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“Amazing Luxury”
Review of Sanctuary Olonana

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Sanctuary Olonana
Certificate of Excellence
Yardley, Pennsylvania
Level 4 Contributor
29 reviews
18 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 13 helpful votes
“Amazing Luxury”
Reviewed November 5, 2012

I used to live in Kenya and did many safaris in several parks and in many resorts in the Mara. Olonana is the only resort that I've returned to. They do not disappoint. The location along the Mara River is spectacular. The staff are outstanding. The food rivals the best restaurants in the world. The tents are incredibly comfortable and beautifully appointed, with a huge veranda overlooking the river. The drivers are knowledgeable and friendly, speaking English clearly. With only 12 tents at the site, it's nice and quiet. You feel as if you own the place. I would highly recommend Olonana to anyone looking to safari in the Mara.
We traveled the first week in November when the prices are much cheaper, and we were blessed with being able to see the migration, one of the great wonders of the world. We stayed in tent #3, and had a family of hippos right across the river from us. Their grunts and snorts are amusing. They may keep you awake if you're a light sleeper. Further down the path towards tent 12 gets you closer to the rapids. In my opinion, the rapids were a bit too loud, but some may like it.

Room Tip: Tents 1-3 are near the hippos. Even though they are closer to the lodge area, you still feel isolat...
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  • Stayed November 2012, traveled with friends
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1 Thank AfrTraveler
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Melbourne, Australia
Level 5 Contributor
33 reviews
12 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 15 helpful votes
Reviewed October 27, 2012

I didn’t even think service of this caliber was possible.
Olonana really is a Sanctuary.
EVERYTHING from the welcome, the meals, the hippos in the river, the cocktails before dinner, the food and the massages overlooking the Mara River were incredible.
We were both very sad to be leaving.
To King, Maurice and Christine, you made our anniversary unforgettable and it will be very hard to even try to match this for next year.
A private dinner was arranged on our veranda which completly blew us away with the food, the thought, the staff singing and a cake. WOW.
I loved the little touch of wake up calls with Coffee and cookies, the turn down servcie with a little story left on our pillows.

I want to be back there now. It will be very hard to top an anniversary like our stay at Olonana, this is a place that I will 100% return to in the coming years because it really and truly is a paradise.

Thank you for such an incredible stay.

Room Tip: Book a massage - there is something about a deep tissue massage by the river that calms the soul
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  • Stayed October 2012, traveled as a couple
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3 Thank Ivona S
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Mexico City, Mexico
1 review
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 1 helpful vote
Reviewed October 12, 2012

It was such a great experience to sleep right next to the beautiful Mara River. Hippos were our alarm clock every morning. The staff was great. They all greet you by your first name, which is awesome. They make you feel really at home. Our driver was amazing. He was very patient and really committed to show us what we wanted to see. And we were not an easy crew, since we wanted to see as much as possible. The food was brilliant every time. Everything was flawless: from the products in the bathroom to the safaris, the tents, the staff. In the national park, the animals are incredibly near. More than once we were unable to move, because we were surrounded by elephants or zebras. If you have the opportunity, stay in Olonana and give my regards to Maurice. It was a wonderful place that my family will ever forget.

Room Tip: Some rooms are very far away from the restaurant and lobby, but since you spend almost the entire da...
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  • Stayed September 2012, traveled with family
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1 Thank LovellyRita
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Melbourne, Australia
Level 5 Contributor
48 reviews
22 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 38 helpful votes
Reviewed October 2, 2012

During our recent safari in Kenya, Tanzania and Botswana we stayed in seven different upscale camps and lodges. All were very good, but a couple really stood out from the rest. Olonana was one of these. The 'tents' are extremely comfortable, and each has a deck with a view of the mighty Mara River. You can watch the hippos from your own deck. And don't worry about a wake-up in the morning for your game drive - the hippos will take care of that for you!

There a few things that make Olonana stand out from other luxury tented camps. First, there is the food, which is amazing. The food - both in taste and presentation - is comparable to top restaurants in major western cities. The camp has its own organic garden - which helps - but it is still a wonder that they can pull this off in such a remote location. And then there are the staff, who are probably the most friendly and helpful that we encountered. King, the manager, has done a very good job with staff selection and training, drawing largely from the local Masai population.

Another advantage is the nearby Masai Mara National Park. Of the five parks we visited, this is by far the best maintained. It was the only one in which you don't get a "bush massage" when on game drives (i.e., bouncing up and down on the poor roads). Speaking of massages, my wife claims she had the best massage ever at the spa at Olonana camp (and believe me, she has had spa messages all over the world). And you can take an excellent hot air balloon trip. The launch site is nearby. We definitely recommend it. Lastly, we would recommend the 'walking safari' with a Masai guide and naturalist.

Room Tip: I would recommend the two newest tents, down river from the main centre. They appear to have a more...
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  • Stayed September 2012, traveled as a couple
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1 Thank Paul F
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Del Mar
Level 6 Contributor
91 reviews
24 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 32 helpful votes
Reviewed September 25, 2012

Jambo (hi)

Olonana was our first camp in early Sept. I have read a couple reviews of people that were there after us and we feel very fortunate to have seen so much on our drives. Some of the people were not able to see a crossing.

We started out in Tent #8. They are all the same but #8 is right at the river rapids. I am a light sleeper so it was a bit hard to sleep. I did read that some found it relaxing so you now you have both thoughts. We asked if we could be moved and after 2 nights they moved us to #15 without any problems. #15 is newer and where the river sounds more like a creek. There are also several hippos in that area and they were fun to watch. They can be very loud also but that was fine with us. The hippos made us laugh.

The staff was GREAT!! Christina and Maurice were very helpful. Duncan took care of our room and laundry and did a nice job. Sammy, our waiter, was very helpful also and made sure we had everything we needed. Nelson...........our wonderful guide, was amazing. We saw 2 crossings and feel very fortunate. We only waited 45 minutes for the first one and less for the second. One day we saw several jeeps going in one direction and Nelson went in another. We couldn't figure out why he did that until we got about 20 feet from a male lion while the other jeeps could barely see. Definitely request Nelson for a guide.

Since we had seen so much in the first few days we were afraid we had signed up for too many drives in the next 3 camps. We didn't............each drive was different and each drive showed us things we hadn't seen before. It was wonderful.

My husband had a massage and said it was very nice. The gift shop had a nice selection. We didn't buy anything at that point since we were limited to our luggage on the small planes. The food was very good.

We spent one afternoon at the Masai Village nearby. We had a tour and they set up their crafts to purchase. It was very interesting and worth your time. We brought little gifts for the children at the village and they were very excited to have them since they don't have much to play with. We brought stickers, balloons (they loved that), a beach ball and several pens. Those items don't weigh much and don't take up room in your luggage.

Olonana provided a free balloon ride if you were staying 4 nights. What a great experience. . Most of the one hour ride was just above the tree tops to afford a different view of the animals. We did rise briefly to 3,000 feet just before landing to give a different perspective of the Mara river as well as the neighboring mountains. A few times the basket was only a few feet above the ground and the herds of wildebeest would scurry in all directions when the pilot turned on the blower. It was a truly memorable sight. The ride was followed by a Champagne brunch, with fruit, juice, rolls, crepes and omelets mad to order.


Enjoy

Linda and Wayne

Room Tip: If you are a light sleeper............don't stay in #8 because of the river rapids. Some people...
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  • Stayed September 2012, traveled as a couple
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Helpful?
1 Thank LMODelMar
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Deephaven, Minnesota
Level 6 Contributor
185 reviews
25 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 49 helpful votes
Reviewed September 20, 2012

Olonana was out final stop. Perhaps had it been the first we would have seen it differently. But the tent was not as nice as Mara Bushtops and neither ot them compared to Singita Sasakwa Lodge. But it is all relative as all four sites we stayed at were terrific. Service and staff were all excellent.
We had great game drives including our only sighting of rhinos. We saw a male, female and baby as well as a solo male. They are quite a sight.
The animal population was very good but we did not see a river crossing which had been a goal for the trip. But we missed nothing else and Olonana was a big contributor to a great journey.
Then lodge is right on the Mara river so we had a chorus of hippos each morning, Once again the meals were terrific.
Our trip was organized by INDRI Ultimate Wildlife Tours. We asked for luxury and they complied.

Room Tip: We were in Room 2 and it was conveniently located. All rooms are about the same. Just closer or fart...
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  • Stayed September 2012, traveled as a couple
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Helpful?
Thank Mike T
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
at home
Level 6 Contributor
418 reviews
119 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 288 helpful votes
Reviewed September 13, 2012

This was our family's first trip to Kenya & we had high expectations for Sanctuary Olonana, all of which were exceeded! We did receive discouragement from some trip advisor participants in the forum against Olonana for our kids due to small pool & Intrepids extensive kids activities, but we opted to stick with Olonana for its small size & tented accommodations. We were so very pleased!

Where to begin?! There are so many that see to such numerous details, I'm sure we'll leave something out, so apologies in advance!

WHEN? We went the first weekend in September & the migration was still in force. Reading in the guest comments, it looked like it began later than they expected & our last full day there, we saw the Golden Triangle almost empty of wildebeast & zebras...we were taken to the Tanzania border where you could see all of them there & many still in Kenya running to Tanzania. We had seen this same location 2 days before & it was empty of wildlife. According to Duncan, our guide, the Mara is empty of zebras & wildebeast outside of the migration time. He said August is the best month to see the migration...although it can range from July to October & they typically leave in October. This year, mid-August was the peak of the water crossing predator action. We didn't get to see a crossing, although we tried, but we did see the indecisive nature of the wildebeast deciding whether or not to cross & that was just as amusing, in our opinion! If you're not set on seeing the migration, or you need lower pricing, the off season will still let you view the several lion prides in the area, the elephants, giraffe, rhino & other non-migrants...it will still be a delightful trip!

LOCATION: Maasai Mara Golden Triangle. Kichwa Tembo Airstrip is the nearest landing (1H20M from Nairobi)...about a 30 minute drive from the camp. We heard of people driving in, which takes 5 hours, 2 hours of which is incredibly bumpy! The road going up the escarpment to the camp from the airstrip is very bumpy! But bumpy roads are part of safari! The view from up high down on the way is lovely & the tree-covered Olonana Sanctuary on the River quite delightful. The camp is about 20 minutes (the bumpy 20 minute road mentioned above) outside of the Oloololo Gate of the Maasai Mara Reserve. The whole location by the river is covered in trees & they have an on-site arborist who attends to them & will give you a tour...you can even plant a tree yourself & revisit it in the future to see how it grows! Up here, there are hippos in the water, a nearby leopard family, plenty of baboons & 4-legged prey creatures and the local Maasai will tell you plenty of lions, though we didn't see any! As soon as you enter this park gate you're in the territory of the Out of Africa Pride of lions, which when we visited had over 20 lions in it...quite large!

ACCOMODATIONS/TENTS: OK, these are totally luxury tents! Yes, it is a canvas tent, but it is under a roof structure that covers the tent & patio & all of the flooring is hard wood. The bathroom is stone flooring & walls & very nicely laid out. The space was huge (they were giving us two tents for all 4 of us, but we opted for staying in just 1 tent, where the bedroom space was much larger than a typical US two-bed hotel room) & had lovely furnishings & decor with plenty of storage space for your things & suitcase. Joseph, our Steward, was wonderfully attentive & kept the room looking so very nice with the make-up & turn down & attending to any little needs we might have. He was incredibly attentive...when we arrived & he showed us the two tents, and we decided for just one, our son commented to us that we would have more water (they put water bottles in the tents) if we used both tents. We put our stuff in the tent, went to lunch, and when we returned, we had lots of extra water bottles! The attention to detail & trying to understand/know the customer was obvious throughout our stay & Joseph was absolutely outstanding! The toiletry products are those used in their spa, there were plenty of cotton towels & sheets were soft...there was plenty of covering on the beds to stay warm at night (it gets cold!) & hot water bottles are provided if you want them. We stayed in Tent #2 that has all of its net windows facing the river & the patio facing the river as well. Tent #1 was our other option & the patio faces the river, but the tent faces the patio, so you look through the patio to face the river..the patio with furnishings is like a den...so very nice & cozy! Just beware of the local monkeys that might come for a close visit! And of course, you'll never sleep late because the hippos won't allow that! I never knew they were so noisy! Unlimited laundry is included. Joseph would pick our things up in the morning & bring them back with our turndown at night. It is handwashed & smelled nice. One rainy day, they had trouble drying & things were slightly damp. I'm sure Joseph would've hung them up for us if we hadn't been in the room when he delivered them...we were glad to do the hanging. They do ask that you not put ladies personal garments in the laundry, though (due to male staff & hand washing)

DINING: There are 3 meals served a day here. BREAKFAST: was typically on the patio overlooking the river & when they have a larger number of people there is a buffet & egg/pancake/french toast order station where they cook to order. When there were a smaller number of people, all of breakfast was done as table service with drinks, fruit plate, then you order your eggs/bacon/sausage & they bring out toast/pancakes/pastries. I'm sure they would gladly do anything that you would like if they have it in stock! But we found their breakfast truly outstanding & one of the best on our trip. (the only one better was at the Fairview in Nairobi...but that was probably just because we loved their poached eggs florentine that was so tasty!) LUNCH: We usually ate this on the patio at Olonana (all day drives they pack you a picnic which was cold chicken legs, quiche, sausages, pasta or risotto, bread, dessert, and apples...and of course they always have a cooler full of drinks for your drive, too!) you typically get a set starter, then you choose your main & sometimes there is a dessert choice...typically one prepared dessert & then fruit as an option as well. The mains always had a vegeterian option. We found the food absolutely wonderful...our kids could always find something to eat in it (which says a lot!) & the Rosemary roasted chicken we had was absolutely the best chicken I've ever had...and we eat lots of chicken around the world! (we only ate lunch there twice, so I could have not recalled the details well or confused them with dinner...my apologies!) Dinner was a similar menu format to lunch, but there usually was an option on the starter & there was also soup, which was pureed with no chunks & our kids loved it! This meal was by candlelight (sundown is at 6:30 in Kenya) & low lighting indoors. When the crowd is smaller, they seat you by the fireplace & in the study...very cozy! The foods are sourced from their own organic garden, which they are glad to give you a tour of while you are there if you want! All drinks are included, except I think premium alcoholic beverages.

KIDS: So the main discouragement from others on Olonana for our family was the absence of kids activities & the smaller pool. Let me just say, they love having kids & definitely cater to them...even offering specific kid-friendly foods (which we didn't accept as we want our kids to be able to eat what is there!) They have bow & arrow shooting for them, you can visit the nearby Maasai village, and the pool is the perfect size for the size of the camp. During the migration, the weather is cold & our kids wouldn't stay in the pool for more than 15 minutes anyway...but the pool was completely adequate for the number of people that might be using it there. And honestly, in that location, you're going to go on all-day game drives, so that leaves very little pool time anyway, even if weather does permit! We were very pleased with the way our children were catered to at Olonana. I think most people think of this location as an adult-retreat, but it is truly family friendly & our visit dispelled this myth.

GAME DRIVE: Duncan was our driver & seemed to share our love of the lions. We liked watching them do anything..walk around, play, nap...and of course the hunt we saw with Duncan on our first evening where all the lioness & their cubs from the Out of Africa Pride were out hunting a water buffalo. They were unsuccessful, but it was the most memorable event of our week! Duncan was very knowledgable about the animals & birds & was very good with our kids, too. He brought great picnics & always brought extra snacks thinking of the kids. He tried the water crossing for us all 3 of our days there & showed us some really neat aspects to the Mara that made it special for us. He was often the first to spot animals while we were out & was in good communication with others regarding spottings & crossing status. He also knew all the good picnic spots & was a great driver on the muddy, bumpy, marshy terrain...we were never fearful of getting stuck! He was also very accomodating for our numerous bathroom needs! (aaah, travelling with kids!) We thank Duncan for our wonderful & memorable trip to see the Great Migration in the Mara! (fyi: there was raingear & blankets in the truck as well as a fully stocked cooler of drinks!)

GIFT SHOP:
The gift shop is appropriately sized for the camp & has a nice selection. T-shirts are all Olonana shirts & the addition of some other pictures (animals, Big 5, etc) on shirts would be the only change I would make...but that's because I had kids with me! You can find sunscreen here, sweatshirts if you didn't pack one, and a variety of souvenirs. Prices were a bit higher here than at Samburu Game Lodge (where things were so inexpensive you felt the prices should've been higher!) & some items slightly higher than at Utamaduni...but on average prices were decent, priced in USD where they will accept & give change in USD (you can also use your credit card). Outside the shop, the local Maasai have a lovely selection of their beaded handcrafts & they will also take you to their local market where I'm sure you will find even more objects. The local people typically bargain for their wares.

This was a most memorable trip...if you can afford it, we highly recommend it! The zoo will absolutely never ever be the same again & we all want to go back! But alas, someone has to work for it & there are other places to go & things to see!

Room Tip: Tent #2 was perfect with all windows & patios facing the river...but I imagine all of their tent...
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  • Stayed September 2012, traveled with family
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Helpful?
2 Thank LookingForFamilyFun
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
SanctuaryRetreats_2, Quality Control Assistant at Sanctuary Olonana, responded to this review, September 20, 2012
Dear Mr. Barlow and family,

Thank you for your comprehensive review of our property, we are delighted that you and your family enjoyed your stay with us. We shared your kind remarks with Duncan and Joseph whom personally wanted to thank you for commending them in your review.

Thank you for staying with Sanctuary Retreats and we hope to see you in the not too distant future.

Warm regards
Report response as inappropriate
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Sanctuary Olonana

Property: Sanctuary Olonana
Address: C14, Keekorok, Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya
Location: Kenya > Rift Valley Province > Maasai Mara National Reserve
Amenities:
Free Breakfast Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Restaurant Room Service Swimming Pool
Hotel Style:
Ranked #21 of 140 Specialty Lodging in Maasai Mara National Reserve
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $$$$
Hotel Class:4 star — Sanctuary Olonana 4*
Number of rooms: 14
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Sanctuary Olonana, our award-winning tented camp situated on a private stretch of the Mara River, recently undergone a significant upgrade to the public areas of the lodge as well as a soft refurbishment to the tented rooms and pool area. The interior decor reflects a contemporary design using a combination of light earthy tones and the local Maasai women played an active part in the refurbishment using the same traditional technique used in their own houses to “mud” the interior walls in all of the main areas and curio shop. From the main viewing deck see and hear the family of noisy hippos who colonise the banks below the camp. Relax with a good book in the library, cool off in the pool or for an extra special treat, experience traditional African remedies and spa treatments in the mini-spa. Oversized Safari Tents – Built on the banks of the Mara River, the twelve canvas tents at Sanctuary Olonana are extremely comfortable and spacious. The ensuite tents all have two four-poster beds with floor to ceiling mosquito netting – making them perfect for families travelling with small children. Each of the private verandas overlook the river and offer the perfect spot where guests can relax and watch the resident hippos wallow in the water. There are also two honeymoon suites with each featuring outdoor showers. ... more   less 
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Also Known As:
Sanctuary Olonana Hotel Maasai Mara National Reserve
Sanctuary Olonana Kenya/Maasai Mara National Reserve

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