Little Governors' Camp: Our full report
On the lip of an old oxbow of the Mara River, now a broad marsh frequented by elephants, Little Governors' ...... Camp is one of only a handful of places to stay in the Mara Triangle sector of the Maasai Mara National Reserve. It has won a place in the hearts of many safari-goers and has been a favourite with visitors to the Maasai Mara since the 1970s.
Getting to Little Governors', there's some extra excitement (if lions by the airstrip and elephants next to the parking area were not enough) in the dinghy crossing that ferries you, and your luggage, across the 20-metre width of the Mara River, which is narrow at this point, to the camp on the western side. There's a flight of some 50 steps (fairly even but rather steep) on each side of the river bank: this is not a camp for those who would struggle with climbing three flights of stairs. The camp itself is located in an area of riverine forest and has a rather tropical feel to it.
The camp's central areas conform very much to the formula of the main Governors' Camp, with large, canvas-sheltered lounge and dining areas featuring open sides and tiled floors. The lounge and bar were refurbished in 2017 and this is now a cosy, relaxing spot with several sofas and low coffee tables; in the evening small charcoal burners keep guests warm and toasty. Bar stools, and the cocktail of the day marked up on a blackboard, lend a convivial atmosphere. Meals are often served overlooking the marsh and there is normally plentiful wildlife to be seen here; when we stayed here in 2018 there were several hippos and buffalos as well as a herd of elephants who regularly passed through the area. Little Governors is also home to a habituated warthog family who are often seen wandering around the camp.
There's also a useful little shop and a small but rather nice gallery with a range of natural history photography on show.
The 17 identical tents at Little Governors' Camp stretch out along the edge of the marsh from close to the main areas to about 250m away (#17, the honeymoon tent of choice). All are the same layout and size – about 3m internal width – as the tents at main Governors' Camp. The plinth of each tent is laid with polished floorboards, a covering that extends, with the odd rug, through the bedroom area. Like Governors' Camp, the furnishings are simple – directors' chairs, a folding veranda table, a luggage rack, a small dressing/writing table – and the furniture gives a more temporary impression than is warranted by the very permanent camp infrastructure, which has been here since the late 1970s.
Bathrooms, too, are similar in every respect to those in Governors' Camp's tents – red-tiled and rather dark – though the half-height wooden wall paneling at Little Governors' has been kept in its original varnish instead of being repainted in cream. New solar heaters provide hot water for the tents, and power sockets in the tents are on at all times and powered by an impressive new solar energy system. Little Governors have introduced an excellent reverse osmosis purification system and there is a tap in each tent which provides filtered drinking water.
Little Governors' has the best 'bush' atmosphere of the three Governors' camps: you're rarely in any doubt that you're in the African savannah. On a previous visit we had just been served our dessert at dinner in the dining tent when we noticed a commotion outside in the dark. Heads turned and then the unmistakable shape of a bull elephant hoved into view. Waiters swiftly moved over to ask us to pause before tucking into the sticky toffee pudding and then moved our table physically closer to the middle of the floor. All the guests ended up on their feet, protected from the edge of the dining area by a barricade of dining tables. The bull was methodically moving through the area harvesting the camp's green heart trees for the tasty fruit. He could smell our half-finished dinners, however, and paused for a couple of minutes to give us an appreciative sniff – and possibly pose long enough for a few photos – before ambling off into the dark.
You'll discuss each day's activities at Little Governors' with the manager the evening before. Game drives from Little Governors' Camp typically take place in the Musiara sector of the national reserve, on the other side of the river, so you need to cross back on the little ferry and are picked up on the other side (you walk direct from your tent to the ferry steps, which takes between one and five minutes depending on which tent you're in). Many guests opt for an extended early drive, with a packed breakfast. Guests at Little Governors' also have the option of late morning game drives using the balloon vehicles in the Mara Triangle sector. Additional activities include walking safaris which are led by an experienced walking guide accompanied by an armed ranger and are typically around 6km.
Little Governors' uses mostly open-sided Land Rovers with two rows of seats in the rear, and the option for one passenger to sit next to the driver-guide. There are more than 40 driver-guides based at the Governors' camps in the Mara. Each driver is in charge of his own vehicle and is based at a particular camp.
If you're doing a balloon flight (around $500 per person: book in advance), having one of the biggest launch sites in the Mara on your doorstep (the area is just behind the central area of camp) means that you won't have to get up at 4am, as some vistors do. You also have a chance to watch the balloons take off one morning, which can be almost as much fun as participating.
Back in camp there is the option of enjoying a spa treatment in the privacy of your own tent; when we were here in 2019 massages were in the region of $60 per hour.
Governors and Little Governors Camps have previously been used as a base for the Big Cat Diary and Big Cat Tales film crew. The team would stay here for weeks at a time, often following the famous marsh lion pride who were the stars of the documentary series. Many guests continue come here specifically to visit the marsh pride and their descendants.
Little Governors' is our favourite of the three Governors' camps. The location is terrific, and every tent has a wonderful view of the marsh. If you're doing a balloon flight, then staying here makes it very easy. Most first-time safari-goers adore this camp; many come back year after year; and lots of guests wouldn't change a thing. The new fully-solar power arrangements are commendable. And if you like the idea of a streamlined and dependable set-up, and want a camp that is smaller than the main Governors', then take a good look at this one.
- Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya
- Ideal length of stay
- Three or four nights
- From Musiara airstrip, it’s a 15-minute transfer, finishing with a passenger dinghy across the Mara River. There's a flight of some 50 steps to descend and climb on either side of the river.
- Accessible by
Food & drink
- Usual board basis
- Full Board & Activities
- Food quality
- Guests often go out for a long morning game drive, or take a balloon flight – which both include a bush breakfast – so the opportunity to enjoy a big breakfast in camp doesn't always arise. But if you are here for breakfast, then a cooked breakfast to order, and plenty of choice from fruit, cereals, pastries and bread is always available.
There are normally two morning drives, an early morning drive which departs around 06:15, getting back for a breakfast around 9:00. Many guests then choose to go on a second, later morning drive which departs around 10:30, arriving back in camp in time for lunch.
The buffet lunch at Little Governors' would usually include varied choices from dishes such as tandoori chicken curry, rice, moussaka, freshly baked breads and a salad station where you can choose your salad ingredients and preferred dressing. Dessert was a rich chocolate tiffin with chocolate sauce.
For dinner there's a choice of meat or fish, with at least one vegetarian option, such as roasted pumpkin quiche, with a choice of puds and a Kenyan cheese board to follow. There's often a Mongolian barbecue too. On our most recent visit in 2019 we started with broccoli soup, this was followed by vegetable risotto; dessert was then a sticky banana cake with toffee sauce.
- Little Governors’ Camp is a comfortable bush camp with a great location for a safari honeymoon in the Maasai Mara National Reserve. Stay in Tent #17 – the most private tent furthest from the central area – which has wonderful views across the marsh.
- See ideas for Honeymoons
- Photography holidays
- Sited by a broad marsh, Little Governors’ has a great backdrop for wildlife shots in camp, especially elephants and hippos, while spacious vehicles and experienced guides allow for great opportunities to get up close and personal with your subjects.
- See ideas for Photography holidays
- Attitude towards children
- No policy
- Property’s age restrictions
- Special activities & services
- Babysitting can be arranged, this will be by a member of the housekeeping staff, not a qualified babysitter.
- Cots and highchairs are available
- Generally recommended for children
- No: like Governors’ Il Moran, this is quite a grown-up camp, frequently chosen by honeymooners and couples celebrating anniversaries. Children won’t be turned away, but it’s not ideal for them, and noisy behaviour is likely to be frowned upon. If you want to a family-friendly safari camp, the main Governors’ Camp is much better suited.
- There is big game around camp at Little Governors’, and so any children will need to be under the constant supervision of their parents.
Our travellers’ wildlife sightings from Little Governors'
Since mid-2018, many of our travellers who stayed at Little Governors' 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
- There is a backup generator, plus solar panels and solar conduction panels to provide hot water. Tent sockets are on long cables, and also have USB plugs.
- There’s WiFi near the central area and shop and cellphone coverage in most of the camp, though in the far end towards tent #17 it can be patchy.
- TV & radio
- There's no guest TV, but there's a TV in the staff quarters which guests could visit on the occasion of major sporting events.
- Water supply
- Water supply notes
- The solar heaters provide hot running water for sinks and showers and there is an impressive reverse osmosis purification system in place which provides fresh drinking water on tap.
Sharing tourism benefits with local villages
Located in the Northern part of the Masai Mara National Reserve, Little Governors’ Camp collaborates closely with its community neighbours to make sure they see real benefits from tourism. Through the mother company Governors’ Camp, the lodge is especially involved in the Mara biogas project.
To help a traditional Masai homestead in Mara Rianda village conserve the acacia trees and provide them with a reliable source of fuel, Little Governors’ Camp built a biogas plant, which supplied the residents with methane gas to cook on. As the gas was generated from the cow dung, the plant helped remove vast quantities of dung from the centre of the village, thus reducing the number of flies and fly-born diseases.
Although the homestead that benefitted from this biogas project has since moved, to further support Mara Rianda, the camp encourages guests to visit the village. To enter the community, tourists are required to pay for a ticket. This revenue supports 98 different families comprising of 300 individuals and has been used to build a nursery school for 120 children, with two classrooms, accommodation for 3 teachers and a toilet facility. The money from the ticket entry also helps the community members to buy food, pay for secondary school for their children, and supports the village during times of drought.
Due to the sustainable practices in place, Little Governors’ Camp has been awarded a Gold Eco-Rating from Eco Tourism Kenya.
See more great sustainability projects in Kenya
Health & safety
- Malarial protection recommended
- Medical care
- The guides are first-aid trained, and each vehicle has a first-aid kit. The nearest doctor is at Governors' Camp, just five minutes' drive away. Little Governors' Camp has links to the Flying Doctor service.
- Dangerous animals
- High Risk
- Security measures
- There are numerous askaris on site, escorting guests at all times of the day and night.
- Fire safety
- There are fire extinguishers around the camp and regular fire drills for staff.
Guided walking safari
Hot air ballooning
- Disabled access
- On Request
- Laundry facilities
- Full laundry service is included, but underwear is not accepted (soap powders is provided in the bathrooms).
- Valuables can be left at the safe in reception. They don't do foreign exchange.
- Accepted payment on location
- They take credit card payments, including Amex, with no surcharge. They also take most major currencies in cash, but not travellers’ cheques.
Other lodges in Maasai Mara National Reserve
Alternative places to stay in this same area.