Leleshwa: Our full report
Leleshwa, one of the smallest camps in the Greater Mara eco-system, is located on the wooded banks of the ...... little Ropile River, in the Siana Conservancy, northeast of the Maasai Mara National Reserve. This is a relatively remote area of mixed herding and wildlife, which has dense concentrations of plains game, including elephant and giraffe. There are virtually no other camps in the area.
Since 2016, Leleshwa has only been bookable on an exclusive use basis and can be set up in many parts of Kenya. Please talk to us if you would like to find out more.
You know that a stay at Leleshwa is going to be a bit special from the moment you get out of the 4x4 that has brought you along bush roads from Siana airstrip. From the small parking area, a wooden footbridge leads to the mess and dining tent and lawns above the steep banks of the river.
Narrow sandy paths, winding through dense bush, lead from the central area to the guest tents. Leleshwa (named after the wild camphor bush that is often used as an air freshener and sanitiser in Maasai homes), is prone to being visited by wildlife, as the grisly leopard ‘larder’ (the dried remains of an impala hanging in a tree in camp) attested during our stay. Escorts are essential after dark to accompany guests to dinner and back again.
- The camp has seven tents, four of which are standard – two twins, two doubles – with the doubles having super-kingsize beds of 2.1m x 2.1m (7ft x 7ft) and the single beds being 2.1m x 1.05m (7ft x 3ft 6in). The two suites are usually taken by families: each includes a double bed and two day beds, which are most suitable for children. Extra beds are available, making triples possible in standard tents, though that is a bit tight.
- The tents are large without being self-consciously massive, and that style – doing things very well and properly, but not trying to create false impressions – extends to the sensibly tiled bathrooms, understated washstands and shower areas with designer toiletries and nicely bottled filtered water rather than throwaway plastic bottles.
- The tents have outside veranda or lounging areas, some overlooking the stream valley and each tent is nicely separated by dense bush from the others, making them all quite private.
- Each tent has a tea and coffee chest (staff bring hot water at your wake-up call), which also includes a torch and alarm horn.
Morning and evening drives are also popular at Leleshwa, as are bush walks, which can be long or short and may include a vehicle component or be purely on foot depending on your energy level. (NB: It’s essential that you read the Quadbike warning in the ‘Health & Safety’ section below for our comments on insurance issues regarding this activity.)
Leleshwa (named after the wild camphor bush that is often used as an air freshener and sanitiser in Maasai homes), has good cultural contacts with the local Siana community and guests can participate in a range of cultural activities. In the early morning, guests are often driven into the local village and may walk out to the grazing areas with the herders and their livestock. School visits are often done later in the morning, following an early game drive or game walk and a bush breakfast. Market days are Tuesday and Thursday. In the late afternoon guests may walk in with the cattle; when there are calves in the herds there’s often a lot of colourful activity.
With advance notice, Maasai blessing ceremonies for couples can be arranged, running from late afternoon to midnight and involving up to two or three dozen loval Maasai participants. The price, which includes the specially made Maasai ‘wedding attire’ to keep, varies from US$300 to US$500 per couple.
For more adventurous guests, there’s the option of a one-night fly camp near the main camp, and a (minimum two-night) mobile camp on a Talek special campsite or in the Loita Hills east of Leleshwa.
These activities need advance notice.
Very small and personably hosted, and oozing with bush atmosphere, this is a camp for safari-lovers who really want to get away from it all. The guiding is top-rate and the camp has a good relationship with the local community. Very comfortable tents and particularly good food make staying a pleasure. With thousands of acres to explore, shared only with other Leleshwa guests, this is a very likeable and highly recommended camp.
- Maasai Mara Conservancies, Kenya
- Ideal length of stay
- Three nights minimum suggested, four nights ideal. Also they often do a one-night fly camp near the main camp, and a (minimum 2-night) mobile camp on a Talek special campsite or in the Loita Hills east of the camp.
- Siana airstrip, 30 mins to camp without stopping to watch wildlife. Can also collect from Keekorok airstrip for an extra charge. Depending on group size, season and airline, not every flight to the Mara will be able to drop at Siana.
- Accessible by
Food & drink
- Usual board basis
- Full Board & Activities
- Food quality
- We found the cooking at Leleshwa creative and very appetising, employing lots of herbs and spices. There are always vegetarian options.
In the morning, there’s often a bush breakfast buffet. We had a wonderful bush breakfast at the end of a good walk, while dozens of giraffe strolled past us.
Lunch is usually a buffet in camp above the river. We had roasted herb chicken, roast, multi-bean salad and aubergine ‘crisps’.
Dinner is usually plated and always three courses, starting with soup. Local dishes are offered to guests at least once during their stay, often in the course of a bush dinner, or as part of a barbecue outside the mess tent.
- For a Kenya honeymoon with an added African touch, you can have a Maasai blessing ceremony – these are popular and charged extra. Lasting all evening, they usually involve around 30 community members and a bush dinner. The hosting is excellent and the guiding first-rate.
- See ideas for Honeymoons
- Photography holidays
- Leleshwa guides know how to position a vehicle to get you the best shots. For birders, the riverbank location is particularly rewarding in terms of subject framing, as you can spot birds on branches opposite comfortable spots for setting up with a camera.
- See ideas for Photography holidays
- Walking safaris
- Walking at Leleshwa is usually focused on big-game encounters, which are likely all around the camp. An armed guide is available to accompany you, and the experience can be a very exciting way to do some walking in Kenya.
- See ideas for Walking safaris
- Kenya walking holidays usually focus on big game encounters at Leleshwa, which are likely all around the camp. You will be accompanied by an armed guard here. Booking these walks in advance is essential to ensure availability.
- See ideas for Walking
- Attitude towards children
- 'Very positive'
- Property’s age restrictions
- Special activities & services
- Ayahs (nannies) are available to help if required, and askaris can sit with a radio outside your tent.
Spotters are often used for informal afternoon fun, making blunt spears, bows and arrows and taking youngsters on nature and animal dropping walks.
- Leleshwa have lots on offer for children, including overalls and paints, toys and a football.
- Generally recommended for children
- Yes. Children who are into wildlife and the concept of safaris will love Leleshwa, athough all children would need supervision. The camp is unfenced and some of the tents are very close to the river.
- The fact that after dark you have to be escorted when moving around camp should indicate its suitability for your children. No charge for under 4s. 4–14 kids prices. 15 and older: adult prices.
- Power supply notes
- The power for lighting is switched off in the rooms during the day, and after 12pm. But inverters mean there is power for charging batteries all day.
- There is an alarm horn in each tent. Cellphone coverage is barely available anywhere in camp. Leleshwa aims to avoid having cellphones and laptops being used in the lounge.
- TV & radio
- The TV (DSTV) in the staff quarters may be visited for major sporting events.
- Water supply
- Water supply notes
- Water is pumped up from the river, purified and then used for washing. It can be a little brackish after the rains. Drinking water is bottled.
Health & safety
- Malarial protection recommended
- Medical care
- There’s a first-aid kit in camp, and the manager is trained in first aid.
Less than 30 minutes’ drive from camp, Siana Springs Lodge has a good clinic. Missionary doctors are available at the end of the tarmac from Narok, within an hour’s drive.
All guests are required to have Flying Doctors/emergency air ambulance insurance cover.
Quadbike warning: quad-biking is sometimes available as an activity from Leleshwa. As with any potentially dangerous activity, it’s vital that you take responsibility for ensuring that you have adequate travel insurance prior to getting involved. Be aware that some insurances cover quad-bike activities only for bikes with lower engine ratings: check such clauses particularly carefully before you get on a bike.
- Dangerous animals
- High Risk
- Security measures
- In the daytime, the camp is patrolled by an askari and scouts. Security at night is provided by a team of askaris. Escorts to and from guests’ tents are obligatory at night.
- Fire safety
- The bush has been cleared around the kuni-boosters. Every tent has a fire extinguisher and every member of staff has been fire-trained. Leleshwa has recently had a security and fire assessment by KK from Nairobi.
- Disabled access
- On Request
- Laundry facilities
- Full Laundry Service - Included. Soap is provided in the tents for ladies to hand wash their underwear.
- There’s a safe in the office, and lockable trunks in tents. No currency exchange is possible.
- Accepted payment on location
- Rarely needed except for the shop and village visits, for which pounds sterling and Kenya shillings or US dollars are preferred. Visa and MasterCard can be processed, but due to network problems it’s fiddly (and there’s a 5% surcharge).
Other lodges in Maasai Mara Conservancies
Alternative places to stay in this same area.