Reviews of Mara Plains Camp
Wildlife sightings and reviews
13 independent comments and wildlife information from our travellers who have visited Mara Plains Camp and kindly agreed to share their thoughts. They do not necessarily represent the views of Expert Africa
"Mara Plains Camp, home away from home"
Camp manager Stella and her assistants Siimoi and Jefferson are always there to welcome you back from a gamedrive or a chat during the day and no request was too difficult for them.
Tents are very spacious and comfortable, with lots of little details. As the water is pumped from a borehole the piping hot shower water has a distinct smell to it, needing a moment to get used to. Some tents are in a shady location facing the river, others face the plains where you may see an occasional pedestrian or motorcycle pass by: the conservancy land is owned by local people and they travel to/from their villages.
Our guide Kevin has an intimate knowledge of the area as he and his family own part of the conservancy land, the plains East of camp bear his family name.
Because of his excellent spotting skills and animal behavioural knowledge we had 4 leopard sightings, other guests called us the leopard magnets for which all credit goes to Kevin of course!
We gained a detailed understanding of the conservancy and the Masaai Mara ecosystem thanks to Kevin and couldn’t have wished for a better guide. Each and every gamedrive had an often unexpected highlight: waiting an hour in the pouring rain for a leopard to wake up in the evening, about to give up and drive home and still finding it, or witnessing the birth of a buffalo calf, or following a cheetah mother with 3 cubs through the landscape, seeing them swim/jump across a river, climbing a tree and finally mounting a termite hill: all magical moments.
Food is of a very high standard, not about quantity but quality. Wonderful bush breakfasts, at one time they even had the chef drive into the bush with an egg cooking station, maybe a bit over the top!? We could pick our preferred bottle of wine each night for sundowners and dinner, a very good selection of mostly South African wines, maybe a good idea to invest a bit more in staff training as no one had real detailed knowledge of wine it appeared. My personal highlights of the meals were the desserts, surprising combinations of sweet and hearty elements; pastry chef Jöel would come to our table each time to explain his creation with a big smile on his face, a very nice person indeed.
After 5 nights at Mara Plains we were not ready to go home at all as we felt completely rested and in balance.
Not having visited any other camps in the Mara area it is difficult to put Mara Plains camp into perspective but we could hardly imagine a better place to stay." See all these reviews: 14n in Kenya
"Mara Plains Camp review"
The setting, guest tents and public areas are simply stunning and the service team, headed by Stella, is genuinely caring and enthusiastic.
When it comes to wildlife sightings, the main reason for going to a safari camp, we couldn't have been happier. We had our own vehicle for the duration of our stay and our guide Jackson was exceptional - as an example, we asked to see cheetahs and we got to see 9 of them in 3 different sightings! Our night drive was a further highlight that included a high speed chase of fighting male lions - wow! We had multiple sightings of "all" the animals, including 2 leopard sightings. We also did a walking safari departing right from the camp, which was yet another highlight and quite surreal, like walking into a postcard, but with our guide Jackson, an armed ranger and a car to pick you up at the end of the walk :-)
A further MAJOR plus of Mara Plains is the fact that they loan you a high quality SLR camera with a massive zoom lens, as well as excellent binoculars. So you can basically show up empty-handed, yet still have a fantastic wildlife viewing experience and come home with a thumb drive (which Mara Plains produces for you) filled with great pictures.
Food was good - sometimes the chef added too many ingredients to his dishes instead of focusing on execution, but overall meals were very enjoyable, especially when taking the remote location and small camp size into account, and our "champagne" breakfast on the banks of the Mara River was a fantastic surprise. A point of improvement would be to provide a wine list: we were basically presented with 2 open bottles (1 each of red and white/rosé); alternatives were provided on request, however we didn't really know what was on offer (including the champagne for purchase),
Now to the caveat: as also mentioned by a reviewer on Tripadvisor, there was a significant issue with the smell from the adjacent hippo pool. It was quite bad in the first tent we were assigned to (nr. 6), especially overnight. When we mentioned it to Stella, she fully acknowledged the problem and offered to move us the next day - we were actually upgraded to the enormous family unit, which is oriented away from the hippos and therefore thankfully odor-free. I believe that until/unless the drought the entire area was facing in late November / early December 2021 is alleviated, this issue will persist and I would recommend making potential guests aware of it." See all these reviews: 4n in Kenya
On the question of the unpleasant smell from the resident hippos, they explained that this was a problem in the second half of 2021, when a prolonged drought led to the build-up of anaerobic mud as the hippo corner in the Ntiakatek River became an ever-shrinking pool. Great Plains extended their apologies to these travellers, while also noting that it can occasionally be hard to avoid the more odoriferous side of nature, especially when notoriously stinky hippos decide that a camp's location is ideal for a wallow during a prolonged dry spell. They told us that this problem is a rare occurrence, not a regular one and we're glad to say that when the Ntiakatek River began flowing again at the end of 2021, the aroma dissipated quickly.
"Very Special Place!"
Now onto the camp itself. We knew once we drove up and were greeted by huge waves in the distance that we were in for a treat. Sam and Becky are the lodge managers and they are such an incredible couple. Becky has a background in wildlife photography, while Sam owned and operated one of Sun Valley’s best restaurants for many years, so they couldn’t be a better fit for running a place like Mara Plains. They are warm, welcoming, and ultimately want to ensure you have the best stay ever. We were also lucky enough to be at the camp when the owners Dereck and Beverly were there, as well as David, the manager of all of the Great Plains East Africa camps. It’s very clear that what Sam and Becky exude comes straight from the top - and trickles down to all of the staff at the camp.
Dereck, Beverly, and David were some of the kindest people we’ve ever met who spent time chatting with us and were eager to hear about our trip. On top of that, we ended up needing to spend an extra night at Mara Plains when our SafariLink flight back to Nairobi got cancelled at the last minute due to bad weather. Derek, Beverly, David, Sam, Becky and Jackson all showed great concern about how we were going to get home, whether we could sort out new flights, and very graciously and generously welcomed us back to the camp for an additional night. The concern they displayed really blew us away and sincerely moved us to know that they cared so much and were so eager to help. That gesture alone will make us loyal Great Plains guests whenever we return to Africa. However, that gesture wasn’t all that impressed us with Mara Plains.
As I mentioned above, the kindness and care clearly trickles down from the top at Mara Plains. Every person at the camp goes above and beyond to make your stay special. The servers, including Richard, Sammy, and Alex, were all incredible. They remembered your name right away, and also remembered your preferred drink and coffee order. The room attendants (special shoutout to Nelson) made sure your room was always perfect, with fresh towels, made beds, turndown service, prompt laundry delivery, etc. There was an additional level of luxury at Mara Plains, with small details like being offered a cold towel and drink upon return from game drives. Everyone made it very clear that no ask was too much. One example is that every night they have three or four dinner entrees to select from, but they made it very clear that if you wanted ANYTHING else, they would make you whatever you wanted. We didn’t take them up on that, but I think it’s an indication of just how much they are willing to do for you. Their bar is very well stocked and if there’s a specific bottle of wine you want them to open (the selection in incredible!), they will happily do so.
On the subject of food, we found the food to be delicious. Breakfast was fairly consistent each morning with a selection of fruit, breads, eggs, and bacon/sausage. Sam and Becky asked if you had and requests or tweaks you’d like to see in what they pack for you, but we were very happy every day. Lunch was a highlight. There was generally a variety of vegetable dishes and one meat dish that were served as a buffet (with the staff serving) or plated for you. The food was incredibly inventive, SO good, and as a bonus, healthy! Dinner was a three course affair, in which you picked your entree before you headed out for your evening game drive. There’s nothing to complain about from a food perspective at Mara Plains, and no shortage of food either. Despite feeling like I was constantly eating, the food was all very healthy, so I didn’t leave feeling gross - major points for that!
Mara Plains is a special place, but the people are what really make it the most special. I highly recommend a visit here - I know we are looking forward to returning to Mara Plains or at the very least another property in the Great Plains family when we return to Africa! Thank you to the entire Mara Plains family for making our stay one we will never forget!" See all these reviews: 9n in Kenya
"Wonderful, intimate camp "
Our tent overlooking the Conservancy was beyond beautiful, the service excellent and the food very good.
Special mention to Sandra, who I believe was serving as interim manager, and went out of her way to make sure our needs were met and special requests fulfilled.
Finally, our guide Edwin was superb, with a great eye for game but also a deep knowledge of African ecosystems that made him one of the very best guides we have had in our four safaris in five African countries." See all these reviews: 15n in Kenya
"Luxury & service in 3 words Mara Plains Camp"
"Mara Plains Perfection"
Tents evoked 1920s Africa in intricate detail -- a real wow factor when you walk in for the first time. Food was superb, especially curries, sundowners served with savories, in room wifi made all the difference especially when communicating with family long distance early or late. Not pertinent to Mara Plains however, the trip from Sayari to Mara Plains could have been made clearer on my agenda -- no mention of bus, fly to Tarime then through immigration entering Kenya Migori -- all very confusing.
Also no mention that the Kenyans demanded a YELLOW FEVER CERTIFICATE in Migori ( i had one from my trip to Zambia and I thought, what the hell, I will bring it) -- had I not brought it, I would not have been able to enter Kenya!!" See all these reviews: 7n in Tanzania; 4n in Kenya
The food was first class as was the service and a great guide. Perhaps the only thing I would say was that the guide had a bit of a fixation with cats of which we saw lots, but to be fair, he also got us a great location to see a migration crossing so overall first class too. The staff even drove out and delivered lunch so we did not miss any of the wildebeest crossing! Everyone was excellent and could not do enough.
The camp is very small and intimate with just a few rooms which suited us fine. It was great to have a private vehicle for every drive.
In common with most camps, animals are free to roam in and out and they did at night which provided some interesting noises.
Overall this camp was hard to fault and would highly recommend to anyone." See all these reviews: 16n in Tanzania; 4n in Kenya
"Mara Plains review"
It was also a great treat to be able (very inexpertly) to have a go at using the high spec camera along with the Swarovski binoculars that the camp made available to us. If pushed, I suppose that the only very small negative about our stay was the slight air of mystery which seemed to apply to meal times, which did tend initially at least to make one feel one had got the wrong end of the stick and had arrived hours too early; the Askari and other staff also seemed slightly more reserved than had been the case at Rekero.
But these are really just comments rather than criticisms, and one thing we appreciated in particular was the camp’s flexibility on meal choices. Above all however we enjoyed meeting the camp’s relief managers Ken and Michelle, who were really fascinating to talk to and both the kindest of hosts." See all these reviews: 10n in Kenya
"Mara Plains Camp review"
The service was extremely personalised and they always made us feel at home. Quality of the food was exceptional, despite the fact that were were on strict diets.
Our ranger was incredible and we had the most intimate sightings. They also arrange forward trips was us to see flamingoes and Rhinos." See all these reviews: 3n in Kenya
You share a vehicle with fellow guests although on our stay all guests had a separate land cruiser.
We stayed in room 6 with exceptional views across the plains.
Game viewing was very good especially big cats; lions, leopards and cheetah as well as local proximity to migration crossing points of the Mara River.
We are likely to return and also visit other Great Plains camps." See all these reviews: 10n in Kenya
Holiday styles & special interests in Kenya
From birdwatching breaks to walking holidays, find great ideas for your trip in Kenya.
Other lodges in Maasai Mara Conservancies
Alternative places to stay in this same area.