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Ishara
Ishara
Ishara
Ishara
Ishara
Ishara
Ishara
Ishara
Ishara
Ishara

Ishara: Our full report

Ishara, meaning ‘sign’ in Kiswahili, is the brainchild of Azhar Madhani.

Coming from a prominent family of Kenyan entrepreneurs, Azhar felt a strong connection with the Maasai Mara from an early age. When the opportunity arose to build a safari camp in a prime location on the Talek River he seized the chance and set out to build Ishara. The resulting camp, which opened in 2022, is arguably one of the top safari lodges in Kenya. It is clear that no expense has been spared when creating Ishara, and the camp delivers the highest level of luxury while also being designed to have minimal impact on the surrounding environment.

Reached by a footbridge, Ishara has a stunning setting on the south bank of the Talek River. The main area consists of a lounge, bar and dining space, with an expansive deck to the front with a fire pit and views over the river. This is decorated in Ishara's signature colours of muted terracottas, olive greens and creams; it is beautifully styled and feels very in keeping with its surroundings. The attention to detail at Ishara is second to none, and it is clear that every aspect of the design has been carefully considered, with much of the furniture hand-crafted by local artisans, and we loved the contemporary African sculpture and artwork. The standout feature of this space is the large bar, comprised of backlit etched glass panels depicting the coat patterns of animals in the Mara.

A series of sandy paths and bridges connects the communal areas and Ishara’s 10 luxurious guest suites, which comprise:

  • Seven River Suites which as their name suggests are spread along the riverbank. Providing plenty of space, these are beautifully designed and finished to the very highest standard with bespoke furniture and hand-painted fabrics. They ooze with understated luxury, and we loved the tasteful colour scheme of creams and olive greens as well as use of local woods and natural materials. The expansive bedrooms have either a king or twin beds, in addition to a comfortable seating area with ‘grandmother’ chairs and a fridge stocked with a selection of drinks. A Dyson standing fan helps to keep the rooms cool during the heat of the day. The shaded decking to the front provides further seating, while each suite also has a copper-plated outside bathtub with views over the river. The en-suite bathrooms have both inside and outside rain showers, twin basins and full length mirrors. Luxury toiletries are provided. Suite #5 is fully wheelchair-accessible.
  • Two Family Suites, which are comparable to the River Suites in style, and are also located on the south bank of the Talek River. They consist of a master bedroom (identical to the standard River Suites) interconnecting with a second en-suite bedroom which is typically arranged as a twin, although triples are possible. Each family suite has a large deck, which can be accessed via the hall or master bedroom.
  • The Villa Suite is also river facing and this consists of two separate River Suites which are adjoined by a huge lounge and dining area, while the decking also has a private plunge pool and sunken fire pit. This suite would be ideal for a family or two couples travelling together, looking for greater privacy and exclusivity.
  • The Starbed offers a unique sleeping experience, with a double bed set on a wooden platform, with stunning panoramic views over the plains of the Maasai Mara. A bathroom with rainfall shower is located on the level below.
Ishara loves to promote the concept of the slow safari, encouraging guests to slow down, relax and enjoy the tranquility of their surroundings without feeling the need to constantly be on the move. Here the wellness area comes into its own, with the Aya Spa providing an array of massages and therapies; one of their more unusual offerings is the ‘red river treatment’ involving a soak in a bath containing red wine. There is also a gym, kitted out with a selection of weights and cardio equipment, as well as a beautiful infinity pool decorated in colourful tiles with designs inspired by traditional Maasai jewellery.

A highlight of Ishara is the fully kitted out photography studio. Ishara is a Canon official partner, and they have an extensive range of Canon camera bodies and lenses which are free to use, while their resident photography guides can join you on game drives to provide professional tuition or photoshoots. Photo safaris and professional photoshoots are included as standard, although these are subject to availability. Back at camp you can take photo-editing tutorials, and they also have a professional-grade printer, allowing you to take your prints home with you at the end of your stay.

Ishara has a strong commitment to sustainability: the camp is run mainly on solar power; their rainwater harvesting system stores 150,000 litres; a filtration plant provides grey water for irrigation and washing vehicles; their aerophonic tower garden (the 'shamba of goodness'), grows fresh produce in vertical towers, using a fraction of the water needed in traditional vegetable gardens; and the biogas generated from the camp's food waste is used for cooking and heating water. Care has also been taken with their building materials, with the owners going to great lengths to source sustainably produced wood, while also using biodegradable ecoBoard rather than standard fibreboard. When developing Ishara a key focus was to have minimal impact on the natural surroundings, including not chopping down trees; for example, the decking in the central area has been shaped around the existing tree trunks. In addition, more than 12,000 native trees have then been planted on the site, and they have a seedling nursery too.

Activities at Ishara are predominantly focused on game drives in the Maasai Mara National Reserve, and with their own local waterhole you do not need to travel far to see fantastic wildlife. Private vehicles are allocated as standard and their comfortable and fully open Land Cruisers have been adapted for them, with padded camera rests for photographers. Ishara has permission to offer unusual dining experiences, including providing hot bush lunches for guests who want to stay out all day. Other activity options include nature walks around the camp with a local naturalist,and visits to a nearby Maasai village.


Our view

We are often dubious about the arrival of yet another new safari camp in the very crowded Maasai Mara National Reserve. The official management plan for the reserve that was supposed to put a moratorium on all future developments was torpedoed in 2016 by a number of stakeholders. But we have to say that Ishara has been sensitively designed with environmental considerations first and foremost. With only ten tents it does not feel intrusive and is in harmony with its riverine setting. There are very few safari camps in Kenya that can match Ishara for luxury or attention to detail, and for travellers looking for an exquisite lodge with outstanding food and a highly curated safari experience then Ishara is certainly worthy of consideration.

Lyndsey Marris

Lyndsey Marris

Kenya expert

Geographics

Location
Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya
Ideal length of stay
Spend three or more nights to explore the Maasai Mara and enjoy the facilities at Ishara.
Directions
Ishara is around a 15-minute drive from Ol Kiombo Airstrip
Accessible by
Fly-and-Transfer

Food & drink

Usual board basis
Full Board & Activities
Food quality
The food is a stand-out feature of Ishara. The majority of the produce comes from the lodge's vertical tower garden, and the food here is all fresh, inventive and tasty. While we only had the opportunity to eat once here we were blown away by the quality and creativity – some of the best dishes we'd ever eaten in Kenya. Ishara makes most of its own fruit juices, and we also loved the array of loose leaft teas on offer, served in beautiful tea glasses.

The team at Ishara are constantly looking for ways to offer new and exciting dining experiences, from offering private dinners at the observation deck to cooking hot lunches for guests in the middle of the bush.

On our visit in 2023, lunch starters included chilled strawberry and basil soup and orange, beetroot, feta and avocado salad with a balsamic reduction. Main course options were grilled rib-eye steak with onions, bearnaise sauce and hand cut chips; grilled chicken and coconut sauce with sweet potato and arrow root mash and crisp vegetables; and the vegetarian dish was arancini with mushroom sauce and truffle salsa. Desserts included tiramisu and berry cheesecake.
Dining style
Individual Tables
Dining locations
Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Further dining info, including room service
Room service is available on request.
Drinks included
All drinks are included at Ishara with the exception of Champagne and premium spirits.

Special interests

Honeymoons
Ishara provides a romantic setting for a highly luxurious honeymoon. Enjoy a honeymoon photoshoot on the wild side, indulge in a couples massage and end the day with romantic dinner under the stars.
See ideas for Honeymoons in Kenya
Photography holidays
Ishara is one of the few safari camps to boast it's own photography studio. There are high end Cannon cameras and lenses for guests to use, while the resident photography guides can join you on game drives, providing tuition and editing advice. Professional safari photoshoots can also be arranged.
See ideas for Photography holidays in Kenya
Wellbeing
The wellness area at Ishara is an oasis of calm and serenity. The Aya Spa offers a curated selection of therapies, including their unique red wine soak, while they also have also an excellent gym and infinity pool. The perfect place to relax and unwind after your safari.
See ideas for Wellbeing in Kenya
Luxury
Ishara oozes understated luxury, with sumptuous suites, each with indulgent copper plated bath tubs overlooking the river. The food is outstanding, the attention to detail exceptional, and we loved the relaxing spa and infinity pool.
See ideas for Luxury in Kenya

Children

Attitude towards children
Ishara welcomes children over the age of eight, although exceptions can be made for larger families booking Ishara on an exclusive basis.
Property’s age restrictions
8+
Special activities & services
There are no child-specific activities. For older children, games include backgammon and chess, and there's a good-sized swimming pool.
Equipment
None
Generally recommended for children
Ishara has a more mature, adult atmosphere, however the family suites could be a good option for families travelling older children and teenagers,

Communications

Power supply notes
Ishara is predominantly solar powered, however they have a back-up generator for cloudy days.
Communications
There is fast WiFi throughout the lodge, including in all the guest tents and around the outdoor areas such as the pool.
Water supply
Mains
Water supply notes
Ishara has a rainwater harvesting system and a water treatment plant.

Health & safety

Medical care
Staff are first-aid trained and there is a full time resident nurse and medical clinic at the camp. Ishara also has links with a flying doctors service and the airstrip is only a 10-15 minute drive from the camp.
Dangerous animals
High Risk
Security measures
The camp has 24-hour security in place, with askaris (Maasai warriors) escorting guests to and from their tents in the evenings.
Fire safety
Fire extinguishers are in place and staff are trained.

Extras

Disabled access
In Place
Laundry facilities
Laundry is included. All items are machine washed and ironed.
Accepted payment on location
All major currencies are accepted at Ishara. Visa and Mastercard are accepted with a 3% surcharge. American Express is not accepted.

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