Located near the Mara River in the northern Serengeti is the luxurious Sayari Camp.
Sayari Camp: Our full report
Sayari Camp (formerly known as Sayari Mara Camp) is a luxurious permanent camp situated in the far north of the Serengeti National Park. The undulating bush around is bisected by the Mara River and home to permanent game all year round. This part of the Serengeti is also a great place to witness the great migration: it’s within the Serengeti National Park and is as remote as possible from any populated areas.
Sayari is in an area of the Serengeti National Park where the rocky hills and rolling plains make the scenery more interesting and undulating than most of this (often quite flat) park. Dividing this area, the Mara River is fairly wide, shallow and fast-flowing. It is the Serengeti’s only permanent river and is home to many crocodiles and hippos.
There is a good population of permanent game in this area, drawn by the river and the variety of vegetation around it, and Sayari Camp can make a wonderful base from which to watch the great wildebeest migration between about July and October.
On our recent visit to Sayari (July 2013), we saw herds of wildebeest and zebra congregating along the riverbank waiting for the first individual to pluck up the courage to cross the river. However we learnt that these famous 'crossings' aren't so easy to chance upon. Despite spending hours beside the Mara River, in the company of several different large herds, we still didn't see any wildebeest or zebra actually cross the river! We also found out that this area is no longer as quiet as we experienced a few years ago, and during one attempted “crossing" came across a queue of at least 15 vehicles lined up along the river bank.
Sayari Camp is split into two different wings - with six tents in the smaller camp, to the right of the swimming pool, and nine in the bigger camp to the left. Despite having 15 tents in total, the separation helps to retain that “small camp" feel. Each wing has its own lounge and dining area, with a central swimming pool connecting the two.
The main lounge area of the big camp is a large “L-shaped" structure raised on a wooden deck, with a large central outdoor deck. It has canvas walls and highly polished wooden floors, which are dotted with different seating areas. Glass folding doors open up completely, or close depending on the weather. The décor is very modern and contemporary with bright colours and modern African woven baskets, carved wooden artifacts and modern light fittings. In one arm of the “L shape" is a comfortable seating area with sofas covered in pastel pink and green cushions and a large rustic wooden table with a few nature books and magazines to browse through. In the other arm is another smaller seating area and a large wooden bar at the far end with bar stools. This is a great spot for guests to meet up for a drink and chat before dinner.
A few metres away from the lounge area is the dining area - a smaller version of the larger lounge area, also raised up on a wooden deck. This is where breakfast and lunch are normally served, and some evenings for dinner. On our recent visit to Sayari we had dinner outside under the stars on our first evening, and on the second evening in the dining area. Breakfast and lunch are taken at individual tables, however dinner is communal, allowing guests to chat over the days exciting events.
The small camp at Sayari has its own small lounge/dining room, similar in style to the larger one in the left wing.
The swimming pool separating the two camps is impressively built into the rocks, with lovely views. It has a number of sturdy sunloungers, umbrellas and funky circular chairs to relax in. There is also a small curio shop beside the main office.
The 15 tents at Sayari are all the same, with the exception of one ‘honeymoon tent’ which is larger with a secluded outdoor bath. We felt that they were relatively close together, but given that fact, they had all been oriented well to retain privacy. Inside, they’re incredibly spacious and certainly stylish, with sliding glass doors, canvas walls and polished wooden floors. The rooms are somewhat minimalistic in style, lending a slightly Japanese feel to the style. Each tent is well equipped - there’s a solid bamboo luggage rack at the foot of each bed, a small writing desk, comfortable double or twin beds and two contemporary glass and wood bedside tables.
Behind a sliding canvas panel is a cupboard with a hanging rail and shelves for storing clothes. Here you will also find a couple of white toweling bathrobes, an electronic safe and a selection of room and body insect sprays. Beside this another sliding panel reveals a full length mirror.
Another sliding panel leads through to the impressive en-suite bathroom - the focal point of which is a large free-standing modern bath. Sliding glass doors in front of the bath reveals beautiful views of the bush beyond the outdoor deck. Two intriguing hollowed-out rocks serve as basins, standing on a wooden base with mirrors above and with a selection of complimentary toiletries. The huge, hot ‘rain’ shower and toilet are located in separate cubicles.
Perhaps our favorite part about the rooms is outside: the vast deck, where you can lie on the shaded day-bed or sit on the director’s chair to simply watch the bush beyond.
Activities here centre on 4WD game drives. These focus on either the resident game or, when the migration is passing through, the predator interactions with the herds and the river crossings.
A few travellers will have been driven here, and so will be continuing with their private vehicle and guide. In that case, your drives will usually be in your own enclosed 4WD vehicle, and will be with your own private guide. However, most travellers will fly here, in which case their drives will usually be in open-sided safari vehicles, guided together with other guests by one of the guides based at the camp.
Short walking safaris are also possible from camp – led by the camp’s own team of guides; this is a very rare option availabily within the Serengeti National Park itself. At the time of writing (October 2013) these cost U$50 per person.
Our ViewOur consistent experience has been that Sayari is a very well run camp, with high levels of service and great food. Its biggest draw is its location: perfect for seeing the migration. Our only negative comment is that the sheer luxury of Sayari Camp does mean that it’s lost some of its original ‘wilderness feel’ which it used to have, and that its sister-camps still enjoy. We have also noticed more recently that this northern stretch of the Serengeti National Park is no longer as remote and quiet as it used to be. There are far more camps now in this area, which means there are quite a few more vehicles here – especially during the migration months. Having said this, what isn’t as well known is that Sayari is a great safari camp when the migration is not here; its resident game is good and there are less people and vehicles in the area.
Ideal length of stay: Three nights is typical, although during the wildebeest migration, four would be fine. Sayari Mara is often combined into trips with it’s more rustic sister camps, Olakira camp, Ubuntu and the newly opened Olakira Lamai Camp. It also combines very well with its sister camp in the central Serengeti Dunia camp.
Directions: The camp is 9km (15 minute) drive from Kogatende airstrip.
Owner: Asilia Africa
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: Breakfast at Sayari Camp can be eaten before or after a morning game drive depending on your schedule for the day. You can choose from a cold buffet – fresh fruit, cereals, yoghurts, fresh muffins and freshly baked bread, followed by a cooked breakfast –eggs to order, sausages, bacon, toast along with a selection of fruit juices and tea and coffee.
Lunch is a very relaxed affair. On our most recent visit we had pork chops served with a selection of salads (carrot and beetroot salad, curried egg and potato salad and a green salad) served with homemade pumpkin chutney. This was followed by a fresh fruit served with a vanilla sauce.
Dinner is a three course meal and again very relaxed. After a drink at the bar, or around the fire, we all sat at one long communal table and were served a starter of avocado and asparagus. The main course was lamb served with spinach and cheese fritters, polenta and carrots. It was all very tasty. Desert was a lime mousse topped with a fresh raspberry!
At each meal, there was always a vegetarian option and there was plenty of food for everyone. As some guests are following their own timetable, with their own driver/guide, there is a relaxed feel at breakfast and lunch. Dinner is a slightly more formal affair where everyone eats together.
Dining style: Mixture of group dining and individual tables
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included
Drinks included: Most drinks are included at Sayari, except for champagne and premium wines and spirits.
Wildlife safaris:See more ideas for Wildlife safaris in Tanzania
Attitude towards children: Children over the age of 5 are welcome at Sayari.
Property’s age restrictions: Children must be 6 years or older to stay at Sayari.
Special activities & services: There are no special childrens activities at Sayari.
Equipment: Sayari doesn't have any cots or high chairs.
Generally recommended for children: Sayari would be a lovely camp for mature children from 12 years old, and the pool is a real bonus during the hot months.
Notes: Parents would need to be aware of Sayari’s remote location and the high risk of wild animals, which wander through camp day and night. It is also a peaceful camp, so they would have to be old enough to respect this.
Power supply: Generator
Communications: There is limited cell reception at Sayari, and WiFi is available in the lounge.
TV & radio: None.
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: Sayari Mara has links to the Flying Doctors service. Some of the staff are first aid trained and they have a first aid box on site. The nearest hospital is in Arusha which is an hour and a half by air.
Dangerous animals: High Risk
Security measures: There are 'askaris' (local watchmen) on duty during the night. They will escort you to and from your tent after dark. There is also an armed ranger on duty at night.
Fire safety: There is a fire break around Sayari and there are fire extinguishers in the rooms and the main areas. Some of the staff are trained to use the extinguishers.
Disabled access: On Request
Laundry facilities: Laundry is included at Sayari. It is hand washed by local staff so, for cultural reasons, underwear is not accepted. Soap is provided in the bathrooms for this.
Money: There are electronic safes in each room.
Accepted payment on location: Sayari Mara accept US Dollars, English Pounds, Euros and Tanzanian Shillings, as well as Visa, Mastercard and Amex with a 6% surcharge.