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.
- 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