Serian

Serian: Our full report

Rooms
6 tents
Traveller's rating
Excellent (98%) From 10 reviews
Children
Best for 8+
Open
All year

Perched quite high above the Mara River, where it cuts a broad valley along the western border of the Mara North Conservancy, Serian Camp is a small independent tented camp, owned by the established safari guide Alex Walker. It has two sister 'Serian' camps in the Mara ecosystem – one directly across the river and one inside the Maasai Mara National Reserve – and there are others in the Serengeti in Tanzania.

Serian is approached from the 'main' dirt road that cuts through the Mara North Conservancy. You drive across open plains, and then start to descend towards the river, where a bushier, rocky aspect takes over the landscape, before rolling into the camp's expansive setting on the steep riverbank.

Many visitors combine a stay at Serian with a stay at its sister camp Nkorombo Serian in the Maasai Mara National Reserve 90 minutes drive to the south. We highly recommend you read the reports on all the camps to get a good flavour of the group's style.

The central areas of Serian feature a cosy lounge and dining area, densely thatched with drooping Kilgoris grass, and furnished with a comfy clutter of cushion-piled sofas. To the front, a very large decked area under the trees is where breakfast and lunch are always served – and dinner too on warm evenings. There are views down across the river from here – some distance down the hillside – and across towards Serian's 'other half' – Ngare Serian, on the west bank of the Mara, accessed by a suspension footbridge, and Serian's own 16km² private conservancy where bush walks are frequently conducted. Behind the lounge and mess tent, there's also a small shop tent, selling local Maasai crafts and souvenirs.

The paths to the six guest tents are somewhat rocky and irregular – no problem for many guests, but slightly tricky to negotiate for older visitors, who will be glad of the arm of an askari – who always accompany guests as they move around the unfenced camp after dark.

The guest tents at Serian are large and handsome, set on polished, creamy-coloured cement plinths or wooden platforms, overlooking the river. The beds are Victorian-style four-poster, iron-framed creations, with distressed paint. Sofas, chaise longues, writing tables, and directors' chairs are set around each tent, to be pulled in and out

The tent bathrooms at Serian have always featured an unusual setup: they are separate from the tent itself, accessed by a short walkway or a flight of steps. For some guests this is a bonus, offering more privacy, but for others, grabbing a flashlight in the middle of the night to go out to the loo might seem inconvenient. So in 2014, Serian added small en-suite bathrooms to their guest tents, while leaving the separate bush-bathroom facilities in place, including the wonderful 'baths with a view'.

If you're a family or larger group, the family unit is ideal, incorporating two tents and two bathrooms and set on a large deck with a shaded lounge and dining area between the two tents. The camp are very happy for families to dine down here in private if they wish.

In terms of activities, the three Serian camps in the Mara share a team of fourteen driver/guides, all at bronze level or above. A special feature here is having a private driver/guide and vehicle for every party of guests. In most camps, exclusive vehicle and guide use can be pre-booked, but is an extra cost. At Serian, you'll be looked after by the same main driver/guide throughout your stay. Having a private vehicle and guide means you can do exactly what you want and and it's particularly worthwhile when you get to know each other.

Serian's game drives usually take place in the large and varied Mara North Conservancy, but you also have the option of doing all-day drives into the Maasai Mara National Reserve (one all-day visit is usually included for every three-night stay). Most visitors elect to do this during the wildebeest migration season between July and October – but take the advice of your guides on when it's worthwhile: for much of the year, the wildlife concentrations in the conservancy are as good as, or better than inside the reserve.

The other main activity at Serian is guided bush walks in Serian's private, 16km² concession on the west bank of the Mara. On these short walks (available for all ages), your armed escorts will be equipped with traditional weapons. For longer walks, and walks in the Mara North Conservancy, guns are carried. The guides at Serian can also take guests out on some fabulous night drives. On a previous visit we watched lionesses hunt in the dark, as well as getting a rare sighting of an aardwolf and an even rarer sighting of an aardvark!

An optional extra is a night in The Nest Treehouse: a comfortable yet rustic elevated fly camp a short walk north of camp. Subject to availability, a night here is included at no extra charge if requested, and you don't have to give up your tent at Serian. It is also possible to head up here just for lunch or dinner, which adds some really nice variety to your stay. Given that there is no additional cost for this stay, it is definitely worth booking time here in advance during high season, as it is very popular.

Our view

Although Serian is a small camp, its physical extent and elevated position give it the air of a grander set-up without it ever feeling pretentious. Both the guest tents and the beautiful central area with its river views are a delight. We thought the hospitality here was exceptional and the private driver-guiding is a real bonus – the costs of which admittedly are built into the relatively high rates. There is a bit of a drive out of the river valley into the better wildlife areas of Mara North.

Geographics

Location: Maasai Mara Conservancies, Kenya

Ideal length of stay: 3–4 nights

Directions: Mara North airstrip is about a one-hour slow game drive from Serian.

Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer

Key personnel

Owner: Alex Walker

Food & drink

Usual board basis: Full Board

Food quality: We last visited Serian in March 2018, but didn’t stay long enough to try the food. Given what we have experienced during previous stays, we know that creative, tasty and copious meals are a main feature of a stay at Serian, and the kitchen makes great use of produce from their vegetable, salad and herb garden – though meat and fish are usually flown in from Nairobi. As always, it would be good to see at least some meat coming from the local community, but the quality is rarely high enough. Full breakfasts are served in the morning, while lunch is a buffet of chilled soup, salads, cold meat, pastas and quiches. The three-course dinners tend to be slightly more formal.

Dining style: Group Meals

Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining

Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included

Drinks included: All drinks are included except for Champagne and premium wines and spirits.

Further dining info: On request

Children

Attitude towards children: Serian will happily accommodate families, with the family tent being a convenient option.

Property’s age restrictions: There is no minimum age. Under-fives stay free of charge

Special activities & services: Children can learn bush skills like how to start a fire and fire a bow and arrow.

Equipment: Cots and highchairs can be obtained if requested in advance.

Infrastructure

Power supply: Solar Power

Power supply notes: Power is on 24-hours a day and guests can charge batteries in their rooms.

Communications: There is no general guest Wi-fi. The camp does have Internet access in case of urgent need. There is patchy mobile phone reception – you may need to head out of camp towards the road for a better signal.

TV & radio: There's no TV for guest use.

Water supply: Other

Water supply notes: Serian's main water supply comes from the Mara River, and they have their own spring. The water is pumped to settling tanks and drinking water is then filtered and bottled for guests' use.

Sustainability

Investing in conservation initiatives

Investing in conservation initiativesWhen the team at Alex Walker’s Serian Camp first took over, the landscape was disheartening – the wildlife was scarce and cattle had destroyed the vegetation. Serian’s commitment to rehabilitating the ecosystem lies in consistent efforts to stop poaching activity in the area. The camp has employed and trained 4 rangers who patrol the area, ensuring guests and wildlife are protected. Over the years, herds of elephants and prides of lions have returned to the valleys. With support from Mara North Conservancy poaching activities have decreased and poachers have been arrested.

Serian Camp is also supporting the Mara Predator Project. They assist researchers with vehicles and information about the lion population in the area.

Moreover, conservation practices were extended to benefit more the local community. Therefore, in addition to paying leasing fees for the land the resort is built on, an extra fee per bed night is contributing to the development of local villages. The resort also employs and trains local women as Lady Guides, promoting gender equality and women empowerment.

Health & safety

Malarial protection recommended: Yes

Medical care: Staff and managers have had some first aid training. There is a basic clinic at Mara Rianta, about half an hour's driver from camp.

Dangerous animals: High Risk

Security measures: Maasai askaris escort guests around camp after dark.

Fire safety: All the tents have fire extinguishers.

Extras

Disabled access: On Request

Laundry facilities: Laundry service is included, and clothes are hand-washed and line-dried. For cultural reasons, no underwear can be accepted.

Money: There is a safe in the office for guests' use. The camp doesn't offer foreign exchange.

Accepted payment on location: Credit cards are not accepted. Only cash (Kenya shillings, US dollars, pounds sterling or Euros) are accepted in payment for any extras, and the crafts and curios shop at the main camp only accepts cash.

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