I’m an island girl at heart but my other favourite kind of holiday has to be a safari vacay. Having previously experienced a couple of safaris in South Africa and Kenya I really do feel extremely grateful to have just come back from the most incredible 8 days on safari in Kenya staying at three luxury camps – Mara Plains and Mara Nyika in two conservancies in the Masai Mara and then Ol Donyo in the Chyulu Hills.
All three being the only Relais & Chateaux camps in Kenya – a real stamp of approval for the amazing experience which you will receive..
A 40 minute flight from Wilson Airport to the landing strip in the 35,000 acre Olare Motorogi conservancy or a leisurely game drive between two of Great Plains luxury lodges in the Masis Mara - Mara Plains and Mara Niyaka.
Mara Plains is a 7 room luxury tented suite which includes a private honeymoon tent and a 2 bedroom Mara Plains Jahazi family tent blending the finest in wildlife and the absolute best in safari hospitality. Fitting in with the eco system this camp is solar powered and sustainable living at its best. Don't worry about wasting water while at Mara Plains as the water is desalinated and distributed back into the eco system.
We were staying in a one bedroom suite which was incredibly spacious, all open plan offering either a view of the hippos basking in the river or out onto the open plains were you can witness the sun setting.
We were facing the river and from our private terrace we could see the hippos below. But don’t worry as the rangers secure the property 24/7 so you are perfectly safe – enjoy the lions roaring and the hippos grunting from the comfort of your room.
On one end of the canvas tent there is a large open bathroom which can be closed off by drawing the curtains – a separate loo, stunning shower with large Arabic door as the back drop and a deep copper free standing bath which sits next to the large window where you can simply relax and take in the views.
The two bedroom Jahazi suite is tucked away under a canopy of trees providing ample space, privacy and home comforts. Central living areas flow nicely from the large veranda with two large bedrooms and bathrooms either side.
In your wardrobe you will find a yoga mat and work out bands to use at your perusal.
Mara Plains offers 24 hour complimentary laundry service to all guests – every evening it was so nice to return back to the room with your laundry neatly folded and a hot water bottle placed in your bed.
As you arrive at the secluded camp you are warmly greeted by the team while you walk over the wooden floating footbridge above the hippos and crocodiles in the river below – the entrance can’t get more African safari than that!
The welcome guest area opens onto the enthralling views of the endless savannah while the beautiful interior which elegantly mixes colonial, Swahili, and Masai traditions, makes you feel instantly comfortable – leather sofas, wooden furniture, brass fitting and wildcat photography on the walls.
Being a Relais and Chateaux member the title speaks volumes for the food served. But what you wont expect is the incredibly mouth watering dishes lovingly prepared by Chef Ben with no dietary requirement a restriction to his amazing array of recipes.
With his deep understanding of food and what our bodies require, Chef Ben provides you with all the fuel and nutrients, leaving your mouth watering and eagerly anticipating your next dish.
Lunch is all served as sharing portions
An example of lunch:
Chilled Avocado & mint soup
Spicy baked mountain beef mince with sweet chilli
Roasted roots and vegetables
Leek & onion tart with mozzarella toppings
Middle Eastern Shakshuka with poached quail eggs
Apple, radish & pecans with cranberry and arugula leaves
Cheese board and desert
During the day the team will let you know what is for dinner in order for you to choose your three course meal. If you go on an afternoon game drive, dinner will be served anytime from 7.30pm and for late night game drives dinner will be served earlier.
An example of dinner options are:
Plant based basil & coconut milk panacota with parmesan
Nori seaweed wraps with vegetable and wasabi sauce
Carrot and ginger soup served with sweet corn fritters
Duo of grilled lamb chops and lamb breast with garlic and mint jus with veggies
Pan seared teriyaki wahoo fish with lemon mango salsa with turnip puree, spinach and veggies
Baked stuffed eggplant with yogurt and pomegranate
There are many options for kids too. In fact anything your heart desires will be cooked especially for you.
I can honestly say the level of cuisine was incredible, nothing was too much and everything you ate was an explosion of flavors. I couldn't praise Chef Ben enough he’s a true master in the kitchen and his love for food is addictive.
With many private areas around the property you can dine in the library, wine cellar, on the terrace or out in the bush. You can also enjoy sitting around the open bonfire for early drinks and nibbles watching the animals in the distance as the sun sets.
Champagne bush breakfast and lunches can be arranged and one morning we took a full Chef Ben’s picnic out on our drive and found a wonderfully shaded spot under an acacia tree where we enjoyed a large selection of dishes.
The Olare Motorogi Conservancy is home to the highest concentration of big cats anyway in Africa and I was grateful to be witness to this.
From the minute we were in the vehicle going to the lodge the wildlife was abundant. And every game drive was an incredible experience. We saw two female leopards with 5 of their cubs, two male cheetahs patiently waiting for their next meal and a pride of female lions with her cubs. The zebra, wilder beast, giraffes, elephants, hyenas and other small animals were abundant.
What the conservatory has achieved is pretty incredible as you can watch this untouched wilderness where Maasai herdsmen live in total harmony with nature which is awe-inspiring. This truly unique entity boasts a relationship between conservation and livelihood, as you see cows grazing on one side and on the other lions, hyenas and wildebeest.
The beauty of where Mara Plains is that its located in a private conservancy which means that the wildlife is abundant, there are minimal safari vehicles as only lodges in the conservancy are permitted in this area and you can get extremely close to the animals. We literally had a pride of lions lying on the ground around the car and we parked next to the tree where the leopards were taking shade.
You can also experience a game drive in the Masai Mara National reserve, which I personally found too busy with other cars and a little too commercial. However driving up a mountain we could see vistas which went on for miles with the Serengeti (Tanzania) to our left and the Masai Mara (Kenya) to our right.
As with all three Great Plains Camps guests have the use of a Canon camera with multiple lenses and a pair of binoculars. At the end of your stay all your images will be downloaded on a memory stick.
Each tent is given a dedicated guide and vehicle to use during their stay. Our guide, Duncan was incredible and could literally sniff out the animals location. Its mind blowing how these wonderful guides know every single kilometer of the area like the back of their hand.
Guests can also enjoy a hot air balloon experience but this does need to be pre booked in advance. Last time I was in the Masai Mara my husband and I enjoyed a hot air balloon early morning which was incredible as we watched the migration from above and then a champagne breakfast.
Mara Plains does an absolutely brilliant job of combining thoughtful conservation with sustainable luxury. It really is the perfect combination for a mindful traveler who wants to take in the beauty of African wildlife but with a minimal footprint as possible. A safari holiday should show respect to the animals that we are visiting and be cognizant of our role as temporary guests and I really believe Mara Plains delivers on that.
Watch my video here:
The founders and visionaries
In collaboration with National Geographic, award winning filmmakers, photographers and conservationists Dereck and Beverly Jouberts have been helping to save wildlife and their habitats for over 30 years.
Mara Plains is owned and run by their company Great Plains Conservation.
To find out more visit about the camps which are located in Kenya, Botswana and Kenya and are members of Relais & Chateaux: www.greatplainsconservation.com
To understand more about the foundation : https://greatplainsfoundation.com
Who are Dereck & Beverly Joubert?: https://www.nationalgeographic.org/projects/explorers/joubert/
For a bespoke itinerary and exclusive rates contact Unique Family Travels.