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Reviewed September 27, 2009

Mara Explorer was fabulous. Great service. Everyone was very friendly. Where do you find a chef going out of the way and preparing meals to cater to your food allergies. The tents were luxurious. Lying down in bed and hearing lions roaring and hippos snorting ... different world all together. Imagine having lunch on the deck and watching hippos sunbathe. Imagine having dinner and seeing a pack of elephants crossing the river!!! Great food. The whole safari experience was fantastic. Highly recommended.

  • Stayed: August 2009, traveled as a couple
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Thank travel4funatlanta
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed September 23, 2009

We stayed at the Explorer as part 2 of our honeymoon and we were blown away. We arrived from Meru and originally thought we couldn't possibly beat where we'd stayed there (Elsa's Kopje) but we tried to keep an open mind. We landed and were taken straight out on a game drive while our bags were taken back to the camp. The game was very different as the Mara is much flatter than Meru and is much more plentiful in animals. Within seconds we'd seen a pride of lions with their kill and moments later, the three brothers from Big Cat diary. We shared our drives with one other couple who were lovely, so we didn't mind at all. Our driver and guide was James and he was truly amazing. His knowledge of the wildlife and general Kenyan way of living kept me fascinated. He answered anything and had a fantastic sense of humour which kept us all amused.

Arriving at the camp, it was almost dark and we were absolutely shattered so we didn't pay an awful lot of attention. The camp fire was already burning and we were taken to our tent (number 4 - with the best view apparently). Gideon was our room steward and always polite and helpful. We had hippos out in the river by our deck, although we were shocked to see how badly the drought has affected the water levels - they're just a third of what they should be, so there were banks that were totally dry that should've been immersed in 10 foot of water!! In our tent, we had a bottle of champagne on ice waiting for us and they'd made us a honeymoon arch into our tent. The tents are great - beds the most comfortable we found during our whole stay. The shower was great - enough room for two and the bath was a very special touch. Although we never used it as we had rain on two of the three nights we stayed - but this didn't matter one little bit and was quite refreshing from the hot days. We always had fresh towels and hot water bottles left in our room before bed. Going back after dinner it always looked very romantic and was nice and cosy. I'd like to say I slept like a baby but the fabulous noises of the animals kept me awake two nights. This was great though - proper African experience and adventure. The lions always sound very close when in fact, they're often miles away. We had hippos actually right outside our tent one night and they sounded like they were having a party. It's nailbiting but exhilarating and we loved it. There is a night warden, or two who keep an eye out as the camp isn't fenced but the animals aren't interested in humans, they're just out for a wander so no actual danger. Plus you have your walkie talkie if you just need a bit of reassurance during the night.

Dinner, and in fact all mealtimes, were a delight. The first night was a bush BBQ and they didn't have much for us veggies but we expect this where a BBQ is concerned so we didn't mind too much. However, lunch and dinner from then was great - meat eaters have 2-3 choices and vegetarians 1-2 which was lovely for us. The food was fantastic and we tried lots of new things. The only issue we encountered was that there was so much to eat and we just couldn't manage it. Lunch was 3-4 courses, like dinner so we could only manage one or the other. You'd have a starter, then a soup course, then your main and then dessert - every day and night was different though and I've no doubt that had there been any problem, we'd have been made whatever we liked. Samuel served us most mealtimes and he was a real sweetheart - he'd only been there a week but was fabulous. He was always smiling, even though they work so, so hard and nothing was ever too much for him. He also talked to us about the tribe he came from and how things worked where he lived - it was educational and well as social. Breakfast was either when we arrived back in camp from our morning game drive or we took a brekfast box out one morning to eat while we were out. At the camp, you can have fresh fruit, cereal, croissants and pastries and a full english. The breakfast box is massive - we had omlette sandwiches, fruit, cereal, juice, tea, coffee, a croissant, crisps...it was lovely. James found us a great spot to eat and laid out a blanket for us all - we made him eat with us which is something they don't like to do as they're at work I suppose. It made us feel more comfortable though - he'd come to be our friend and we didn't like to think of him as some kind of scivvy for us.

We went and did the balloon safari while in the Mara - booked at home through Virgin, with rhino safaris. It was breathtaking - we loved every minute and wished we could've stayed up there for hours. We'd never been up in a balloon before and were quite nervous that it'd be bumpy or scary but it was like floating on air. It was a very early pick up at 5am and about an hour drive to the take-off sight. There were 7 other balloons going up on the same morning so we got to watch them all inflate as the sun came up. 12 people were in our basket, three in each little compartment and out pilot was great. The highest we went was 1500ft and we stayed low most of the time to spot animals. The wildlife wasn't as good as on the ground, especially as the migration hasn't happened as usual this year because of the drought, but this didn't matter at all. It was so serene up there and we watched a beautiful sunrise as we went up. We landed just before the Mara river and got out to look at the crocs. Then we were picked up and driven 10 mins away to where they'd set up a delicious champagne breakfast. It was great - we sat with the others who'd been in our balloon and chatted. Our glasses kept being topped up and we had boiled eggs, quiches, hams, cheeses, yoghurts, danishes and croissants, as well as tea and coffee. We weren't rushed at all and probably sat there a good hour - in the middle of the Masai Mara - it was amazing. We'd had photos taken while we were up in the air and we bought them all on CD quite cheaply - they do them on laptops while you're eating. After that, your driver returns you back to your camp, with a game drive along the way. We were so lucky to have seen three rhino on our way back - we were second on the scene and later that day, we saw 15 cars around them (at a great distance as they're very shy and don't like people too close).

Another trip we did was visiting a local Masai village - arranged through the Explorer. James took us there one morning at $20 each. All the cash goes to the new School just built for Masai children so it's more a donation than a fee. A member of the clan acts as your guide and introduces you to other villagers. The men and women dance and you join in - which makes for fantastic photos and film. The children think you're amazing - especially if you show them your cameras. Everyone is very friendly and although it's a little scary, it's just because it's all so different to how we live. We went inside a house and they just have 2 rooms - one for their cattle and the other has 2 beds - one for the children and one for adults. There is a fire burning constantly and they use that to cook on. All they eat is meat, cow blood and milk and they're one of the only nomadic tribes still in existence in Africa. They set up a little market at the end - which we realised after was just for us. They sell braclets and carvings and they're at total rip-off prices but can be bargained with. However, again, it's just a donation because all money goes into keeping that School open.

We didn't find bugs a problem at all - just a few more flies around after the rain but we sprayed ourselves and the tent had bug spray to be used as you went for dinner in your tent. We don't think we were bitten at all though so that was a bonus.

We were so sad to leave the Explorer and we will definately go back. Visiting the Mara was always a dream of mine and I was worried I'd be disappointed - but it was the total opposite. James spotted all the Big 5 for us and we always had the best seat in the house to sit and observe from. He was at one with the animals and even when I nearly wet myself as a huge male lion was within 5ft of my face, James remained calm and showed me that these animals aren't at all interested in us. We have some fabulous photos and some amazing memories of our time in the Mara and James, if you read this - much of those are because of you! Next time we come, we'll bring you that shirt we promised:-) Any questions then please PM me - I'm happy to answer anything.

  • Stayed: September 2009, traveled as a couple
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2  Thank MAZZYAUDS
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed September 20, 2009

Although we had done safaris before in different areas of Africa, this was our first to Kenya, and first time staying in a tented camp. Would we do it this way again, sure would. It was absolutely fantastic, best yet..
10 individual tents, all very private and facing the Talek River. Large king size bed, all the necessary amenities you would find (mosquito repellent,torch, toiletries,robes and slippers), tent was always kept topped up with bottled water. There was nothing this tent didn't have. ..and the outside bath was luxury.
Electricity was available by generator but switched off at night. We had constant hot boiling water. Walkie talkies were available in each tent so you can request an escort to dinner, as it gets very dark, and this is an unfenced camp.
The service of Marianna and her staff was first class, always very attentive to your needs, very polite and always smiling. As for the food, well, very high standard, worthy of any good restaurant. Beautifully presented, well cooked, and piping hot.
The package included breakfast, which consists, of juice,cereals, cooked breakfast, tea /coffee, lunch and dinner was a 5 course menu, starter/homemade soup/main/dessert followed by tea and coffee. Starter/main and dessert consisted of 3 choices, and each day the menu was different. House wine,local drinks and soft drinks and bottled water was also included as well as laundry service. Some mornings we had a boxed breakfast which we took out on safari with us. Staff would also bring tea/coffee and wine to your tent if you wish. After our afternoon safari there was always someone on hand to bring us a nice cup of tea and cake.
Every morning Gideon would wake us up with tea and biscuits. At night when we returned to the tent, we found he had put hot water bottles in the bed.
Evenings were lovely with the nice open fire to sit around and chat. Nice little lounge area and library. If you wanted to go to the gift shop or pool at the sister camp, then one of the drivers would take and collect you.
3 game drives a day, 6:30, 10:30,and 15:30, all open jeeps with nor more than 4 passengers. Each jeep was stocked up with soft drinks and water, again all included in the price. It is quite cool in the evening and mornings so it is advisable to take a fleece.
We had a fabulous time and would definitely go again.

  • Stayed: September 2009, traveled as a couple
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1  Thank WirralLady
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed September 7, 2009

  • Stayed: August 2009, traveled as a couple
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed August 31, 2009

  • Stayed: July 2009, traveled as a couple
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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