This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Learn more

Skip to main content

Talk to an expert 1-800-242-2434 Lines open now

User menu
Saruni Mara
Saruni Mara
Saruni Mara
Saruni Mara
Saruni Mara
Saruni Mara
Saruni Mara
Saruni Mara

Saruni Mara: Our full report

On a wooded, south-facing hillside in the far north of the Mara North Conservancy, the Italian-owned Saruni ...

... Mara is a stylish and unfenced bush lodge with six individual cottage-villas. Unlike most other properties in the Mara’s conservancies, it is built with a degree of permanence, setting it apart from the numerous tented camps found nearby.

A sister lodge to the equally stylish Saruni Samburu, Saruni Mara is quite a drive north of the other camps in the Mara North Conservancy. Some may see its remote location, far from the main national reserve, as a negative; certainly those fixated on seeing river crossings (for which you have to be inside the Maasai Mara National Reserve) would. But we saw it as a delightful retreat in the remote northern side of a conservancy whose southern part is now quite busy.

The Mara North Conservancy is one of the oldest of the Mara’s conservancies and, taken as a whole, has the most camps. Yet from Saruni Mara your first few hours’ game drive are delightfully quiet – with few other vehicles around to interrupt your game sightings. Saruni is also located near a small village, which gives your stay here a more rounded experience than that of just wildlife. Each day you pass by a community – and in doing so learn a little about the way of life here.

A winding road takes you from the flat plains of the Mara North Conservancy up to the lodge itself, which has a high vantage point. As you approach, you can marvel at how both the rooms and the main area are individually cantilevered out from the hillside.

Once at Saruni Mara, a stone pathway takes you through grassy lawns to the office and shop where WiFi is available, and a vast array of tempting curios include beaded items from the local community and more opulent ones from Nairobi. If you are lucky, the resident eland might be snoozing here on the porch, posing for up-close photographs as he did for us, when we last visited, in March 2017.

The path continues on to the main, open-fronted dining and lounge banda. This has an almost cottage-like appearance, with dark wooden beams running through white-washed plastered walls and areas of exposed stone along the back and sides of the building, and a high thatched roof that adds to the bright and breezy feel. Rather than overly stylish, the décor is quite plain, but simple pieces of Swahili furniture add character, and the rustic yet uncluttered look works really well.

A stone bench scattered with cushions offers a place to sit during the day, while a softer arrangement of chairs and sofas face a fire that is lit on cool evenings. We loved the enormous dining table made from old railway sleepers full of its original knots and holes – just watch where you put your glass of wine! Communal meals are served here, with lovely old-fashioned silverware giving a faintly colonial feel to your dining experience.

Next to the main banda, Saruni Mara has an extensive library, a quiet place to seek refuge, or read up on birds and wildlife, whilst taking in the views from the open front. Although guests may prefer to lounge on the veranda of their individual cottages instead.

The six spacious cottages at Saruni Mara are set either side of the main area, and built in the same country farmhouse style. Each is very comfortably furnished to reflect a slightly different theme – the Artist's Studio, the Observatory, the Literary Room, the Photographer's Studio, Nyati Housse, the Family Villa and (furthest away from the main area) the Honeymoon Villa – but otherwise are broadly the same.

Inside you’ll find lovely wooden floors, polished to a high shine, and huge four-poster beds draped in mosquito netting. Most have fixed double-bed arrangements, although one can be a double or a twin. Woven rugs scattered across the floors, occasional piece of antique furniture such as a stunning brass spotting scope, and a sherry decanter, add an old colonial charm. There is a lounge area with a sofa or pair of armchairs, then a writing desk, luggage rack and a huge wardrobe where you will also find a small safe for valuables, and a hairdryer. From the terraces, each with a comfortable day bed, there are sweeping views down towards the Mara North Conservancy.

The white-washed cottage walls continue into the en-suite bathroom, although the shower area is made from canvas with wide gauze windows, giving an outdoors feel. There’s ample hot running water to the powerful shower, which might well be the best we have had in the Mara, and to twin ceramic sinks, which are set atop a wide wooden tabletop in front of a large mirror. Organic toiletries are provided and there is a flushing toilet.

Near cottages one and two, the ‘Maasai Wellbeing Space’ is a spa and treatment base run by trained Maasai masseuses, who offer a free, introductory, 30-minute massage to every guest. There’s a bathroom here, too, so you don’t have to go back to your cottage to prepare for your massage after a game drive.

Activities are quite varied at Saruni Mara, though most people will spend much of their time doing drives into the Mara North Conservancy. Although it's also worth noting that Saruni Mara also have the option of doing the game drives in the neighbouring Lemek Conservancy, giving them access to a much larger area than other camps in Mara North. Six open-sided Land Rovers are available for guests (three nine-seaters and three six-seaters) and whenever possible, the camp aims to give each solo guest, couple or family group their own vehicle. It is also possible to do bushwalks with Maasai guides, and village visits (for a small extra fee payable to the community).

Those staying at Saruni Mara for three nights are also offered a day in the Maasai Mara National Reserve. It takes approximately two-and-a-half hours to reach the reserve, so this is always done a full-day trip with a picnic breakfast and lunch.

Our view

Clearly marked by the irrepressible character of its Italian owners, Saruni Mara makes a very strong impression. If you're looking for a relaxing and stylish but remote bush retreat, with the opportunity to do local game walks as well as game drives, this is an ideal lodge, but it’s not an ideal base for the migration, for which it’s better to be nearer the main Maasai Mara National Reserve

Anton Walker

Anton Walker

Kenya expert


Maasai Mara Conservancies, Kenya
Ideal length of stay
Three days or more will allow you both to enjoy the activities and take an afternoon to relax in the lodge.
Saruni Mara is about an hour’s drive from Mara North airstrip.
Accessible by

Food & drink

Usual board basis
Full Board & Activities
Food quality
The food at Saruni Mara was good when we last visited in March 2017. Strongly influenced by its Italian owner it has lots of flavour and especially excellent pasta dishes. Both Saruni Mara and Saruni Samburu operate a shared weekly menu in order to avoid repeats for guests staying at both.

We experienced both a bush breakfast, and breakfast in camp. The option will depend on your individual schedule, usually decided with your guide the day before. When we were out in the bush, our picnic site was on a plain under the shade of a tree with a view of grazing zebra in the background. We were offered stools for seating and a Maasai blanket was thrown over the hood of the car as a table. Cereal, muffins, fruit, toast were on offer, together with cold sausage, bacon and boiled eggs, with tea, coffee and juices to drink.

Breakfast in camp comprised a variety of cereals, a fruit platter and a selection of baked goods, followed by freshly cooked eggs or your choice with bacon, sausage, mushrooms, tomato and toast.

Possibly our favourite meal at Saruni Mara was the lunch we had in camp: a set menu served to the table. Our starter, of delicious rigatoni (oversized penne) in a rich cheese and tomato sauce, was followed by a tasty avocado and feta salad with a spinach quiche, and finished with a raspberry fool. Saruni also arrange packed lunches for guests heading out on safari for the whole day.

Evening dinner at Saruni Mara starts with nibbles around the fire; on one evening we had pizza slices, on another little salmon rolls. Then as a starter you can expect something like soup or a pasta dish; we had a pea soup one night, and lasagna the next. A main course of steak with pepper sauce and vegetables stuck in our memory, although the chicken and pesto dish was a little more forgettable. Dessert options might include a mango cheesecake, sorbet or peach amarettis.
Dining style
Group Meals
Dining locations
Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Further dining info, including room service
Meals at Saruni Mara are usually hosted and communal, though on request they can set individual tables. Meals can also be served privately in your cottage.
Drinks included
All drinks are included except for premium wines and spirits, and Champagne.


Attitude towards children
Children are welcome at Saruni Mara.
Property’s age restrictions
Special activities & services
For the 6+ bracket, the “warriors for a week" programme brings Maasai boys into interaction with visiting children.
Baby cot and high chairs.
Generally recommended for children
Slightly older children would be best, as Saruni Mara feels quite adult and quiet.
Housekeeping staff will sit with babies and children, and askaris are close by in the evening. It is important to note that none of the staff are specifically trained in childcare.

Our travellers’ wildlife sightings from Saruni Mara

Since mid-2018, many of our travellers who stayed at Saruni 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.


100% success


100% success


100% success


100% success


100% success

Spotted Hyena

100% success


100% success


100% success


0% success

Black Rhino

0% success


0% success


0% success


0% success


0% success

Striped Hyena

0% success

Wild dog

0% success


Power supply notes
There is 24 hour electricity in all of the rooms.
There is good phone signal at Saruni Mara and WiFi at the office/shop and around cottages 2 and 3.
TV & radio
Staff quarters have a TV for the odd big match or special event.
Water supply
Transported in
Water supply notes
Hot water is available most of the time but as the kuni-booster needs to be lit – guests will need to ask the night before if they want hot water in the early morning. Bottled drinking water is supplied.

Health & safety

Malarial protection recommended
Medical care
All the guides are first-aiders at Saruni Mara. Aitong clinic is not far away and for serious emergencies medevac helicopters can land nearby.
Dangerous animals
High Risk
Security measures
Askaris are on patrol all the time at Saruni Mara and Mara North rangers are usually around the area.
Fire safety
Saruni Mara has fire extinguishers in every room and most other buildings. Most staff have been trained in using them. There’s a firebreak uphill from camp where forest fires would be most likely to come from.


  • 4WD Safari

    4WD Safari

  • Birdwatching


  • Cultural excursion

    Cultural excursion

  • Fly-camping


  • Guided walking safari

    Guided walking safari

  • Hot air ballooning

    Hot air ballooning

  • Night drive

    Night drive


Disabled access
On Request
Laundry facilities
Machine-washed and line-dried laundry is included in the rates, but in common with most camps, ladies' underwear is not washed for cultural reasons (washing powder is provided in the bathrooms for hand-washing any items).
There are safes in each room at Saruni Mara. They cannot offer any currency exchange.
Accepted payment on location
All major currencies are accepted in cash at Saruni Mara, as are Mastercard and Visa credit cards for which there is a 4% surcharge.

Other lodges in Maasai Mara Conservancies

Alternative places to stay in this same area.

Kicheche Bush Camp

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.

100% (98 reviews)
Kicheche Mara

Kicheche Mara

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.

98% (86 reviews)
Kicheche Valley

Kicheche Valley

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.

99% (61 reviews)
Naboisho Camp

Naboisho Camp

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.

98% (48 reviews)
Offbeat Mara

Offbeat Mara

Offbeat Mara is a small traditional camp that appeals to safari traditionalists, located in one of the Maasai Mara’s quiet conservancies.

98% (41 reviews)
Elephant Pepper Camp

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.

99% (17 reviews)
Encounter Mara

Encounter Mara

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.

93% (16 reviews)


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.

97% (14 reviews)
Mara Plains 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.

100% (13 reviews)
Basecamp Eagle View

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.

96% (10 reviews)
Kicheche Walking Wilderness

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.

96% (9 reviews)
Porini Lion Camp

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.

83% (8 reviews)
Hemingways Ol Seki Mara

Hemingways Ol Seki

Magnificently located tented lodge on a bluff looking south across the Naboisho Conservancy toward the Maasai Mara National Reserve.

95% (8 reviews)
Ol Kinyei Adventure Camp

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.

98% (8 reviews)
Saruni Wild

Saruni Wild

Saruni Wild is a rustic and traditional safari camp in the Lemek Conservancy, with just three tents and limited electricity.

97% (7 reviews)
Ngare Serian

Ngare Serian

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

96% (5 reviews)
Porini Mara Camp

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.

96% (5 reviews)
Offbeat Ndoto

Offbeat Ndoto

Small and intimate, Offbeat Mara is set in a valley above the (often dry) Olare Orok River within the Mara North Conservancy.

100% (5 reviews)
Cottars 1920s Camp

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.

92% (5 reviews)
Karen Blixen Camp

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.

90% (4 reviews)
Basecamp Leopard Hill

Basecamp Leopard Hill

With six beautiful tents, Basecamp Leopard Hill is a smart safari camp in the Naboisho Conservancy in the Maasai Mara ecosystem.

100% (4 reviews)


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.

90% (2 reviews)
Mahali Mzuri

Mahali Mzuri

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.

100% (2 reviews)
Mara Nyika

Mara Nyika

Mara Nyika is one of the newer additions to the Naboisho Conservancy and offers a luxurious and exclusive safari.

100% (1 review)
Basecamp Wilderness Camp

Basecamp Wilderness

Basecamp Wilderness Camp is a simple, traditional tented camp, set in a remote valley in the Naboisho Conservancy in the Mara ecoystem.

100% (1 review)
Mara Bushtops

Mara Bushtops

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.

No reviews yet
Cottars Private House

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.

No reviews yet


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.

No reviews yet

Login to Expert Africa

Sign in with password

Sign in with email link

New to Expert Africa? Create an account

Forgotten your details?

It's free & quick to set up

  • Save your wish-list
  • Send us an enquiry
  • Pay online for your trip
  • Subscribe to our newsletter
  • Give us feedback on your trip
  • Full site benefits of the site

Need some help? Talk to our team