I just returned from my first visit to the Masai Mara, where I stayed at Basecamp Explorer (formerly known just as Basecamp). I didn't really know what to expect but was more than pleasantly surprised by the experience. The camp tents were spacious and comfortable, everything is run on solar power and the food and service were wonderful.
The Masai who run and guard the camp were so kind, thoughtful and friendly, they felt like family by the time we had to leave. Our guide, George, was patient and interesting and just an all-around wonderful guy who made sure we got to see everything we wanted to see but never pushed us. The mornings start early with a game drive followed by breakfast overlooking the savannah. Afternoons provide some time to relax, listen to the baboons play in the trees, visit the Masai women whose beading project is supported by Basecamp or chat with the Masai warriors who look over the camp and the guests. (At night, they escort you to and from your tent as the camp is not fenced.)
Each night, we sat out under the amazingly bright stars, sipping wine, listening to the nightsong of birds and frogs and were simply awed by the vastness of the Mara. The bush dinner organised by the camp cost extra but was definitely worth it. We felt like royalty. We stayed three nights and four days.... I wish we had planned a couple of days longer just to be able to really relax and spend some time in the camp reading and sleeping. It's such a peaceful place.
The road up to the Mara is quite bumpy so the trip isn't for everyone. You can wind up with a quite a sore rear end. Also, it's a truly eco-friendly place, which means there are no flushing toilets, the showers are heated by the power of the sun and there is no electricity (apart from solar power) in the camp -- also no TV, internet or phones (although there is cell coverage). That said, the bathrooms were amazingly clean and not at all like a portable experience... you simply don't flush and the waste is cleaned up and recycled in different ways daily. (Take a head flashlight to make things easier brushing your teeth at night -- also, don't drink or use the "tap" water for brushing. They provide you with clean water for that purpose.)
What's nice is that you are in this amazing setting, being treated like a member of the family rather than a stranger, and it's really very comfortable.... yet you don't leave much of a negative footprint, which makes everything even nicer. I cried when I left and will go back the next time I get a chance. I heard similar things from colleagues in Nairobi, who say it's one of the best places to visit in Kenya. It also seems to be much cheaper and fairer price-wise than other places I looked at on-line.
I would recommend it to couples looking for a magical getaway, families with children looking for adventure (but the kids need to be prepared to ride in the van for several hours looking for lions, etc.) and friends wanting to spend a memorable few days together.
Here's the website: http://www.basecampexplorer.com/our_destinations/masai_mara
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Basecamp Masai Mara provides 12 spacious and luxurious tents, bordering the Masai Mara National reserve, on a lush peninsula in the Talek River, with spectacular views of the savannah. You have your own veranda overlooking the river, bathroom en-suite with a hot solar heated shower open to the sky. Enjoy the amazing wildlife from your tent, the fig-tree platform, or in the open-air bar - a responsible approach to the classic safari ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Basecamp Masai Mara Hotel Maasai Mara National Reserve
- Basecamp Masai Mara Kenya/Maasai Mara National Reserve