Mahali Mzuri: Our full report
Mahali Mzuri, which means ‘beautiful place’, is a very upmarket property for the Mara, which opened in 2013.It is part of the Virgin Limited Edition range – built and owned by Richard Branson and located in the 133km² Olare Motorogi Conservancy.
Before visiting, we were a bit dubious about Mahali Mzuri, having heard rumors of a vast, decadent eyesore on the Mara's pristine landscape. In the building of permanent structures, such as a swimming pool and extraordinary main areas and rooms, it has indeed gone much further than almost any other camp in the region, and it won't be to everyone's taste. However we were very taken with the camp's ethical approach and found it to be unusual architecturally, but very stylish.
It is to the owners' credit that they have built Mahali Mzuri in one of the more remote parts of the Mara, in an area that had struggled with cattle overgrazing. This area has now been combined with Olare Orok to form the larger Olare Motorogi Conservancy and – over the five years since Mahali Mzuri has been in development – has now turned a corner. Guests still have to travel a short way to get to areas with good predators, but the immediate area around camp is improving rapidly: a real success for conservation.
Mahali Mzuri's main areas are set on a big wooden deck overlooking a deep valley. Between the dining and the lounge tents is an outside deck, with a long sofa-bench looking across the firepit. The views from here are stunning. Tables and chairs are set here for alfresco dining: simple and modern in style, resulting in a clean, minimalist look. Steel-cable railings protect guests at the edge of the decking.
To one side is the modestly sized lounge and bar, under canvas, but very funky and unlike anything we have seen in Kenya. High leather bar stools complement the wooden bar, and there is usually a member of staff to offer you a cocktail or artisan coffee.
Perhaps a little more in keeping with the surroundings are the simpler leather sofas, cowhide rugs and velvet armchairs that furnish the rest of the lounge area. There is a spotting telescope in the corner, and binoculars for people who want to watch game from camp. Tucked away in a hidden cabinet there is also a satellite TV and a selection of DVDs. WiFi is available in this area without restriction. We got the impression that Mahali Mzuri doesn't mind having a bit of the Western world here, something that smaller camps and safari purists shy away from. But it will suit those who want to be on safari without feeling that they have to compromise on hotel-standard facilities.
In a separate tent on the other side of the outside deck, the dining area is fitted out with modern furniture and a long glass table that feel a world away from the African bush – until you notice the beaded placemats, wooden light fittings and African fabrics hanging from the walls.
Steps from the main deck lead down to the long, narrow swimming pool, which is perfect for swimming lengths. There are chairs and loungers at each end, while close by is Mahali Mzuri's spa, totally open to the view at the front and stocked with locally made products. A variety of massages and treatments are on offer here, at extra cost.
The 12 tented suites at Mahali Mzuri are in themselves highly unusual. Designed to look like masaai shields, each has a gigantic steel frame embedded in huge blocks of concrete on a heavily landscaped slope strewn with quarried rock. This frame supports a vast synthetic-canvas roof, suspended from a seven-metre pole topped by a lightning rod, and designed to make the most of the natural breeze. The canvas tents beneath are smaller than you might expect, raised on wooden platforms and with something of the feel of a hotel room. In the bedroom you'll find carpeted floors, a large comfortable bed and a leather sofa , and each tent is equipped with a fridge, tea and coffee station, white bathrobes and a dark wooden writing desk with information booklets.
The en-suite bathrooms are stylish, with lots of dark wood and contemporary fittings, incuding twin ceramic washbasins, walk-in showers and claw-foot baths. The towels are delightfully soft and locally made toiletries are provided.
Two of these tents are slightly larger than the others, and designed for families, with a separate lounge area that can accommodate two children on pull-out sofas.
The activities at Mahali Mzuri include morning and afternoon game drives, or full-day drives on the Olare Motorogi Conservancy. It is also possible to organize game drives into the main Masaai Mara Reserve (park fees payable separately). Uncommercial village visits, timed to meet or send off the cattle, are also available. Activities are led by the experienced guide team, which has a number of silver certified guides amongst its ranks.
Mahali Mzuri is a very luxurious, high-quality camp, offering smooth service from a team of experienced managers and caterers. It is certainly opulent, but too smart and hotel-like to retain much feeling of the Kenyan bush. Nevertheless, for those seeking facilities and comfort before anything else this could make the perfect safari base. For safari purists it would be anathema.
- Maasai Mara Conservancies, Kenya
- Ideal length of stay
- 3 nights or more.
- The flight from Nairobi into the Maasai Mara’s Mara North airstrip takes about 70 minutes. From here, it’s a 45-minute transfer (or longer if your turn it into a game drive) back to camp.
- Accessible by
Food & drink
- Usual board basis
- Full Board & Activities
- Food quality
- We didn’t have time for a meal when we stopped at Mahali Mzuri, but it was described to us as quite modern with a lot of Asian fusion influence. The head chef is John Maina Edison. They have a garden for fresh salads and herbs and are happy to accommodate any dietary requests.
- If you’re familiar with Richard Branson’s Virgin Limited Edition resorts, the features at his ultra-modern Mahali Mzuri will come as no surprise. The huge glass table in the dining area, the smart swimming pool and the spa tent are only a few of Mahali Mzuri’s luxurious facilities.
- See ideas for Luxury
- Attitude towards children
- Mahali Mzuri welcome children of eight years or over.
- Property’s age restrictions
- The minimum age is 6.
- Special activities & services
- Mahali Mzuri has kites, bows and arrows, and spears so that children can learn to be Maasai warriors with the help of their guides.
- Generally recommended for children
- Mahali Mzuri is not really suitable for younger children. It has quite an adult atmosphere and is unfenced. It is also located on a steep hill with drops from the front of most of the main areas and rooms – though there are rails. However even the swimming pool is designed for swimming lanes rather than playing.
- Children must be supervised by their parents at all times.
Our travellers’ wildlife sightings from Mahali Mzuri
Since mid-2018, many of our travellers who stayed at Mahali Mzuri 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
Lights and charging facilities in the rooms and main areas operate all day and night.
- WiFi is available throughout Mahali Mzuri and they also have iPads that guests can borrow. The internet is so fast here that live streaming and Skype is not a problem. There is good cellphone reception too.
- TV & radio
- There is a satellite TV in the central lounge.
- Water supply
- Water supply notes
- Mahali Mzuri uses a high-tech purification system to clean the water from the borehole for washing and drinking. As a result they can largely avoid plastic bottles.
Health & safety
- Malarial protection recommended
- Medical care
- There is an on-site nurse at Mahali Mzuri and 25% of the staff are first-aid trained. There are first-aid kits on site and in each vehicle. There is a heli- pad by the lodge and a private airstrip 10 minutes away for use in an emergency.
- Dangerous animals
- High Risk
- Security measures
- Askaris (local guards) are on patrol 24 hours a day.
- Fire safety
- Mahali Mzuri has fire extinguishers and fire hoses in all the main areas and in each tent. They even have fire detectors! The camp conducts regular fire-safety briefings and there are information cards in the suites.
Guided walking safari
Hot air ballooning
- Disabled access
- On Request
- Laundry facilities
- Laundry is included at Mahali Mzuri. As it is machine-washed and line-dried, underwear is included.
- No foreign exchange is available.
- Accepted payment on location
- Mahali Mzuri accepts all major currencies as well as MasterCard, Visa and Amex with no surcharge.
Other lodges in Maasai Mara Conservancies
Alternative places to stay in this same area.