Topi House

Topi House: Our full report

Rooms
3-bedroom house
Children
The house is perfect for children.
Open
All year

Built in 2007, Topi House is a delightful 3-bedroom, 3-bathroom home in gently sloping, lightly wooded savannah on the edge of the Maasai Mara National Reserve, near the boundary of the Olare Motorogi Conservancy. The house is booked as an exclusive rental and run by experienced staff and local guides from the Maasai Mara. You have exclusive use of a good, closed vehicle for the duration of your stay and game drives are conducted in the national reserve. There are two other houses in the same group located in the north of Mara North Conservancy.

Topi House isn’t a grand building, and tucked under the acacias, the single-storey, wood-frame bungalow appears quite modest. It makes no big demands on your style or taste in interior décor. But its unassuming character has some quirky touches, like the tree-trunk pillars and beams, polished stone floors and richly coloured rugs and sofas, which together help to make it easy to turn unfamiliar surroundings into a cosy home away from home.

The layout is simple: arriving through a lightly fenced outer perimeter to the property, you leave the vehicle and walk the last few yards across the lawn to the front of the house. There are three bedrooms, each accessed through double-glass doors, leading off the verandah, which is furnished with chairs and a table. To the left of the verandah, a good-sized, open-plan lounge with a fireplace, welcomingly furnished with deep sofas and armchairs, leads through to the dining room which in turn leads to the staff kitchen and the back-of-house area.

Once you're on the verandah, all surfaces are level (except for a tiny step into the showers of a couple of inches) so the house is practical for people with limited mobility or useing wheelchairs. Bear in mind, though, it isn't adapted for disabled people in any way, and you would still have to be physically lifted into the game drive vehicle.

Staff introductions are polite but informal and the briefing is quick. It’s a joy to be able to install yourself in the bedrooms here and then walk along the verandah to lunch, rather than have to hike for several minutes through a large tented camp.

The three en-suite bedrooms are bright and reasonably spacious but not huge. Two of them have double beds (one convertible to twin) and one has separate twin beds. All the beds are protected by full-height, well-made mosquito nets. The rooms, which lock with simple keys, are cooled by floor fans and the breeze through the windows, which have curtains for privacy. Each room has a dressing table/writing desk and clothes-hanging space and the lighting is good. Power is on 24/7 and batteries can be charged at the 3-pin, UK-style power sockets 24 hours a day.

The en-suite bathrooms are simple but well-equipped, with decent, walk-in showers and washbasins, and supplied with good toiletries. They don’t have bath tubs, however.

Activities at Topi House focus on game drives, and you are well located to explore the Musiara sector of the Maasai Mara National Reserve with its abundant big cats and – in season – multitudes of migrating wildebeest. The area is always good for its resident wildlife and the Mara River is a short drive distant.

A rewarding alternative to a morning game drive is a village visit to the nearby Maasai compound or enkang of Entim. There’s a modest extra charge for this, and it’s worth booking in advance. We found the experience to be transparently authentic, with the occupants busy starting their days, going to collect water and spraying livestock for ticks – and ignoring us. However, several young men were quick to introduce themselves, and went on to demonstrate their impressive fire-making skills using a stick of bougainvillea wood, a block of red cedar and some dried elephant dung. One of them reached for a huge kudu horn musical instrument, which makes a satistfyingly deep note, and they insisted on putting on a short, impromptu display of jump-dancing and chanting. Some were wearing bead jewellery and others were not. Like the practices of extending the ear lobes and knocking out the two middle lower front teeth, some of the more colourful traditions are beginning to die out. However, all the houses at Entim are still constructed of traditional mud and dung on a wooden frame and we were welcomed inside one of them for a few minutes of introduction to Maasai domestic life.

Evenings at Topi House – and rare indoor days if there's heavy rain – can be spent reading, playing board games or just enjoying each other's company. We were told that some Topi House regulars like to cook their own food and have parties, bringing their own music and generally letting their hair down. It's your house for the duration!

Our view

Arriving at Topi House, we felt instantly at home. This is a perfect family base for keen safari-goers and has very good, reliable and consistent staff and management. There’s space (and permission) for young ones to let off steam on the lawn at the front, but much of your time here is likely to be devoted to morning and afternoon game drives, for which the local area of the national reserve is ideal.

Geographics

Location: Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya

Ideal length of stay: Stay at least 3 nights.

Directions: Topi House is a 30-minute drive from the nearest airstrip, Ol Kiombo. However transfers are effectively game drives, so be prepared to take longer to reach the house. And don't leave your departure to the last minute in case you see something wonderful en route to the airstrip.

Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer

Key personnel

Owner: The Beaton family.

Staff: Topi House and the two other Mara Bush Houses further north are jointly managed by Gilbert Ombera and Frederick Ronko, under the auspices of Asilia Africa.

Food & drink

Usual board basis: Full Board

Food quality: We thought the food cooked for us at Topi House was very good and plentiful. We ate in the dining room, but you can also eat on the verandah, or on the lawn at the front. The staff will be very happy to step up for special occasions. And if you'd like to assist with food preparation, just ask.

Dining style: Group Meals

Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining

Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included

Special interests

Family holidays: Topi House is a very good choice for a family safari in the Maasai Mara. Experienced staff, good food, and comfortably furnished, low-key rooms make the perfect family base, while the vehicles and superior guiding offer a rewarding wildlife experience right on your doorstep.

See more ideas for Family holidays in Kenya

Children

Attitude towards children: Children are welcome and frequent guests.

Property’s age restrictions: None

Special activities & services: There are no very specific childrens' activities, but staff are always very happy to teach bow and arrow skills, firemaking and the like. Volleyball tournaments are not unheard of.

Equipment: Baby cots, high chairs and car seats are available.

Infrastructure

Power supply: Solar Power

Power supply notes: There is power 24/7 and sockets all around the house.

Communications: There is good Wi-fi and Safaricom and Airtel cellphone signals.

TV & radio: There's no guest TV, but guests are welcome to join the staff in their canteen.

Water supply: Borehole

Water supply notes: Borehole water is used in the plumbing and large bottles of drinking water are brought from Nairobi to be decanted into bottles in the rooms.

Health & safety

Malarial protection recommended: Yes

Medical care: The house has a first-aid kit and they subscribe to a telephone medical diagnosis service. Otherwise, Ol Kiombo airstrip is a 20-minute drive away and a helicopter could land at the house.

Dangerous animals: High Risk

Security measures: There is a regular security patrol and a radio for babysitting duties if parents are in another part of the house.

Fire safety: There are fire extinguishers in the lounge, near the kitchen and on the verandah. Asilia do staff fire-training twice a year.

Extras

Disabled access: In Place

Laundry facilities: Laundry is included and can be done very quickly (ours was returned in three hours, perfectly ironed). But as usual in Maasai traditional areas, no ladies' underwear can be taken.

Money: There is no safe here. Guests keep valuables on them.

Accepted payment on location: Cash is accepted in Kenya shillings, sterling, dollars or euros. Card payments can't be taken.

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