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“Shaded luxury alongside the Mara River”
Review of Sanctuary Olonana

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Sanctuary Olonana
Certificate of Excellence
Reviewed September 25, 2013

On arrival at Sanctuary Olonana (and upon every return from a game drive), we were greeted with damp washcloths to wipe our faces. We had already met our driver/guide at the airstrip. We soon met the camp manager, Maurice, and our tent attendant, Nixon (who we later saw working in the organic garden as well.) We got a briefing in the beautiful and spacious dining room, with tribal-style paintings on the ceiling. Through several sets of doors was the Mara River dining deck, where we had lunch and our local group briefing. We could see and hear hippos in the water just below us. Our bags were delivered (and at departure, picked up from) the tents. This camp has the feel of being in a forest, rather than on a plain. There is shade and dense greenery everywhere. We were on Abercrombie & Kent's "Wings Over the Great Migration" tour.

The tents here have a luxurious feel to them. They are large, about 16'x40', with 2 substantial wooden wardrobes, a room safe, 2 queen beds with mosquito nets, and attractive stone bathrooms, with fully-enclosed toilet cubicles. The stone shower alcoves are spacious, but not fully enclosed. Because the site is thorougly forested, the rooms are very private. Indeed, the farthest rooms (and the spa) are quite a long walk. I thought the river rapids were noisy from Tent 9 to Tent 12, but no one complained about it. We had Tent 2. The tent included one Imperial-to-American plug adapter for recharging cameras, and plenty of other Imperial outlets (We travel with adapters.) Two decorative trunks served as luggage racks, but the tent was so big that they didn't intrude on the living space. Up the path, the swimming pool water looked unattractive, but I could hear the filter running. I'm thinking maybe treated river water can't be made transparent? We didn't go into the pool.

Both the cocktail end of the dining room, and the library (the best lit place at night) had fireplaces, lit each night. (It's cold at night in August.) There's a Windows computer in the library, which worked well but downloaded slowly. (I never got my cheap Android tablet to connect properly, but I saw many other people with happy computers in use.) The food was good, and included a barbecue evening with a big buffet on the deck-dining inside. The chef frequently visited the tables.

Unlike the other camps we used, Olonana uses refillable plastic bottles in the Land Cruisers, and refillable glass bottles in the tents and dining rooms. This drinking water was replaced generously. We had electricity at all hours and it seemed like we had hot water anytime we wanted it. BTW, one of the civic investments of Olonana is allowing the nearby Masai village to fill their water containers from the camp's water treatment system. They also allow the Masai to sell merchandise just beside the camp's own gift shop-which was better than average. No one ever approached us with a sales pitch.

After all these good comments, why didn't I rate Olonana five stars? I don't know if it's actually older than their sister Sanctuary Kusini. But things just weren't as crisp and smooth here. There were a few water stains on the generally beautiful dining room ceiling. My shower had a broken strut in the drain grid that could have caught my toe. One sturdy member of our group had his patio chair collapse when he leaned back in it (almost needed a stitch.) Dining room service was slow (despite charming, helpful staff anxious to make us happy) when the room was full. We had bad milk in our coffee, twice, on one day. The coffee and tea (i.e. the beverages) were the least attractive of our entire trip. Nothing major, but that's the difference between top-level and just comfortable luxury.

I don't write much about animals and the game drives, since this is another hotel review. But I should note that inside this section of the Maasai Mara (Oloololo Gate, (-1.258863, 34.99743) in Google Maps) had the best dirt roads we used in two weeks. There are also rough trails to be negotiated, but the main roads were in decent shape. And our excellent guide Godfrey came up with a Black Rhino here, one of the hardest animals to find. Road condition is important because you have to go so far on an average game drive. And here, you want to go almost to the Tanzania border to check out the Great Migration river crossings. It's a long drive. We made two toilet stops at the even more luxurious and non-tented resort Mara Serena Lodge, inside the heart of the park.

Room Tip: Rooms 14 and 15 are near the lodge, but have less foot traffic. All the rooms here are nicely privat...
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  • Stayed: August 2013, traveled as a couple
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1  Thank obsoperator
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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133 - 139 of 290 reviews

Reviewed September 22, 2013

We had an amazing 3-night stay at Sanctuary Olonana. Maurice and his team were incredibly welcoming, warm, attentive. Eunice kept our luxurious tent in perfect order, and brought us coffee every morning. Chef Big John's menu was delicious. Henry always served our meals with a big smile. We felt very pampered. We had a vigorous walk up the hill with Richard who generously shared details of his life as a Maasai junior elder. He impressed us with his ability to smell animals from many meters away, and to read the rain clouds perfectly (we succeeded in returning to the lodge just as raindrops started to fall)! Our guide Anderson was superb - we had breakfast in the bush next to hundreds of thousands of wildebeests and zebras (migration), witnessed them crossing, and saw the big 5 in one drive! Team Olonana, thank you so much for this wonderful experience. Everything was outstanding.

Mabel and Germaine

  • Stayed: September 2013, traveled with family
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1  Thank germaine c
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed September 17, 2013

We were fortunate to have spent 4 glorious nights at Olonana and words cannot express how much we enjoyed our stay. Maurice & Christine are an excellent management team and all the staff were so helpful and accommodating (Attitude is everything) from Joseph who ensured our room was always perfect to the chefs Big John & Ambrose who provided us with delicious, well presented food, to Henry,Herman & Shadrack who ensured we were well looked after, to Richard for taking us to the Masai village and a huge thank you to our dear Benson who was our guide and ensured we saw everything (except that elusive leopard...next time). The lodge is beautifully positioned on the banks of the Mara river and hippo's outside Tent 2 were quite considerate and only started snorting & cavorting when it was just about time to get up. Besides being one of the best lodges we have ever stayed at with excellent accommodation & food, what stands out is the attitude and teamwork of all the staff...THANK YOU....we hope to return again some day.

Room Tip: All rooms (Tents) are fantastic as all on the banks of the Mara River
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  • Stayed: September 2013, traveled as a couple
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2  Thank Liesl E
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
SanctuaryRetreats_2, Manager at Sanctuary Olonana, responded to this reviewResponded October 4, 2013

Dear Liesl,

Thank you for taking the time to post this lovely review of your experience at Olonana.

We are thrilled that you had such an enjoyable stay with us and thank you so much for all your kind comments especially about Maurice, Christine, Joseph, Big John, Ambrose and Benson - we shared your feedback with them and the rest of the team and they were very happy to learn you appreciated their efforts.

It was an honour to host you and we look forward to welcoming you back for you to catch a glimpse of that elusive leopard!

In the meantime, keep up with the latest news from Sanctuary Retreats and Olonana by liking us on Facebook. Just search for ‘Sanctuary Retreats’.

Best wishes
Sanctuary Retreats

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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed September 9, 2013

Everyone in Africa kept commending me on how brave I was to travel alone. It's not being brave, it's about turning a myth into reality. So happy that I took this trip and it begun at this amazing place, called Olonana!!!!

The staff at Olonana were outstanding!!! The food is incredible. The service is excellent. My guide Benson changed my prospective on the world. He's a precious gem. Despite the cultures differences (being a single female traveler) by the end of day ONE, I felt as if I were visiting family members. I'm very lucky...

That's Olonana's motto too. The Kenyan's are beautiful people. The luxurious tents are worth every dollar you spend. I didn't want to leave Olonana and be assured I'm going back again and again. And too boot, the Maasai people are people we can all learn from.

Thank you...and you are all missed.

Korina

  • Stayed: August 2013, traveled solo
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1  Thank KorinaNYC
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
SanctuaryRetreats_2, Manager at Sanctuary Olonana, responded to this reviewResponded September 12, 2013

Dear Korina,

Thank you for this lovely review!!

We are so happy to hear that your experience ay Sanctuary Olonana was up to your expectation and that you felt like you were visiting family members.

Thank you for your kind comments regarding the staff, food and service. We past your feedback onto the rest of the team they were delighted with your comments especially Benson, he loved being your guide and so glad you appreciated he's efforts.

We are missing you as well and do hope you return one day soon.

In the meantime, please keep you to date with the latest news from Sanctuary Retreats and Olonana by liking us on Facebook. Just search for Sanctuary Retreats.

Best wishes
Sanctuary Retreats

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Reviewed September 5, 2013

My wife and I took our honeymoon in Tanzania and Kenya, and we stayed at Sanctuary Olonana for four nights at the end of August 2013. We had been in Zanzibar for four nights and a camp in Amboseli National Park for two nights prior to arriving at Sanctuary Olonana.

I've traveled extensively (Western Europe, USA, Australia/New Zealand, South Africa) and lived overseas (Australia, Ireland; currently live in the USA), and I can say that Sanctuary Olonana was **by far the best travel experience I have ever had**. Every aspect of our stay was five-star and I wholeheartedly recommend Sanctuary Olonana to anybody looking for a luxurious, private, but relaxed and fun safari.

Accommodations -- we had the honeymoon tent, number 14. It was perfect, with a large room, beautiful deck overlooking the river and hippo pools, and an outdoor shower. Our room steward, Duncan, would turn down the room every night and bring us coffee in the morning before our game drives (often at 5:30/6am!).

Food -- Big John is an incredible chef, and my wife and I ate like royalty while at Olonana. The breakfasts were made to order most days with a delicious buffet one day; the lunches were delicious salads/lighter fare (but with dessert!); and dinner was truly exceptional, with options between two appetizers, two mains, and two desserts that were varied and delicious every day. We were fortunate to have Shadrack (the Head Waiter) be our server for every meal, and he was extremely personable and professional and a true pleasure to get to know over four days.

Lodge -- the camp itself is relatively small and it is perfect. There is a very nicely appointed main lodge with books, fireplaces, boardgames, a library, and a deck overlooking the hippo pools. There is also a gorgeous spa where my wife had a hot stone massage from Elizabeth overlooking the river. Appetizers and drinks are served in the main lodge before dinner every day. There's a great gift shop with local Masaai displaying their jewelry/woodwork/etc. Most of all, Maurice (the Manager) always would say hello when my my wife and I were passing through the lodge and ask if we needed anything; he was extremely kind and attentive and always wanted to see if he could make our stay better.

Game Drives -- these were incredible, and much better than at Amboseli. We had the Head Guide, Abdul, be our guide for four days and it was a joy to have him guide us, and for us to learn from him. He would stop and educate us about animals as we saw them, get to the best location for the best picture when we saw game that was expecially interesting (e.g. cheetah, lion cubs, a river crossing), he even got out a tablecloth and put it on a platform on the hood of our car where we ate lunch in the bush for three of the days. My wife and I have absolutely ALL good things to say about Abdul -- he is funny, smart, dedicated to finding great game for us to see, and most of all, an incredibly kind and enjoyable person to be with. We learned so much from him and he made our stay that much better. If you go to Sanctuary Olonana and have Abdul as your guide, you will be very lucky and impressed -- as my wife and I were!

Overall -- Our stay at Sanctuary Olonana was truly wonderful. The camp is in a gorgeous setting, the accommodations are well thougth out, the food is delicious; but most of all, the people are what make this place special. I am not one to be overly emotional, but both my wife and I teared up when Abdul dropped us off at Kichwa Timbo airstrip for our flight to Nairobi at the end of our stay. We had just spent the best four days of our honeymoon at a wonderful place around extremely kind and warm people who welcomed us to Olonana and Kenya with open arms, and we were sad to leave. We planted a tree at Sanctuary Olonana as we left, and it is our sincere intention and desire to return for an anniversary in the future. If Duncan, Big John, Shadrack, Elizabeth, Maurice, and Abdul are there when we come back in the future, we will be very fortunate and so very happy!

I hope you've found this review useful, but in short -- this is an absolute five-star place, and if I could give it six stars, I would in an instant!

  • Stayed: August 2013, traveled as a couple
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1  Thank Tom B
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
SanctuaryRetreats_2, Manager at Sanctuary Olonana, responded to this reviewResponded September 11, 2013

Dear Tom,

Firstly congratulations on your marriage we wish you many wonderful years together. Secondly delighted that we were able to host you for your honeymoon and last but not least thank you very much for this incredibly detailed and absolutely awesome review of your experience at Sanctuary Olonana.

It gives us great pleasure receiving positive feedback from our guests. This is indeed a lovely review and we will definitely share this with Duncan, Big John, Shadrack, Elizabeth, Maurice, Abdul and the rest of the Olonana team, you will no doubt be thrilled that you appreciated their efforts.

We are very happy that you felt like royalty and that you would give us six stars in an instant!

We are hoping to have the pleasure of welcoming you back; perhaps for your one year anniversary... in the meantime you can follow all the latest news from Sanctuary Retreats and Olonana by liking us on Facebook. Just search for "Sanctuary Retreats"

Best wishes
Sanctuary Retreats

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Reviewed September 4, 2013

This is probably the first hotel where i could give 5 stars in all aspects!! When we arrived to the Olonana, we were welcomed by the manager and the staff. After a really warm welcome, we were escorted to our tents, which were bang on the river. The tents are really well appointed and is luxurious. The game drives over the 2 days were a lot of fun and was a really unique experience for us. The chef, Big John, would come and meet us daily to take care of our dietary requirements. Olonana offers unparralleled luxury in the middle of the forest. I must thank Maurice for his personal touch to everything and our guide Anderson, who left no stone unturned to make sure we see the big 5 and more! This was really the highlight of our trip. Thank you team Olonana for making it special.

  • Stayed: August 2013, traveled with family
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1  Thank SiddharthVasudevan
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
SanctuaryRetreats_2, Manager at Sanctuary Olonana, responded to this reviewResponded September 11, 2013

Dear Guest,

WOW what a great review “5 stars in all aspects” thank you so much!!

It gives the team great satisfaction receiving such positive feedback from guests following a memorable stay. We appreciate the time you have taken to give us this amazing feedback.
Maurice, Anderson, Big John and the rest of the team were delighted to learn you appreciated their efforts, they are looking forward to welcoming you back one day soon.

We would love for you to keep up with the latest news from Sanctuary Retreats and Olonana by liking us on Facebook. Just search for ‘Sanctuary Retreats’ and click Like.

Best wishes
Sanctuary Retreats

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Reviewed September 3, 2013

We spent 3 nights enjoying the luxury of tented accommodations on the shore of the Mara River. The staff was exceptional and we had great service. It was fun staying in a tent with the luxury of running water and hot showers - several hippos were residing across the shore from our tent and we enjoyed awakening to their vocalizations early in the morning. We would definitely come back and stay here again. We also had a great guide - Joe. Very knowledgeable, friendly and the best guide we had on our 2 week trip through Tanzania and Kenya.
My husband and I both had spa treatments - excellent!

Room Tip: Room #2 was across from the hippo quarters.
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  • Stayed: August 2013, traveled as a couple
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Thank catjack
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
SanctuaryRetreats_2, Manager at Sanctuary Olonana, responded to this reviewResponded September 11, 2013

Dear Guest,

Thank you for taking the time to share your Sanctuary Olonana experience with us.

We are very happy that you enjoyed your time with us and thank you for all your kind comments especially about Joseph, he was thrilled with your comments. He asked me to let you know that he loved being your guide and would like to see you again one day soon.

Glad you enjoyed the spa treatments and you should definitely come back soon for some more pampering and wake-up calls from the hippos.

Thanks once again, please keep up to date with the latest news from Sanctuary Retreats and Olonana by liking us on Facebook. Just search for ‘Sanctuary Retreats’

Best wishes
Sanctuary Retreats

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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Sanctuary Olonana

Address: C14, Keekorok, Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya
Phone Number:
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 #33 of 146 Specialty Lodging in Maasai Mara National Reserve
Price Range: $433 - $1,635 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
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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