Mara Leisure Camp –
Kenya - December 2010
Can be reached by road via Narok
By plane on numerous airfields in the Mara
On the odd cold autumn day, taking a 5 minute break to read and go through the itinerary of my next safari in Kenya is a personal way of relaxing. …
Another camp to get to know on my list was Mara Leisure Camp – a lodge/camp that I had yet to visit but from their website which kicks off with “an exclusive boutique camp in the African Wild” made it a camp I honestly look forward to relaxing in.
From their website www.maraleisurecamp.co.ke and price at US Dollars between 280.00 and 350.00 per night (per tent /room high season) I was looking forward to luxury after a few days of trekking it in the bush.
Due to personal issues I had a little change of plan and flew directly on my own from Nairobi Wilson Airport with Air Kenya to an airstrip about 10 kilometers from the camp. Tony, our guide who had been travelling with me the past week around Western and Southern Kenya was awaiting my arrival with his typical genuine warm smile and we drove off into the bush heading towards Mara Leisure Lodge.
A few kilometers before reaching the lodge we passed what was once a small remote Masai village however as with all areas on our ever expanding globe, where there is revenue turn over, there is space for infrastructure and buildings. New guests houses, shops, private homes had sprung up since my last visit and more were visibly in construction. - I just hope that they do not plan on building another Kimana (an area close to Amboseli)!
We reached the entrance of the camp; typical lodge entrance with local Masai decorations, wooden beamed roof with makuti thatching and the reception received by the staff was very friendly. We registered and were promptly shown to our accommodation.
We booked a tent but were given a “cottage” – a concrete build divided into 2 large bedrooms, each with its own very large bathroom and terrace.
The rooms and accommodation: Initial impact was relatively positive as the rooms are large and the bathroom have ample space with a bathtub to relax in after a long days safari. Plenty of hot water (via solar panels) to use in the wash basis. The shower tested ones patience! The options were either cold or hot with water dribbling down making it quite hard to wash the days dirt off! Being bald by nature this did not cause too many complications for me to clean my head however for my wife, washing her hair ended up being one of the most difficult tasks of the day!!
Towels were clean, soft and adequate.
The bedroom – typical local wooden furniture that more or less blended in with the rest of the ambiance. However there was something out of place which was quite familiar with lodges, camps or hotels that are going through changes (will explain as later)!! Most décor in the accommodation was tired, consumed and had past its expiry date. The curtains were semi ripped off the racks and impossible to close, the mosquito nets were either torn or missing, the mattresses where completely consumed and uncomfortable and the pillows…. After an hour’s attempt to sleep, I dropped it on the floor and folded a towel in its place!
The light fittings were chipped and some did not work. A big difference between reality and what is explained and displaced on their website.
In the morning I decided to re charge my torch however the socket came straight off the wall which I attempted to fix for them so the next guest would not have the same issue and risk getting an electric wakeup call!
Wake up call – although I requested one at 5.45 am and my travelling companion at 6.00 am in his room, non came. They were either too busy at that time in the morning or perhaps they forgot.
On requesting our wakeup call the previous night at the reception desk, we were also asked what time we would like to have breakfast. 6.30 was our answer – making it a day with a late start to game drives.
We reached the dining room at 6.45 and noticed that absolutely nothing had been set up. At around 7am the odd member of staff appeared and we helped them set up the table and get organized which was a laugh as the staff (like most Kenyans) were always with a smile and full of the positive joys of life.
Meals; I have worked in some exclusive kitchens producing fine delicacies however when in the bush I always take into consideration where I am, how the produce gets to these remote areas, storage and use of electrical power a couple of hours per day. In most cases I am positively surprised however here again the quality was below standard of lodges of this category.
I was now beginning to wander what category this lodge belonged to…..?
Gardens…. Perhaps the owners have decided to go with nature and let it take its course. The grass around most of the lodge / camp was what they call in central Africa and the Congo as Elephant grass; long and thick left to grow wild. My initial conclusion proved wrong as the next day a shamba man (gardener) with his curved bladed was happily slashing away at the overgrown shrub.
Views from the terraces; either from the tents or rooms – non existence, only thick bush around 1 to 2 meters away but this may have been done purposely to give one the feeling of being closed in the bush.
Tents – here again it looks like they have been neglected. Some canvases were ripped, stained and the wooden built frame they were built on where showing signs of rot.
I had come across such situations before and my suspicious was soon confirmed when speaking to various members of staff. The lodge had been sold and was under new ownership.
Unfortunately at times when owners decide to sell, they close off all taps and expenses to renew or to maintain quality to save as much money as possible before selling. This normally has a negative impact for the new owners as they have a lot more work on their plate to replace and fix the complete negligence of the previous owners and perhaps the most difficult part – to try and get a reputation back!
At US Dollars from 280.00 to 350.00 per night (excluding Park Entrance fee) I currently do not recommend this camp. Even in high season as one must balance value with what is offered and service provided. As stands, they are asking too much for what they are providing. I hope the new owners promptly take action on what can be a wonderful lodge and perhaps with a lot of work and effort they can re call it “an exclusive boutique camp in the African Wild”, but for now, they are a long way away from that!
Staff friendliness – 4 out of 5
Cleanliness of the rooms – 3 out of 5
Cleanliness and care of the gardens – 2 out of 5
Quality of food – 2 out of 5
Quality and comfort of the rooms – 2 out of 5
Quality of the bathrooms – 3 out of 5
Value for Money – 2 out of 5
Co founder of Bushdrums.com