Mara Plains Camp

Mara Plains Camp: Our full report

7 tents, 2 of which are family suites
Traveller's rating
Excellent (100%) From 9 reviews
Best for 12+
All year

Nestled in the trees on the edge of the Ntiakatek stream in the 120km2 (30,000 acre) private Olare-Motorogi Conservancy (previously known as Olare Orok), 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 within easy reach of the Maasai Mara National Reserve, so you have almost 2,000 square kilometres to explore.

In 2013 the camp went through a major refurbishment, which made the tented rooms significantly larger and more luxurious than before. We have visited a couple of times since we have found that old camp staff, ethos and general atmosphere have mellowed and improved further making this an extremely attractive base for a Mara safari.

With only seven tents, Mara Plains is one of the smallest camps within the Mara region, giving a very personal and intimate feel and a high degree of flexibility that we particularly enjoyed.

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 had one of the best wildlife sightings we've ever had from Mara Plains in March 2017, when – without any other vehicles around, and with no rush to get back – we watched a lion pride steal a kill from a leopard in a tree and then ferociously defend it, much to the dismay of the on looking hyenas. We stayed there until it was too dark to see and then returned to the camp for a delicious dinner of our own.

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.

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. The furnishings 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 $450 per person), hot-air balloon flights at dawn across the main reserve. For experienced riders it is also now possible to do horseback safaris from the Ride Mara stables which are nearby. The small team of guides were absolutely first-class during both our recent visits. They deliver game viewing in a very relaxed and intelligent way as they were unafraid to just sit and watch at a great sighting, and yet knew when to give the animals space or leave altogether. In March 2017, we had a very rewarding early morning drive on 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 recently abandoned “leopard larder" dangled macabrely from an acacia, while a trio of elderly buffalos eyed us grumpily.

The vehicles are particularly well equipped for photographers, with adjustable camera trays. Each party of guests has the added bonus of the loan of a pair of Swarovski optic binoculars and a Canon 7D camera with 100-400mm lens each tent – great 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. Even before the upgrade, Mara Plains was a superb camp; now its new tents have made this the best camp in the Mara ecosystem.


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

Key personnel

Owner: Great Plains Conservation

Food & drink

Usual board basis: Full Board

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, if breakfast is taken in the lodge, they'll have a varied buffet of cereals, fruits and breads, which you can then follow with a cooked breakfast to order. Teas, coffees, juices and a delicious oat smoothie were also available. On a visit in March 2017, we were treated to a superb bush breakfast, including bacon and egg muffins, on the banks of a noisy hippo wallow – quite a contrast!

Lunch is often taken as a packed lunch out on a game drive, and will be something filling and fresh, with light mains and plenty of fresh salads. On a recent visit, a delicious variety of salads, includig a spicy cold chicken salad, as well as fish, were on offer in the camp at lunch time, and eaten under the trees between the main lounge and the bridge.

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

Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included

Drinks included: All drinks available in camp are included in the rates, apart from Champagne which is at additional cost. On our last visit a bottle of Möet et Chandon was U$140.

Further dining info: Meals can be served in tents if requested, but such requests are rare.

Special interests

Honeymoons: Mara Plains is an exceptionally luxurious, yet unpretentious camp, and will suit those that enjoy a down-to-earth atmosphere in very comfortable surroundings. The friendly and attentive service will definitely make you feel spoilt, and the very private tents are lovely.

See more ideas for Honeymoons in Kenya

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 more ideas for Photography holidays in Kenya

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 more ideas for Luxury in Kenya


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: They can organise bushcraft and spear throwing for children, 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.

Notes: The camp is unfenced so children must be supervised at all times.


Power supply: Solar Power

Power supply notes: There is 24-hour electricity and British style – 3-pin plugs in all of the tents.

Communications: There is free WiFi throughout most of the lodge, which is strongest inside the guest tents, but guests will need to have their own device to access it.

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 ermergency, a helcopter 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.


Disabled access: Not Possible

Laundry facilities: A full laundry service is included, with the exception of ladies underwear for cultural reasons.

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.

X  Close