Located near the Mara River in the northern Serengeti is the luxurious Sayari Camp.
Sayari Camp: Our full report
Sayari Camp (formerly known as Sayari Mara Camp) is a luxurious, permanent camp situated in the far north of the Serengeti National Park. The Mara River meanders from east to west through this region's undulating bush, which is home to permanent, large populations of wildlife of all the plains species. This part of the Serengeti ecosystem is a specacular area to witness the great migration: it is within the Serengeti National Park and is as remote as possible from any populated areas.
Sayari is in an area of the Serengeti National Park where the rocky hills and rolling plains make the scenery more interesting and undulating than many areas of this often fairly flat park. Dividing this area, the Mara River is wide and fast-flowing. It is the Serengeti's only permanent river and is home to many crocodiles and hippos.
There is a good population of resident wildlife in this area, drawn by the river and the variety of vegetation around it, and Sayari Camp makes a wonderful base from which to watch the Great Wildebeest Migration between about July and October.
On a visit to Sayari in July 2013, we saw herds of wildebeest and zebra congregating along the south bank of the river, waiting for the first individual to pluck up the courage to cross. However despite spending hours beside the Mara River, in the vicinity of several large herds, we failed to witness a crossing. Our experience also showed how this area is no longer as quiet as we experienced a few years ago: during one crossing-wait we came across a group of at least 15 other vehicles waiting for some action.
When we visited in January 2014 – which is very much the off-peak season for Sayari – we found delightfully few other people around. We were the only guests in camp and didn’t see more than one other vehicle each day. But we did see plenty of wildlife. This is a magical time to visit and arguably one of the Serengeti’s best-kept secrets, for the feeling of exclusivity and the excellent rates.
On our most recent stay at Sayari, in November 2015, we again watched as thousands of southbound wildebeest massed on the north bank close to the camp, but hesitated to take the plunge. We eventually saw a crossing at another point, further downstream, where hundreds had drowned a few months earlier during a flash flood on their way north, and a few bones still lay scattered on the bank. We cheered as a single wildebeest swam south to join the rest of the herd. Not the most exciting migration crossing, but every sighting, great and small, is a pleasure in this beautiful part of the Serengeti.
Sayari Camp is split into two different wings - with six tents in the smaller camp, to the north of the swimming pool, and nine in the bigger camp on the south side. Despite having 15 tents in total, the separation helps to retain that “small camp" feel. Each wing has its own lounge and dining area, with a central swimming pool linking the two.
The main lounge area of the big camp is a large “L-shaped" structure raised on a wooden deck, with a large central outdoor deck. It has canvas walls and highly polished wooden floors, which are dotted with different seating areas. Glass folding doors open up completely, or close depending on the weather. The décor is contemporary with bright colours, basketry, wooden artefacts and modern light fittings. In one arm of the “L shape" is a comfortable seating area with sofas and a large rustic wooden table with a few nature books and magazines to browse through. In the other arm is another smaller seating area and a large wooden bar at the far end with bar stools. This is a great spot for guests to meet up for a drink and chat before dinner.
Meals in camp are served in a large, decked, dining tent area with a spacious wooden terrace for catching the morning warmth at breakfast, or dining under the stars at night. Breakfast and lunch are taken at individual tables (although breakfast is often served as a bush breakfast in a selected spot above the river, at the conclusion of the morning game drive). Dinner in camp is usually communal, hosted by the managers, and enabling guests to chat over the day's sightings and events.
The small camp at Sayari has its own small lounge/dining room, similar in style to the larger one in the left wing.
The swimming pool separating the two camps is impressively built into the rocks, with lovely views. It has a number of sturdy sunloungers, umbrellas and funky circular chairs to relax in. There is also a small curio shop which carries a good range of Maasai jewellery made by a cooperative in Arusha and marketed by a Dutch woman married to a Maasai. You can also arrange a massage of 30 to 60 minutes, which is done in your tent or on your private veranda.
The 15 tents at Sayari are each set up on a similar plan, with the exception of the 'honeymoon tent' which is larger, and has a secluded outdoor bath, a 4-poster bed, a huge extended deck and an uninterrupted view. Any of Sayari's tents can be made up as triples, or even quads. Most of the tents are relatively close together, although they are all oriented well to retain privacy. The best views down towards the Mara River (although you can't quite see the river itself from camp) are probably from tents 11, 13 and 15. Tents 9 & 10 and tents 13 & 14 can be paired up easily as family units. Ask about the location of the tents, as tent 15, for example, is a good 10-minute walk from the central area of the camp. A vehicle is often used to transport guests to and from their tents for this reason – the area teams with wildlife, and hippos often plod through the camp at night while looking for good grazing.
Inside, they are very spacious and stylish, with sliding glass doors, canvas walls and polished wooden floors. There's an unusual, slightly Japanese feel to the style. Each tent is well furnished and well equipped - there's a solid bamboo luggage rack at the foot of each bed, a small writing desk, comfortable double or twin beds and two contemporary glass and wood bedside tables. Behind a sliding canvas panel is a cupboard with a hanging rail and clothes storage shelves. Here you will also find white towelling bathrobes, an electronic safe and a selection of insect sprays.
Another sliding panel leads through to the impressive en-suite bathroom, the focal point of which is a large, free-standing, faux-marble bath. Sliding glass doors in front of the bath reveals beautiful views of the bush beyond the outdoor deck. Two intriguing hollowed-out rocks serve as basins, standing on a wooden base with mirrors above and with a selection of complimentary toiletries. The rain shower and toilet are located in separate cubicles.
Perhaps the aspect we enjoy most about these rooms is outside: the vast decks, where you can stretch out on a shaded day-bed or sit on a director's chair to simply look out into the bush.
Sayari was about to start a process of upgrading and redesigning the tent interiors when we visited in November 2015, with the introduction of new lighting and fans. Some of the design features described here may well have changed in 2016.
Activities at Sayari centre on 4WD game drives. These focus on either the resident game or, when the migration is passing through, the predator interactions with the herds and the river crossings. A few travellers drive into Sayari, and will do their game drives with their own private guide and enclosed 4WD vehicle. However, if you fly here, your drives will be conducted in one of the camp's own 6 open or 2 closed vehicles, with a maximum of 7 guests per vehicle. Unusually, you can also do bush walks at Sayari, guided by resident Zimbabwean walking guide, Blessed, who takes out a maximum of six guests on walks near the river accompanied by an armed Tanzanian parks authority ranger.
Balloon flights are possible from Sayari. Guests have a 5am pickup by closed vehicle and drive to the launch site for a take-off at around 6.30am.
Our viewOur consistent experience is that Sayari is a well run camp, with high levels of service and great food. Its biggest draw is its location: perfect for seeing the migration. Our only negative comment is that the sheer luxury of Sayari Camp does mean that it has lost some of the wilderness feel which it used to have. We have also noticed that this northern stretch of the Serengeti National Park is no longer as remote and quiet as it used to be. There are several more camps, which means more vehicles during the migration months.
Ideal length of stay: Three nights is typical, although during the wildebeest migration, four would be fine. Sayari Mara is often combined with its more rustic sister camps, Olakira, Ubuntu and Olakira Lamai Camp. It also combines very well with its sister camp in the central Serengeti, Dunia.
Directions: The camp is 9km (20-40 minute) drive from Kogatende airstrip.
Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer
Owner: Asilia Africa
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: At every meal, there is always a vegetarian option and plenty of food for everyone. As some guests are following their own timetable, with their own driver/guide, there is a particularly relaxed feel at breakfast and lunch.
Breakfast at Sayari Camp can be eaten before or after a morning game drive depending on your schedule for the day. You can choose from a cold buffet – fresh fruit, cereals, yoghurts, fresh muffins and freshly baked bread, followed by a cooked breakfast –eggs to order, sausages, bacon, toast along with a selection of fruit juices and tea and coffee.
Lunch is a very relaxed affair. On various visits, we have had pork chops served with a selection of salads (carrot and beetroot salad, curried egg and potato salad and a green salad) served with homemade pumpkin chutney and lamb burgers, with salad, roasted vegetables and couscous. Homemade sorbet often follows.
Dinner is a three course meal and again very relaxed. After a around the fire, we sat at a long, communal table and were served a starter of avocado and asparagus. The main course was lamb served with spinach and cheese fritters, polenta and carrots. It was all very tasty. The lime mousse and fresh raspberry dessert was delicious.
Dining style: Mixture of group dining and individual tables
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included
Drinks included: Most drinks are included at Sayari, except for Champagne and premium wines.
Further dining info: Yes
Honeymoons: For excellent game viewing, attentive service and a luxurious safari, Sayari Camp, in the far north of the Serengeti, is a lovely choice for a honeymoon to Tanzania. You can expect delicious food, year-round good game, and a romantic setting for your special celebration.See more ideas for Honeymoons in Tanzania
Wildlife safaris:See more ideas for Wildlife safaris in Tanzania
Attitude towards children: Children over the age of 5 are welcome at Sayari.
Property’s age restrictions: Children must be 5 years or older to stay at Sayari.
Special activities & services: There are no special children's activities at Sayari.
Equipment: Sayari doesn't have any cots or high chairs. They don’t offer any special services but do have some board games for older kids.
Generally recommended for children: Sayari would be a lovely camp for mature children from 12 years old, and the pool is a real bonus during the hot months.
Notes: Parents need to be aware of Sayari’s remote location and the high risk of wild animals, which wander through camp day and night. It is also a peaceful camp, so children need to be old enough to respect this.
Power supply: Generator
Power supply notes: Power is available in the rooms 24/7. It is possible to use a hairdryer in camp, but only when the generator is running so Sayari advises guests to check with the manager. Solar power generation is planned.
Communications: There is good cell reception at Sayari, and WiFi is available in the rooms.
TV & radio: None.
Water supply: Borehole
Water supply notes: Water from Sayari’s borehole is used for washing. The camp's reverse osmosis plant purifies the water before it is bottled for guests to drink.
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: Sayari Mara has links to the Flying Doctors service. Some of the staff are first-aid-trained and they have a first aid box on site. The nearest hospital is in Arusha which is an hour and a half by air.
Dangerous animals: High Risk
Security measures: There are 'askaris' (local watchmen) on duty during the night. They will escort you to and from your tent after dark.
Fire safety: There is a fire break around Sayari and there are fire extinguishers in the rooms and the main areas. Staff are trained to use the fire extinguishers.
Disabled access: On Request
Laundry facilities: Laundry is included at Sayari. It is hand washed by local staff so, for cultural reasons, underwear (ladies or gents) is not accepted. Soap is provided in the bathrooms for this.
Money: There are electronic safes in each room.
Accepted payment on location: Sayari Mara accept US Dollars, Pounds, Euros and Tanzanian Shillings, as well as Visa and Mastercard.