In a beautiful area in the northern Serengeti…
Sayari Mara Camp: Our full report
Sayari Mara is a luxurious permanent lodge 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. This part of the Serengeti is also a great place to witness the great migration: it’s within the Serengeti National Park and as remote as possible from any population centers. Here you can still see the migration with few other vehicles or visitors around you.
Sayari is in the Serengeti’s famous 'Lamai Wedge', an area of the Serengeti National Park where the 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 Mara can make a wonderful base from which to watch the great wildebeest migration between about July and November.
On our team member’s previous visits during these months, herds of wildebeest and zebra surrounded the camp, grazing quietly on their way to and from the river. The game-viewing was spectacular, and we'd see only a few other vehicles each day – usually beside the river waiting for animals to cross; it was easy to spend hours driving whilst seeing nobody else.
During the two days that we spent at Sayari Mara most recently, in 2011, 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!
Sayari is effectively split into two different wings - with six tents in the smaller wing on the right of the pool, and nine on the left. Despite having 15 tents in total, the separation helps to retain that “small camp" feel. Each wing has its own dining area, but the main pool and lounge area are shared, and located beside the larger wing.
The main area on the ‘right wing’ is one large canvas structure raised on a wooden base, with glass windows to help keep out the winds and shiny wooden floor. You’ll use this room, either to relax with a coffee-table book in the lounge-section on one of the many blue armchairs or sofas, or to eat your meals. The dining table at the opposite end of the room is set out each night for all the guests to eat together. The lounge was looking slightly tired on our last visit in October 2011, however, really this only served to make it feel more homely and lived in.
There are two central areas at Sayari’s ‘left wing’ – the dining tent and the lounge tent. On our last visit they had a temporary canvas lounge area, but we understand that they have since replaced this with a more permanent canvas and glass structure. Although we haven’t seen this, it looks stylish and comfortable from the pictures. The dining in the left wing is again, communal, and there’s a friendly dinner party atmosphere each night.
The fire pit is also central, shared between the wings. Guests gather here for drinks before and after dinner, and to catch up on the day's events.
The swimming pool - located between the ‘little’ and ‘main’ camp. It’s impressively built into the rocks, with lovely views, and a number of sturdy sunloungers and funky circular chairs to relax in. There is also a small curios shop next to the main office which has WiFi for guests to use.
Although stylish, the whole camp a very relaxed feel. If you’ve got a spare half hour then there is a lovely photo album documenting the various stages of erecting and dismantling Sayari which is quite fascinating.
The 15 tents at Sayari Mara 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 in the canvas and polished wooden floors. The rooms are somewhat minimalistic in style, but well equipped - there’s a solid bamboo luggage rack, a small writing desk, a comfortable bed and two contemporary glass and wood bedside tables.
Through a sliding door, each tent’s en-suite bathroom is just as impressive - the focal point of which is a large free-standing bath. Opening the sliding doors in front of the bath reveals beautiful views of the bush beyond the deck. Two intriguing hollowed-out rocks serve as sinks, standing on a wooden base with mirrors above and with a selection of complimentary toiletries. The huge, hot ‘rain’ shower and toilet each have separate cubicles.
Perhaps our favorite best part about the rooms is outside: the vast decking, where you can lie in the day-bed or sit on the director’s chair to simply watch the bush.
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 will be continuing with their private vehicle and guide. In that case, your drives will usually be in your own pop-topped vehicle, and will be with your own private guide. However, most travellers will fly here, in which case the drives will usually be in open-sided and open-topped safari vehicles, and will be guided together with other visitors by one of the guides from the lodge.
Because this remote part of the Serengeti National Park currently has relatively few camps and visitors, off-road driving is allowed in this area – in contrast to the park’s busier areas further south.
Short walking safaris may also possible from camp – led by the camp’s own team of guides; again is a very rare option within the Serengeti National Park itself. (Note if walks are possible, then at time of writing in 2012, there’s an extra charge of US$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 with few other vehicles or visitors around. Our only negative comment is that the sheer luxury of the latest incarnation of Sayari Camp does mean that it’s lost some of the ‘wilderness feel’ which it did used to have, and that its sister-camps still enjoy.
What’s perhaps not so well understood is that Sayari is a great safari camp even when the migration is not here; its resident game is good and there are even less other people around.
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 the slightly less luxurious sister camps, Olakira and Dunia.
Directions: The camp is 9km 4WD drive from the airstrip.
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: Breakfast at Sayari Mara 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 etc, followed by a cooked breakfast – scrambled eggs, sausages, bacon, toast….all washed down with fresh fruit juices, tea or coffee.
Lunch is a very relaxed buffet. The last time we were there, we had the choice of ham, salads, quiche and bread. This was simple, fresh and well presented.
Dinner is a three course meal and again very relaxed. After a drink around the campfire, we sat down all together and were served a papaya salad as our starter. Our main course was a Thai chicken salad… accompanied by salads and vegetables. Again, it was simple but very tasty and all very fresh. For desert we had an extremely rich chocolate mousse!
At each meal, there was always a vegetarian option and plenty of food for everyone. As people choose their own timetable, with their own driver/guide, there is a relaxed feel at meal times and clients eat pretty much at their leisure for breakfast and lunch. Dinner is a slightly more formal affair where everyone will eat together.
Dining style: Group Meals
Dining locations: Indoor 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: Sayari sits just south of the Mara River. It is a great base to see the annual wildebeest migration on its way between the Serengeti and the Maasai Mara around the months of August to November. During the rest of the year, there is good permanent game here too.See more ideas for Wildlife safaris in Tanzania
Attitude towards children: Children who come for the wildlife viewing are welcome at Sayari, as long as they are aged 6 or over.
Equipment: Sayari doesn't have any cots or high chairs.
Generally recommended for children: Sayari Mara would be a lovely camp for mature children, and the pool is a real bonus during the hot months. They would have to be aware of the remote location and the high risk of wild animals. 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 next to the office.
TV & radio: None.
Health & safety
Malarial area: Yes
Medical care: Sayari Mara has links to the Flying Doctors. Some of the staff are first aid trained and they have a first aid box on site.
Dangerous animals: High Risk
Security measures: There are 'askaris' (who act as watchmen, escorts and guards) during the night who will escort you to and from your tent at night. 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. Some of the staff are trained to use the extinguishers.
Disabled access: On Request
Laundry facilities: Laundry is included at Sayari. Clothes are sun-dried, so getting it back is weather dependant.
Money: There are electronic safes in each room.