Mara Ngenche Safari Camp is located on two of the most important rivers in the Mara...
Mara Ngenche Safari Camp: Our full report
Meaning ‘to share’ in the Maasai language, Mara Ngenche Safari Camp is situated on the confluence of the Mara and Talek rivers. Tucked into quite thick indigenous riverine forest, Ngenche Camp has been built to disturb as little of the surrounding bush as possible. Historically this was an important place, where the local Maasai community would come to share the loot that they had raided from neighbouring tribes.
Under the same ownership as sister camp Elephant Bedroom, and the much simpler Tipilikwani, Mara Ngenche Safari Camp is a very comfortable tented safari camp. Its central location makes it a great option for exploring the Maasai Mara National Reserve from one side to the other.
On arrival, you will be greeted by a member of the team, offering a cold towel and a large smile. They will help you with your luggage and take you to a shady area with sofas where you will be introduced to the runnings of the camp. This welcome area (which is also where a simple shop is) is the only part of the camp that feels a bit dated, with a damp mud floor and dark canvas roof.
It’s a shame that this welcome area is your first impression of Mara Ngenche Safari Camp, as it is not at all representative of the quality of the rest of the camp. Swiftly you move on to the main areas that are significantly smarter and brighter. These consist of two separate tents – one of which houses a lounge area quite densely furnished with comfortable sofas and chairs draped in Maasai blankets centered around a chunky carved wooden coffee table. Then additional wooden and suede lounge chairs are dotted along the edges of the tent, whilst in the corner is a wooden bar stocked with soft drinks, beer, wines and spirits of all types. Decorative leather wall hangings covered in Maasai beaded patterns hang on the walls and woven carpets are spread across the floors – resulting in a homely feel.
In front of the lounge is a shaded veranda with directors chairs – a nice spot to look out towards the river confluence. Though you have to walk a short way to get really good views and to see the hippos and crocs that sit on the sandy riverbank (only when the water is low).
Adjacent is the dining tent, furnished with separately laid tables where guests dine independently of each other. Swahili wooden furniture stands at the edges of the tent, and woven carpets across the floors. Not overly furnished, this tent is practical and simple – perfect for convivial evening meals served by the extremely friendly and engaging staff.
For those who want to dine alfresco in the daytime – tables shaded by parasols stand in the garden down a very slight slope towards the rivers edge. Though these don’t quite have uninterrupted views due to the untouched bush that grows in front – they remain delightfully cool places to enjoy a three¬-course lunch. The staff at Mara Ngenche Safari Camp talk you through a couple of options for the starter and three choices for the main (always with a vegetarian option).
The spacious tented rooms at Ngenche Camp are spread through the bush – having been built disturbing as little of it as possible. Sandy pathways meander through the thicket, taking you between the main areas to each tent which is spaced well apart from the next.
The tents are vast, built with light cream canvas that feels fresh and bright. In front each has a hammock that hangs from the trees, and a veranda with directors chairs and a coffee table. It is here where you will find your morning tea or coffee for your wake up call – arranged the night before.
Inside the rooms are very traditional – with huge wooden four-poster beds, dark wooden chairs and footstools with velvet covers, and a writing desk. Little touches such as Maasai dressing gowns, slippers and umbrellas for when it rains add an extra element of luxury. Some might find the traditional décor of these rooms a little dated in comparison to some of the more contemporary camps in the Mara. But those who like an old fashioned style will enjoy them – though old in style, the rooms are certainly well kept and very nicely done.
Each has an adjacent ensuite bathroom with a flush toilet, twin porcelain sinks set atop a wooden table in front of a large mirror, a spoiling claw-foot bath and an outside shower
The activities at Mara Ngenche Safari Camp centre on morning and afternoon, or all day game drives within the Maasai Mara National Reserve. The morning drives depart at 6:30am and afternoon at 4pm – outside of the heat of the day. Additional activities such as sundowners with snacks, Maasai dances in the camp, a visit to a local village (extra local cost to the village) can all be arranged also.
Our viewNgenche is a small tented camp, but not hosted which makes it a rather unusual property for the Mara. The staff here are exceptionally friendly and the manager very approachable – but guests have a higher degree of independence than many of the other places we feature of this size. This, twinned with the old fashioned style of the rooms makes it suitable for those who want a bit more autonomy but without having to opt for a large hotel like property.
Ideal length of stay: The average stay at Mara Ngenche Safari Camp is three nights, which allows for plenty of time to explore the local area.
Directions: To reach Mara Ngenche Safari Camp, fly to Olkiombo Airstrip which is a 45-minute drive away.
Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: We only stopped in to Mara Ngenche Safari Camp for lunch, on our way to its sister camp Tipilikwani in another part of the Mara. Though if the standard of lunch is anything to go by then the food at Ngenche is good.
For lunch we had a starter of papaya and cucumber wrapped in fried aubergine. Then for the main course there is always four choices – one meat, one fish and two vegetarian. We enjoyed tilapia with red peppers, spinach and peas and a lemon sauce. Of the two dessert choices we went for a light but delicious lemon soufflé.
Though we didn’t experience the other meals ourselves, we understand breakfast is usually taken as a picnic. With fruit, cereals, boiled eggs, baked beans, mushrooms, bacon, sausage and bread. All this goes out with vehicles and at breakfast time your guide will put up a table and camping chairs for you to sit whilst you eat. Some guests opt to have breakfast in camp – which is on offer from 6 until 9am. In which case cereals, fruits, Danish pastries and a full English (often done at a cooking station outside so you can interact with the chef) are on offer along with a selection of juices.
Dinner is then four courses with a choice for the main course and dessert.
The chef at Ngenche popped out to visit us during our lunchtime meal, and explained that he is able to cater to peoples tastes and various dietary requirements. It is essential for him to know in advance so that he can plan menus accordingly and make sure that he has the ingredients he needs in this remote location.
Dining style: Individual Tables
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included
Drinks included: Most drinks are included, apart from Champagne and specially imported wines and spirits.
Further dining info: Mara Ngenche Safari Camp can do private dining for their guests, in front of the tents or in the gardens.
Attitude towards children: Mara Ngenche Safari Camp feels that it is better for older children – as it is right on a high bank of the Mara/Talek river and with no fence.
Special activities & services: There are no special services offered by Mara Ngenche Safari Camp, apart from triple rooms which are suitable for a family.
Generally recommended for children: Mara Ngenche Safari Camp is located in an area of quite thick bush, right next to two rivers and it is an unfenced camp. Wildlife is likely to walk right through and so this, added to the fact that it is quite an adult camp, means it is better suited to older children of 12 years and over.
Notes: Children need supervision at all times.
Communications: There is Wifi at Mara Ngenche Safari Camp. Though the cell phone coverage is a bit mixed, apart from one reliable spot where the signal is quite strong. If necessary there is a computer in the office that people can use.
TV & radio: There is no TV at Mara Ngenche Safari Camp.
Water supply: Transported in
Water supply notes: Mara Ngenche Safari Camp use water for washing from a very clean spring located nearby. This spring is looked after by the park authorities who purify it for the various camps to use. Bottled drinking water is then provided.
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: Mara Ngenche Safari Camp has a first aid box for small injuries. A number of the house-keeping team are trained in first aid as well as all the guides. For more serious incidents there is a clinic and a doctor based near Olkiombo airstrip that they can use. Ngenche also has links to flying doctors. There is heli-pad about 30 metres away from the camp for a helicopter to land if there is a serious emergency.
Dangerous animals: High Risk
Security measures: Askaris (Maasai guards) escort people around the camp at night. There are radios in each tent and someone from the Kenya Wildlife police is stationed in camp at all times.
Fire safety: There are fire extinguishers in every room, a fire-break around the camp (the rivers are natural breaks on two sides and then the road on other two). The staff are trained in case of fires.
Laundry facilities: Laundry service is extra. Laundry is hand washed, line dried and then ironed. The camp do not wash delicates or underwear, but there is washing powder in the rooms for people to do their own.
Money: Mara Ngenche Safari Camp cannot exchange cash as they do not have a lot of money in camp. For valuables there is a central safe with the manger.
Accepted payment on location: For additional costs Ngenche can take cash in Kenyan shillings, US dollars, British pounds and Euros. They can also accept Visa and Mastercard credit cards at no extra charge. They cannot take Amex.