Although Mara Plains has been renovated since our last visit...
Mara Plains Camp: Our full report
Nestled in the trees on the edge of the Ntiakatek stream in the 120km² (30,000 acre) private Olare-Motorogi Conservancy (previously known as Olare Orok), Mara Plains is a small, luxury tented camp which prides itself on offering a personal and high level service. Along with access to Olare-Motorogi, the camp is also within reach of Mara North Conservancy and the main Maasai Mara Game Reserve, so guests have almost 2,000km² to explore.
Since we last visited Mara Plains Camp in September 2012, they have undergone some big renovations, and we haven’t yet had a chance to see the changes. We understand that the refurbished camp is very similar in style and feel, but that the tented rooms are significantly larger and more luxurious – so although our views and comments here are based on our experience of the old camp, the staff, ethos and general atmosphere of the camp are still relevant.
With only seven tents, Mara Plains is one of the smallest camps within the Mara region, giving a very personal and intimate feel (which isn’t the norm in Mara properties) and a high degree of flexibility.
There aren’t set meal times or activities here, so if you happen to be out on a morning’s game drive and spot some cheetah tracks, they’ll deliver your lunch to you while you continue to observe; if you are out on a late afternoon game drive and following lions hunting, they’ll hold dinner until you return. We had one of the best wildlife sightings we’ve ever had from Mara Plains in September 2012, when – without any other vehicles around, and with no rush to get back – we watched a mother and daughter leopard play for about 45 minutes, until it was too dark to see.
The tents themselves were completely re-done in early 2013. We saw the skeleton of one of these new tents when we visited, and were very impressed; they promise to be some of the largest tents we’ve seen! Recent photos of these in finished form (see the images the camp sent us here) suggest that they match up to the impeccable standards that we observed on our visit. They’ve also added new “family and honeymoon tents" which will have it’s own lounge and dining area, as well as it’s own entrance, allowing a little more privacy.
Each of these new tents is slightly raised from the ground with rich red rugs spread over the large wooden decking topped by a large marquee-style tent with a wrap-around veranda overlooking the plains. Inside, a large double bed faces the plains. There’s an oscillating fan suspended above the bed for warmer nights, although the mosquito-net windows allows the breeze to pass through easily. The en-suite bathroom is fitted with his-and-hers brass sinks, a separate flush loo, shower and – most impressively – a deep stand-alone brass bath. Stylish and luxurious: these tents certainly look special.
The three tented main areas which were at Mara Plains on our last visit have now been rebuilt into one large tent which is completely open sided with sweeping views. Slightly colonial in style, and rich earthy browns and reds in colour, the plush sofas afford a nice spot to relax with a drink, whilst those who want to brush up on their wildlife knowledge will find all they need in the small library. Although there’s a large wooden dining table, guests often eat under the stars – weather permitting.
As well as day-time safari drives, activities at Mara Plains Camp include night drives, guided safari walks, visits to a local village or school, and, for an extra cost, hot-air balloon rides in the main reserve. The small team of guides, closely led when we visited by the personal and passionate Richard, were absolutely first-class during our visit. Not only did they deliver very relaxed and intelligent game viewing, they were also unafraid to just sit and watch at a great sighting, and yet knew when to give the animals space or leave altogether.
The vehicles are particularly well equipped for photographers, with camera bars that can be altered to different heights. Guests have the added bonus of a pair of Swarovski optic binoculars and Canon 7D camera with 100-400mm lens in each tent – great for close-ups of wildlife. In addition, one of the managers, Lorna, has a strong background in photography and will happily offer tuition if she is at the camp.
The camp has tried very hard to remain eco-friendly despite its luxury and comfort. The new wooden decking is all made from recycled railway sleepers, and the camp runs completely on solar power. They say that no chemicals whatsoever are used in the camp.
Our viewThe location of Mara Plains gives great scope to its activities, which can range across private conservancies as well as the busier national reserve. In camp, we found its service low-key while attentive, its welcome warm, and its attention to detail impressive; in short – everything here was both down-to-earth and also first class. (Only its food merited slightly less praise.) Even before the upgrade, Mara Plains was one of the best camps in the Mara; now its new tents promise to make it one of the Mara’s more luxurious options too.
Ideal length of stay: Stay for 3–4 nights to explore the surrounding conservancies and the game reserve itself.
Directions: Olkiombo airstrip is 11km away from Mara Plains and takes about an hour by road. You can also charter a plane to their private airstrip, which is also about an hour’s game drive away.
Owner: Great Plains Conservation
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: The dining at Mara Plains is very flexible – you’re not tied into set meal times, allowing you to choose between early starts with a packed breakfast, and full-day game drives taking lunch with you.
Generally, if breakfast is taken in the lodge, they’ll have a varied buffet of cereals, fruits and breads, which you can then follow with a cooked breakfast to order. Teas, coffees, juices and a delicious oat smoothie were also available.
Lunch is often taken as a packed lunch out on a game drive, and will be something filling and fresh, with light mains and plenty of fresh salads.
For dinner, which was served outside on one long table under the stars, we started with an onion puff pastry with balsamic dressing, followed by a beef stew with dauphinoise potatoes, rounded off with a chocolate mousse. While the food was certainly very good, it didn’t quite match the standard we had been expecting.
Dining style: Group Meals
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included
Drinks included: All drinks are included apart from champagne which is at additional cost. On our last visit it cost U$140 for a bottle of Moet et Chandon.
Honeymoons: Mara Plains is an exceptionally luxurious, yet unpretentious camp, and would suit couples who want to feel really spoilt, but enjoy a down-to-earth atmosphere.See more ideas for Honeymoons in Kenya
Photographic: Mara Plains is a great camp for serious photographers: Canon cameras and 400mm lens are available to borrow, while the vehicles are set up with adjustable bars and beanbags, and there’s a keen photographer on the staff if advice is needed.See more ideas for Photographic in Kenya
Attitude towards children: The managers noted that Mara Plains has a relatively adult atmosphere; only children over the age of 8 are accepted
Property’s age restrictions: 8 years plus only.
Special activities & services: They can organise bushcraft and spear throwing for children.
Equipment: There is no special equipment, but there is a new family tent.
Generally recommended for children: Mara Plains definitely has an adult vibe to it, so we think it would suit older children better than younger.
Notes: The camp is unfenced so children must be supervised at all times.
Power supply: Solar Power
Communications: There is free WiFi throughout most of the lodge, but guests will need to have their own device to access it.
TV & radio: No
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: Mara Plains has a first-aid kit on site which the managers and some of the guides are trained to use. They also have kits in the vehicles. The nearest doctor is at Olkiombo at Intrepids which is an hour’s drive away. In an emergency they would link to flying doctors.
Dangerous animals: High Risk
Security measures: There is a guard on duty during the day, and at night, guests are escorted by guards between the main area and their tents..
Fire safety: They have fire extinguishers outside all rooms and organise regular fire drills. There is also a firebreak around the camp.
Disabled access: Not Possible
Laundry facilities: Full Laundry Service - Included
Money: There are safes in all the rooms.
Accepted payment on location: Payment for any extras is accepted only in US dollars or Kenyan shillings cash.