Walking from Elephant Pepper Camp, in the Mara North Conservancy, is a highlight.
Elephant Pepper Camp: Our full report
Elephant Pepper is a small, tented camp located in the protected Mara North Conservancy. Originally built in 1984, it was named after the grove of elephant pepper trees it’s nestled in. From here you can explore the game of the Mara North Conservancy, or venture into the National Reserve itself –particularly appealing during the months when the migration will be in the area (roughly July to October).
Although a permanent tented camp, Elephant Pepper Camp enjoys a refreshingly simple design, and a real bush feel. Its nine tents include one honeymoon tent. The green canvas tents each have a woven floor and solar power – and contrary to some other camps we’ve stayed in, are very well lit. Inside they’re well equipped, with a small desk, luggage rack and bedside tables where you’ll find insect repellent, and a radio and whistle for attracting attention. The dark-wood furniture gives a rather sombre feel, but the comfortable beds (double or twin) are covered in colourful fabrics to add a bit of style.
At the back of each tent is an en-suite bathroom, partitioned off by a canvas flap. Here you’ll find a proper flush toilet, bucket shower, and a sink with a few jugs of water. Every morning, staff will place hot water by a very small flap at the back of the bathroom. Out the front, a hammock is a popular relaxation place for both guests and monkeys!
The honeymoon tent is essentially the same style, but it’s positioned slightly further away, and has a small garden area with a campfire. It’s also slightly larger, with a king-size bed, and can take up to two extra beds, so is sometimes used for families too.
The main areas consist of two large tents, recently refurbished with new campaign-style furniture, which we really liked. The dining tent is set with one large dark wooden table, where everyone eats together, and a second long table for the breakfast and lunch buffet. A small cupboard in the corner acts as a shop, with some Elephant Pepper Camp branded gifts.
The lounge tent, furnished with sofas and directors’ chairs, is usually left open at the sides, so is a good spot to catch the breeze on hot days. Guests are welcome to help themselves to drinks from the small bar.
Generally, your day’s activities will revolve around game viewing in either the conservancy or the national reserve. Guests are usually woken at 6.00am, before meeting by the campfire for tea and coffee at 6.30am and heading out at 7.00am. Most guests staying at Elephant Pepper will be sharing their activities with other guests, so there isn’t much room for flexibility in this schedule, but if you have a private vehicle you can, of course, set your own timings. They’ll try and make sure that you have the same guide throughout your stay, which enables you to get to know each other.
Night drives are technically possible, although not encouraged. Instead, after an afternoon game drive and a relaxed sundowner they’ll drive slowly back to camp with the spotlights so you can look out for some of the conservancy’s nocturnal creatures. Lion are particularly interesting to try and find as dusk turns to night.
Elephant Pepper Camp also offers bush walks with the manager, Patrick, who has a gun licence. Though note that if he is not in camp, it’s not currently possible to do walking, but they’re planning to get in a relief guide to cover for him. Walks are only for adults (and children over 12 at the guide’s discretion); the maximum group size is six people. We were really impressed with Patrick’s walks – in fact they were among the best which we’ve been on in Kenya.
Village visits can also be arranged for US$15 per person, and the camp also supports a local primary school which you may be able to visit.
Our viewWe enjoyed our stay at Elephant Pepper – it’s comfortable and well designed, without being too fussy. We felt that it lacked a little of the atmosphere found at similar camps in the area within the same price bracket, but for those looking for a bush camp in the Mara it is still a very reliable option.
Ideal length of stay: Stay for three to four nights to explore the Mara North Conservancy and the Maasai Mara National Reserve itself.
Directions: Elephant Pepper is half-an-hour’s game drive from Mara North airstrip
Owner: Cheli and Peacock
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: Breakfast is usually taken as a picnic to enjoy while you’re out on your game drive. Expect boiled eggs, bread and jam, juices and teas and coffees. If you stay at camp then it will be a similar style buffet.
Lunch is a buffet which on our last visit in September 2012 was tasty and fresh. We had a warm dish of lasagne accompanied by potato salad, green salad, salami and cheeses, followed by a fruit based dessert. .
Dinner is served to the table. Our starter was spinach and ricotta ravioli. For main course we had a tender beef fillet served with potato, butternut and sweetcorn; it was rounded off by lemon meringue pie.
Dining style: Group Meals
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included
Drinks included: Most drinks are included apart from a special selection of whiskies and cognacs offered after dinner.
Attitude towards children: Elephant Pepper accepts children of all ages, but walking is limited to over 12s for short walks and over 14s for longer ones.
Special activities & services: Elephant Pepper Camp will do bushcraft such as spear throwing with children. Patrick, the manager, also has a fun activity where they take plaster of paris with them on a short walk and make casts of animal tracks. They can also arrange for an askari to watch over children in the evenings.
Generally recommended for children: Elephant Pepper is welcoming, and has a larger tent which is suitable for families.
Notes: Parents should note that this camp is not fenced, and children must always be under their supervision.
Power supply: Solar Power
Communications: There is no internet at Elephant Pepper, but there is intermittent cellphone coverage.
TV & radio: No
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: There are first-aid kits in camp and in all of the cars. The nearest doctor is in Aitong which is about an hour’s drive away, and the camp also has links to the flying doctors.
Dangerous animals: High Risk
Security measures: Askaris are on duty day and night. Guests are always escorted around the camp at night.
Fire safety: There is a fire safety plan and extinguishers in the rooms.
Disabled access: On Request
Laundry facilities: Full laundry service included, but as the camp has to drive in all their water they can’t wash huge quantities. Items are hand washed and line dried. As with most camps, underwear is not accepted.
Money: There are digital safes in the tents.
Accepted payment on location: Visa and Mastercard are accepted with no surcharge. They accept all major currencies.