Kicheche Mara is a lovely tented camp in the Mara North Conservancy.
Kicheche Mara: Our full report
Kicheche Mara is a relatively small, well-designed and very well run bushcamp in Acacia Valley, stretched out above the Olare Orok stream in Mara North Conservancy. It has just eight tents, with a real bush feel and no fence separating it from the surrounding wildlife.
Kicheche Mara Camp is one of three Kicheche camps in the Maasai Mara ecosytem, the others being Kicheche Bush Camp and Kicheche Valley Camp and it enjoys the same relaxed, intimate feel and good quality as the others.
The eight well-spaced and very large tents at Kicheche Mara have views into the surrounding woodland and feel very peaceful. Inside they’re well equipped and stylishly designed. Chunky wooden bedframes hold a comfortable mattress strewn with rust-coloured throws, and woven mats cover the majority of the canvas floor. There are some small shelves for your clothes, a two-way radio and whistle for attracting attention if need be, and – on the veranda at the front of the tent – some comfortable directors’ and deckchairs to sit and watch for passing game. When we were last there we watched a small herd of Impala passing by, and monkeys playing in the trees.
The en-suite bathroom is at the back of the tent, separated by a canvas flap. Like the bedroom, it’s simple and unfussy, with a flush loo and bucket shower. While you’re out on your afternoon activity, your guide will radio back to camp so that when you return, your shower will be ready and waiting at the perfect temperature! Although the basins do have running water, it comes from a borehole and can be slightly salty for brushing teeth, so an urn of filtered water is provided – as are toiletries such as cotton buds and cotton wool.
Four of the tents are set up as triples and quads, offering plenty of space and making a great option for families or groups of friends travelling together. It's worth asking for a tent closer to the central areas if a walk of several minutes each way wouldn't suit you: the camp will always try to oblige.
The same rustic design has been applied to Kicheche Mara’s communal areas, two simple canvas structures that are generally left open when the weather is fine to enjoy the views to the plains beyond. There are some comfortable chairs to sit and read the coffee-table books, and a small shop. At lunchtime, meals are often served outside, but in the evenings, when its cooler, dinner is usually taken in the dining tent around one long table.
Kicheche Mara has a Gold Level Eco-rating Certificate from Ecotourism Kenya, making it one of only a dozen camps and lodges in the whole country to have achieved this endorsement of its responsible resource use, conservation of the environment and investment in the local community.
Activities at Kicheche Mara generally focus on full- or half-day game drives in the surrounding wildlife areas, usually with no more than four guests per vehicle (in common with all the Kicheche camps in the Mara, the vehicles at the camp are four-seaters, but there is also a six-seater for larger groups). Most guests will have the same driver-guide throughout their stay. All the guides at Kicheche Mara are either silver KPSGA-qualified or studying for their silver level.
To make the most of your time, head out with a picnic breakfast or lunch (or both!). As Kicheche Mara is in the Mara North Conservancy outside the Maasai Mara National Reserve, game drives will predominantly focus within this area, but for every three nights you stay at the camp, you will have one full day in the reserve itself with a picnic breakfast and lunch. The Mara North Conservancy, which covers 300km², has just 12 camps, and MNC rules mean that no more than five vehicles are ever allowed at one animal sighting.
The area is superb for big cats, with lions and both spotted cats breeding near to camp, regular sightings of cubs and close encounters with lion prides and leopard and cheetah families.
Also available are game walks, out of camp and back to camp, which can be arranged for those aged 12 and over. Guests are taken out in groups up to six, with a guide and an armed escort carrying a light weapon (an AK47). The armed ranger is, however, always the same escort - and his shooting ability was tested a few years ago when a buffalo came into camp and had to be dispatched.
For something a little different, there are a couple of further options at additional cost. These include a trip to a Maasai village (US$20 per person). Guests can visit some of the community projects which the camp is helping with, such as the local school, and if you happen to be there on a Thursday morning, the Aitong local market will give you an insight into daily life in the area.
The Rhino Sanctuary in Olchoro Oiroua is also of interest, and can easily be incorporated as part of a game drive (US$5 per person). However, its only rhino inhabitants are two, semi-tame white rhinos.
Our viewEverything about Kicheche Mara feels quite elegant. It is unfussy, stylish and rustic with good-quality fittings and finishings. That said, it is a bushcamp, so without compromising on comfort, it will suit those who prefer simple camps. The camp’s location in Mara North means that you can enjoy the game of the quieter, less-crowded conservancy, whilst still having access to the renowned wildlife viewing in the national reserve itself.
Ideal length of stay: 3 nights
Directions: The nearest airstrip is Mara North, which in good weather is about 20 minutes’ game drive from Kicheche Mara. It will take longer if there has been rain.
Owner: Greg Monson and Paul Goldstein
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: The food we enjoyed at Kicheche Mara was generally good, and you could tell that some thought had gone into the flavours. Salad and some vegetable items are sourced from their own vegetable garden.
Breakfast is often taken as a picnic and will generally involve boiled eggs, fruit, bacon sandwiches, tea, coffee and fruit juice. In camp you can expect a similar selection, with cereals as well as fruit, juices, tea and coffee, followed by a cooked breakfast to order.
Similarly, lunch will often be taken out with you, particularly if you’re spending the full day in the national reserve. If you’re in camp it will generally be a light buffet lunch. On our visit in September 2012 we enjoyed a rich cold mango and avocado soup, followed by a selection of meats and salads such as lamb koftas and salads, and finished with a fruit-based dessert.
Dinner was a slightly more formal affair. Our starter was a filo pastry with goat’s cheese and a balsamic dressing, followed by grilled tilapia with a lemon dressing. Dessert was a rather impressive flambéed pancake!
Dining style: Group Meals
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included
Drinks included: All drinks stocked by Kicheche Mara are included in their rates.
Further dining info: Kicheche Mara can offer dining in tents on request, but this needs to be organized in advance.
Solo Travel: As with all the Kicheche camps, Kicheche Mara charges no single supplement from November to mid-July. Enjoy a real bush feel on your solo traveller holidays and benefit from activities like superb game drives or walking safaris offered here.See more ideas for Solo Travel in Kenya
Attitude towards children: Kicheche Mara is unfenced and quite wild so the camp would prefer that children are over the age of 11. Walks are restricted to those aged 12 and over only.
Property’s age restrictions: None
Special activities & services: The Maasai staff will take children out to show them how to shoot with bows and arrows and throw spears. They can also take them on a short nature walk, provided that parents accompany them.
Equipment: There is no special equipment, but the triple and quadruple tents are great for families.
Generally recommended for children: Kicheche Mara has a welcoming feel to it, and the family tents mean that family accommodation is catered for. The camp is very open and unfenced though, so is really suitable only for older children.
Power supply: Solar Power
Power supply notes: There are no charging sockets in the tents, only in the dining and lounge area and in the vehicles. There is 24-hour electric lighting in the tents. The camp makes its own charcoal briquettes from char dust mixed with cow dung. No wood is collected from the conservancy.
Communications: There is no internet for guests’ use but there is intermittent cellphone coverage and an (unreliable) email connection at the camp which guests can try if they really need to.
TV & radio: No
Water supply: Other
Water supply notes: Drinking water is supplied in bulk from Nairobi. Bottled water is also available.
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: There are first-aid kits in the camp and in the vehicles, and five members of staff are trained first aiders. A local clinic sponsored by the camp is 14km away (about 30 minutes’ drive) and the camp has links with the flying doctors.
Dangerous animals: High Risk
Security measures: Askaris escort guests to and from their tents at night.
Fire safety: There are fire extinguishers in each tent.
Disabled access: Not Possible
Laundry facilities: Full laundry service included – but no ladies’ underwear is accepted. Garments are hand-washed, line dried and then coal ironed, so delicate items should not be submitted.
Money: There is a main central safe in camp to store valuables. If there is sufficient cash in camp, guests may exchange small amounts of money at Kicheche Mara. Alternatively, guests may withdraw money against a credit or debit card, at a 5% surcharge. The shop is priced in Kenyan shillings.
Accepted payment on location: Visa, Mastercard and Amex are accepted. There is a 5% surcharge if you’re taking cash out on your card, but not for sales. They will take cash payments in euros, US dollars, GB pounds and Kenyan shillings.