Porini Lion Camp: Our full report
In a riverbank location in the Olare Motorogi Conservancy, Porini Lion Camp is a traditionally styled tented ...... camp in one of the Mara region's most successful community-owned wildlife conservancies.
Just north of the Maasai Mara National Reserve, the Olare Motorogi Conservancy is a community-integrated conservancy, renowned for its pristine environment and big cats. It is one of the newer concessions and has changed the way most members of the local Maasai community view tourists. The Maasai landowners here have jointly agreed to give up a large part of their grazing lands through the year in exchange for a guaranteed income from the controlled number of visitors who choose to do their safaris in this wildlife rich and comparatively quiet area of bush and savannah.
In 2012 Olare Orok Conservancy joined with the neighbouring Motorogi Conservancy to the north to form a single tourism and conservation area, managed by the same warden and rangers. The two conservancies are unusual for their highly focused conservation work and success of the integration of tourism into the local community. Olare Orok set the benchmarks for sustainable Mara tourism – one tent per 700 acres (just under 3km²) and no more than 12 tents in a camp. Payments from safari travellers are funnelled direct to the Maasai landowners, who in turn are allowed to use the conservancies' grasslands when drought is causing hardship for their herds.
Porini Lion Camp is a traditionally styled, tented eco-camp, avowing the principle that every element of a camp could be removed without leaving a trace behind of the human incursion. All inorganic waste is transported back to Nairobi. The camp has always been run by local Maasai, with many having been there for many years which is generally a very good sign. However, during our most recent visit in October 2019, we noted that the standards of service were much lower than expected: staff seemed unmotivated and inattentive, with a real lack of good management. Guests were very much left to their own devices, with no apparent hosting or efforts from the staff to interact with the guests.
We liked Porini Lion's riverbank location and the large and breezy tents overlooking the plains, ranged on either side of the central dining and lounge tent along the east bank of the meandering Ntiakatek River. The spacious dining and lounge tent is furnished in a simple, rather dated style, with wood-frame armchairs, coffee tables and rugs, and basic dining tables and steel-frame dining chairs. Coffee in a thermos and tea-making requisites are always on hand.
The tents are comfortable enough and unfussy, fitted out with chunky, wooden furniture, with thick, soft rugs laid on the vinyl floors. These are not particularly luxurious or stylish tents, but they are large and comfortably functional – ideal for people who want a tented camp experience without frills.
Ten of these tents are identical and can be set up as either a double or a twin. There is then a family tent, 5a and 5b, which consists of two separate bedrooms which are connected by a central lounge. Some of the tents units have been replaced and are much brighter and fresher than the old – worth requesting when booking, both for a new tent and with a good view (also a variable factor), as there are real differences in standards.
The main activities at Porini Lion Camp are wildlife-based. Game drives, with an excellent team including silver and bronze qualified guides, largely take place in the Olare Motorogi Conservancy, not just because it is so accessible and game watching can start within seconds of leaving camp, but because the human presence here is so light. Guests from other camps in the Mara region are not permitted to do game drives here and vehicles are capped at a maximum of five per sighting – however in our experience there is not likely to be more than two or three vehicles present on most occasions.
The big cats are all present here – there are invariably more cats than human visitors in the Olare Motorogi Conservancy. There are several prides and usually more than 50 lions in the conservancy, enabling visitors to enjoy some of the best lion watching in the Mara. In 2019, resident leopards included a female and a cub often seen close to camp, while cheetahs (although they tend to range far and wide) were also present.
Porini Lion Camp's location, less than 5km from the edge of the Maasai Mara National Reserve and 15km as the crow flies from the Mara River, is an ideal base for visiting the Mara during the wildebeest migration. Guests normally spend one day out of an average stay of three days on an all-day game drive into the eastern (Narok-County-Council-controlled) side of the Maasai Mara National Reserve.
As well as day drives, the camp offers night drives, conducted with red spotlights only, to limit the impact on the wildlife. Most animals have reflective layers at the back of the eye, greatly improving night vision, but often causing them to be badly spooked by brilliant white lights: by contrast red light doesn't faze them at all and in some cases is invisible to them.
Visits to a village in the local community are possible for an additional cost. Unlike some camps and lodges where the majority of this payment is treated as earnings, at Porini Lion Camp all of it is donated directly to the village.
In common with all properties in the Mara, there's also the option of an early-morning balloon flight.
Porini Lion Camp is a simple camp in a great location for wildlife, with good guides. The game drives are sensitively and intelligently conducted and Porini Lion is likely to appeal to safari purists who are looking for no-frills tented camp in an excellent wildlife area. However the standards in camp are disappointing and we feel that there are camps that offer better value for money than Porini Lion.
Country manager: Kenya
- Maasai Mara Conservancies, Kenya
- Ideal length of stay
- Three nights to explore the area and try all the activities
- The camp is 12km from Olare Orok airstrip, a drive of about 40 minutes without game watching.
- Accessible by
Food & drink
- Usual board basis
- Full Board & Activities
- Food quality
- The food at Porini Lion Camp is hearty safari fare. Food-lovers to whom meals are a key element of the holiday experience will consider the cuisine simple and it is certainly not the focus of a stay here. A weekly rotating menu at all four Porini camps ensures that meal selections are not repeated if you're staying in more than one camp.
A full English-style breakfast is served, with a limited selection of fruit, cereals and yoghurt. This is followed by a hot breakfast with eggs cooked to preference. During a visit in October 2019, we had an excellent breakfast in the bush.
Lunch consisted of two courses. We started with a buffet consisting of lentil curry, pork chops, fluffy rice, vegetable quiche and roasted vegetables. We followed this with a strawberry mousse.
For dinner we ate mushroom soup, stuffed chicken with spaghetti and boiled vegetables, with deep fried banana for pudding.
- Birdwatching in camp is excellent, especially around the tall Warburgia (elephant pepper trees) trees. There is a good variety of raptors in the area and the rare Usambiro barbet can be seen around camp.
- See ideas for Birdwatching
- Photography holidays
- There are few other vehicles in the area, making the experience exclusive and very personal. The Porini Lion Camp Land Cruisers have a number of helpful modifications for photographers, including adept driver/guides and plug sockets.
- See ideas for Photography holidays
- Wildlife safaris
- Open-sided 4x4 safari vehicles and well-qualified guides are the standout features of game drives at Porini Lion Camp, and you rarely see other vehicles. Night drives are also popular and they use a red light to avoid causing stress to the wildlife.
- See ideas for Wildlife safaris
- Attitude towards children
- The camp is unfenced and quiet, so is better for well-behaved children over the age of eight years.
- Property’s age restrictions
- 8+, but walking out of camp is at the discretion of the guide, so normally children need to be fairly big and mature for any foot activities.
- Special activities & services
- There are board games, and children can make bows and arrows etc, with local Maasai staff. Staff from housekeeping will babysit in the evenings, but not very small children.
- Generally recommended for children
- The guests at Porini Lion Camp are usually adults, so children will need to have some appreciation of the bush environment and be able to behave accordingly. It's a rewarding place to stay for more mature children.
Our travellers’ wildlife sightings from Porini Lion Camp
Since mid-2018, many of our travellers who stayed at Porini Lion 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.
- Power supply notes
- The camp has strong eco-credentials and runs off 100% solar power. There are charging points in the media tent.
- Wi-Fi can be accessed in the small media tent and also in the lounge, but not in the bedroom tents.
- TV & radio
- Water supply
- Water supply notes
- The plumbed-in bathrooms have running water for the basin and flush toilet; several have beautiful blue pottery basins and cups with the image of a with the camp's trademark lion motif. Hot water for bucket 'safari showers' is provided before dinner, or on request at any time.
Health & safety
- Malarial protection recommended
- Medical care
- Staff are first aid trained there is a first-aid kit in the camp and one in every vehicle. The nearest professional medical assistance is at Talek, where there's a clinic. The camp has links to the flying doctors service in the event of a serious emergency.
- Dangerous animals
- High Risk
- Security measures
- Askaris patrol the camp day and night.
- Fire safety
- There are fire extinguishers in every tent and near the central areas. Equipment is serviced every six months and staff do fire drills. There is also a firebreak that has been cut in the grass around camp.
Guided walking safari
Hot air ballooning
- Disabled access
- On Request
- Laundry facilities
- No Laundry Facilities
- Valuables can be left with the manager, but there is no safe. Guests are encouraged to lock valuables in their bags. Currency cannot be exchanged.
- Accepted payment on location
- Everything is included at Porini Lion Camp, so strictly speaking, money is not needed. Guests who want to tip or pay for anything can do so in Kenyan shillings or US dollars.
Other lodges in Maasai Mara Conservancies
Alternative places to stay in this same area.