Kicheche Valley

Kicheche Valley: Our full report

Rooms
6 identical twin/double tents
Traveller's rating
Excellent (96%) From 9 reviews
Children
Best for more mature children aged 12+
Open
1 Jun to the 8th of April

The newest of three Kicheche camps in the Mara region in Kenya, the upmarket and unfenced Kicheche Valley Camp opened in 2011. The camp is set in a secluded, wooded valley in the eastern part of the Mara Naboisho Conservancy, with tents raised on platforms above the Moliband stream. A spring close to the central dining and lounge area attracts plentiful wildlife.

Unlike Kicheche Bush Camp and Kicheche Mara Camp, Kicheche Valley is a much more permanent structure, with a crazy-paving central area. Solid platforms of timber decking, built atop foundations of rock on the hillside, support the six identical, very spacious guest tents. Octagonal in design, these have huge mosquito-screen ''windows'', and are very comfortably furnished in a mixture of styles. Inside are double or twin beds, a writing table and chair, and a good-sized sofa. One note we found slightly jarring is the pale laminate flooring and pale wood furniture in the tents, which, while practical, this feels oddly suburban and out of keeping with the otherwise generally rustic, mellow tones of the camp. There are no family tents at Kicheche Valley, however triples can be accommodated.

The bathrooms are fitted out hotel-style, with round white ceramic double basins on a pale wooden stand. Hot water is provided on request from a wood burner behind each tent and showers are fully plumbed. At the front, on the deck, a pair of wicker veranda chairs and a small table provide the perfect spot for scanning the trees in the valley, or the savannah beyond.

The camp uses filtered and purified water for guests' drinking water which are provided in large water dispenses in each tent and in the main area – though bottled water is available on request at no charge. 24-hour electricity for charging batteries at wall sockets in the tents is another feature.

Kicheche Valley is a hosted camp, and the staff and management bend over backwards to accommodate the wishes of their guests. Standards of service are as high as they are in the other Kicheche Camps.

The central dining and lounge area consists of a single large tented terrace with comfortable armchairs and sofas, decorated in muted earthy colours, scattered over the crazy paving, and a dining table where guests and hosts eat. Much of the décor around the camp is based around central and West African furniture and artefacts with some more local Swahili touches, but the camp style is overall fairly homely. Overall, it has an earthy, relaxed style.

A small shop sells crafts from communities around Nairobi and this is run by a local masseuse. She also offers various treatments in the small spa which vary between from US$20 to US-$40, which is excellent value.

When it comes to activities, game wildlife drives are top of the list, both day and night, along with game walks with an armed ranger. For guests who spend three nights here during the migration season (roughly defined as July to October inclusive), you may wish to spend a full-day visiting the main Maasai Mara National Reserve to try and catch the wildebeest herds - a popular option. There is an additional charge for this. Like Kicheche Bush and Kicheche Mara camps, Kicheche Valley's vehicles are fully open-sided, four-seater Land Cruisers and there's also one six-seater vehicle for larger groups. The camp tries to offer each party of guests a private vehicle, although this can't be guaranteed if they are full. There's also one six-seater vehicle for larger groups. Guests have a guide assigned to them for the duration of their stay.

On a previous visit to Kicheche Valley in June 2017, we did a short early morning walk out of camp and down into the valley and returned over the hills and back into camp in time for breakfast.

It is also possible to walk from Kicheche Valley to Kicheche Bush Camp and stay overnight at Kicheche Fly Camp. Guests depart Kicheche Valley Camp after lunch, walking about 14km to the fly camp, where the staff will have cooked a meal over the fire. The following day you can then either walk another 14km on to Kicheche Bush Camp, or return back to Kicheche Valley Camp, in time for lunch. This can be an exciting experience, however worth keeping in mind that you will be walking at altitude and a good level of fitness is required.

The acacia woodlands of the Naboisho Conservancy attract high numbers of elephant and giraffe (the biggest population in the Mara eco-system) and the the conservancy's mixture of habitats makes it a paradise for birders. Birdlife around Kicheche Valley is excellent, and if you include the rest of the conservancy, you have a really good chance of seeing species that are rare in the Mara such as bush pipit, northern white-crowned shrike, pygmy falcon, white-headed buffalo weaver, the spectacular crested eagle, martial eagles and Verreaux's eagle owl. Hyraxes on the rocky outcrops around camp are popular with many guests.

Big cats are another draw here. Naboisho has three resident lion prides, totalling some three dozen cats. Three more prides periodically move into Naboisho from Ol Kinyei Conservancy and other areas nearby. Cheetahs are also commonly found in the Naboisho Conservancy, with two different families being seen on our most recent visit in 2019.

In common with all properties in the Mara, guests can book early-morning balloon safaris. These lasts approximately around one hour, followed by a bush breakfast with sparkling wine and then a game wildlife 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.

Visits to Nkoilale village cost US$25, which is paid at camp and shared between Nkoilale Community Projects and the village itself. The camp's community relations are very good and there's no hard sell, or indeed any selling of crafts at all, during the visit, which is a refreshing contrast with some of the very commercial villages nearer the national reserve.

Kicheche staff are also very happy to show guests their back- of- house, of which they are very proud. Deservedly so, because in July 2016, Kicheche Valley was awarded the gold eco standard rating by Eco-tourism Kenya and is one of only a select few lodges to have received this award.

Our view

Kicheche Valley is a high-end safari camp, embodying chic rusticity, and is the most comfortable of Kicheche’s three camps in the Mara. We loved the wooded location, the well-established feel of the main dining and lounge areas, and the manager’s enthusiasm for their vegetable garden. This is a great camp for returning Mara enthusiasts who want to relax and enjoy being pampered rather than cram their days with activity.

Geographics

Location: Maasai Mara Conservancies, Kenya

Ideal length of stay: Four nights if the migration is in the area (from August to October) and three at other times of the year. For any stays of three nights or more a full-day trip into the main reserve is included.

Directions: Kicheche is very near to the Ol Seki (Naboisho) airstrip. Allow 15–30 minutes’ transfer time.

Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer

Food & drink

Usual board basis: Full Board

Food quality: The camp has a good reputation for its food, and they grow their own herbs, pumpkins, peppers and salad crops, so everything is very fresh. Most meals take place in camp, however Kicheche Valley plan to introduce bush dinners – which are likely to be quite a special experience. We did not have the chance to eat here on our most recent visit in February 2019, however in June 2017 we were very impressed by the food.

Most guests go on an early morning wildlife drive with a picnic breakfast, which might include sausage wraps, frittatas, fruit and cereal. If you dine in camp a cooked breakfast is available too.

Lunch is usually light and healthy. Previously we had a choice of either a roast vegetable pizza or a meat pizza along with a beetroot salad and a green salad. This was finished off with an almond tart served with cream.

Dinner is more formal, with heartier courses. We had pumpkin and sweetcorn soup served with freshly baked bread rolls. This was followed by tasty roast chicken served with cheesy mashed potatoes and fresh seasonal vegetables. A dessert of roast banana and homemade chocolate and mint ice cream finished off the meal.

Dining style: Group Meals

Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining

Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included

Drinks included: Most drinks are included apart from selected wines, spirits and Champagne. The camp provides filtered and purified drinking water for guests. Bottled water is also available on request at no extra charge.

Further dining info: Yes

Special interests

Solo Travel: Experience fantastic day and night game drives on a solo safari holiday at Kenya’s Kicheche Valley Camp. In the low season there is no single supplement here, so solo travellers can enjoy a safari holiday at the same cost as anybody else.

See more ideas for Solo Travel in Kenya

Birdwatching: Your Kenyan birdwatching holiday can begin in the camp itself, with unusual and rare species (bush pipit, northern white-crowned shrike, white-headed buffalo weaver, pygmy falcon and eagles) seen in the trees and nearby spring.

See more ideas for Birdwatching in Kenya

Wildlife safaris: This is a very game-rich area, with excellent big-cat viewing (resident leopards near camp), a major elephant corridor in the northwest of the conservancy and the biggest giraffe population in the Mara. Moreover, there are very few other tourist vehicles using the conservancy.

See more ideas for Wildlife safaris in Kenya

Children

Attitude towards children: Kicheche Valley has an adult atmosphere and prefers children over the age of 12.

Property’s age restrictions: No formal age restrictions, however best for age 12 and over.

Special activities & services: Children’s activities such as nature walks and fire-making, can be organised, as can special meals.

Equipment: None

Notes: Children are their parents' responsibility and must be fully supervised at all times.

Infrastructure

Power supply: Solar Power

Power supply notes: The camp runs on solar power with a back-up generator. There is 24-hour power throughout the camp, so guests can charge electronic devices in their rooms.

Communications: There is cellphone reception in the camp, and there is also WiFi in the main area.

TV & radio: No

Water supply: Borehole

Water supply notes: There is running hot and cold water, with plumbed showers and solar water heaters.

Sustainability

Reducing environmental damage in Naboisho

Reducing environmental damage in NaboishoWith a vision of becoming a true green oasis for guests, Kicheche Valley is a Silver-certified luxury camp, situated in the heart of a secluded valley of the Naboisho Conservancy in Kenya.

With a clear set of principles for operating in a responsible manner, efforts to improve and expand environmental measures are continuously made.

A simple, yet effective solution to plastic waste emerged when the team at Kicheche Valley introduced 20-litre water dispensers and re-usable drinking bottles for every guest. Moreover, a sneak peek to their recycling policy shows all old items including vehicles, tents or furniture are consciously re-used.

The camp is powered by solar energy providing electricity for lighting, appliances and refrigeration and recycled charcoal/paper waste briquettes or charcoal from woodlot is used as alternative fossil fuels for cooking. Fresh and organically-grown vegetables are sourced on-site for an ultimate explosion of authentic flavours which create an incursion into Kenyan cuisine. Organic farming is done carefully and no chemicals are added to the soil which is tested and monitored by locally-employed gardeners to avoid soil contamination.

Health & safety

Malarial protection recommended: Yes

Medical care: There are first aiders in camp, a comprehensive first-aid kit on site and first-aid kits in all vehicles as well. There is a doctor based at Sarova Mara Camp, about an hour’s drive away.

Dangerous animals: High Risk

Security measures: Guests are escorted around the camp at night. There is always an askari on duty in the day, and several at night.

Fire safety: There are fire extinguishers in every tent and staff are trained how to use them. They also carry out fire drills in case of a bushfire and there is a fire break around the camp.

Extras

Disabled access: On Request

Laundry facilities: A full laundry service is included, with items being hand washed and line dried. For cultural reasons ladies underwear is not accepted.

Money: Valuables can be locked away in the main office safe. There are no currency exchange facilities.

Accepted payment on location: You can settle extras in any major currency. They accept Visa, MasterCard and Amex credit cards with a surcharge of 5%.

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