Kicheche Mara: Our full report
Kicheche Mara is a relatively small, well-designed and very well run bushcamp in Acacia Valley, stretched ...... out above the Olare Orok stream in Mara North Conservancy. It has just nine tents, with a real bush feel and no fence separating it from the surrounding wildlife.
Kicheche Mara Camp is one of three Kicheche camps in the Maasai Mara ecosytem, the others being Kicheche Bush Camp and Kicheche Valley Camp and it enjoys the same relaxed, intimate feel and good quality as the others.
The nine well-spaced tents at Kicheche Mara have views into the surrounding woodland and feel very peaceful; each named after the Swahili name for safari animals, i.e. ‘Chui’ (leopard) or ‘Simba’ (lion). Inside they're well equipped with a rustic design. Chunky wooden bedframes hold a comfortable mattress strewn with charcoal-coloured throws, and woven mats cover the majority of the canvas floor. There are some small shelves for your clothes, a two-way radio and whistle for attracting attention if need be, and – on the veranda at the front of the tent – some comfortable directors' chairs to sit and watch for passing game. When we were last there we watched a small herd of impala passing by, and vervet monkeys and baboons playing in the trees.
The en-suite bathroom is at the back of the tent, separated by a canvas flap. Like the bedroom, it's simple and unfussy, with a flush loo and plumbed-in hot shower. Although the basins have running water, it comes from a borehole and can be slightly salty for brushing teeth, so a recycle glass bottle with filtered water is provided – as are toiletries such as cotton buds and cotton wool.
Four of the tents are set up as triples and quads and there is one special family unit consisting of two bedrooms which are interconnected by a central lounge area. With plenty of space and several larger tents this makes Kicheche Mara one of the better Kicheche camps for families and groups of friends traveling together. It's worth asking for a tent closer to the central areas if a walk of several minutes each way wouldn't suit you: the camp will always try to oblige. The tents haven't changed much since the camps inception so, to some, their traditional style may feel a little dated. The camp is in the process of upgrading the tents one by one, this is a gradual process however over time the whole camp will have had a bit of a facelift.
The same laidback design has been applied to Kicheche Mara's communal areas, two simple canvas structures that are generally left open when the weather is fine to enjoy the views to the plains beyond. There are some comfortable chairs with colourful cushions to sit and read the coffee-table books, and a small shop. At lunchtime, meals are often served outside, but in the evenings, when its cooler, dinner is usually taken in the dining tent around one long table.
Kicheche Mara has a Gold Level Eco-rating Certificate from Ecotourism Kenya, making it one of only a dozen camps and lodges in the whole country to have achieved this endorsement of its responsible resource use, conservation of the environment and investment in the local community. When visiting in 2019 we were told that the camp had just won the Eco-warrior award for sustainability. Kicheche Mara plans to introduce a fully electric vehicle in 2020, making it one of the only camps in the greater Mara ecosystem to do so.
Activities at Kicheche Mara generally focus on full or half-day game drives in the surrounding wildlife areas, usually with no more than four guests per vehicle (in common with all the Kicheche camps in the Mara, the vehicles at the camp are four-seaters, but there is also a six-seater for larger groups). All the vehicles are fully open, with roll-back covers, rather than having solid sides and roofs. Most guests will have the same driver-guide throughout their stay. All the guides at Kicheche Mara are either silver KPSGA-qualified or studying for their silver level.
To make the most of your time, head out with a picnic breakfast or lunch (or both!). As Kicheche Mara is in the Mara North Conservancy outside the Maasai Mara National Reserve, game drives will predominantly focus within this area. The Mara North Conservancy, which covers 300km², has just 12 camps, and MNC rules mean that no more than five vehicles are ever allowed at one animal sighting. Day trips into the main Mara reserve can be arranged at an extra cost of $80 per person, when the wildebeest migration is in the area this can be a popular option. To visit the Maasai Mara National Reserve you may need to hire a private vehicle for the day.
The area is superb for big cats, with lions and both spotted cats breeding near to camp, regular sightings of cubs and close encounters with lion prides and leopard and cheetah families.
Also available are game walks, out of camp and back to camp, which can be arranged for those aged 12 and over. Guests are taken out in groups of up to six, with a guide and an armed escort carrying a light weapon (an AK47). The armed ranger is, however, always the same escort – and his shooting ability was tested a few years ago when a buffalo came into camp and had to be dispatched.
For something a little different, there are a couple of further options at additional cost. These include a trip to a Maasai village (US$30 per person). Guests can visit some of the community projects which the camp is helping with, such as the local school, and if you happen to be there on a Thursday morning, the Aitong local market will give you an insight into daily life in the area. 3
The Rhino Sanctuary in Olchoro Oiroua is also of interest, and can easily be incorporated as part of a game drive (US$5 per person). However, its only rhino inhabitants are two, semi-tame white rhinos.
Everything about Kicheche Mara feels very authentic. It is unfussy, low-key and rustic with good-quality fittings and finishings. That said, it is a bushcamp, so without compromising on comfort, it will suit those who prefer simple camps. The camp's location in Mara North means that you can enjoy the game of the quieter, less-crowded conservancy, whilst still having access to the renowned wildlife viewing in the national reserve itself.
- Maasai Mara Conservancies, Kenya
- Ideal length of stay
- 3 - 4 nights
- The nearest airstrip is Mara North, which in good weather is about 30 minutes’ game drive from Kicheche Mara. It will take longer if there has been rain.
- Accessible by
Food & drink
- Usual board basis
- Full Board & Activities
- Food quality
- The food we enjoyed at Kicheche Mara was generally good, and you could tell that some thought had gone into the flavours. Salad and some vegetable items are sourced from their own vegetable garden. The chefs are more than happy to incorporate guests' requirements into their cooking, as well as let guests get involved in the kitchen if they wish!
Breakfast is often taken as a picnic and will generally involve boiled eggs, fruit, bacon sandwiches, tea, coffee and fruit juice. In camp you can expect a similar selection, with cereals as well as fruit, juices, tea and coffee, followed by a cooked breakfast to order.
Similarly, lunch will often be taken out with you, particularly if you're spending the full day in the national reserve. If you're in camp it will generally be a light buffet lunch. On our visit in 2019 we enjoyed a light lunch of a selection of salads, chutneys and Kenyan cheeses along with homemade pizzas. Desert was a fruit strudel.
Dinner was a slightly more formal affair. During our most recent stay, the chefs had prepared a special menu based on traditional cooking from their different upbringings across Kenya. The carefully prepared dishes were varied and flavorsome, and quite different from the more classic safari meals. On a previous visit, we enjoyed some of the camp's more typical offerings: filo pastry with goat's cheese and a balsamic dressing, grilled tilapia with a lemon dressing and flambéed pancake.
- Dining style
- Group Meals
- Dining locations
- Indoor and Outdoor Dining
- Further dining info, including room service
- Kicheche Mara can offer dining in tents on request, but this needs to be organized in advance.
- Drinks included
- Most drinks stocked by Kicheche Mara are included in their rates, the exception is premium wines, spirits and champagnes which are best ordered in advance.
- Solo Travel
- With a comparatively low single supplement, group dining and a sociable atmosphere, Kicheche Mara works well for solo travelers to Kenya. Enjoy a real bush feel and benefit from activities like superb game drives or walking safaris offered here.
- See ideas for Solo Travel
- Attitude towards children
- Kicheche Mara is unfenced and quite wild so the camp would prefer that children are over the age of 11. Walks are restricted to those aged 12 and over only.
- Property’s age restrictions
- Special activities & services
- The Maasai guides have guided daytime activities for children, including: tracking animal footprints around camp, creating plaster casts and identifying bones; catching, releasing and identifying butterflies and other insects; starting a fire without lighter or matches; and making bows and arrows, learning how to throw a spear and also beading with the local Maasai ladies.
- There is no special equipment, but the triple and quadruple tents are great for families.
- Generally recommended for children
- Kicheche Mara has a welcoming feel to it, and the family tents mean that family accommodation is catered for.
- The camp is very open and unfenced so children need to be under parental supervision at all times.
Our travellers’ wildlife sightings from Kicheche Mara
Since mid-2018, many of our travellers who stayed at Kicheche Mara have kindly recorded their wildlife sightings and shared them with us. The results are below. Click an animal to see more, and here to see more on our methodology.
- Power supply notes
- There are charging sockets in the tents, dining and lounge area and in the vehicles. There is 24-hour electric lighting in the tents. The camp makes its own charcoal briquettes from char dust mixed with cow dung. No wood is collected from the conservancy.
- There is WiFi in the lounge which is free to use.
- TV & radio
- Water supply
- Water supply notes
- The tents have plumbed in showers, flush toilets and running cold water. Drinking water is supplied in bulk from Nairobi. Bottled water is also available.
Health & safety
- Malarial protection recommended
- Medical care
- There are first-aid kits in the camp and in the vehicles, and five members of staff are trained first aiders.
A local clinic sponsored by the camp is 14km away (about 30 minutes’ drive) and the camp has links with the flying doctors.
- Dangerous animals
- High Risk
- Security measures
- Askaris escort guests to and from their tents at night.
- Fire safety
- There are fire extinguishers in each tent.
Guided walking safari
Hot air ballooning
- Disabled access
- Not Possible
- Laundry facilities
- Full laundry service included – but no ladies’ underwear is accepted. Garments are hand-washed, line dried and then coal ironed, so delicate items should not be submitted.
- There is a main central safe in camp to store valuables. If there is sufficient cash in camp, guests may exchange small amounts of money at Kicheche Mara. Alternatively, guests may withdraw money against a credit or debit card, at a 5% surcharge. The shop is priced in Kenyan shillings.
- Accepted payment on location
- Visa, Mastercard and Amex are accepted. There is a 5% surcharge if you’re taking cash out on your card, but not for sales. They will take cash payments in euros, US dollars, GB pounds and Kenyan shillings.
Other lodges in Maasai Mara Conservancies
Alternative places to stay in this same area.