Mara Nyika: Our full report
Set in a tree-filled valley and raised above a little stream, Mara Nyika is one of the newest camps in the ...... private 200km² Mara Naboisho Conservancy, having opened in 2019. Nestled beneath a canopy of umbrella thorn trees, Mara Nyika’s tents are built on a network of raised wooden walkways constructed from old Zambian railway sleepers.
Mara Nyika is the most recent camp built by Great Plains Conservation – a top-quality operation owned by renowned conservationists and filmmakers, Dereck and Beverly Joubert. Also owned by them are Mara Plains and Mara Expedition, two sister camps located in the neighbouring Mara Conservancies, as well as Ol Donyo Lodge in the Chyulu Hills, plus various others located in Botswana and Zimbabwe.
Similarly to its Kenyan cousins, Mara Nyika’s interesting design blends traditional safari style with unique and unusual pieces of art from southeast Asia. This combination of cultural design creates a somewhat colonial impression that is evidenced immediately upon approaching the main area. When we last visited soon after the camp’s opening in 2019, we were struck by the understated opulence of the camp, reminiscent of the old-school grandeur once enjoyed by colonial travellers.
In the main area, the lounge and dining tent’s large curtains are rolled apart to reveal rich leather sofas, canvas director’s chairs and ornamental wooden chests. Thick rugs line the floorboards and silver-studded shelves gleam in the atmospheric lamplight.
The communal area opens onto wide decking which encompasses the front of the camp and looks out over the surrounding valley. A shop where you can find delightful curio items and a well-stocked wine cellar where you can select the evening’s wine can be found either side of the main area.
Bordered by rope-handles, the elevated wooden walkway then leads on to five guest tents (including two 2-bedroom family tents), which can be configured to accommodate either double or twin beds. Each of the guest tents is made up of three connecting tents and feel more akin to a spacious private suite than a tent: a lounge area recedes into a bedroom, which in turn has a bathroom beyond.
As in the communal area, colourful rugs line the floor and patterned storm lanterns throw dappled lighting across the walls. The beds are made up with soft linens and complimentary dressing gowns hang from polished hooks on the wardrobes. At the front of the tent, more decking with seating opens onto spectacular views across the plains.
Despite the bedroom’s comfort and the entrance’s brilliant views, in many ways it is the bathrooms that feel the most impressive in this camp. They feature enormous, standalone, copper bathtubs that sit beside an insect-screen-covered, floor-to-ceiling window, allowing you to take in the view while having a soak. Two matching brass basins sit in front of a large mirror and numerous thoughtful touches, such as the silver plugs which look like swimming hippos when the basins are filled, help bring the room alive.
To further enhance the sense of luxury, all the guest tents are equipped with a range of additional accessories. They each include a tea and coffee station; a writing desk; a pair of Swarovski binoculars and a Canon camera and lens which you are welcome to take with you on game drives. Your images are then downloaded onto a memory stick for you to take away when you depart.
As well as day-time safari drives, several other safari activities are on offer. Mara Nyika provides the opportunity to seek nocturnal predators during night drives and balloon flights are available and provide a different perspective. Local village or school visits can also be arranged for some engagement with the region’s Maasai culture.
As at all Great Plains’ camps, the small team of guides here are truly first-class. Their knowledge of the local flora and fauna is evident throughout each of their drives and we found our guide’s warm personality and interesting conversation a real joy.
There is no doubting that Mara Nyika is a top-quality camp and it holds its own among the best camps in the Maasai Mara ecosystem. Its small size and friendly, professional team ensure a really personal, intimate stay. The camp is beautifully designed and is perfect if you’re seeking a luxurious, relaxing safari experience.
- Maasai Mara Conservancies, Kenya
- Ideal length of stay
- Stay for 3-5 nights to explore the Mara Naboisho Conservancy and the Maasai Mara National Reserve itself.
- Naboisho (Ol Seki) airstrip, for schedule light aircraft flights, is only about 40 minutes away.
- Accessible by
Food & drink
- Usual board basis
- Full Board & Activities
- Food quality
- Everything about Mara Nyika’s dining experience is excellent, from the food’s quality and presentation to its flavour and creativeness.
The camp’s chefs are highly trained professionals and approach each meal with considerable culinary flair, able to cater to all dietary requirements when given advance notice.
Meal arrangements are flexible, allowing you to eat out in the bush so as to extend the morning’s drive or to take packed lunches on full day drives. Back in camp, the main area includes a dining table and various smaller tables spread across the surrounding decking, allowing you to eat in private or with the other guests. Private dining can also take place on the decking outside your tent if you request it.
The camp’s breakfast generally includes a cold buffet as well as hot options which are cooked to order. The chefs can whip up healthy smoothies whilst daily specials add further variety to what is already quite an extensive range of options.
Lunch in camp includes a lovely selection of dishes which are laid out for guests to help themselves to. There is always fresh bread and a variety of salad options which are wonderfully healthy. Picture a mixture of beetroot, avocado, grains and delicious dressings. Lunch is usually accompanied by a cheeseboard and either grilled meat or fish with tasty sauces.
For dinner, Mara Nyika has a set menu, with interesting alternatives available for vegetarians. When we last visited we particularly enjoyed seared steak with carrots, green beans and a rich, sweet garnish.
- Mara Nyika is an exclusive and romantic camp with lots of thoughtful touches that would help make a honeymoon feel extra special – for example the big copper bathtubs and the private decks, overlooking the sweeping plains of the Maasai Mara.
- See ideas for Honeymoons
- Photography holidays
- Mara Nyika equips each guest tent with a Canon camera, including 100-400mm and 24-70mm lenses for complimentary use. Your images will be downloaded onto a memory stick for you to take away with you at departure.
- See ideas for Photography holidays
- Although understated, Mara Nyika is undeniably luxurious. Beautiful design, well prepared meals and top-quality guiding help make for a very well-rounded experience, while the camp’s small size and location on a private conservancy allow for real exclusivity.
- See ideas for Luxury
- Attitude towards children
- Mara Nyika has a fairly adult atmosphere and only children aged 8 or above are accepted.
- Property’s age restrictions
- The camp accepts children aged 8 and over.
- Special activities & services
- Children can take part in the Great Plains Young Explorers programme which includes a range of activities that are meant to be entertaining and will educate them about conservation. The Mara Nyika team will adapt activities to suit the needs of children.
Activities can include: painting; Maasai beading; kite flying; a bush survival skills course; and learning how to put those skills to the test by living like a warrior.
Children also get a Great Plains Young Explorers pack to take away with them, which contains items such as an animal tracking book, information on Swahili vocabulary, and facts on the local flora, fauna and night sky.
- There is no special equipment, but the camp has two new family tents.
- Generally recommended for children
- Mara Nyika definitely has an adult vibe to it, so we do not think it would suit very young children. Younger families could, however, book the camp on an exclusive basis or be based in the separate family tent.
- The camp is unfenced and the walkways are quite high above the ground so children must be supervised at all times.
- Power supply notes
- All the tents have 24-hour electricity and British style 3-pin sockets. The camp has an extremely impressive bank of solar panels that work even on cloudy days, so the back-up generator is very rarely required.
- There is very good WiFi inside the guest tents.
- TV & radio
- Water supply
- Water supply notes
- Plumbed-in hot water is available 24/7 and bottled drinking water is provided in the tents.
Health & safety
- Malarial protection recommended
- Medical care
- Mara Nyika has a first-aid kit on site which the managers and some of the guides are trained to use. They also have first-aid kits in the vehicles. In an emergency, they would contact the flying doctors and a a helicopter could easily land at the camp.
- Dangerous animals
- High Risk
- Security measures
- There is a guard on duty during the day, and at night guests are escorted by guards between the main area and their tents.
- Fire safety
- The camp has fire extinguishers outside all rooms and they organise regular fire drills. There is also a firebreak around the camp.
Hot air ballooning
- Disabled access
- Not Possible
- Laundry facilities
- A full laundry service is included in the rates, though ladies underwear can’t be washed for cultural reasons. Washing powder is provided in the rooms.
- There are safes in all the rooms.
- Accepted payment on location
- Payment for any extras is accepted in US dollars, pounds sterling, Euros or Kenya shillings, either in cash or using a MasterCard or Visa, with a 3.5% surcharge.
Other lodges in Maasai Mara Conservancies
Alternative places to stay in this same area.