Mara Timbo has a great location on the Mara River (albeit 35-40 minutes from the park gate, not 10-15 minutes as advertised), and the rooms are nice. That's about where it ends.
I compare this place to what I experienced in Elephant Bedroom Camp in Samburu, which cost less overall but gave what customer service should be about: going the extra mile to make your customer happy.
Mara Timbo, on the other hand, was about as close an example of trying to ruin a customer's experiences as possible. Lying, lack of communication, yelling, petulant e-mails were all part of the "experience".
The problems lie mostly with one part of the camp's ownership, Klaus. Klaus is about as unprofessional as it comes (apparently this has changed in the last year - from previously being good to deal with). Klaus is rude, yells at customers on the phone and doesn't communicate arrangements to his camp staff. He was arguably the most unprofessional tourist representative I've ever dealt with.
Here's some examples:
- we booked for a large group trip. When organising payment, Klaus refused to take credit card (international standard for these sort of things), demanding - within 48 hours - a local Kenyan money transfer system or SWIFT payment (not all banks have SWIFT agreements with all countries). Yet the camp had credit card facilities.
- when we sought alternate means of payment, Klaus did not respond for several days until further emails and phone calls, then became abusive and demanded payment by THAT NIGHT, threatening to cancel part of our booking if we did not meet his demands. As we had already paid a significant deposit, we were forced to impose on Kenyan friends to scrape together the money immediately to satisfy Klaus.
- when we arrived at the camp, instead of providing 1L of water per person, per game drive, as promised by Klaus, the camp attempted to charge us extortionate amounts for small bottles of water, refusing to accept the agreed arrangements. This is some of the worst service I've experienced in Kenya: drinking water is provided as a matter of course in every other camp I've dealt with, particularly for health reasons. Mara Timbo is not even a budget camp - yet another example of serious penny-pinching and poor service.
As part of the arrangement, I was staying on longer on our final day and returning by air to fit in another game drive. Klaus "forgot" to communicate this arrangement to the poor camp manager. He also charged me an extra USD80 for the final game drive, as it would require an "extra, separate cruiser" for the game drive. Not only was the extra game drive not organised (leaving me sitting at the camp until midday), I was then told it would be a shared game drive (never stated, never suggested, a complete nonsense) otherwise I would have to pay USD250 - an outrageous price given the costs we knew the camp incurred. The camp did not even bother to include a packed lunch, despite the extra cost and the long delay. (The food, given how accessible the Mara is and the price charged, was also of a mediocre quality.)
All of this comes down to poor service. When you have a similar comparison in Samburu, which goes to every length to make customers happy, Mara Timbo went to, it seemed, every length to screw customers over. Sadly, we spoke to other people staying at the camp who had also had bad experiences with Klaus and the head office.
Maybe with different management, this place could be great. But as it is, it isn't, and is one of the most disappointing experiences I've had in Africa - which fortunately didn't quite ruin the real reason we were there (the safari itself). But when there are so many other options in the area? Not recommended.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- A romantic camp under German Management ideally situated on Mara River with two large hippo families in front of only 7 spacious 45sqm luxury tents. They are situated on big terraces and offer outside bathtubs with view to the wild animals. A personal Butler Service pays very much attention to the maximum of privacy. Tent-facilities include king-size bed, safe, en-suite bathroom, hot shower, flush toilet, 220/240volt power supply. Activities: Game Drives, Nature Walk, Maasai Village, Balloon Safaris, Night Game Drives. ... more less
- Also Known As:
- Mara Timbo Camp Hotel Maasai Mara National Reserve
- Mara Timbo Camp Kenya/Maasai Mara National Reserve