Little Governors' Camp has one of the best settings in the Maasai Mara.
Little Governors Camp: Our full report
On the lip of an old oxbow of the Mara River, now a broad marsh frequented by elephants, Little Governors’ Camp is one of only two places to stay in the Mara Triangle sector of the Maasai Mara National Reserve.
Getting to Little Governors’, there’s some extra excitement (if lions by the airstrip and elephants next to the parking area were not enough) in the dinghy crossing that ferries you, and your luggage, across the 20-metre width of the Mara River, which is narrow at this point, to the lodge on the western side. There’s a short flight of steps on the river bank on each side.
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The camp’s central areas conform very much to the formula of the main Governors’ Camp, with large, canvas-sheltered lounge and dining areas featuring open sides and tiled floors. Bar stools, and the cocktail of the day marked up on a blackboard, lend a convivial atmosphere.
There’s also a useful little shop and a small but rather nice gallery with a range of natural history photography on show.
Tents and atmosphere at Little Governors' CampThe 17 identical tents at Little Governors’ Camp stretch out along the edge of the marsh from close to the main areas to about 250m away (#17, the honeymoon tent of choice). All are the same layout and size – about 3m internal width – as the tents at main Governors’ Camp. The plinth of each tent is laid with polished floorboards, a covering that extends, with the odd rug, through the bedroom area. Like Governors’ Camp, the furnishings are simple – directors’ chairs, a folding veranda table, a luggage rack, a small dressing/writing table – and the furniture gives a more temporary impression than is warranted by the very permanent camp infrastructure, which has been here since the late 1970s.
Bathrooms, too, are similar in every respect to those in Governors’ Camp’s tents – red-tiled and rather dark – though the half-height wooden wall panelling at Little Governors’ has been kept in its original varnish instead of being repainted in cream.
Wood burners are used to provide hot water for the tents, and power sockets in the tents are on at all times.
Like the other camps in the group, there’s a feeling that your comforts are not absolute top of mind – the furnishings, detail and overall finish are not keeping up with camps at a similar price level – but Little Governors’ certainly has the best ‘bush’ atmosphere of the three Governors’ camps: you’re rarely in any doubt that you’re in the African savannah. We had just been served our dessert at dinner in the dining tent when we noticed a commotion outside in the dark. Heads turned and then the unmistakable shape of a bull elephant hoved into view. Waiters swiftly moved over to ask us to pause before tucking into the sticky toffee pudding and then moved our table physically closer to the middle of the floor. All the guests ended up on their feet, protected from the edge of the dining area by a barricade of dining tables. The bull was methodically moving through the area harvesting the camp’s green heart trees for the tasty fruit. He could smell our half-finished dinners, however, and paused for a couple of minutes to give us an appreciative sniff – and possibly pose long enough for a few photos – before ambling off into the dark.
Safari activities at Little Governors' CampYou’ll discuss each day’s activities at Little Governors’ with the manager the evening before. Game drives from Little Governors’ Camp take place in the Musiara sector of the national reserve, on the other side of the river, so you need to cross back on the little ferry and are picked up on the other side (you walk direct from your tent to the ferry steps, which takes between one and five minutes depending on which tent you’re in). Many guests opt for an extended early drive, with a packed breakfast. Guests at Little Governors’ also have the option of late morning game drives using the balloon vehicles in the Mara Triangle sector.
Little Governors’ uses mostly open-sided Land Rovers with two rows of seats in the rear, and the option for one passenger to sit next to the driver-guide. There are more than 40 driver-guides based at the Governors’ camps in the Mara. Each driver is in charge of his own vehicle and is based at a particular camp.
If you’re doing a balloon flight (around $500 per person: book in advance), having one of the biggest launch sites in the Mara on your doorstep (the area is just behind the central area of camp) means that you won’t have to get up at 4am, as some vistors do. You also have a chance to watch the balloons take off one morning, which can be almost as much fun as participating.
Our viewLittle Governors’ is our favourite of the three Governors’ camps. The location is terrific, and every tent has a wonderful view of the marsh. If you’re doing a balloon flight, then staying here makes it very easy. Most first-time safari-goers adore this camp; many come back year after year; and lots of guests wouldn’t change a thing. If you like the idea of a streamlined and dependable set-up, and want a camp that is smaller than the main Governors’, then take a good look at this one.
Ideal length of stay: Three or four nights
Directions: From Musiara airstrip, it’s a 15-minute transfer, finishing with a passenger dinghy across the Mara River.
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: Guests often go out for a long morning game drive, or take a balloon flight – which both include a bush breakfast – so the opportunity to enjoy a big breakfast in camp doesn’t always arise. But if you are here for breakfast, then a cooked breakfast to order, and plenty of choice from fruit, cereals, pastries and bread is always available.
The buffet lunch at Little Governors’ would usually include choices from dishes such as pumpkin and rosemary soup, sesame naan bread, salads, moussaka, and Thai noodles, with peach sorbet, cashew and pineapple pudding and cheese to follow.
For dinner there’s a Mongolian barbecue once a week, or a choice of meat or fish, with at least one vegetarian option, such as roasted pumpkin quiche, with a choice of puds and a Kenyan cheese board to follow.
Dining style: Individual Tables
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included
Drinks included: Drinks cost extra. A glass of house wine or a Kenyan beer cost around US$5.
Attitude towards children: No policy
Property’s age restrictions: None
Special activities & services: No
Equipment: Cots and highchairs are available
Generally recommended for children: No: like Governors’ Il Moran, this is quite a grown-up camp, frequently chosen by honeymooners and couples celebrating anniversaries. Children won’t be turned away, but it’s not ideal for them, and noisy behaviour is likely to be frowned upon. If you want to a family-friendly safari camp, the main Governors’ Camp is much better suited.
Notes: There is big game around camp at Little Governors’, and so any children will need to be under the constant supervision of their parents.
Power supply: Generator
Communications: There’s WiFi near the central area and shop and cellphone coverage in most of the camp.
TV & radio: None
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: The Il Moran guides are first-aid trained, and each vehicle has a first-aid kit. The nearest doctor is at Governors’ Camp, just five minutes’ drive away. Governors’ Il Moran Camp has links to the Flying Doctor service.
Dangerous animals: High Risk
Security measures: There are numerous askaris on site, escorting guests at all times of the day and night.
Fire safety: There are fire extinguishers around the camp and regular fire drills for staff.
Disabled access: On Request
Laundry facilities: Full Laundry Service - Included
Money: Valuables can be left at the safe in reception. They don't do foreign exchange.
Accepted payment on location: They take credit card payments, including Amex, with no surcharge. They also take most major currencies in cash, but not travellers’ cheques.