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“A wonderful game lodge with special staff service” 5 of 5 stars
Review of Saruni Mara

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Saruni Mara
C14, Keekorok | Mara North Conservancy, Maasai Mara National Reserve 20500, Kenya   |  
Hotel amenities
London
Contributor
20 reviews 20 reviews
12 hotel reviews
Reviews in 10 cities Reviews in 10 cities
10 helpful votes 10 helpful votes
“A wonderful game lodge with special staff service”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed October 9, 2013

We just completed a 4 night stay at Saruni Mara and for the third time had a wonderful visit. We were accommodated in the family villa which has two separate large bedrooms with en-suites with a central lounge. Absolutely ideal for family visit.
The camp is owned by an Italian and the menus are specifically orientated towards excellent Italian dishes. Meals are three courses and you are able to serve your self the quantity of food you wish to eat. Ideal for those who are watching their weight on holiday! One of the great plusses at Saruni is the interaction with other guests around the fire at night and during dinner. We were fortunate to meet new people (lots of honeymooners) and enjoy sharing our daily experiences.
Jackson and William were our guide and tracker and both were excellent. As most of the staff live on the conservancy, we were able to understand the Masai culture and way of life. Saruni has new open sided vehicles which are very comfortable. The wildlife was plentiful in the Mara Conservancy and we did not need to visit the main Mara National Reserve. We enjoyed several encounters with leopards as shown in photo, as well as lions (including a pride of 20), buffalo, cheetah, elephants and a rare sighting of a caracul cat.
Marcus is the camp manager and ensured we had an enjoyable experience. What makes Saruni special is the staff who we have now known for three years. They all are friendly, helpful and happy. There is a spa where we enjoyed a massage. The internet connection at the main office/shop is good for normal emails.

Room Tip: Family villa is excellent
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  • Stayed September 2013, 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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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
RiccardoOrizio, Owner at Saruni Mara, responded to this review, October 24, 2013
Thank you Roy for writing such kind words and i'm so happy that you loved your stay with us and that you loved Mara North Conservancy. Thank you for recommending the family villa, a really great accommodation. After so many visits, you are now part of our family and we look forward to have you back again in the future. We are re-designing the menus… so be ready for some more surprising Italian dishes…
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Rating summary
  • Location
    5 of 5 stars
  • Sleep Quality
    5 of 5 stars
  • Rooms
    5 of 5 stars
  • Service
    5 of 5 stars
  • Value
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Cleanliness
    5 of 5 stars
Traveler tips help you choose the right room.   Room tips (17)
Date | Rating
  • English first
  • Italian first
  • Swedish first
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English first
London
Senior Reviewer
8 reviews 8 reviews
7 hotel reviews
Reviews in 8 cities Reviews in 8 cities
4 helpful votes 4 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed October 3, 2013

We have thought long and hard about this review, and decided on a 4 and not a 5. The reason is that the lodge is excellent, with superb staff who are very dedicated to your needs. The food was wonderful, and the rooms very clean with good furniture. From a hotel perspective, we found this to be an excellent location to stay.

Our main concern was the quality of the guide, who while friendly didn't seem to be as committed to us and our experience as we would have liked. We worked out that he was on his phone 20-30 times per day on what seemed to be personal calls. While there is always a need to liaise with other guides on animal sightings, he often took or made a call, and then didn't change course or direction. It was also extremely disconcerting that he would drive on very rough terrain with one hand on the wheel and one on the phone chatting to his friends. We also were extremely unimpressed at the way on one day, when after a long day out in the Mara, he took us back in a different route, and pulled up without explanation at a group of locals by a truck in the middle of a field. He then proceeded to spend nearly 20 minutes loading a cow into the back of the truck.

After we drove off he explained that it was his cow and it needed medical help, and he needed to be there. While I fully appreciate the importance of cows in Mara values and society, I was not impressed that he'd spent a lot of the day when guiding us focusing on sorting out his cow via phone calls, and not our guiding experience. I was also not impressed that he didn't tell us his plans until after the event - it is very disconcerting to pull up in the middle of nowhere to be greeted by a group of strange people and not know what is going on. I was also struck by the way he said 'don't tell anyone' which seemed to imply he knew he shouldn't have done what he did. Therefore, with some reluctance we've giving this place a 4, not a 5, simply because the game drive experience is so integral to the stay.

The only other advice we would offer is to pack an extra layer for here, as the lodge is at 6000 feet and can get very cold at night (although the beds get wonderful hot water bottles).

  • Stayed September 2013, traveled as a couple
    • 4 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
    • 4 of 5 stars Service
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RiccardoOrizio, Owner at Saruni Mara, responded to this review, October 24, 2013
Thank you Jim for your review and I'm glad that Saruni came out as a good safari lodge. Your comments on guiding and on the habit of the guide to take and make un-necessary phone calls during the safari is well copied: we have sanctioned the guide and have given him a letter of warning. Hopefully this will be enough to stop him from repeating this mistake in the future. if not, well then it means that he does to belong to the Saruni tradition, which is based first and foremost on good guiding. Thank you again for pointing this out and apologies if this has affected your experience. I wish you could come back one day and give us a second chance to show that guiding really matters to our Saruni way of begin on safari.
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Hampshire, England
Senior Contributor
27 reviews 27 reviews
9 hotel reviews
Reviews in 21 cities Reviews in 21 cities
56 helpful votes 56 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed October 2, 2013 via mobile

This was the second leg of our recent odyssey through Kenya and, having experienced the delight of the parched Samburu wilderness, we weren't sure whether this phase of the trip would be able to scale similar heights. We needn't have worried.

Of course, the setting helps a bit. Not long after taking off from the arid northern airstrip, you're reminded of the extraordinary diversity of this beautiful country and, but the time we landed at Ukunde airstrip in the Mara Northern Conservancy, we were surrounded by verdant lushness everywhere. The same approach applies as in Saruni Samburu - a gentle drive through something akin to the Garden of Eden, green fields and an abundance of wildlife everywhere you look that is in stark contrast to the harder conditions further North.

One of many things of which Saruni can be justly proud is the quality of their guides. Not only are they extremely sharp-eyed, they're very articulate, intelligent and engaging and it took no time at all for a good relationship to be established as we continued on, stopping for a welcome open-air lunch on the most enormous, empty plain I think I shall ever see.

Some might question whether the location of the lodge, at the northern corner of the Northern conservancy, is too far from the main Mara Reserve. And it is a distance, be under no illusions, the journey to the river to see the river crossing basically being an all day job there and back. This is not an issue. For one, the Northern Conservancy is a whole different landscape and is, if anything, blessed with more wildlife in more places than the vast, frequently empty plains further south. What you do get in the reserve is, of course, the river crossing itself and there the concentration of wildebeest is mind-boggling. If you're lucky enough to see them stream down the hill to the river in their thousands and then, hopefully, cross the river you will witness an unforgettable event. However, it was much closer to home that we saw the pride of 19 lions, the pair of cheetahs, the leopard dangling nonchalantly from a tree.

Animals are seen from an open-sided Land Rover, which is the only way to do this, judging by the miserable faces we saw peering out through the windows of the many minibuses we saw, patently not being driven by Masai with local knowledge and equally unable to traverse the many rutted roads where the wildlife is to be found, something our driver and vehicle could do with ease.

Interest in the local community is also strong and it was lovely to be taken one morning to the local market, alive with goats, cattle, colour and noise. I don't know if this is just a Saruni thing, but we were the only Europeans there and I wouldn't have missed it for anything.

The accommodation is in the form of individual lodges, done out inside in a colonial style and very nicely done too. It is a good deal colder in the evening, so hot water bottles are thoughtfully provided and fires lit to heat the water in the morning. This all worked perfectly well.

The Saruni style is to eat communally, and this took place in the large main lodge area. The food was extremely good and the fire and sofas at one end of this area made for a really nice way to finish each evening. Service was consistently good throughout and everything was extremely well-kept. The in-room safes could do with being replaced with larger ones to cope with all the technology we all seem to cart around with us these days, but that's a minor issue.

The Saruni approach - relaxed, extremely comfortable, well-informed and constantly friendly - is engaging and a winning formula. It is not the apogee of luxury and silver service, but it shouldn't be and, thankfully, isn't. It's way better than that.

Stayed September 2013, traveled as a couple
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
RiccardoOrizio, Owner at Saruni Mara, responded to this review, October 24, 2013
Thank you very much for your very kind words and I'm glad that the Masai mara did not "disappoint" after the amazingly wilderness of Saruni Samburu. I'm particularly glad to read that "One of many things of which Saruni can be justly proud is the quality of their guides. Not only are they extremely sharp-eyed, they're very articulate, intelligent and engaging": as you say, this is the way to go and your words will encourage us not to stray from this path. Thank you again.
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Wargrave
2 reviews
Reviews in 2 cities Reviews in 2 cities
1 helpful vote 1 helpful vote
5 of 5 stars Reviewed September 26, 2013

We stayed here for 4 nights at the start of our honeymoon, and it proved to be everything and more we hoped for from a safari!

The lodges are well built and offer relative luxury considering the breathtakingly remote setting they are built within. The location is fantastic, set away from other lodges and camps; which allows for a relaxed and intimate experience.

The staff (all of whom are genuine Masai) are incredibly attentive; nothing is too much to ask and every detail is accounted for - thanks for the candle lit champagne dinner!

However, without doubt the greatest experience is the game drives and the WILDLIFE!!! We were so lucky to have Jackson as our guide, his ability to find animals is unrivaled, as well as his knowledge on every species. Thanks to Jackson we saw everything we could possible have hoped for, including: lions, leopard, cheetah, elephants, hippos, giraffes, rhino, baboons, buffalo, wild dogs, hyenas and hundreds more...as well as having the most incredible experience of seeing a lion make a kill (right from start to finish) - we were so lucky and privileged!

We will be back, as will many of our friends and family!

Thank you for the perfect start to our honeymoon.

Tom and Hana

  • Stayed June 2013, traveled as a couple
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
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RiccardoOrizio, Owner at Saruni Mara, responded to this review, October 24, 2013
Dear Tom and Hana, thank you very much for your very kind words. I'm happy that we have given you such a happy experience during your honeymoon and we look forward to have you back with your children one day soon!
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Crewe
Contributor
14 reviews 14 reviews
13 hotel reviews
Reviews in 13 cities Reviews in 13 cities
14 helpful votes 14 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed September 15, 2013

This was the second stage of our safari holiday, the first stage having been spent at Saruni Samburu which had set an extremely high example of wonderful safari accommodation and experiences. With an extremely hard act to follow we were unsure whether Saruni Mara would, or could, meet our expectations. We needn't have worried! From the first glimpse of the beautiful lodges hidden among the lush green of the surrounding trees we felt reassured that this would be a fabulous place to stay. This was confirmed by the extremely warm and friendly welcome we experienced on our arrival. Much needed after our journey.
The layout of the hotel is beautifully and carefully arranged with exquisite furnishings. The main area is somewhat reminiscent of a ski chalet with its enticing open fire (much needed for the cool evenings) and comfortable seating. The lodges are all separate and very private, each with its own verandah where it is very enjoyable to sit and watch the passing wildlife, such as zebra, buffalo, baboons and gazelles. We were delighted to meet the very tame eland, which has been reared by the staff, as it tried to join us for cocktails one evening! Our lodge was very cosy and tastefully furnished. The hot water bottles placed in our very comfortable bed was a welcome touch and much needed on the cold nights.
The staff were, once again, delightful, friendly, solicitous and extremely polite and helpful. We were treated like long lost friends and made to feel as if we had been invited into someone's home. This was the real meaning of hospitality! Special mention must go to the relief managers, Raymond and Chelsea, for whom nothing was too much trouble and whose presence and amiability added greatly to the convivial atmosphere and bonhomie.
The good food, good wine and communal dining increased the feeling of being at a weekend house party and enabled us, once again, to meet a range of interesting fellow travellers with whom we could share stories and experiences of safaris and travels.
Our drivers and guides were friendly and very knowledgeable about the environment and wildlife and we enjoyed a wonderful guided walk where we learned much about how the Maasai people make use of trees, plants and elephant droppings! We are now the proud owners of Maasai toothbrushes, made for us during the walk from one of the trees (I know I should remember which one but I can't. Thank goodness there wasn't a test at the end!)
We were very sorry to leave Saruni Mara and hope, very much, to return one day.

  • Stayed September 2013, traveled as a couple
    • 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.
RiccardoOrizio, Owner at Saruni Mara, responded to this review, September 21, 2013
Thank you very much for the very detailed review. I really love it when our guests feel so much involved and welcome that are become almost part of our "family". And I love it even more when the "competition" about who and what and where is better is among the different Saruni properties! As you rightly say, the two places are different, but both have their own special personality. Than k you again for being so appreciative: we look forward to have you back!
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Palo Alto, California, United States
2 reviews
1 helpful vote 1 helpful vote
5 of 5 stars Reviewed September 13, 2013

The best part about Saruni is it's physical beauty: beautiful (and large) private cottages with balconies overlooking the valley, the open main lodge and fire place, and the general mountainside setting. I was traveling for two weeks in Mara and Zanzibar after, and some of my favorite views of the whole trip were of the valley from my cottage. Service was incredible, food was outstanding, wine was free flowing, and the overall experience was luxurious but not overdone. The guides were knowledgeable and friendly (and bush walk was a really cool alternative to a drive), but it did take a little while each day to get to the start of the game drive (~30-40mins through smallish villages).

Overall, I'd highly recommend Saruni.

  • Stayed August 2013, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 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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RiccardoOrizio, Owner at Saruni Mara, responded to this review, September 21, 2013
Thank you for this fantastic review! And I'm glad that after all the travelling to wonderful destinations in East Africa you found the view from Saruni so satisfying! And I hope the this impression lasted even when the wine stopped flowing....
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Istanbul, Turkey
Contributor
18 reviews 18 reviews
9 hotel reviews
Reviews in 10 cities Reviews in 10 cities
10 helpful votes 10 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed August 30, 2013

The lodge is very nicely decorated. Rooms are spacious. (we took room no.5). The hospitality and fireside chats in the evening are very nice. The safari experience is very rich. Our guide, William, was amazing. The nights were very cold, much colder than we expected in August. This was our forth safari and so far the best one!

  • Stayed August 2013, traveled with family
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 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.
RiccardoOrizio, Owner at Saruni Mara, responded to this review, September 2, 2013
Thank you for your nice review and I'm glad you enjoyed your safari. yes, the weather is July and August is cold: we look forward to have you back to Kenya in January, February, March, when the weather is warm! Thank you again!
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Additional Information about Saruni Mara

Address: C14, Keekorok | Mara North Conservancy, Maasai Mara National Reserve 20500, Kenya
Location: Kenya > Rift Valley Province > Maasai Mara National Reserve
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Free Parking Children Activities ( Kid / Family Friendly ) Restaurant Room Service Suites
Hotel Style:
Ranked #27 of 108 Specialty lodging in Maasai Mara National Reserve
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $$$$
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Saruni is a small, luxury lodge in Mara North Conservancy, the best wildlife area in the Masai mara ecosystem. We have one family villa and 5 cottages. Our masai guides are among the best in Kenya and to discover the amazing wildlife of the Mara with them is an unforgettable experience. In July 2012 Saruni Mara opened the doors of a brand new family villa and completed the refurbishment of its existing villa’s in to six beautifully designed, themed rooms.The stylish new villa has two en-suite bedrooms and a large lounge complete with dinning area and comfortable sofa’s sounding the welcoming fireplace. There is also an impressive large veranda overlooking the magnificent scenery of the Masai Mara. The remaining villas have been refurbished to incorporate themes that will engage with guests passions whether that is art, astronomy, photography, literature, natural history or simply romance. All furniture, carpets, lamps and bedding was either sourced locally in Nairobi or designed by Kenyan interior decorator Larissa Hoops and then made by local craftsmen.The Art room will inspire creative guests with an easel and paint as well as a desk with drawing materials.For star gazers, the Astronomy room has a vintage brass telescope, moon map and selection of interesting material on all things cosmic.Book worms and budding writers will enjoy staying in the Literature room with its vintage typewriter, leather reading chairs, desk with brass reading lamp, quill pen and leather blotter. There is also a selection of classic and African literature. For clients that prefer to view life through the lens, the Photography room has an old box browning camera, antique photographic equipment catalogue and stunning prints adorn the walls. The Family villa also doubles as the Natural History room and is decorated with a selection of antique and vintage prints. There is also relevant reading material such a books on mammals, reptiles, tree’s and birds.The Honeymoon room has been simply designed for a relaxing romantic break with comfy furniture and beautiful antiques.Saruni Mara is owned and run by Italian author Riccardo Orizio. This resort is the Masai Mara’s smallest permanent lodge and guests enjoy an exclusive experience with their own private vehicle and guide. Evenings can be spent relaxing in the common area enjoying fine cuisine influenced by Riccardo’s Italian family heritage. Guests can also enjoy bush breakfasts and dinners in breathtaking settings such as in the middle of an acacia forest. Saruni Mara is extremely active in local community and conservation projects and works very closely with the local Masai communities. The lodge is the proud recipient on the Silver rating by Ecotourism Kenya.Rooms at Saruni Mara start from US$390 a night. Prices are based on two people sharing on full board including all house drinks, park fees, game drives and airport transfers. ... more   less 
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Also Known As:
Saruni Mara Hotel Maasai Mara National Reserve
Saruni Mara Kenya/Maasai Mara National Reserve

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