Naboisho Camp, in a wild and beautiful area, is the most luxurious camp in the Naboisho Conservancy.
Naboisho Camp: Our full report
Appealing both to safari purists and those seeking a little luxury, Naboisho Camp is the most upmarket of the handful of new, small camps in the relatively little-visited Mara Naboisho Conservancy. Surrounded by untouched savanna and dense thicket, it is located in a game-rich area where guests are frequently witness to spectacular wildlife events.
Naboisho Camp is the sister camp of seasonal Rekero inside the national reserve, and it shares Rekero’s focus on top-quality guiding. Guests at Naboisho often do an all-day game drive in the national reserve and the two camps occasionally share vehicles and guides. Guests booked into one camp frequently spend a night or two in the other, as the conservancy and the reserve complement each other very well.
The camp is a wonderful combination of raw bush and luxurious home comforts. Incorporating stone and wood, it has more permanent structures than most of its neighbours, yet the camp is unfenced, and the lounge – a large, stone-built building – and guest tents look out across a broad plain. The grass in part of this area, closest to the lounge deck, is kept short, giving guests a safe garden area for outdoor meals.
There are seven identical standard tents and one very large family tent. With solid plinths under the tents, stone walling in the open-air bathrooms and extensive use of decking, wooden pillars and makuti roof tiles, Naboisho Camp has something of the feeling of a contemporary country house, a mood accentuated by the stylish furnishings, including a pair of softly cushioned wicker chairs and a daybed in the vestibule at the front of each tent.
The open-air bathrooms behind the tents are spectacular: double rainfall showers, supplied with hot water when required, cascade onto wooden decking in very large stone-built areas, decorated with potted palms and kerosene lanterns.
Once you’re inside any of the tents you are in very stylish and comfortable surroundings, but between the tents, you are essentially in the middle of the savanna, and after dark you’ll be escorted every step of the way by a spear-wielding Maasai warrior.
Generator power allows charging of batteries at any time – in the dining/lounge area. The generator is usually on for four or five hours per day, and the inverter and battery system provides 24-hour electricity throughout the camp.
Although physically Naboisho is an impressive camp, its raison d’être. like that of nearly all the Mara’s camps is game viewing, to which its location and environment are supremely conducive. Most of the vegetation in the immediate vicinity of the camp has been left as wild as possible: after the rains, tall grass grows close to the tents and natural thorn-bush scrub provides both shade and a habitat for birds (the very rare Karamoja apalis has recently been spotted) and countless small – and sometimes larger – animals. We particularly enjoyed watching tiny bushbabies hurtling through the trees as they returned to their roosts at dawn after a night’s foraging.
An expert local Maasai guide and spotter accompany every drive or walk from Naboisho Camp. Game walks are a stand-out feature (the manager, when we last visited in February 2012, was a top South African guide) and the game encounters close to camp can be vivid and impressive, though because of predator action the immediate environs of the camp are usually explored in a vehicle. One morning we drove off with a guide and spotter at first light to investigate the unearthly din we had heard before dawn. No more than 300 metres from the lawn we found a pulverised area of tall grass, and the tell-tale trails of an impala kill. Driving seemingly by instinct or sixth sense, our guide performed various loops and figure-eights through the dense bush and then pointed straight ahead: two young male lions were skulking in the grass, too tired, disconsolate (and blooded) to move. Our hosts had it figured out in seconds: hyenas had stolen the lions’ kill and the lions had fought back – and lost.
To the south and west of the camp there are some stunning walking areas, including wide open, short-grass plains and some deeply carved canyons and viewpoints. You may, however, come across Maasai herding their cattle in areas they have agreed to avoid in exchange for receiving conservancy payments. Since 2012, the grazing plan in the conservancy has settled down, with grazing allowed in times of need. During the tourist high season, however, grazing is no permitted inside the conservancy.
Another option is to visit a local village, a non-commercial experience with no selling or anything like that. The cost, an additional US$20, is payable to the camp, who hand it to the community liaison officer for fair distribution.
Our viewVery well run and smoothly hosted by an experienced South African couple, Naboisho Camp is hard to fault. Standards of service and food are both excellent and the comfort and sense of space extend throughout the camp. While the generously spread tents are capacious and smart they have retained a ‘bush’ feel with outdoor bucket showers. The guiding is superb, and the wildlife experience first-rate. Most of all, while the camp is a substantial and permanent set-up, its impact on the local environment feels relatively low and guests can expect exciting wildlife action on their doorstep.
Ideal length of stay: Three nights minimum, allowing two full days to explore Naboisho Conservancy. With four or five nights at the camp, however, you could take a full-day game drive to the Maasai Mara National Reserve (extra fees).
Directions: The nearest airstrip is Naboisho, a 40-minute drive from camp.
Staff: Roelof and Helen Schutte – managers and guides with bags of experience in the safaris.
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: The food at Naboisho Camp is some of the best in the Mara. We could have done with even more activities to work off each delicious meal – everything homemade, naturally. Dining is group, by default, but guests are welcome to request private dining or individual tables for special occasions.
Breakfast is often a picnic: fruit salad, breakfast pastry and muffins, with tea and coffee from the thermos. Alternatively, have early tea or coffee, which comes with biscuits or muffins, and then come back for brunch.
Mid-morning brunch is a very welcome meal after an early-morning drive or walk, all served on the lawn in front of the lounge deck. We enjoyed a bacon and tomato tart, homemade chocolate muffins, fruit salad, cereals and yoghurt. We didn’t have room for more than a sampler of the cooked breakfast sizzling on the barbecue.
Naboisho Camp is a reminder of how much travel can broaden the waistline as well as the mind. By shortly after 3.00pm, the staff were setting up for afternoon tea, accompanied by shortbread and chocolate brownies.
Dinner is always three courses with a choice for each, and usually served communally. Typical first courses are homemade soup, avocado mousse, mushroom pancake with white sauce or a herby salad. Main courses might be battered fish with citrus sauce, rice and steamed vegetables, or an unusual couscous with pork steak and Moroccan spices. They do great puds here: the thick chocolate mousse was heavenly.
Dining style: Group Meals
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included
Drinks included: All available drinks are currently included but the camp plans to add some cellar wines and specially imported spirits, which will cost extra.
Walking safaris: Manager Roelof Schutte holds a large-calibre gun licence, enabling him to accompany guests on bush walks in this part of the Naboisho Conservancy. These go into some areas where dangerous wildlife may be encountered.See more ideas for Walking safaris in Kenya
Attitude towards children: Naboisho is happy to take children of six and above.
Property’s age restrictions: Minimum age 6 (16 for walks)
Special activities & services: Short walks on the open plains, where there is very good visibility, can be done with younger children. Archery lessons with traditional bows and arrows are run by Maasai staff from the camp. Babysitters are available, but only from housekeeping: there are no trained childcare specialists.
Generally recommended for children: The camp has a superb family tent so we would say, with some thought, yes, for children aged 6+.
Notes: The camp is in a wild area, so parental supervision is essential at all times.
Power supply: Generator
Communications: There is no WiFi and cellphone coverage in this part of Mara Naboisho Conservancy tends to be poor. The Airtel network has the best coverage in camp.
TV & radio: No
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: There are several first aiders on site, who do refresher courses every year. There’s a first-aid kit in every vehicle and one in the main camp. The camp has links to the flying doctor service and they also have an emergency drill in place. The nearest doctor is in Talek, a 45-minute drive away.
Dangerous animals: High Risk
Security measures: There are askaris for escort and security duties.
Fire safety: A fire safety procedure is in place with an assembly point. There are fire extinguishers in every tent, and in the main areas. There is also a fire break around the camp.
Disabled access: Not Possible
Laundry facilities: Laundry, hand washed and line dried, is included in the rate. No female underwear can be taken, but soap powder is provided in the rooms.
Money: Valuables should be given to the managers for keeping in the office safe; there are no safes or lock-up boxes in the guest tents. No foreign exchange service is offered.
Accepted payment on location: Cash payments may be made in US dollars, euros, pounds sterling or Kenyan shillings. Visa and MasterCard are acceptable, with a 4% surcharge.