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“Exceeded our expectations” 5 of 5 stars
Review of Royal Mara Safari Lodge

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Royal Mara Safari Lodge
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4.0 of 5 Lodge   |   Masai Mara North Conservancy | P.O Box 260, Maasai Mara National Reserve 00621, Kenya   |  
Hotel amenities
Brisbane, Australia
1 review
2 helpful votes 2 helpful votes
“Exceeded our expectations”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed August 28, 2013

We spent 5 nights at Royal Mara and it was one of the best experiences of our lives. Our guide, Julius, was outstanding. Apart from his favourite spots he had a network of other guides willing to assist him with sittings. In the conservatory they have an unwritten rule about the number of vehicles around an animal so there is no crowding. The resort is not fenced so the animals, including the hippos graze around the resort at night. No place for sleep walkers!

Graham Buderus

Room Tip: Ask for one by the river
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  • Stayed August 2013, 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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364 reviews from our community

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  • Sleep Quality
    5 of 5 stars
  • Location
    5 of 5 stars
  • Rooms
    5 of 5 stars
  • Service
    5 of 5 stars
  • Value
    5 of 5 stars
  • Cleanliness
    5 of 5 stars
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English first
Senior Contributor
30 reviews 30 reviews
14 hotel reviews
Reviews in 17 cities Reviews in 17 cities
34 helpful votes 34 helpful votes
3 of 5 stars Reviewed August 18, 2013

We stayed at Olonana for 4 nights before coming to Royal Mara so it was hard not to compare the two camps since they were almost the same price.

What I loved about Royal Mara:
• You can drive off road in the Mara Conservancy so you can get closer to the animals. If not for this we would not have seen the amazing things we did including: several leopards, 2 leopards mating, a pride of lions with a kill, and a beautiful bull elephant feasting on a tree.
• The 2 hr walking safaris were amazing. Getting up close to the hippos was great. Reagan is very knowledgeable and a trained sniper if need be.
• The staff are lovely, hardworking people, who deserve better from management.

What was disappointing:
• The food was very basic and a world away from the lovely food we had at Olonana. Repetitive menu, recycled sauces, frozen vegetables and in some cases I am fairly sure at least the tomato soup was canned. A bottle of wine we ordered before dinner was not chilled, so I asked if they could put it in the freezer for 20 minutes but it was served warm!
• Tents are modern, the bed was comfortable but our hot water was never hot. We didn’t even use the cold water tap when having a shower and the pressure was a drizzle at best. The zip on our tent was constantly jamming, which didn’t happen with our kids’ tent (different style of zip). Also our front door on the balcony was very difficult to close. I asked if it could be fixed and was told, yes, but when it wasn’t, I was told, “the guy who does that was not around.” It was tent No. 7. I’m sure whoever is in that tent several months from now will have the same problem.
• Internet was extremely bad. Only functioned properly in the middle of the night. It was possible to get emails at times but to send one with an attachment was not possible. When I asked about this, I was told “look where we are, what do you expect?” If that is the case, then don’t advertise that you have “high-speed internet.” Our internet was fine at Olonana btw. Unfortunately both my husband and I needed to stay in contact with work, so Internet was essential.

The general feel of the place is everything is done on the cheap: Vehicles are old and uncomfortable; staff don’t have nametags; there was no conditioner in the shower; no umbrellas so we walked to dinner in the rain one night. Whenever tea was served, it was already made and quite strong. The teapots were badly stained as were the teacups in the rooms. There were toothpicks on the toilet floor and bathroom in the kids’ tent and our bidet was not clean. There was also no mosquito repellent available. We bought some with us but because we were in 2 tents and needed security to walk us everywhere, I thought it would be good to buy another. Not possible unless they went to a nearby town, so I didn’t bother. In an area like this, and paying such high prices, these sorts of things should be available and in fact are at other camps!!

The final straw for me was the morning of checkout. We were going on a walking safari at 10am and were supposed to checkout at 12:45. However, 5 minutes before the walking safari, we were asked to vacate both our rooms “because other guests are arriving at 12pm.” It was just very unprofessional. If we had been told in advance I could have prepared and packed properly. Instead we all scrambled to quickly pack before the safari. I found out from another staff member that the next guests were arriving at 2pm and they had not arrived when we left at 12:45pm, so they treated us badly for nothing. It’s purely a lack of direction from management.

This is marketed as a luxurious camp and it is just isn’t, although the prices certainly are. Do your research; there are better camps out there for the money.

  • Stayed August 2013, traveled with family
    • 2 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Location
    • 3 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 3 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 3 of 5 stars Service
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15 reviews 15 reviews
10 hotel reviews
Reviews in 10 cities Reviews in 10 cities
10 helpful votes 10 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed August 7, 2013

The Royal Mara has two great attractions - its staff and its location. The Royal Mara's staff are superb, doing their jobs quietly, unobtrusively and efficiently, yet always willing to take the time to share their intimate knowledge of the area with us. As other reviewers have mentioned, many of the staff have to be away from their home for months at a time, but you'd never know this from the positive and enthusiastic way that each one did their job. The lodge overlooks a river favoured by hippopotami, so there is always something to watch during meals, which are all served outdoors. The hippopotami also ensure that there is generally something to listen to at night, as they call to each other while crashing through the undergrowth (and the lodge site!) on their way to feed.

Located in the Masai Mara, the lodge's twice-daily game drives offer unrivalled opportunities to observe closely a wide range of wild life. I won't duplicate other reviewers' lists - they're all true! We were there in late July to see the annual migration of thousands of wildebeest, zebra and gazelles travelling north from the Serengeti Plains. The lodge isn't in the path of the migration, so we had a full day at a nearby conservancy, through which flows a major river that the herds have to cross as part of their journey. (The $80 for the day-long trip isn't included in the cost of staying at the lodge.) Many readers will have seen photographs and videos of such crossings, when massive crocodiles attack the wildebeest and zebra; when we were there, many people exhibited a macabre excitement at the prospect of animals killing each other, but soon tired of waiting and left when the crossing didn't happen immediately. They missed a fascinating spectacle of animal indecision: the build-up to a crossing is at least as interesting as the crossing itself. Streams of zebra approach the crossing point nervously and hesitantly, only to be pushed aside by a stream of wildebeest who do the same until they, in turn, are displaced by zebra. All the while, animals rush around fighting and bellowing and the air is tense with nervous excitement until, at last, one animal literally takes the plunge into the river, setting off a stampede of thousands of animals that can last for an hour or so.

Blessed with such excellent staff and such an idyllic location, the owners of the Royal Mara have, in my view, become complacent, offering a standard of facilities that doesn't justify their prices. Electricity - and, therefore, lighting, heating and hot water - is available for just a few hours a day. The furniture in the tents - while very picturesque - is acutely uncomfortable, apart from the bed. The ten-year-old game drive vehicles are showing their age: I was never comfortable in one, despite delighting in everything I saw and heard. Finally, while the food and drink is healthy, plentiful and presented beautifully, it lacked the imagination and variety that the Royal Mara's prices would lead you to expect. As Trip Advisor readers know better than most, the Masai Mara game lodge market is very competitive, so if the Royal Mara is to maintain its current position, it will have to revisit its pricing and upgrade its facilities.

Room Tip: Rooms 4 and 5 are mid-way between the dining area and the game drive departure point.
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  • Stayed July 2013, traveled as a couple
    • 3 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 3 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.
Hong Kong, China
Top Contributor
57 reviews 57 reviews
35 hotel reviews
Reviews in 34 cities Reviews in 34 cities
32 helpful votes 32 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed August 5, 2013

During my recent stay in Kenya, this was the best lodge that I have experienced. The best thing is that it has a very large lodge, with running water bath room. Having a running water bath room is important, at least in my view, when doing safari in Maasai Mara. You will not believe how dusty it would be after a whole day out in the safari. I could not imagine how to survie if I only have the option of bucket shower as in other camps. The bath room is also big and allow you to clean yourself after a whole day of hard work in the field.

Food quality is also something suprisingly good and worth a mentioning. The chef is really doing a great job here to proivde all kinds of quality food for the guest. Lucnh is usually served next to the river where you can wath the Hippo while you are eating. Dinner is usually served at the courtyard next to a fire place.

There are also other nice things which have all been commented by others so I will not repeat them here, inlcuidng the nice carving, nice furniture, comfortable bed, right next to the Mara River where the Hippo stay ...etc.

The only one drawback, if I have to list one, is the distance from the Maasai Mara National Reserve. This lodge is located in the Mara North Conservatory which is next to the Maasai Mara National Reserve. Your game drive is in the Mara North Conservatory. You can see all animals here but if you want to see the river crossing, you have to travel back to the Maasai Mara National Reserve which is almost two hours drive from the lodge and you have to pay for the enterance fee which is USD 80 per person, not yet including the hire of a driver and a car to go there (2200 KES for the car and drive, or 25 USD). If you are staying here for more than 3 nights, it will include a one day visit to the National Reserve. Otherwise you have to pay for yourself. In order to see the river crossing, we spent two full days in the National Reserve but still no luck.

During night time, you will hear a lot of noise from the animal, like the Hippo. monkey, sometime the Zebra and Elephant will also come close to the site so it coudl be noisy during the night. At one night, it was so noisy that we were waken up. During the next day, the security staff (who stay overnight every night to guard the site) told us it was because of a group of zebra fighting with the Eland) also because of that, you will be guarded by a security staff wtih gun wherever you go inside the lodge site, e.g. going to and from the restaurant, going to and from the reception etc.

Electricity supply is morning and evening only. You will have plug inside the room to charge your camera etc. The supply is up to 10:30pm so when you are back from the game drive at around 7pm you still have plenty of time to feed you gadgets. In the moring it starts at 5:30am. but will be out soon after everybody gone on game drive.

  • Stayed July 2013, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 3 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 2
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Ottawa, Canada
Senior Contributor
40 reviews 40 reviews
19 hotel reviews
Reviews in 25 cities Reviews in 25 cities
36 helpful votes 36 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed July 29, 2013

Perfect is a word not to used lightly but certainly is appropriate here.

The accommodations were just as pictured on their websites, so the rooms are spacious, beautiful and full of character. All the staff we met were very friendly, but certainly not intrusive. They are proud and intelligent people who were interested in sharing their cultures with us.

The guides all communicate with each other so I think they are all would be great. Personally we did not put any pressure on our guide to see the leopard but he did manage it. We were very fortunate to witness 2 crossings on the day our guide suggest we went to the park. He did not say it at the time but I think he knew in advance our chances would be very high. We did have to pay $80 for each of us, plus the local fee for the driver and vehicle, but definitely worth the experience. You can only pay with cash for this. But tipping and drinks (which was very reasonable) can be done with credit card.

We were all impressed at what they food can prepare for just 10 guests, quality and variety was just right.

The highlight of our stay was the bush lunch. Here we were eating freshly barbecued lamb chops and nice salads amidst hundreds of animals. We were left speechless. We had friends who stayed at the Fairmont Safari Club last year and although they were very satisfied with their stay, I don't think they had the same intimate care and attention we received at the Royal Mara.

Please tip generously as the workers here only get to see their families every 3 months. And most of them have young families to support.

I felt our stay of 3 nights was perfect, may be longer would be nice but definitely no shorter. We met another coupled who has done many other safaris in South Africa and Botswana and they said that the Mara was truly in a class my itself.

Thank you to all the staff at the Royal Mara who helped made our holiday unforgettable.

Room Tip: We had room 1 which was nearer to the hippos but more interesting. Our teens had room 5 and they we...
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  • Stayed July 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
    • 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.
Big Bear City, California
1 review
5 of 5 stars Reviewed July 27, 2013

This camp was everything one would want. The tents, in covered structures, were very nice. The carvings in the furniture were fun to explore and what a talent. The accommodations were roomy, convenient, and nice; both inside and out. Big lounges and table and chairs sat under the covered deck overlooking the river. The hippos were the neighbors in the river. The food was great, served in nice settings, with plenty of fruits and vegetables. For lunch it was back at camp, out in the bush, or a pack lunch. The lodge offered a walking safari, with guards, to be out in the bush with some of the zebras and small animals. I personally loved the walks and the feeling of being in the middle of it "all." The safari trips were exciting as was watching the animals next move. Sometimes really close, too. The guide was excellent. Travel to and from excellent.

  • Stayed July 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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Los Angeles, California
3 reviews 3 reviews
Reviews in 3 cities Reviews in 3 cities
3 helpful votes 3 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed July 21, 2013

This camp was really exceptional. With only eight "tents," it features highly personal service by a staff that is genuine, careful, and attentive. And the sleeping quarters are called "tents," but they are really much more elaborate: large, individual, elevated super-structures that hold up the canvas and mesh tents on their inside, with a large bedroom, bathroom and veranda. The structure and the furniture are all very extravagant and unique, made of whole logs with sculptures carved into them. There are also public buildings at each end of the camp for happy hour, meals, etc., which you are escorted to and fro by armed escorts (beware the hippos). Game drives were amazing, led by knowledgeable drivers and held in small groups (our truck load was just my family of four). You can't imagine all the animals- or the feeling when a large male lion five meters away stares straight at you. The location of the camp is wonderful and the landscape is beautiful, which you get up close to during game walks. It was truly a special place for such a great adventure.

  • Stayed July 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
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Royal Mara Safari Lodge

Address: Masai Mara North Conservancy | P.O Box 260, Maasai Mara National Reserve 00621, Kenya
Location: Kenya > Rift Valley Province > Maasai Mara National Reserve
Bar / Lounge Free Breakfast Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Free Parking Children Activities ( Kid / Family Friendly ) Restaurant Room Service Shuttle Bus service Suites
Hotel Style:
Ranked #20 of 120 Specialty Lodging in Maasai Mara National Reserve
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $$$$
Hotel Class:4 star — Royal Mara Safari Lodge 4*
Number of rooms: 8
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
The Royal Mara is a luxury safari and game viewing lodge located in Kenya's world famous Masai Mara, home to the annual Great Migration of the Wildebeest. We are situated directly on the Mara River with six riverfront guest suites. All suites are raised upon wooden decks with full mahogany flooring and original hand carved furniture. See the same wildlife-rich areas as broadcast on the BBC Big Cat Diary. ... more   less 
Also Known As:
Royal Mara Safari Hotel Maasai Mara National Reserve
Royal Mara Safari Lodge Kenya/Maasai Mara National Reserve

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