/tent? The tent was by no means luxurious, but had everything needed, was in good condition, and kept very clean.

 

14) Did you like the food? If yes, please state why. If no, please state why.  The food was very good with the exception of one night when the beef was very tough.  The chef worked wonders and usually announced the evening meal after we had eaten lunch.  We ate lunch outside down by the river which was a perfect location.

 

15) Was there a varied menu offering multiple choice? If vegetarian was a suitable alternative offered? (Did you have to request this in advance?)  It was a set menu but there were vegetarian options available and we had vegetarians at every meal, so it is quite common.  Their food also looked good to me, although I didn’t actually taste it.

 

16) What is the default dining arrangement? Single tables or communal dining? Do the guides/managers host at mealtimes? It is communal dining but not hosted.  We were unfortunate in this one instance because one couple dominated the conversation and proceeded with a political diatribe throughout the entire dinner(s).  This is NOT the norm, and it certainly isn’t the fault of the camp, but was a negative experience.  There were so many other interesting people in the camp- a Lebanese couple living in Dubai for example who had some fascinating contributions when they could get a word in edgewise.  I escaped from the meals as soon as possible until the last night when the offensive couple had left.  I imagine had dinner been hosted, the host could have steered the conversation to a more suitable topic.

 

17) How good were the packed breakfasts/lunches if staying out on game drives?  All meals were good, whether packed or not.  I loved the bush breakfasts! 

 

18) What are the game drive vehicles? Please include photo if possible. They were Land Cruisers with canvas tops and open sides that could be rolled down in inclement weather.  It was also possible to open the top, which we did on occasion.  There were 3 rows of seats-the back row could hold 3, the other 2 rows had bucket seating.  The back row was the most restrictive in that the seats were higher so the top was sometimes in the way.  The work around this was opening the top, and because we never had more than 5 (usually 3) in our vehicle, the person in the back had the luxury of moving side to side or standing up.  Maybe I’ve just been lucky, but I’ve never had a game drive at any Porini camp with more than 5 passengers, sometimes just two.  Two drives last fall, it was just me!

 

19) How many guests per row?  See above.

 

20) How long were the game drives and were they varied in the routes taken?  The game drives really varied in length.  Our first morning the drive was much shorter than we were accustomed to, which left us 5 hours of downtime.  We were disappointed in this so I discussed it with Jimmy and he quickly arranged a nature walk for us after lunch. 

 

21) What are the standard game drive times? Are game drive times flexible: i.e., if agreed in advance, can you go out earlier than suggested and stay out later, i.e., not returning for lunch but taking supplies with you?  We always asked to go out as early as possible and take a bush breakfast.  Early was generally 15 minutes earlier, which didn’t seem like enough, especially the day we traveled to the Mara. (but we didn’t get back until about 6:30 so the driver had a LONG day)  They may have had safety issues because when I asked I was told it was still too dark until 6:15.  The drives, when we were happiest, ended shortly before lunch at 1:00. 

 

22) Is this a private conservancy/concession, and what is the vehicle/lodge density like?  This is in Ol Kenyei conservancy and we never saw more than one other vehicle while in the conservancy.  This was a huge plus for us. 

 

23) If in a National Park, what is the vehicle density in the immediate vicinity?  We had access to Naboisho and there were a few more vehicles here and of course in the Mara, there were a lot of jeeps.  That said, even in the Mara there is plenty of space to get away and find open areas with no vehicles.  One leopard sighting we were among about 10 vehicles, but for the second, we were alone. 

 

24) Are you able to off-road?  Off roading is allowed in the conservancy.

 

25) Are there rotation policies for sightings i.e., You face the risk of queuing or being bumped from a sighting.  I don’t know about any policy, but it was never an issue for us as there were never more than us and one other vehicle at a sighting.

 

26) What wildlife is this property known for? Did you get good sightings?  I am not certain, but there were plenty of cheetah and a few lions, although no big prides that we saw.  Sightings were plentiful.

 

27) How was the standard of guiding?  The guiding was a mixture I would say.  I think our guide had his silver rating and in the Mara, he was exceptional-possibly because he had lived there?  In Ol Kenyei, he was good at finding wildlife but seemed not too interested in explaining behaviors or even watching what we were seeing.  Many times we would pull up to a sighting, he’d cut the engine and proceed to scroll on his phone.  I might have liked knowing something about whether this lion was part of another pride or if this cheetah mom had started with only 2 cubs, for instance.  He did improve the second day and the Mara day was great, so perhaps he was having some personal issues.  Allowing for differences in personalities and style it was by no means was a bad experience.

 

28) If you had a bad experience with a guide, why? Did you report the issue to management, and if so, how did they deal with the issue?  As noted earlier-the game drive we felt ended too early we mentioned and Jimmy arranged the nature walk, which was perfect.  I did gently try to mention the guides’ overuse of his phone, but I didn’t want it to become an issue.

 

29) If you had a very good experience with your guide, please give reasons why:

 

30) Were staff attentive to your requests/needs?  Staff were very friendly without being intrusive.  Some were more engaging than others but overall they all were very good.

 

31) Does the property support a local community conservation initiative. If so, please provide brief details and website address if known.  All the Porini camps are in conservancies owned by the Masaii communities  and leased to Porini so the community benefits directly as well as providing employment opportunities.  This was originally my primary reason for choosing the Porini Camps.

32) Safaritalk trip report link:  I am not sure how to provide a link-it’s titled Kenya June 2017-full of surprises

 

33) Any other pertinent details you wish to add: 
The minor issues I had were immediately handled by Jimmy or were addressed by Jake Grieves after I sent my requested feedback.  He seemed to take my comments very seriously and assured me that he had discussed my concerns with all involved.  He also offered a discount on a future stay, which was unsolicited and unexpected.  Sometimes things don’t go perfectly and I wasn’t really complaining when I gave my feedback, so I felt he went above and beyond in making sure his client (me) was satisfied. I would recommend all the Porini camps I have visited as a great option. 

 

34) Please add your photographs of the property below, with headings.

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Thanks Pam!  

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Hmmmm.  I am quite surprised to read that there is still a problem with guides on their phones as that was a significant problem for me with their guides that was reported in my TR last year.  If guests are not getting the attention they want and expect and the guide's head is down in his phone, that's a serious problem. It'd be one thing if he was sourcing wildlife sightings out of his phone, but...

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@amybatt those were my thoughts exactly.  I did say something in my feedback, but if it's an ongoing issue then hmmmm, as you said.  Do you happen to remember your guides name?  I have the name of mine at home and will check when I get there.  I had read reports saying their guiding wasn't the best or most experienced around, but I am a proponent of using Masai as guides and staff so was willing to have a bit less experience. In the past I have found that the newer and less experienced seemed to try harder.  This was a first for me.  The lack of "want to" for a better word, was disturbing. 

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@Pamshelton3932 I just PM'd you so as not to name names here.

 

The one huge benefit to Porini Mara is you get the Ol Kinyei Conservancy completely to yourself, which explains your not seeing any other vehicles!  Ol Kinyei has an excellent reputation for cheetah and lion in particular.

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Dear Pam, as mentioned in my emails to you last month after receiving your feedback in response to my "Welcome Home" message, I had given careful attention to the points which you had highlighted to me and I discussed these in detail with the camp manager to see that lessons were learnt so as to avoid causing any disappointment in future. I had apologised and asked you to accept my assurance that your comments were being taken seriously and that I had followed up to see that action was being taken.


I'm always keen to hear from guests after their stay and to have their observations and suggestions. If ever there are any negative aspects which we need to take on board to address and rectify to improve our guests' experience then we do take these seriously and endeavour to see how we can do things better. I personally discussed this issue with the guide concerned and he is sorry that you were disappointed that he had been checking messages on his phone. He has asked me to apologise to you and he has promised me that he will not do this again. We had previously received similar feedback from @amybatt regarding another guide at the camp who had been using his phone and I had made clear to him then that this should stop. We have now re-visited this matter of mobile phones and our Camp Manager, Jimmy has held a further meeting with all the guides to stress that their focus of attention should be helping our guests to enjoy viewing wildlife and that mobile phones must not be used for their personal messaging.


Generally I receive excellent feedback from the overwhelming majority of guests about their wildlife viewing experience and the way in which our guides are able to find great sightings for them, which is evidenced in some of the great photographs that guests share with us.


One thing to mention is that rather than use the vehicle radios to communicate sightings between vehicles, as continually blaring radios is something I would really prefer to avoid, we instead have an Ol Kinyei WhatsApp system for guides to give a brief alert to others in our vehicles on game drives in Ol Kinyei and Naboisho, using their smartphones. This helps to share updates on the sightings and is intended to help the guides to achieve good viewing for their guests.  WhatsApp messages are also copied to the cheetah researchers who are monitoring the animals' movements.  To control the use of the messaging, all the WhatsApp messages are copied to me personally so I can see at a glance what is being communicated between our vehicles.
For example, looking at the latest stream of messages:

Jacob:

15 elephants at Olmantirirong
Nelson
11 lions on the plain at Oleniol
Bill Kupai
wild dogs at Ol Seki airstrip
Jimmy
Simon the hippo leaving his pool!
Nirmalya
5 lions on a kill by white rock
Bill Kupai
2 females and male on kill 300M from PMC
Jacob
On road from Ilturot towards Lookoit hill lion mating pair
Jacob
Serval cat with kill near the Lappet faced vultures nest
Nelson
Naiborr and her cubs along road from PMC to rangers post. 
Nelson
Naiborr made a kill
Nirmalya
Aardwolf just 50M from PBC

 

Having noted your comments, I am going to ask Jimmy Sengeny our Camp Manager to explain in his briefing to arriving guests that at Ol Kinyei our guides share sightings with the researchers and their fellow drivers from the Porini Camps using WhatsApp messaging on their phones but that they should not be using their phones for any other purposes. And perhaps when they type and send a message while at a sighting they should briefly mention this to their own guests so that it is not thought that they are doing something else. We want to use mobile technology as a way of improving sightings for guests at Ol Kinyei as there are fewer vehicles in the 18,000 acres there so text messaging by phone is a good way of sharing updates on sightings. The key is to do this without causing any annoyance! If this turns out to be something that guests do not like then we will have to re-think.

Apart from your disappointment about this at O Kinyei, I was glad to note from your emails to me that the rest of your safari experience with us went well and that you plan to be back - we would be delighted to welcome you on another safari soon!

Over the last 20 years I have been very involved in trying to provide a way of expanding the area of protected habitat for wildlife beyond the government-run parks and reserves which account for less than 8% of Kenya's land area. Our mission has been to use small-scale tourism as a way of paying to lease land from communities adjacent to the parks and to set up wildlife conservancies where the wildlife species have more space to roam and increase in numbers beyond the parks. The conservancies are owned by the community who earn an income from the rents paid directly to each family and who have employment opportunities as rangers and camp staff in our small Porini Camps.  We depend on tourism to keep the conservancies going and so it is important to us that our guests have a great experience and that they keep coming back to enjoy the wildlife viewing and recommend our camps to others.

 

With best wishes

Jake Grieves-Cook
Gamewatchers Safaris & Porini Camps




 

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@JakeGC  That is a good idea Jake. The use of mobile phones has really increased a lot in the Mara conservancies - for the reasons you mention - but I note guides still tend to be a bit "discreet" and I think that gives the wrong impression. Just like radio comms during drives it's either acceptable (and I much prefer it to the old radio!!) or not acceptable to individual guests and it's good to know how they feel about it. You might even mention it is considered preferable to radio comms.

 

Having said that, it does mean that guides are on their phones and so when there is an urgent message unrelated to the game drive it is hard for them to ignore it.

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@JakeGC Thank you for coming along to address this issue.  I've been looking at the Porini camps fir a future safari, but found three recent reviews such as this one with respect to issues with the guides off putting.

 

We pay a lot of money for these safaris and a guide can make or break it.  I am concerned about a recent review where the guide was positioning the vehicle and hushing people for the purpose of shooting his own video and photos to the upset of the paying guest.

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4 hours ago, Tulips said:

@JakeGC Thank you for coming along to address this issue.  I've been looking at the Porini camps fir a future safari, but found three recent reviews such as this one with respect to issues with the guides off putting.

 

We pay a lot of money for these safaris and a guide can make or break it.  I am concerned about a recent review where the guide was positioning the vehicle and hushing people for the purpose of shooting his own video and photos to the upset of the paying guest.

For @Tulips
I note and understand your concerns. Over the years I think we may have had a total of 3 instances mentioned on Safaritalk about a negative experience with one of our Porini guides including the one that you have referred to about a guide asking a guest to “shush” while he shot a video clip himself at a sighting and which we dealt with immediately. This seems to have created the impression that our guides are likely to give poor service but in fact we receive very many enthusiastic comments from guests who come again and again and who say it was the excellent guiding that keeps bringing them back.
 
We take our customers’ feedback very seriously and I personally contact every one of our returning guests who have booked with us at Gamewatchers Safaris after they return home, to check that all went well and to see if there are any areas that need improvement. I am pleased to say that the overwhelming majority reply that they were 100% happy with their safari experience with us and many come back to book with us again and again. However if we are alerted to any negative aspect then we always give this our immediate attention as our customers’ satisfaction is extremely important for us and will always endeavour to take action to put things right.
 
There have been numerous positive comments about the Porini Camps guides on many other Safaritalk posts so we will just hope that helps to create a better appreciation of the safari experience which we offer - the evidence being the stunning photographs that many of our guests share on Safaritalk and which our guides have helped them to capture!

So if you do decide to stay at any of the Porini Camps we will do our best that you are well looked after!

Jake Grieves-Cook
Gamewatcxhers Safaris
 

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I'm glad to hear the Porini guides' use of smart phones on game drives is judicious and intended to reduce the effect of loud radios on wildlife.  So that concern seems to be a non-issue.

 

Something else to keep in mind is that sometimes guides "shush" people in vehicles to prevent disturbing sensitive wildlife or guests in other nearby vehicles.  As a guest, I have shushed people in other vehicles when they are being too loud.

 

Silence is golden on safari!

 

And even if one guide went "off the reservation" a bit (at a just-opened camp) with his shooting videos, etc. before being corrected by management - Porini camps have had a great reputation over a long period.

 

People have made their point about the isolated incident.  I think it's time to stop flaying Porini over and over regarding the same thing - that Management has already said they addressed sternly.

 

It pains me to see a conservation stalwart like @JakeGC being sniped at and having to keep prostrating himself in response to such.

 

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Posted (edited)

deleted, double post

Edited by AmyT

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But it's not an isolated incident. That's the point.  You have three Safaritalkers here who have brought up the same thing, to the point where it effected the quality of their safari.  In our little corner of the world, that's a significant number.  If they'd fully addressed it last year when I reported it, it wouldn't have happened to Pam or AmyT.

 

For most people this is a once in a lifetime trip.  I hate to hear from people who go on their safari and "can't even look at the photos from that day" because they're upset about what happened, that's so unfair given how much time and money they have put out for this experience.  They don't always get a chance to re-do a safari to "get it right" and not look back with that twinge of regret. I did two more after my first Porini encounter, and it wasn't until my last one that I can say it was free of incidents like this (when Porini guides were out of the picture entirely).  At Offbeat, I didn't even know my guides had phones with them until they took them out at breakfast to show us photos of their families.  When I asked if they use them for guiding, they said "we don't need them to find sightings".  Long-standing reputation notwithstanding, I'm obviously going to recommend Offbeat over Porini when asked based on my own experiences with them both. With David and Kappen, I never saw my guides' heads down in their phones and always felt my experience came first.

 

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Posted (edited)

@offshorebirder...

 

Just to get the facts straight about my guide at Lion Camp (not a just-opened camp)... it happened three times over three days, no other vehicles present.  My daughter in particular wasn't being noisy at the time, just talking.  (Edit: Mine was the second incident and my comments upset no one except the driver.)

 

I continue to be a fan of the Porini camps and look forward to revisiting Cheetah camp in particular.  

Edited by AmyT
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Posted (edited)

1 hour ago, amybatt said:

But it's not an isolated incident. That's the point.  You have three Safaritalkers here who have brought up the same thing, to the point where it effected the quality of their safari. 

 

By 'isolated incident' I meant @AmyT's guide during her stay.

 

Maybe I'm misunderstanding things, but didn't the Porini owner just explain that their guides regularly use WhatsApp on their smart phones INSTEAD of noisy radios out of consideration of the wildlife?   And that they would take greater pains going forward to explain this smartphone-checking to guests to reduce the chances of guests developing misconceptions about what they were doing on their smart phones?   

 

It seems unfair of people to continue trying to extract more 'pounds of flesh'  over what now sounds like in large part a misunderstanding.  Are you really out to hurt the business of a linchpin of the Mara Conservancies (and the one responsible for the entire notion of Mara Conservancies)?    How would y'all feel if it ended up affecting conservation by undermining the viability of a conservancy?  Or removing one of the most affordable options for people who cannot afford some of the more expensive camps?

 

I don't have any problem with deserved "poor reviews" - I just worry that in this case, they're not fully deserved...

Edited by offshorebirder
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I merely was asking for clarification re photo taking, which was not addressed in the first response.  There was no sniping, flaying or extracting pounds of flesh.

 

@JakeGC thank you very much for addressing the concerns.  It's very much appreciated.

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1 hour ago, AmyT said:

@offshorebirder...

 

Just to get the facts straight about my guide at Lion Camp (not a just-opened camp)... it happened three times over three days, no other vehicles present.  My daughter in particular wasn't being noisy at the time, just talking.  (Edit: Mine was the second incident and my comments upset no one except the driver.)

 

I continue to be a fan of the Porini camps and look forward to revisiting Cheetah camp in particular.  

Great that you continue to be a fan of Porini Camps @AmyT and we will be glad to welcome you back. We acted immediately to deal with the issue that you highlighted to me and I believe that it is now resolved.

 

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Posted (edited)

As I just responded to @JakeGC's email:

 

"Safari Talk is set up for people to share real information. It was my real situation. If it happened to someone else, I'd be upset that I didn't do everything in my power to help them avoid it.
 
"No one is perfect, but I do believe that taking videos and shushing anyone talking is a habit of the driver. It happened on three different occasions, over three different days (only once directed at me.) The first was earlier in the day, when we were with the hyenas with the gazelle. The third was after I told the camp manager, Patrick. Patrick came with us to the air strip and was with us when the driver shushed Katy while he was filming (a surprise!)
 

"I am really glad that he is taking a break from taking video. I believe cell phone use can be beneficial but not to the point where it impacts guests. Social media is just that, social, and I've added several guides on Facebook.  I do enjoy seeing what they see in the bush and so understand that it's a fine line.

 

"@Gilgamesh is next to go to Lion Camp. Hopefully he will be able to report a better experience!"

 

What I hadn't shared with Jake previously was the behavior about positioning the vehicle.  I am really glad that he has taken both issues seriously and shared them with all of the guides and drivers. I hope and believe that things will improve. Note that this was one driver out of the five that we had, in Nairobi and in four camps.

Edited by AmyT
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It seems that @JakeGC has responded to all your private emails about this and public comments/queries here on Safatalk and has, or is, addressing your concerns. For the time being I think that this is enough on the subject for now.

 

No doubt we will hear from future guests if there are any further problems with this.

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The one problem that seems to have been missed is that the guide will also have his own phone and could be using that. We have been on numerous ST's in Botswana and have never had concern over the use of the radio as it was always on low volume. We have never had a problem with guides taking photograph s or video as they have normally waited until the guests have finished.  One of the problems is guests that have taken their photos/ videos then decide to have a take whilst other guests are still taking photos/videos. 

 

We will soon find out as the quality of the guides as this will be our first ST with Porini and we will be at four Porini camps early October, I am sure that Jake has discussed complaints with his camp managers and that it will be a very enjoyable ST.

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Posted (edited)

I am now going to put another perspective on this. 

Personally, I prefer guides with few words. I don´t need them to say that "there is an elephant", "and here we have an Wildebeest who is 5 years old which you can see on the right angle..." etc etc. 

I prefer to ask questions instead of being flooded by words when I instead want´s it silent and just take pictures and absorb the nature.

I also loves guides who is as much into photography as me and I don´t bother at all that we take pictures at the same time or even him before me.
We (clients) are all different.

What I am interesting in is that they take me to interesting sightings and put the car in a good position for photo opportunities and good sightings. If they do this, then they can do whatever they like for me. Sleep, read a book, look at their phone, whatever. Which I have also told some of my guides during the years :) 
If phones help them doing this, of course you should continue with it! 

I know people are different and the best is of course that everyone have the same entry point and a routine to not use phones for personal use for example.

Oh man, it can´t be easy to be in the guiding-industy with all this customers complaining over different things and that we are in fact all different with different needs. 

I am one of those who will use Porini again as I love their way of doing it. Great concessions, great guides, good prices and good rating more or less everywhere. 
I am thinking of going in March actually. We will see what happens. 

 

Edited by Antee
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Okay, so let's remember that this topic/sub forum is for members reviews - so please feel free to start a new discussion if necessary: if you would like to add your updated review of Porini Mara Camp in this topic, please do.

 

Thanks, Matt

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