We have been on many safaris, but this was our first Kenyan safari. I selected this camp because I loved the comments found on Trip Advisor, and I got a very good feeling about the Mara Explorer. Also, compared to other luxury camps in the Mara, the price was right. We spent six nights at this camp, December 2012.
Originally, I had booked six nights at the Mara Intrepids (30 tents and fenced-in camp), as the nightly price was under $390 a night, for two, including three meals a day, plus two daily game drives.
After further research, I changed our reservations to the Mara Explorer, even though it cost $200 a night more because: there are only 10 tents (unfenced camp), there is a lot of privacy, all meals are included, as well as beer, wines, soft drinks, three daily game drives, daily laundry, a bush dinner, and a bush breakfast (awesome events).
The Mara Explorer is truly an all-inclusive LUXURY camp. The Intrepids costs less but after analyzing the fact’s sheet, it seems the Intrepids charges you for outside of your bed, meals and two game drives.
When we landed, there were three safari vehicles near the airstrip. One was from our camp, one from the Intrepids, and the third from another camp. Steve, the manager at the Explorer welcomed us at the airstrip. Steve is a young, affable manager, and we liked him instantly.
As we arrived nearly lunch time, and we were invited to enjoy a welcome drink of our choice, relax, hear the camp rules (such as: don’t walk unescorted at night, for example), and then we were taken to our tent #4 (seems like it’s the most requested tent), where we relaxed for a little bit before going to the dining area for lunch.
We have been on many safaris, to include Orient-Express camps in Botswana. It is hard to believe that this small tented camp rivals many of the "luxury" camps we’ve stayed in, which cost a lot more. The Mara Explorer won us in so many ways, that I would return again, even though it is our policy not to visit the same place twice. The Camp's pristine location is just gorgeous, next to the Talek River.
Our Tent #4 (pros and cons)
Many guests who wrote reviews on Trip Advisor recommended staying in tent #4, and of course, immediately upon booking our stay, I requested tent #4, and the management obliged us.
Tent # 4 sits far removed from all of the tents, on a tip of a jutting piece of land where the river Talek snakes around. Not to fear, we were perched high above the water. At the bend of the river, the water pool deepens and creates a hippo haven. There must have been at least thirty fat hippos playing all day long, making alot of noises, some very funny to hear. However, one can only listen to their loud honks and grunts, and thankfully, about 6:30 pm, they would exit the water, and go out and feed in the grassed fields, but they return to the pool around 4:30 to 5:00 am, and again, they are NOISY!!
During our six day stay, the water levels dropped considerably (dry season), and the stench from manure and urine when the wind blew in the tent’s direction was pretty powerful! Never mind that, it was still fun, but my husband said he could do without the smells!
Though I would say that, if you are staying 3 days or more at this camp, when booking, ask to stay in a different tent after a couple of days in tent #4. Tent # 7 is on the other side of the river bend, and you get different visitors, such as lions, elephants, etc. One night a herd of elephants crossed right in front of tent #7, and the lady who was staying in the tent totally freaked out, she told us during breakfast. The guards chased the elephants away, ha, ha.
The tents are well-appointed. You can ask for a king bed or two single beds, and that determines the tent’s location. All tents have indoor showers, and an outdoor bathtub (claw foot) and it’s very private. A flushing toilet, double vanity, plenty of storage space is found. These tents are very large and very comfortable with various pieces of furniture.
The furnishings are made of mahogany wood, of very good workmanship. The effect is quite elegant, while retaining a touch of the outdoors.
The bathroom is all wood; it's beautiful. There is a hot water shower, though the hours are limited to early in the am, and after 4:00pm to 6:00 pm, as they must heat up the water. The camp’s toiletries are very nice, eco-friendly, and are low-impact.
Also in the tent, one finds two robes, slippers, mosquito repellant, a light (torch), and a two-way radio to call the butler or ask for help, should a lion decide that the verahndah lounges are very comfortable. We heard that happened recently!
When the weather is cool/to freezing, when you return to the tent from dinner, you will be surprised by a nice warm bed. The tent butler places a hot water bottle under the sheets.
Unless you request otherwise, there is a wakeup call, and the tent butler brings a tray with hot tea, coffee and sweets to the private veranda. Actually, we were shocked the first morning, when, after saying "good morning", he unzipped the front flats, and the butler actually walked into the tent with the tray, and placed it on the small table, while I hid under the blankets… eek! We requested from then on for him to leave the tray on the verandah table.
Every tent has a deck, and comfortable patio furniture is found here.
The chef on duty during our stay was quite competent and creative. Vegetables are grown in the fenced-in sister camp (Intrepids). All ingredients are first class, and rivaled many expensive restaurants we have been to.
All the meals, snacks, wine, beer and sparkling water were all included in the nightly rate.
Free laundry service available. Internet is not available at this camp, though if you are desperate enough, you will be driven to the Intrepids Camp.
The Mara Explorer Camp delivered an awesome holiday experience! It is a camp in the wild, there are no fences, and the animals walk through it any time they please. Of course the Masaai warriors are there to gently persuade the wild guests to leave the premises.
The Camp's location above the Talek River is uniquely wonderful because you hear the hippos honking and grunting, we even heard a leopard ambush a prey, and saw animals come for a drink on the river’s banks.
Because of the low-occupancy rate in December 2012 (something to do with elections, tourists stayed away), we had our very own driver (Matthew) and our own private car for the duration our stay. Normally, you’ll share a vehicle with four additional guests. Matthew, our very handsome Samburu driver was very good, and an expert on the wildlife that lives in the Mara. We also found him to understand photography and lighting, and he was always positioning the vehicle correctly. I let him play with my DSLR, and I have the “best” photos ever, of me with my husband, while on safari, a first and rare occurrence! Thank you Matthew.
Everything we could ever want we found it here: The Masaai Mara is exquisite and the animal life is abundant. The special treats bestowed upon us, yes, they are part of your fees, but nevertheless are so special, such as the surprise bush dinner party, complete with Masaai Warriors who came and sang for us, and the farewell bush breakfast, wow! Truly Magical.
Of special mention our Noor, the senior waiter, who's voice was almost always in a whisper, and the gentle smile on his beautiful Masaai face, were always appreciated. Not to forget Steve, the very congenial, happy-go lucky manager, whose sole mission in life is to make sure his guests are very happy and well-fed! Let me mention, again, our wonderful driver, Matthew.
For six days, everything was perfect! It was very sad to say good-bye to such sweet staff, even to the security Masaai warriors who took good care of our safety. I highly recommend this camp! Karibu!