Offbeat Mara is located on a quiet bend of the Olare Orok stream in Mara North Conservancy.
Offbeat Mara: Our full report
Located in the quiet Mara North Conservancy, Offbeat Mara sits near the Olare Orok River and is nestled into the bush so discreetly that you can barely see it once you are outside of camp. It’s small, comfortable and unfenced: an authentic tented camp. The Offbeat lion pride are regularly seen and heard around the camp.
Sister camp to Offbeat Meru in Meru National Park and the far more luxurious Sosian in Laikipia, Offbeat Mara has no obvious permanent structures, which lends the camp a great wilderness feel that will appeal to safari purists. Constructed of canvas and wooden decking, which could be taken down at the end of the season, it also has an admirably low carbon footprint.
The main communal area at Offbeat Mara consists of two open-fronted tents set up side by side on a wide deck. In one is a lounge area with sofas centred around a coffee table. We loved the brightly coloured African cushions – each with a totally different pattern. A book swap and self-service bar are also located here, as is a small shop selling locally made crafts, with all profits going back to the relevant community. In the other is a large communal dining table. On our last visit in October 2016 we were told that there were plans to build a deck to extend this area.
With just six safari tents tucked into various corners of the natural bush, Offbeat Mara is certainly one of the smaller camps in the Mara North Conservancy. Each tent is quite private and you'll often see animals wandering straight past. Outside some of the tents are sunloungers with parasols, making a nice spot for siesta time, and there are directors' 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 or twin), with colourful throws.
At the back of each tent through a simple canvas curtain is an open-plan en-suite bathroom. There is a flush loo, water in a jug for washing, and clean drinking water. There is also a bucket shower; when you are ready for your shower, a bucket outside your tent is filled with hot water by the housekeeping team, who then hoist this above your tent, with gravity forcing the water through a showerhead. Soap and shampoo are provided.
Activities from Offbeat Mara focus on game 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. For guests staying for three nights, a full-day game drive into the main Maasai Mara National Reserve is included, while additional day trips can usually be accommodated for about the cost of additional park fees (US$80 per person). Each drive heads out with a driver/spotter and a guide – both of whom are enthusiastic and experienced. They know where the good game viewing is and will always try their best to ensure you have a great wildlife experience.
The manager at Offbeat Mara is a qualified walking guide and conducts his guided walks with a .458 rifle and at least one Maasai tracker scouting ahead. Walks can be as long or as short as you like, but usually start early and finish with a late breakfast. Lions are often seen on the walks.
Other activities at Offbeat Mara include village visits (about US$20 per person), a visit to Aitong Primary School, or a visit to the Koyiaki Guiding School, where many of the local guides learned their craft.
Our viewOffbeat Mara is hosted by an excellent and efficient team, and the guiding is good too. Around 90% of the staff are local to the Mara region and take great pride in their work, resulting in a friendly, laid-back atmosphere. We liked the unfussy, wild and rustic feel of the camp, which appeals to real safari enthusiasts, yet it is no great compromise for those who like the odd creature comfort too.
Ideal length of stay: 3–4 nights
Directions: 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: Fly-and-Transfer
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: 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 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. We had a delicious chickpea and yoghurt salad, chicken mango and chilli salad, green salad, guacamole, couscous and homemade bread. This was finished off with a fresh fruit salad.
Afternoon tea is on offer between 4.00 and 5.00pm, before your afternoon game drive. Expect a delicious and irresistible 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 such as the tilapia from Lake Victoria with potatoes and vegetables that we had, and a dessert, with coffee and tea at the end.
Dining style: Group Meals
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included
Drinks included: All drinks available at camp are included in the cost of your stay.
Further dining info: On request
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 more ideas for Solo Travel in Kenya
Attitude towards children: The camp prefers older children of 8+.
Property’s age restrictions: No strict minimum age.
Special activities & services: Offbeat Mara can arrange special children’s meals. Activities such as bushcraft with the Maasai warriors, including making spears and bows and arrows, can be arranged, and there are also board games, fishing by the river, and football with the staff at lunchtime.
Equipment: They have cots and highchairs at Offbeat Mara.
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 nature of the camp makes it better for more mature children over the age of eight years.
Notes: This camp is unfenced and wild, so children should be under the supervision of their parents at all times.
Power supply: Solar Power
Power supply notes: There is 24 hour electricity in the tents, but batteries need to be charged in the main area.
Communications: There is no guest internet or WiFi here, and only intermittent cellphone reception.
TV & radio: No
Water supply: Borehole
Water supply notes: It is bucket showers here and hot water is supplied.
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
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.
Disabled access: Not Possible
Laundry facilities: Full Laundry Service is Included - although for cultural reasons women's underwear needs to be done separately.
Money: 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 British pounds, US dollars, euros and Kenyan shillings.