Offbeat Mara: Our full report
Located in the quiet Mara North Conservancy in Kenya, Offbeat Mara sits near the Olare Orok River.It is nestled into the bush so discreetly that you can barely see it once you are outside of camp. Small, comfortable and unfenced, it's an authentic tented camp with a local lion pride regularly seen and heard nearby.
Sister camp to the contrasting Sosian in Laikipia, Offbeat Mara has a great wilderness feel that will appeal to safari purists. It also has an admirably low carbon footprint.
With just seven safari tents tucked into various corners of the natural bush, Offbeat Mara is certainly one of the smaller camps in the Mara North Conservancy. Five of these are a standard tents while two are family tents with two separate bedrooms connected by a dressing area. Each tent is quite private and you'll often see animals wandering straight past. Sunloungers with parasols outside some tents make a nice spot for siesta time, and there are director's chairs on each veranda too.
Although Offbeat Mara's tents are not brimming with luxury or style, they are cosy, clean and comfortable. Cream canvas makes them bright and airy, and they feel quite rustic and practical, with earthy rugs on the floors, hanging space for clothes, solar lighting and insect spray. We particularly liked the handmade cedar-wood beds (double, twin or triple) with colourful throws.
At the back of each tent through a simple canvas curtain is an open-plan en-suite bathroom with a flush toilet, water in a jug for washing and clean drinking water. There is also a bucket shower; when you are ready for your shower, the housekeeping team fill a bucket outside your tent with hot water for you; each is 20 liters although you can request as many as you like. Soap and shampoo are provided.
The main communal area at Offbeat Mara was completely rebuilt in early 2017 and is raised off the ground on a wooden deck. It is partially tented with solid walls at both ends and at the back. At one end is a lounge area with sofas and armchairs facing a fireplace. We loved the brightly coloured African cushions – each with a different pattern. At the other end is a wooden bar with barstools and a small shop selling locally made crafts, with all profits going back to the community. The dining area is in the centre. To the back is a wooden deck which overlooks the river and this of often where lunch is eaten.
Activities from Offbeat Mara focus on wildlife drives in the 300km² Mara North Conservancy. These are mostly by day, but the camp can also offer night drives until 10.00pm, using a red filtered spotlight. A full-day wildlife drive into the main Maasai Mara National Reserve is included for guests staying for three nights, while the camp can usually organise extra day trips for about the cost of additional park fees (US$80 per person). Drives often head out with a driver/spotter and a guide, both of whom are enthusiastic and experienced. They will always try their best to ensure you have a great wildlife experience.
The wildlife in the Mara North Conservancy is excellent, however rhinos cannot be found here at present. If seeing rhinos is a priority then you can visit the nearby Ol Choro conservancy where there are a couple of habituated female white rhinos who can reliably be seen.
Walking safaris are possible at Offbeat Mara, and are often carried out as shorter walks in the morning or afternoon. Often the focus is on smaller species such as birds and insects as well as plant life, tracks and signs, however larger animals can also be encountered. For safety a vehicle will drive ahead, while you would be accompanied by a knowledgeable guide walking a short distance behind.
Typically these walks would follow existing roads within the Mara North Conservancy,
Other activities at Offbeat Mara include visits to Mara Rianta Village (about US$30 per person), a visit to Aitong Primary School and market (free), or a visit to the Koyiaki Guiding School, where many of the local guides learned their craft. Alternatively for those more active you can go jogging in the bush accompanied by armed rangers.
Offbeat Mara is hosted by an excellent and efficient team, and the guiding is good too. Around 90% of the staff are local Maasai and take great pride in their work, resulting in a friendly, laid-back atmosphere which appeals strongly to families. We love the unfussy, wild and rustic feel of the camp, which also appeals to real safari enthusiasts, without compromising on the odd creature comfort.
- Maasai Mara Conservancies, Kenya
- Ideal length of stay
- Three to four nights
- It is a 90-minute flight from Nairobi to Mara North airstrip in the Maasai Mara, and then a further hour's drive through the Mara North Conservancy to Offbeat Mara.
- Accessible by
Food & drink
- Usual board basis
- Full Board & Activities
- Food quality
- When we stayed here previously in October 2019 we really enjoyed the food at Offbeat Mara: it was tasty, fresh, unpretentious and hearty. This isn't fancy dining but the food is excellent, and you'll certainly feel well-fed.
In the early morning, tea and coffee is brought to your tent to kick start your day. We opted for a picnic breakfast out in the bush part way through our morning drive, sitting by a wide-open plain. It included fruit, yoghurt, muesli, boiled eggs, cold sausages and bacon. Breakfast in camp features continental breakfast items as well as the choice of a hot breakfast.
It is also possible to take your lunch out in the bush with you, though whether here or back at camp, it is the same food. When here in 2019 we tucked into fresh tagliatelle with a rich tomato sauce and fresh salads, this was followed by a creamy panna cotta.
Afternoon tea is on offer between 4.00 and 5.00pm, before your afternoon wildlife drive. Expect an irresistible homemade cake.
A three-course dinner is served back at the camp around a communal table, which on warmer evenings may be set up under the stars. There is usually a soup starter, a hearty main. We had spinach roulade and a tomato salsa to start, followed by lamb and gravy, roast potatoes, sugar snap peas and carrots. The meal was then rounded up with pineapple crumble.
- Dining style
- Group Meals
- Dining locations
- Indoor and Outdoor Dining
- Further dining info, including room service
- On request
- Drinks included
- Most drinks available at camp are included, with the exception of Champagne.
- Solo Travel
- Surrounded by the bush, Offbeat Mara offers a great wildlife holiday experience within the Mara North Conservancy. Travelling alone on safari here allows you to enjoy your privacy or the lively group atmosphere all year round without worrying about single supplement.
- See ideas for Solo Travel
- Attitude towards children
- The camp prefers older children aged 8+.
- Property’s age restrictions
- No strict minimum age.
- Special activities & services
- Offbeat Mara can arrange special children's meals and activities such as bushcraft with the Maasai warriors, including making spears and bows and arrows. There are also board games, fishing in the river and football with the staff at lunchtime.
- Offbeat Mara has cots and highchairs.
- Generally recommended for children
- The camp can offer some fun activities for younger children, and the atmosphere is quite informal, but we feel that the wild and bushy nature of the camp makes it better for more mature children over the age of eight years.
- This camp is unfenced and wild, so children should be under the supervision of their parents at all times.
Our travellers’ wildlife sightings from Offbeat Mara
Since mid-2018, many of our travellers who stayed at Offbeat Mara 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
- There is 24-hour electricity in the tents, but batteries and electronics need to be charged in the main area. There is a generator which operates between six and 10pm. Offbeat Mara has plans to bring in a solar system and the camp aims to become 100% solar.
- WiFi is available in the communal area, although signal can be a bit patchy and cannot be relied upon.
- TV & radio
- Water supply
- Water supply notes
- The tents are not plumbed. Basin and shower water are provided on request. Filter water is provided for drinking.
Health & safety
- Malarial protection recommended
- Medical care
- Offbeat Mara have a first-aid kit in the camp and in every vehicle. Some of the team are also first-aid trained.
For more serious cases there is a doctor at a nearby camp and Offbeat Mara also has links with a flying-doctor service.
- Dangerous animals
- High Risk
- Security measures
- Offbeat Mara is unfenced so guards are on hand to escort guests around the camp. There is a whistle in each tent to attract attention in case of emergency.
- Fire safety
- Fire extinguishers are dotted around the main areas and between a few of the tents. Staff are trained to use them.
Guided walking safari
Hot air ballooning
- Disabled access
- On Request
- Laundry facilities
- A full laundry service is included – although for cultural reasons women's underwear needs to be washed separately.
- There is a central safe at Offbeat Mara for valuables. The camp cannot offer any currency exchange.
- Accepted payment on location
- The camp accepts only cash payments, in pounds sterling, US dollars, euros and Kenyan shillings.
Other lodges in Maasai Mara Conservancies
Alternative places to stay in this same area.
Kicheche Bush Camp
Kicheche Bush Camp is a smart and intimate tented camp with a relaxed atmosphere and the perfect base in the Mara for keen photographers.
Kicheche Mara Camp has just eight tents and a rustic and comfortable feel. It is set by a stream in a pretty area of the Mara ecosystem's Mara North Conservancy.
Naboisho Camp is one of the most luxurious of the handful of camps in the Naboisho Conservancy. It offers day and night game drives, game walks and full creature comforts in the bush.
Kicheche Valley is a boutique tented camp in a wooded district of the Mara ecosystem's Naboisho Conservancy, with plenty of wildlife in the area.
Encounter Mara is located in the private Naboisho Conservancy – a game-rich area of the Mara ecosystem – and offers a contemporary take on the traditional, low-impact luxury safari camp.
Mara Plains Camp
Mara Plains is one of the very best camps in the Mara ecosystem. Located in the Olare Motorogi Conservancy, just outside the Mara reserve, it has access to three wildlife-viewing areas.
Elephant Pepper Camp
Elephant Pepper Camp is a small 10-tent bush camp, put together in the traditional "campaign" style, and including a large honeymoon/family tent.
Serian is a luxury tented camp on the east bank of the Mara River in the Mara North Conservancy. It is the sister camp of Ngare Serian, on the west bank.
Porini Lion Camp
Porini Lion Camp is a pioneering, community focused eco-camp, with excellent guides and game viewing, in the predator-rich, Olare Motorogi Conservancy.
Ol Kinyei Adventure
Ol Kinyei Adventure Camp is a satelllite of the larger Porini Mara Camp. Both of them are located in the Maasai-owned Ol Kinyei conservancy, the oldest community conservancy in the Maasai Mara ecosystem.
Hemingways Ol Seki
Magnificently located tented lodge on a bluff looking south across the Naboisho Conservancy toward the Maasai Mara National Reserve.
Kicheche Fly Camp
Kicheche Walking Wilderness Fly Camp is a temporaray dome tent camp set up for participants in Kicheche's two-day walking safari between Kicheche Valley and Kicheche Bush Camp.
Basecamp Eagle View
Basecamp Eagle View is a community-focused safari camp in the Naboisho Conservancy, with a strong emphasis on responsible tourism and a spectacular location.
Porini Mara Camp
Porini Mara Camp is a small, pioneering eco-camp in the first private conservancy in the Mara region, with comfortable accommodation and a range of activities.
Saruni Wild is a rustic and traditional safari camp in the Lemek Conservancy, with just three tents and limited electricity.
The luxurious Ngare Serian and its sister camp Serian face each other across the Mara River on the western side of the Mara North Conservancy
Cottars 1920s Camp
Cottar's 1920s Camp is a classic, luxury tented camp with a 1920s safari theme, located in its own conservancy on the southeast border of the Maasai Mara National Reserve.
Basecamp Leopard Hill
With six beautiful tents, Basecamp Leopard Hill is a smart safari camp in the Naboisho Conservancy in the Maasai Mara ecosystem.
Small and intimate, Offbeat Mara is set in a valley above the (often dry) Olare Orok River within the Mara North Conservancy.
Karen Blixen Camp
Karen Blixen Camp sits on a meander of the Mara River in the Mara North Conservancy, just beyond the northern boundary of the Maasai Mara National Reserve.
Leleshwa was a delightful, boutique safari camp on the picturesque banks of a tributary of the Talek, with an extensive, little visited game area on its doorstep.
Mahali Mzuri is a strikingly modern tented camp in the Virgin Limited Edition group, in a remote part of the Mara ecosytem's Olare Motorogi Conservancy. It has lovely views and all the luxuries of a five-star hotel.
Saruni Mara is a luxurious permanent lodge, on the remote northern edge of the Mara North Conservancy, with stunning views, good guiding and very private and comfortable rooms.
Mara Nyika is one of the newer additions to the Naboisho Conservancy and offers a luxurious and exclusive safari.
Basecamp Wilderness Camp is a simple, traditional tented camp, set in a remote valley in the Naboisho Conservancy in the Mara ecoystem.
Mara Bushtops is a luxury safari hotel on a private concession, outside the Maasai Mara National Reserve, with the emphasis on comfort, relaxation and good food and wine.
Cottars Private House
Cottar's Private House is one of the few truly luxurious, modern private houses in the Mara ecosystem, spoiling its guests with first-rate staff, a swimming pool and wonderful views.
Entumoto is a high-end tented camp, with a swimming pool, situated in a very pretty location on the east side of the Maasai Mara ecosystem.