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“Where's the Leopard”
Review of Sanctuary Olonana

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Sanctuary Olonana
Certificate of Excellence
Reviewed March 9, 2010

Right on the edge of the Mara river with hippos lazing across the bank is the idyllic setting for the Olonana camp. A large tent with both indoor and outdoor showers and a balcony over looking the river was our home for 4 days.

Everything is done to ensure an enjoyable holiday. All the tents have the little extras that ensure a safe, healthy and comfortable stay, (even down to a hot water bottle).

The food is good and service is attentive without being intrusive.

We were fortunate to have Joseph as our guide who ensured that he met each of our target sightings. Not only was he knowledgeable about the wildlife but he was also happy to explain the Masai way of life.

There were many highlights of our daily trips into the Park but the most memorable were:

Seeing 9 lion cubs playing together.

4 Cheetahs having their breakfast before the vultures cleared away the left overs.

A lion and two lionesses killing a gazelle.

A leopard climbing down a tree.

  • Stayed: March 2010, traveled as a couple
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Thank reded46
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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234 - 240 of 298 reviews

Reviewed February 3, 2010

We stayed at Olonana for 4 nights with our 2 sons aged 9 and 15 and it was the highlight of our trip to Kenya. From the moment we arrived we were greeted by the team and made to feel so welcome. The food was excellent (thanks Jackson and Big John) and the tents were perfect. Our guide was Abdul who managed to find all the Big 5 for us plus more. The Masai Mara is just superb and we were lucky not to be surrounded by 50 vans every time we saw an animal.

My older son and I both used the spa - he had a back massage and I had a body scrub and massage which was as good as any I have had in Australia. There was a pool but this was not in operation while we were there - a little disappointing at first but we were so busy doing other things it didn't matter.

Unfortunately, there were very few guests (also very quiet at the other camps we stayed in - Sambura Intrepids and Kigio Wildlife Camp). However, on one of the nights we were very lucky to meet the gorgeous actor Richard E Grant who is filming a doco for the BBC on, I think, the history of hunting in Africa. He introduced himself and went out of his way to speak to the boys - a real gentleman.

On the last night we were the only guests so they baked a cake for us and sang and danced around our table and Minnie, the manager, did a little farewell speech.

The camp has 12 tents, all on the river, with 2 queen beds but they now also have what they call the honeymoon tents which have one king bed and an outdoor shower - we had a look before we left. They are also gorgeous.

None of us wanted to leave.

  • Stayed: January 2010, traveled with family
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Thank Leer
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed December 14, 2009

My husband and I spent a week at the Olanana, and we definitely plan to go back. It was absolutely amazing. The staff is wonderful, the food is gourmet, our guide - Boni -- was a genius. We couldn't have had a better time.

  • Stayed: October 2009, traveled as a couple
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1  Thank deannamark
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed October 24, 2009

Olonana Camp is located on a lovely spot beside the Mara River in the Kichwa Tembo area of the park. The tented accommodation is of a very good standard with all the “mod cons” including lighting provided 24 hours by solar means. However, charging of camera batteries etc., and hot water provided only between the hours of 6 o’clock and 10 o’clock morning and evening. Mosquito nets over the bed were very effective and neither my wife nor me got bitten once in our four-night stay!

All the tents are along the banks of the Mara (as are the dining and bar area) where hippos and crocodiles are frequently seen during the day going about their daily routines. We couldn’t think of a better way to spend the evenings and free time than be at Olonana.

We struck lucky with our game driver Bonnie (Boniface) who had an encyclopaedic knowledge of the Masai Mara and we were lucky to see the “big five” within the first two days of our stay. He was really excellent and made our stay. We went on two game drives a day, one at 6.30am until lunchtime then again at 4pm until before dinner (the park had to be clear by 6.30pm). But really the early morning drives are the best for sunrise, seeing active animals and glorious scenery as far as the border with Tanzania.

The rest of the staff was presided over a German lady, Kristine who puts her heart and soul in ensuring everything runs smoothly. And it shows. Nothing was too much trouble for the chef, waiting staff (topping up our wines glasses very frequently!) and our dedicated butler who woke us at ungodly hours with tea and buns to fortify us before embarking on the morning drives.

Also Bonnie deserves an extra special mention for ensuring we were on the flight manifest for the light plane back to Nairobi after a mix up with the tickets. He got to the plane first, ensured we got on first, which was just as well, as it was overbooked and three people had to wait for another flight to be diverted.

To sum up, if you contemplating a Safari in Kenya, don’t even think twice about it – go to Olonana!

  • Stayed: October 2009, traveled as a couple
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1  Thank Serialglobetrotter
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed October 15, 2009

My husband and I stayed at Olonana in beginning of September. What a wonderful place!!! The atmosphere was incredible and the staff were amazing! I can't give this place enough praise! My husband and I are already talking about returning in the next few years! The game drives were the highlight of the trip for us!!! Our guide Lucas amazed us with his knowledge and didn't disappoint us when it came to animal viewing!! We saw everything- Lions ( including two of the littlest cubs I've seen), Leopard, Cheetah, black rhino, elephant, buffalo, hippo, giraffe, a serval cat and three crossings! The hippos in the river right outside our tent was also a great feature of Olonana! I would recommend this place to anyone!!!

Stayed: September 2009
Thank Drloolo
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed September 20, 2009

My fiance and I stayed at Olonana for a 4 days in mid-August.

We stayed here and at Bateleur. Since I was keen to compare the two, and few persons have stayed at both, I'll do that here. (Both got good reviews on Conde Nast Traveler’s Gold List).

The biggest thing Olonana has over Bateleur is location - Olonana is perched over the Mara River, and you can see hippos - mothers and babies - right under your tent (tents 1,2, and 3, I believe; also the outdoor dining area). We were in tent #1, highly recommend since it’s private, with hippo views, and right next to the lodge. The Mara River has a beautiful sound, like a waterfall. The sounds at Olonana could be recorded as white noise to city dwellers who can't sleep, it is so peaceful. Sounds by the Olonana pool are even more tranquil. You could spend a full day on your terrace just watching the hippos in the water, with a trip to the spa tucked in.

The spa was outstanding. When I booked it, there were a mama and baby elephant eating palms right across the river. This was the view from the 2 spa tents/rooms, which are completely open on the river side. How can you beat that? They used Africology, made from plants, and another line made with ocean plants etc. Excellent spa menu. I had a massage with copper & oil, and a pedicure. Both were great, and the African therapist used a different technique than the usual Swedish type in USA (fun!). (In contrast, Bateleur has no spa menu, no treatment rooms and very limited services – like 4 basic things that the manager recites along with prices, if you inquire).

The food is good. They assign a butler/server for your entire stay, and he was attentive, friendly, remembered what we liked to eat/drink, saved me a dessert from lunch that I wanted for dinner. There was a special barbecue one Friday night. Our room steward was also very good – everything spiffy when we got back from game drives, plus turn down service with hot water bottle (look deep in the bottom of your bed).

Both Olonana and Bateleur are near the park entrance. We booked a private driver and Toyota landcruiser with closed sides, windows, and a pop-top (through our travel agent). Thank god for that jeep. Boy, am I glad we didn’t have to travel in the open sided jeeps that both Olonana and Bateleur use. The guests looked miserable at times. It rained two of the afternoons, at about 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Everyone ran to the lodge fireplace. Plus we woke at 5a each morning for game viewing, and it was dark & cold. Next time I will take a parka with a hood (no kidding). I’m glad I brought gloves, scarf, wool cap and sports bra recommended by other travelers. By the middle of the day, you peel down to a T-shirt and jeans, or even a light dress. Then start re-layering in late afternoon.

A stay at Olonana includes a complimentary tour of the local Masaai village. (At Bateleur, you have to pay). Benson was our guide, a nice Masaai man who works at Olonana’s gift shop, dressed in full Masaai costume as usual. You walk up the hill to the traditional mud and stick huts with diamond-shaped windows, where they demonstrate how to make fire from rubbing sticks (in less than one minute), talk about their culture, let you see inside one home/hut, take any photos for free, women do a welcome dance, and of course there is a large array of handcrafts for sale (expensive, but we got a few items as a thank you).

Olonana’s gift shop is a better place to buy the exact same souvenirs. It is excellent – very well-priced items made and sold by the local Masaai. We got a beautiful set of mahogany salad tongs, with elephants carved on top. About $6 USD. We’ve used them many times already.

Olonana has two queen beds in each very long tent, wooden floors, stone shower, low-ish ‘ceiling’, fresh flowers in a vase - a real luxury tent feel. All have private river views. (Bateleur has just one bigger-than-king bed, and boy is it super comfy, so probably a better choice for couples, unless you can afford more than one tent). Bring your own hair conditioner, Olonana has none. Also bring moisture cream and chapstick, it is so dry in the Mara, and the moisture cream Olonana provides is almost like water. Their actual tap water is not potable, so you have to brush your teeth with bottled water, which they provide.

We had a few tiny bumps in the road at Olonana. And by the way, they would be lost without their manager Maurice – who is marvelous and fixed things again & again for us, and is a tireless, gracious host. For instance, I had to ask when to get up for our balloon ride the next morning, because no one had informed us, and it was already late afternoon (the balloons take off before sunrise). A senior staff member didn’t know a thing about it, and asked me which balloon company we booked. I had no idea, this was between our tour operator and Olonana, and I got upset they might not show up – this is something Olonana should have already known & arranged. Maurice ended up fixing it, and the balloon ride was a highlight – definitely recommend it, even for the high price. We’ll never forget it. However, two unknown guests at Olonana ended up hitching a ride back in our private jeep, without anyone asking us until these guests were climbing in!
Again, this is a detail Olonana should have taken care of – either asking us the day before if it was okay, or even better, making the balloon company’s driver take the other guests back with everyone else.

Where would we stay again, Bateleur or Olonana? First of all, we would definitely stay in the Masai Mara during the migration period (July – Oct). It’s what we dreamed a safari would be like. There were animals everywhere. This, and a great guide, really make the safari. We saw lion up close many times, even witnessed a kill. Giraffe, elephant, black rhino, hippo, cape buffalo, a cheetah with 3 cubs, a crossing – wildebeest & zebra were everywhere – and unusual animals like “blue jeans” topi. Sometimes it felt like we were in Jurassic Park.

We spoke to a Dallas couple who’d been to Africa five times, and they said the Okavango Delta in Botswana (which has very posh lodges) just doesn’t have as many animals as the Mara. Enough said. So if you stay at either Olonana or Bateleur, you will have a glorious safari. Since Olonana has two queen beds in each tent, it is easier for a family or friends traveling.

But we’re talking about two of the best – Olonana deserves a much higher rating than they currently give it on Trip Advisor. It’s unfair that one bad and old review keeps them back. I promise you, it was an awesome place to stay on safari.

  • Stayed: August 2009, traveled as a couple
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1  Thank Queen1000
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed August 28, 2009

Everything is a dream, elegant, detailed, definitely perfect, from the luxory tends, the service, the stunning view, the cousine, the Spa. This is what I've really dreamed of Africa. Under each tent and the restaurant terrace there are two permanent hippos family. The tent number 1 is the best. Our private safari guide, Lucas is highly recommended, in 3 days he managed to show us all the big 5, a gytha family, 2 rinos and a leopard. The romantic pic nic lunch and breakfast in the savannah are something that you have to experience at least once in your lifetime. The spa in the middle of he nature is a true paradise and a such similar terapist is quite hard to find in a European spa. She is very well trained. Definitely an hidden very intimate jem. August is the best time to go and see the Great Migration. There are plenty of all animals everywhere.

  • Stayed: August 2009, traveled as a couple
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1  Thank vdavale
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about 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 #36 of 146 Specialty Lodging in Maasai Mara National Reserve
Price Range: $225 - $450 (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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