Kicheche Valley

Kicheche Valley : Our full report

Rooms
6 identical twin/dbl tents
Children
Better for more mature children, say 10+
Open
1 June to 31 March

The newest of three Kicheche camps in the Mara region, the upmarket and unfenced Kicheche Valley Camp opened in 2011 in a secluded, wooded valley in the eastern part of the Mara Naboisho Conservancy. The tents are set on platforms above the Moliband stream and the central dining and lounge area is close to a spring that attracts plentiful wildlife.

Unlike Kicheche Bush Camp and Kicheche Mara Camp Kicheche Valley is a much more permanent structure, with a crazy-paving central area. Solid platforms of timber decking, built atop foundations of rock on the hillside, support the six identical, spacious guest tents. Octagonal in design, these have huge mosquito-screen ‘windows’, and are very comfortably furnished in a mixture of styles. Inside are double or twin beds, a writing table and chair, and a good-sized sofa. One note we found slightly jarring is the pale laminate flooring in the tents which, while practical, feels oddly suburban and out of keeping with the otherwise generally rustic, mellow tones of the camp.

The bathrooms are fitted out hotel-style, with double basins and hot water available at all times. At the front, on the deck, a pair of wicker veranda chairs and a small table provide the perfect spot for scanning the trees in the valley, or the savanna beyond.

The camp uses filtered and purified water for guests’ drinking water bottles which most guests prefer – though bottled water is available on request at no charge. 24-hour electricity for charging batteries at wall sockets in the tents is an unusual feature.

Kicheche Valley is a hosted camp, and the staff and management bend over backwards to accommodate the wishes of their guests. Standards of service are high and the mood is a touch more formal than in some small camps.

The central dining and lounge area consists of a single large tented terrace with comfortable armchairs and sofas scattered over the crazy paving, and a dining table where guests and hosts eat. Much of the décor around the camp is based around central and West African furniture and artefacts with some more local Swahili touches, but the camp style is overall fairly homely.

A small shop sells crafts from communities around Nairobi.

When it comes to activities, game drives are top of the list, both day and night, along with game walks with an armed ranger. For guests staying three nights or more, a full-day trip into the main Maasai Mara National Reserve is included, and this is a very popular option during the wildebeest migration season, roughly from August to October. Like Kicheche Bush and Kicheche Mara camps, Kicheche Valley’s vehicles are fully open-sided, four-seater Land Cruisers and they try to offer each party of guests a private vehicle, though this can’t be guaranteed if the camp is full. There's also one six-seater vehicle for larger groups. Guests have a guide assigned to them for the duration of their stay.

The acacia woodlands of the Naboisho Conservancy favour high numbers of elephant and giraffe (the biggest population in the Mara eco-system) and the conservancy’s mixture of habitats makes it a paradise for birders. Birdlife around Kicheche Valley is excellent and if you include the rest of the conservancy you have a really good chance of seeing species that are rare in the Mara in general, such as bush pipit, northern white-crowned shrike, pygmy falcon, white-headed buffalo weaver, and spectacular crested and martial eagles and Verreaux’s eagle owl. Hyraxes on the rocky outcrops around camp are particularly popular with children.

Big cats are another draw here. There are currently four resident leopards near Kicheche Valley – a male and a female with two cubs – and Naboisho has three resident lion prides, totalling some three dozen cats. Three more prides periodically move into Naboisho from Ol Kinyei Conservancy and other areas around Naboisho.

In common with all properties in the Mara, early-morning balloon safaris can be booked. These last approximately one hour, followed by a bush breakfast with sparkling wine and then a game drive, arriving back at camp around mid-morning. There are several launch areas and you can expect to be woken as early as 4.00am.

Visits to Nkoilale village cost US$20, which is paid at camp and shared between Nkoilale Community Projects and the village itself. The camp’s community relations are very good and there’s no hard sell, or indeed any selling of crafts at all, during the visit, which is a refreshing contrast with some of the very commercial villages nearer the national reserve.

Our view

Kicheche Valley is a high-end safari camp, embodying chic rusticity – the most comfortable and pampering of Kicheche’s three camps in the Mara. We loved the wooded location, the already well-established feel of the main dining and lounge areas, and the manager’s enthusiasm for their vegetable garden. This is a great camp for returning Mara enthusiasts who want to relax rather than cram their days with activity.

Geographics

Location: Maasai Mara Conservancies, Kenya

Ideal length of stay: Four nights if the migration is in the area (from August to October) and three at other times of the year. For any stays of three nights or more a full-day trip into the main reserve is included.

Directions: Kicheche is very near to the Ol Seki (Naboishio) airstrip. Allow 15–30 minutes’ transfer time.

Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer

Food & drink

Usual board basis: Full Board

Food quality: The camp has a good reputation for its food, and they grow their own herbs, pumpkins, peppers and salads crops, so everything is very fresh. We didn’t stay – or eat – at Kicheche Valley so the following details were provided by the managers:

Most guests go out with a picnic breakfast, including things like sausage wraps, frittatas, fruit and cereal.

Lunch is three courses but usually light and healthy. Cold soups, various salads, chicken, fish and grilled haloumi are regular offered, followed by a simple dessert like fruit salad or ice cream.

Dinner is more formal, with heartier courses. Pumpkin soup, for example, might be followed by chicken stuffed with sage and Dauphinoise potatoes.

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 selected wines, spirits and champagne.

Further dining info: Yes

Special interests

Solo Travel: Experience fantastic day and night game drives on a solo safari holiday at Kenya’s Kicheche Valley Camp. In the low season there is no single supplement here, so solo travellers can enjoy a safari holiday at the same cost as anybody else.

See more ideas for Solo Travel in Kenya

Birdwatching: Your Kenyan birdwatching holiday can begin in the camp itself, with unusual and rare species (bush pipit, northern white-crowned shrike, white-headed buffalo weaver, pygmy falcon and eagles) seen in the trees and nearby spring.

See more ideas for Birdwatching in Kenya

Wildlife safaris: This is a very game-rich area, with excellent big-cat viewing (resident leopards near camp), a major elephant corridor in the northwest of the conservancy and the biggest giraffe population in the Mara. Moreover, there are very few other tourist vehicles using the conservancy.

See more ideas for Wildlife safaris in Kenya

Children

Attitude towards children: Kicheche Valley are ‘very happy to have children’.

Property’s age restrictions: No age restrictions

Special activities & services: Children’s activities such as nature walks and fire-making, can be organised, as can special meals.

Equipment: None

Notes: Children are their parents’ responsibility at all times and must be fully supervised, to prevent them wandering out of camp, for example.

Infrastructure

Communications: There is cellphone reception in the camp, although there is no guest WiFi. The only internet, in the main office, can be used by guests on request.

TV & radio: No

Health & safety

Malarial protection recommended: Yes

Medical care: There are first aiders in camp, a comprehensive first-aid kit on site and first-aid kits in all vehicles as well. There is a doctor based at Sarova Mara Camp, about an hour’s drive away.

Dangerous animals: High Risk

Security measures: Guests are escorted around the camp at night. There us always an askari on duty in the day, and several at night.

Fire safety: There are fire extinguishers in every tent and staff are trained how to use them. They also carry out fire drills in case of a bushfire and when we visited were in the process of creating a fire break around the camp.

Extras

Disabled access: On Request

Laundry facilities: Full Laundry Service - Included

Money: Valuables can be locked away in the main office safe. There are no currency exchange facilities.

Accepted payment on location: You can settle extras in any major currency. They accept Visa, MasterCard and Amex credit cards with a surcharge of 5%.