Mara Ngenche Safari Camp: Our full report
Tucked into quite thick indigenous riverine forest, Mara Ngenche Safari Camp is situated at the confluence ...... of the Mara and Talek rivers. Historically this was an important place, where the local Maasai community would come to share the loot that they had raided from neighbouring tribes – hence the name Ngenche – meaning 'to share' in the Maasai language. The camp has been built to disturb as little of the surrounding bush as possible.
Under the same ownership as its sister camps Elephant Bedroom, and the much simpler Tipilikwani, Mara Ngenche Safari Camp is a very comfortable tented camp. Its central location makes it a great option for exploring the Maasai Mara National Reserve.
On arrival at Mara Ngenche you're shown to a shady area with sofas, where you will be introduced to the workings of the camp, before being taken to the main areas: three adjacent tents that house the lounge, bar and dining areas.
The lounge tent is quite densely furnished, with comfortable dark leather sofas and chairs draped in Maasai blankets set around a chunky carved wooden coffee table. Along the edges are additional wooden and suede lounge chairs. Decorative leather wall hangings covered in Maasai beaded patterns and woven carpets across the floors result in a homely feel. Next door there is a wooden bar stocked with soft drinks, beer, wines and spirits. The furnishings are a little different here: what appears to be tiger-striped material covers the leather armchairs and chaise longues, an unexpected choice of animal print in Africa!
In front of the lounge is a shaded veranda with directors' chairs. It's 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 – when the water is low – sit on the sandy riverbank. Next to the lounge is a small tent that houses a shop.
Not overly furnished, the dining tent is practical and simple – perfect for convivial evening meals served at individual tables by the extremely friendly and engaging staff. Wooden Swahili furniture stands at the edges of the tent, and woven carpets cover the floors.
For those who want to dine al fresco in the daytime, tables shaded by parasols stand in the garden down a very slight slope towards the river's 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.
Sandy pathways meander through the bush from the main area to Ngenche Camp's 12 spacious tented rooms. Six are set up with fixed double beds and a further six which can be arranged as twins and triples. These are well spread out, having been built with as little disturbance of the natural vegetation as possible.
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, a private plunge pool and a veranda with directors' chairs and a coffee table. This is where you will find your morning tea or coffee for your wake up call – arranged the night before.
Inside, the tented 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 a little dated in comparison with some of the more contemporary camps in the Mara, yet though old in style, the rooms are well kept.
Each has an adjacent en-suite bathroom with a flush toilet, twin porcelain sinks atop a wooden table in front of a large mirror, a claw-foot bath and both an inside and outside shower.
Activities at Mara Ngenche Safari Camp centre on game drives within the Maasai Mara National Reserve. Most take place outside the heat of the day, starting at 6.30am, and 4.00pm, but full-day drives are also possible. Additional activities such as sundowners with snacks, Maasai dances in the camp, and a visit to a local village (the last at extra cost, paid to the village) can also be arranged. For those wanting to indulge, a therapist can be booked who carries out treatments within the guest tents at an extra cost (for example, a full body massage is $60).
Ngenche is a small tented camp, but unusually for the Mara, it is not hosted. The staff here are exceptionally friendly and the manager very approachable, but guests have a higher degree of independence than at 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.
- Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya
- Ideal length of stay
- The average stay at Mara Ngenche Safari Camp is three nights, which allows plenty of time to explore the local area.
- Guests fly to Ol Kiombo airstrip, which is a 45-minute drive from Mara Ngenche Safari Camp.
- Accessible by
Food & drink
- Usual board basis
- Full Board & Activities
- Food quality
- We didn't stay when we last visited Mara Ngenche in March 2019, but on a previous visit we did have time for lunch, and if the standard of that is anything to go by, then the food at Ngenche is good. The staff talk you through a couple of options for the starter and three choices for the main: one meat, one fish and two vegetarian.
The chef at Ngenche explained that, with advance notice – crucial in this remote location – he is able to cater to individual tastes and various dietary requirements.
For our lunch we chose papaya and cucumber wrapped in fried aubergine. For the main course 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.
We understand that breakfast is usually taken out as a picnic of fruit, cereals, boiled eggs, baked beans, mushrooms, bacon, sausage and bread. All this goes out with vehicles and is eaten at a table set with camping chairs. Guests who opt to stay in camp may have breakfast between 6.00am until 9.00am, comprising cereals, fruits, Danish pastries and a full English (often prepared at a cooking station outside so you can interact with the chef), along with a selection of juices.
Dinner is a four-course meal with choices for the main course and dessert.
- Attitude towards children
- Mara Ngenche Safari Camp considers that it is better suited to older children as it is on a high bank of the Mara/Talek rivers and with no fence.
- Property’s age restrictions
- The camp has a minimum age of 12, but is willing to make exceptions on a case-by-case basis.
- Special activities & services
- There are no special services offered by Mara Ngenche Safari Camp.
- Mara Ngenche Safari Camp has two baby cots, and triple rooms which are suitable for families.
- Generally recommended for children
- Mara Ngenche Safari Camp is located in an area of quite thick bush, right next to two rivers, and 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 children of 12 years and over.
- Children need supervision at all times.
- Power supply notes
- The power at Mara Ngenche Safari Camp runs day and night and is almost entirely solar. They do, though, have a generator if anyone needs to use a hairdryer, though guests must ask in advance so that the generator can be started. Ngenche has UK-style three-square-pin charging points in each room.
- There is WiFi in the main areas of Mara Ngenche Safari Camp, but cellphone coverage is a bit mixed, with just one reliable spot where the signal is quite strong. If necessary there is a computer in the office that guests may use.
- TV & radio
- There is no TV at Mara Ngenche Safari Camp.
- Water supply
- Water supply notes
- Bottled drinking water is provided, this is transported in from Nairobi.
Health & safety
- Malarial protection recommended
- Medical care
- Mara Ngenche Safari Camp has a first-aid box and all the guides, as well as a number of the house-keeping team, are trained in first aid. For more serious incidents there is a clinic and a doctor based near Olkiombo airstrip. Ngenche also has links to flying doctors, and there is helipad about 30 metres from the camp where a helicopter can land in the event of a medical emergency.
- Dangerous animals
- High Risk
- Security measures
- Askaris (Maasai guards) escort people around the camp at night. There are radios in each tent to call for attention in case of emergency, and someone from the armed rangers is stationed in camp at all times.
- Fire safety
- There are fire extinguishers in every tent, and a fire-break right 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.
Hot air ballooning
- Disabled access
- On Request
- Laundry facilities
- Laundry is at extra cost, this varies between $2 - $6 per item. It is hand washed, line dried and ironed. The staff do not wash delicates or underwear, but there is washing powder in the rooms for guests to do their own.
- Mara Ngenche Safari Camp cannot offer currency exchange. For valuables, the manager has a central safe.
- Accepted payment on location
- Additional payments may be made in cash in Kenyan shillings, US dollars, British pounds and euros. Ngenche also accepts Visa and MasterCard credit cards at no extra charge, but not Amex.
Other lodges in Maasai Mara National Reserve
Alternative places to stay in this same area.