Hemingways Ol Seki Mara has one of the most striking locations in the Maasai Mara region.
Hemingways Ol Seki Mara: Our full report
A designer tented lodge in a stunning location, Ol Seki perches at the end of a ridge in the Naboisho Conservancy, northeast of the Maasai Mara National Reserve. Built in 2005, it was bought in 2011 by the Hemingways hotel group.
On an arrow-shaped bluff pointing south, with a 270-degree panorama, Ol Seki, named after the sandpaper tree – symbolising peace and harmony in Maasai culture – offers mind-cleansing views and spectacular sunrises and sunsets.
The innovative architecture at Ol Seki echoes the panoramic views, with the spacious, breezy, wood-floored dining and lounge tents, furnished with big, soft, comfy armchair and sofas, following the same expansive, bird’s eye theme, accentuated by a vintage telescope.
Ol Seki’s environmental credentials, are indicated by its silver award from Eco-Tourism Kenya a few years ago. Our relatively short inspection did not demonstrate a huge raft of environmental policies, but we understand grey water is separated and used in the vegetable and herb gardens, and environmentally sound soaps and toiletries are used exclusively in the bathrooms. We would like to have seen more use of solar energy.
The ten unusual tents at Ol Seki (six standard tents and two family tents consisting of two tents each) are 12-sided, with huge fly sheets protecting the canvas tent bodies and polished wood decking laid with chunky rugs and rush mats. The design gives an exotic and graceful appearance, accentuated by their spaciousness and attractive furnishings – gathered drapes hanging in front of the mosquito screen ‘windows’ and pale covers over the large and comfortable beds. The bathrooms are a little bit on the small side, with a single basin and a shelf of designer toiletries, though the shower areas are reasonably spacious.
The six standard (dubbed ‘luxury’) tents are named ‘Nina’, after the architect’s daughter. Ol Seki’s suite tents are ‘Chui’ and ‘Simba’ and are each an arrangement of two luxury tents, surrounded, like all the tents, by extensive decking, and joined by a wooden catwalk. A room steward is assigned to each suite. Using the kitchen area in the suite, he serves drinks, finishes the cooking of guests’ meals and waits on them for as long as required. We don’t believe this arrangement will necessarily be a huge inducement for many of our guests but it’s certainly convenient if you want to be self-contained and very private.
The most important activities at Ol Seki are the morning and evening game drives in Naboisho Conservancy, the new community-linked conservancy that is shared by just five, small camps and harbours large numbers of big cats, elephants, giraffe and other wildlife. We didn’t have the opportunity to go out with Ol Seki’s driver/guides, but we have the impression that they are conscientious, well-trained spotters, knowledgeable about the species you will encounter and dedicated to safeguarding their local eco-system. If you want to go into the Maasai Mara National Reserve, Ol Seki will organise a full-day game drive, with picnic breakfast and lunch. Their vehicles are solid-roofed Land Cruisers with roof hatches and roll-up sides.
In common with all properties in the Mara, early-morning balloon safaris can be booked. These last approximately one hour, followed by a bush breakfast with sparkling wine and then a game drive, arriving back at camp around mid-morning. There are several launch areas and you can expect to be woken as early as 4.00am.
Back in camp, there is a trained masseuse who does massages in guests’ tents.
Our viewThe name Ol Seki – ‘sandpaper tree’ – says it all: this is a peaceful retreat where the stresses of a busy life can be smoothed away by a combination of the inspiring location and good service, and where you have a chance to connect with a more grounded, elemental environment. We have only visited the camp, we haven’t had a chance to stay at Ol Seki yet, but we’re looking forward to the day.
Ideal length of stay: 3 nights
Directions: The Ol Seki-Naboisho airstrip is just a few minutes drive away.
Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: Ol Seki focuses on international cuisine, with local Kenyan meals an option if requested. We didn’t stay (or eat) at Ol Seki, but it has a good reputation for its food.
Breakfast, often after a long early-morning game drive, is served at around 9.00am.
Lunch, about 1.00pm, is normally a three-course buffet.
Tea and cakes are at about 4.00pm before the evening game drive.
Dinner is the most lavish meal of the day, and is served to the table.
Dining style: Group Meals
Dining locations: Indoor Dining
Drinks included: With the exception of premium wines and spirits, all drinks are included.
Further dining info: Yes. The Chui and Simba tents have their own kitchen areas where staff finish the cooking and presentation of their meals for those guests, before serving them privately.
Attitude towards children: Ol Seki recommends the camp only for three years and above.
Property’s age restrictions: None
Special activities & services: None
Equipment: Not yet, but Hemingways plan to provide cots and highchairs.
Generally recommended for children: Not really; Ol Seki is quite a sophisticated, adult sort of camp, and there’s nowhere for children to let off steam.
Notes: The many drop-offs and fall points would be a problem for very young children, who would need 24-hour supervision.
Communications: WiFi reaches most tents. Cellphone coverage, especially Safaricom, is usually good.
TV & radio: None
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: All driver/guides have had first-aid training. There’s a doctor at Nkoilale and a district hospital at Sekenani (national reserve gate), both about an hour’s drive from camp.
Dangerous animals: High Risk
Security measures: There are askaris on duty day and night.
Fire safety: Each tent has a fire extinguisher and there are fire drills for staff and any guests present.
Disabled access: Not Possible
Laundry facilities: Included, except for ladies’ underwear, but soap powder is provided. Items are collected in the morning, handwashed, and usually returned in the evening.
Money: There is no currency exchange.
Accepted payment on location: Cash payments may be made in US dollars, euros, pounds sterling or Kenyan shillings. Visa and MasterCard are accepted.