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Mara Plains Camp
Mara Plains Camp
Mara Plains Camp

Mara Plains Camp: Our full report

Nestled in the trees on the edge of the Ntiakatek stream in the 120km² (30,000 acre) private Olare-Motorogi ...

... Conservancy, Mara Plains is a small, luxury tented camp which prides itself on offering personal, high-level service. Along with access to Olare-Motorogi, the camp is also a member of Mara North Conservancy and within easy reach of the Maasai Mara National Reserve (one full-day visit to the reserve per stay in camp is included in your rates), so you have more than 2,000 square kilometres to explore.

With only seven tents, Mara Plains is one of the smallest camps within the Mara region, giving a very personal and intimate feel, with a high degree of flexibility. It is an exceptionally luxurious camp, but remains unpretentious with a down-to-earth atmosphere.

There aren't set meal times or activities here, so if you happen to be out on a morning's game drive and spot some cheetah tracks, they'll deliver your lunch to you while you continue to observe; if you are out on a late afternoon game drive and following lions hunting, they'll hold dinner until you return. We've had some really fantastic wildlife sightings from Mara Plains. One that particularly stands out was a lion pride stealing a kill from a leopard in a tree and then ferociously defending it, to the dismay of onlooking hyenas. Without any other vehicles around, and with no rush to get back, we stayed there until it was too dark to see and then returned to the camp for a delicious private dinner.

The tents themselves are very large and extremely attractive, using pale canvas and cotton linings and black mosquito screen to create a very stylish effect, especially when combined with decks of old railway sleepers (they imported several container loads from South Africa). They've also added new “family and honeymoon tents" which have their own lounge and dining areas, as well as their own entrances, allowing a little more privacy. Most of the tents look out onto the plains, but one is accessed via a little bridge and is nestled amongst the trees on the edge of the stream.

Each of the new tents is raised from the ground with richly coloured rugs spread over the large wooden decking topped by a large marquee-style tent with a wrap-around veranda overlooking the plains; which the beds inside also face towards. There's an oscillating fan suspended above the bed for warmer nights, although the mosquito-screen “windows" allow the breeze to pass through easily. The en-suite bathrooms are fitted with double wash basins, a separate flush loo, a very large shower and – most impressively – a deep stand-alone brass bath.

The main areas at Mara Plains consist of a single large lounge and dining tent which is completely open sided with sweeping views. On a recent visit, this vista was dotted with zebra, wildebeest, impala and buffalo – as if they had appeared to greet us. The furnishings in the main area are slightly colonial in style, in a rich, earthy, red-and-brown colour scheme, and the plush leather sofas provide a nice spot to relax with a drink – while if you want to brush up on your wildlife knowledge you will find all you need in the small library. Although there's a long ironwood dining table, guests often eat under the stars – weather permitting.

As well as day-time safari drives, activities at Mara Plains Camp include night drives, visits to a local village or school, and, at extra cost (around $500 per person), hot-air balloon flights at dawn across the main reserve. The guides here were absolutely first-class during both our recent visits. They deliver game viewing in a very relaxed and intelligent way as they are unafraid to sit and watch at a great sighting, and yet know when to give the animals space or leave altogether. On one visit we had a very rewarding early morning drive, which included a rare caracal sighting and then, after a two-hour ramble, we were met by two members of staff in a vehicle for an excellent breakfast overlooking a hippo wallow. Nearby, a macabre, recently abandoned “leopard larder" dangled from an acacia, while a trio of elderly buffalos eyed us grumpily.

Mara Plains is particularly well suited for photographers. The vehicles are equipped with adjustable camera trays, and the guides are adept at maneuvering the vehicles with photographers in mind, as well as being able to offer advice and tips on getting the perfect shot. Each party of guests has the added bonus of the loan of a pair of Swarovski optic binoculars and a Canon 5D Mk III camera with a 100-400mm lens – ideal for wildlife portraits.

The camp remains extraordinarily eco-friendly despite its luxury and comfort. It's very interesting to do a tour of the back-of-house areas, with the vegetable and salad garden, the huge solar power plant and battery bank, the water treatment plant and the very well-run laundry and stores. The camp runs completely on solar power and all the chemicals needed in camp are manufactured here naturally, so that no artificial contaminants are introduced into the environment.


Our view

The location of Mara Plains gives great scope to its activities, which can range across private conservancies as well as the busier national reserve. In camp, we found the welcome warm, the service attentive without being overbearing, and the attention to detail impressive. In short – everything here was both down-to-earth and also first class. We feel it is the best camp in the Mara ecosystem.

Claire Scott

Claire Scott

Kenya expert

Geographics

Location
Maasai Mara Conservancies, Kenya
Ideal length of stay
Stay for 3–4 nights to explore the surrounding conservancies and the game reserve itself.
Directions
Olare Orok airstrip, for schedule light aircraft flights, is only about 45 away.
Accessible by
Fly-and-Transfer

Food & drink

Usual board basis
Full Board & Activities
Food quality
The dining at Mara Plains is very flexible – you're not tied into set meal times, allowing you to choose between early starts with a packed breakfast, and full-day game drives taking lunch with you.

Generally, breakfast is taken in the lodge, with a varied buffet of cereals, fruits, cold meats and breads, which you can then follow with a cooked breakfast to order. Teas, coffees, juices and a delicious oat smoothie were also available.

Lunch is either taken as a packed lunch out on a game drive, or back at the lodge. On a recent visit, we enjoyed a delicious variety of salads, tilapia, fresly baked breads and a wonderful cheese and chutney selection.

For dinner, which was served outside on one long table under the stars outside the lounge, we started with an onion puff pastry with balsamic dressing, followed by a beef stew with dauphinoise potatoes, rounded off with a chocolate mousse.
Dining style
Group Meals
Dining locations
Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Further dining info, including room service
Meals can be served in tents if requested.
Drinks included
All drinks available in camp are included in the rates, including Champagne, premium spirits and cellar wines.

Special interests

Honeymoons
Mara Plains is an exceptionally luxurious yet unpretentious camp that will suit those who enjoy a down-to-earth atmosphere in very comfortable surroundings. The friendly and attentive service will spoil you, and the very private tents are lovely.
See ideas for Honeymoons
Photography holidays
Mara Plains is great for serious photographers: Canon cameras and 400mm lens are available to borrow, while the vehicles are ideally set up and there’s a keen photographer if advice is needed. The camp can burn images to CD, but it's best to bring your own storage devices.
See ideas for Photography holidays
Luxury
With some of the best guiding and an unrivalled location, Mara Plains gets our vote as probably the Mara’s top safari camp. The décor and furnishings are carefully chosen: antique trunks, brass fittings and decks made of old railway sleepers combine opulent chic with sleek practicality.
See ideas for Luxury

Children

Attitude towards children
The managers noted that Mara Plains has a relatively adult atmosphere; only children over the age of 8 are accepted
Property’s age restrictions
8+ only.
Special activities & services
Children can take part in the Great Plains Young Explorers programme. The lodge can also organize simple bushcraft and there are also videos to watch as well as board games in the library.
Equipment
There is no special equipment, but there is a new family tent.
Generally recommended for children
Mara Plains definitely has an adult vibe to it, so we do not think it would suit young children. Younger families could, however, book the camp on an exclusive basis.
Notes
The camp is unfenced so children must be supervised at all times.

Our travellers’ wildlife sightings from Mara Plains Camp

Since mid-2018, many of our travellers who stayed at Mara Plains Camp 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.

Buffalo

100% success

Cheetah

100% success

Eland

100% success

Elephant

100% success

Giraffe

100% success

Hippo

100% success

Leopard

100% success

Lion

100% success

Spotted Hyena

100% success

Wildebeest

100% success

Zebra

100% success

Aardvark

0% success

Black Rhino

0% success

Pangolin

0% success

Striped Hyena

0% success

Wild dog

0% success

Communications

Power supply notes
There is 24-hour electricity and British style – 3-pin plugs in all of the tents.
Communications
There is very good WiFi inside the guest tents.
TV & radio
No
Water supply
Borehole
Water supply notes
There is running hot and cold water available 24/7 and bottled drinking water is also provided.

Health & safety

Malarial protection recommended
Yes
Medical care
Mara Plains 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, a helicopter could easily land at the camp.

The nearest doctor is at Olkiombo at Intrepids which is an hour’s drive away. In an emergency they would link to flying doctors.
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
They have fire extinguishers outside all rooms and organise regular fire drills. There is also a firebreak around the camp.

Activities

  • 4WD Safari

    4WD Safari

  • Birdwatching

    Birdwatching

  • Cultural excursion

    Cultural excursion

  • Fly-camping

    Fly-camping

  • Guided walking safari

    Guided walking safari

  • Horse-riding

    Horse-riding

  • Hot air ballooning

    Hot air ballooning

  • Night drive

    Night drive

Extras

Disabled access
Not Possible
Laundry facilities
A full laundry service is included, with the exception of ladies underwear for cultural reasons. Washing powder is provided in the rooms.
Money
There are safes in all the rooms.
Accepted payment on location
Payment for any extras is accepted in US dollars, pound sterling, Euros or Kenyan shillings, either in cash or using a MasterCard or Visa, with a 3.5% surcharge.

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