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“Best Safari Experience I've Ever Had...” 5 of 5 stars
Review of Ilkeliani Camp

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Ilkeliani Camp
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2.5 of 5 Cabin/Campground   |   Masai Mara | P.O Box 64196, Maasai Mara National Reserve 00620, Kenya   |  
Hotel amenities
Abilene, Texas, United States
1 review
4 helpful votes 4 helpful votes
“Best Safari Experience I've Ever Had...”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed January 22, 2013

... And I lived in Kenya for 7 years. I have probably been on 5 to 7 safaris, depending on how much time spent with an actual guide you would say counts as a safari. I moved back to the States for college and when I returned for a short visit to Nairobi in 2010 (not 2012, I just can't go back further on the time scale provided), my parents booked our family here and I must say, it was gorgeous and luxurious. We happened to be there at a time when there were no other families either, so that was an added bonus. Although, the tents aren't particularly close to each other so it probably wouldn't have mattered if there had been other people. The tents are spacious, they make the beds every day, bring you hot tea or coffee in the morning as a wake-up call and leave a hot water bottle under the covers at the end of the bed every night. It was simply amazing. I forgot I was staying in a tent rather than a hotel. The food was amazing and fresh and the staff was very knowledgable (with good English skills, I might add). I really couldn't say enough about Ilkeliani. I'm just sad that I had never heard of it until just a couple years ago. Amazing place. It's my first suggestion to anyone safari-ing in Kenya.

  • Stayed May 2012, traveled with family
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
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153 reviews from our community

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Rating summary
  • Location
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Sleep Quality
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Rooms
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Service
    5 of 5 stars
  • Value
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Cleanliness
    4.5 of 5 stars
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English first
Kenosha, Wisconsin
1 review
5 of 5 stars Reviewed January 11, 2013

We stayed in several camps when we were in Kenya. This one was by far the favorite. And from looking at the pictures they just keep improving. Romantic, accommodating, fabulous. Can't say enough good things about this place. The phots are not imaginary, this really is what it looks like...in fact it is even better in person. I liked it so much I want to go back again..

  • Stayed July 2012, traveled with friends
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
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Nairobi, Kenya
Contributor
12 reviews 12 reviews
9 hotel reviews
Reviews in 11 cities Reviews in 11 cities
21 helpful votes 21 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed November 29, 2012

I have not been to other safaris, so I cannot properly compare this to other safari experiences, but I found Ilkeliani to be thoughtfully conceived and well executed. There are a number of cultural and environmental hazards foreign tourists encounter when traveling to a place like the Mara, but Ilkeliani does everything it can to ensure visitors have an enjoyable, even luxurious, stay while leaving the lightest possible footprint on the environment and assisting the fragile local economy.

First, the basics: The camp is very comfortable. The tents have foundations and furniture, but are real tents. There have hot water and flush toilets, but it's a more rustic experience than staying in a lodge. The individual tents are a fair distance from the communal areas (dining tent, lounge tent, etc), so one has the sense of being alone with the chirping frogs and things that go bump in the night.

The food was quite good, especially considering that everything must be flown into the camp from Nairobi. They clearly work a lot of the same ingredients into several dishes out of necessity, so one should not expect a broad selection of options at every meal, but we were not disappointed. They were even quite accommodating: I emailed several days in advance to request vegetarian meals, and the vegetarian meals provided were very enjoyable.

For tree-huggers: We saw cheetahs, a rhino, elephants, giraffes, buffaloes—the works—but throughout our game driver seemed very responsible, even chastising other drivers who crept too close to the game. (Though we still got very, very close.)

The camp's electricity and hot water come from solar cells, and the waste appears to be well handled. I've read that poorly maintained "eco-camps" will attract marabou storks, which like to feed on the food waste, but there were no signs of any such garbage-feeders.

For people-huggers: There is something distasteful about descending into a foreign place and gawking at its natives, but the camp goes out of its way to foster real interaction with the local Maasai and to support the local community. Maasai from the nearby village are invited to perform dances and sell their wares at the camp, and visitors are encouraged to go to pay the village a visit. Be warned: the village tour does apply pressure on visitors to purchase souvenirs, but we walked away empty-handed without too much hassle.

The village tour is also an elegant solution to a problem I've read about in other Maasai areas, where the locals' income derives largely from asking or demanding payment for photographs taken of them. This actually seems fair, if you ask me (they are part of the attraction and should be compensated, plus the safari economy has disrupted their traditional way of life, making a cash income very important, etc.), but tourists often take umbrage, and unhappiness ensues. With the village tour, visitors are asked for a donation in advance (something like $25 per person), with money going directly to the community, and then visitors are welcome to take as many photos as they like.

Ilkeliani also hires Maasai as staff, and they are friendly and welcome questions about their culture, so it is a real opportunity to learn and interact.

Again, I have not been on other safaris, but this experience was tremendous, and highly recommended.

  • Stayed August 2012, traveled as a couple
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
San Francisco, California
Reviewer
5 reviews 5 reviews
4 hotel reviews
Reviews in 5 cities Reviews in 5 cities
13 helpful votes 13 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed November 23, 2012

My wife and I spent five wonderful nights at the Ilkeliani Camp in Massai Mara in October and can not praise it enough for the incredible experience that we had. The Camp is well situated on the border of the Masai Mara Reserve, making easy entrance into the park. The Safari drives were spectacular! We saw all of the big five and more, including 12 lions in one day, 30 elephants, cheetahs, leopards, hippos, etc. The safari guides were outstanding!!! The camp was also very nice, with beautiful and comfortable accommodations. The hospitality staff was first rate as were the meals. All in all a great place and highly recommended. Dale & Suzanne

  • Stayed October 2012, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Dublin, Ireland
Senior Contributor
24 reviews 24 reviews
22 hotel reviews
Reviews in 22 cities Reviews in 22 cities
43 helpful votes 43 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed November 5, 2012

I loved every minute of our stay here! The tents were spotless, comfortable and had a very private veranda. The camp itself is peaceful, relaxing and homely. The food was amazing, we cleared our plates every night! As a vegetarian, I was amazed at the food provided and the attention that was paid to my food. Nothing was a hassle! The staff were amazing, always on hand, discreetly. I would stay here again, for longer next time! Only tip is to bring a decent flashlight, one is provided, but didn't work properly. Loved, loved, loved my stay here!

  • Stayed November 2012, traveled with friends
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Zurich, Switzerland
Top Contributor
80 reviews 80 reviews
60 hotel reviews
Reviews in 62 cities Reviews in 62 cities
30 helpful votes 30 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed October 20, 2012

Our trip started with Ilkeliani and they set the standard really high! Tents are very good - but if you expect too mu luxury, you will probably won't appreciate a lot. All is stylish, clean and charming. You have hot water all the time! When in the evening you have to go to the lounge and restaurant, someone always waits for you and accompanies you (it could be dark and you are in the nature after all and if you don't remember your way, it is helpful) - the people accompany you back to the tent when you decide to go back. The beds are always made and you have a bottle of hot water, sufficient blankets.

Wake-up calls, coffee in the morning before the games and all is greatly organized. About the food - great! Ok, you don't have a menu to choose from but the chef Jonathan, a masai, does an amazing job with the limited electricity, no drinking water in your tap. The taste and presentation of the dishes deserves a recognition and a particular remark! A note about the service and attention to details, one evening we had fish and it was served with a knife for fish, which is not common in many restaurants etc. The diversity of the dishes was another point to make!

The staff - absolutely friendly and helpful! You can easily engage in conversations and those are great guys to take care of you while you are there - starting at 5am till you go back to your tent! Compared to all other places we visited, this was the most friendly , helpful and superb staff (at least for me).

The games are the usual - wake up at 6, game drives start at 6.30 - our guide was another special guy. We did one full day trip to Mara river as well.

Our tent had a view to the river, we had also rain but it didn't interrupt our trip at all. There were a few options for a visit to a Masai, village, walks, dinners in the bushes, they can assist you in getting to a balloon ride.

For some the fact that you do not have internet access could be an issue but you can enjoy the nature more.. Electricity is available in the morning and the evening and you can charge your batteries in the lounge.

You don't have a safe and when we asked for a safe they were surprised which demonstrates that it is also a safe place!

The location of the camp if convenient because you are a few mins from the Masai Mara park entrance, easy drive from/to the airport.

All I can say is Bravo to this true Kenyan place!

  • Stayed September 2012, traveled with friends
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 5
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Contributor
12 reviews 12 reviews
11 hotel reviews
Reviews in 10 cities Reviews in 10 cities
21 helpful votes 21 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed October 16, 2012 via mobile

I stayed at the Ilkeliani from the 13th to the 16th of October this year. I want to take a moment to say thank you the the entire staff for making it such a lovely visit. The location is nice and you have the ability to track different areas on your game drives. The camp itself is very clean, the beds and pillows are very soft and the food is quite tasty. There's a nice view of the river, elevated viewing area for sundowners if you choose, firepit, hot water and you can easily charge your electronics.
My biggest compliment is to the friendliness of the manager Charles and his staff. Edwin and the other wait staff made you feel welcome and at home. Wilson who is the warrior who took me on an afternoon visit to a Masai village was very knowledgeable, friendly and kind.
I spent most of my time with my driver Edward though. He's a very friendly man and an excellent tracker. On my first morning safari we were blessed to watch a cheetah track and kill a wildebeest!! I was in the vehicle closest to the action because he knew to go a different direction than the two other vehicles. He stays in constant contact with other drivers and has sharp eyes. He even spots small pieces of plastic or soda cans and will stop to pick them up for proper disposal. You can tell he knows his land and is very proud of it. He also found the elusive leopard and I spoke with a family who had been in the area for a week and didn't see one leopard. I was there three days and saw the cheetah kill, the four male lion sons (just not Nodge, their dad), leopard and of course elephants and buffalo. The rhino was the only one to not make an appearance.
It was a lovely stay and I highly recommend it!!

  • Stayed October 2012
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 2
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Ilkeliani Camp

Address: Masai Mara | P.O Box 64196, Maasai Mara National Reserve 00620, Kenya
Location: Kenya > Rift Valley Province > Maasai Mara National Reserve
Amenities:
Free Breakfast Free Parking Restaurant Room Service
Hotel Style:
Ranked #55 of 117 Specialty Lodging in Maasai Mara National Reserve
Hotel Class:2.5 star — Ilkeliani Camp 2.5*
Number of rooms: 17
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Nestled in a riverine forest in the Masai Mara Game Reserve, the area is a favourite for elephants coming to drink from the Talek River. Ilkeliani camp consists of only 17 tents, each commanding views of the plains and the wildlife action throughout the day. The tented rooms are raised up slightly on earth mounds, overlooking the river and the plains. These mounds are covered in vegetation, and feel quite natural, and each one has been sited under its own cluster of shady indigenous trees and you do feel like you are out in the wilderness. ... more   less 
Also Known As:
Ilkeliani Camp Hotel Maasai Mara National Reserve
Ilkeliani Camp Kenya/Maasai Mara National Reserve

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