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.
Rooms 4 and 5 are mid-way between the dining area and the game drive departure point.
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.