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  1. Expert Review

    5.0 rating based on 1 rating
    Sep 2014 · Stuart Butler

    There are at least 200 lodges, camps and campgrounds in and around Kenya’s Masai Mara region. These range from the...

    There are at least 200 lodges, camps and campgrounds in and around Kenya’s Masai Mara region. These range from the very basic – a patch of ground to pitch a tent and a tap that constitutes a bathroom – to cheerful package tour hotels that can house hundreds, to the mega-exclusive, King and Queen style luxury camps situated in private conservancies and offering the finest safari experiences in East Africa. And then, above all of them, comes Mara Plains.

    Put simply, this breathtakingly extravagant camp, situated in the highly successful Olare Motorogi conservancy, is in a league all of its own and might just be the single most luxurious camp in all the Mara region. Walking into one of the half-dozen tents here, which are arrayed under the shade of trees along the river separating the conservancy from the Masai Mara National Reserve itself, your eyes will immediately be drawn to the freestanding, brass bathtub with river views. After that your gaze will register the wide private wooden terrace, brush over the deliciously comfortable bed, and acknowledge how twisted old tree trunks have been incorporated into the structure, furnishings and design.

    Away from the tents things get even better with the food, which is some of the most creative of any of the top-end camps. And then there’s the conservancy itself. Olare Motorogi is particularly renowned for its predators. If you want to see lions and cheetah this might be one of the best of all the conservancies. And where there are predators there must be prey: wildebeest, antelopes, zebra and more. Sitting on your terrace and looking over the plains you’ll quickly realise that this is one of the most blessed of the conservancies.

    What we particularly enjoyed about this camp is how genuinely warm and welcoming the staff were. Even though the camp is clearly aimed squarely at those with blue blood, the managers and staff were very down- to-earth and hardly appeared to notice the difference between their “normal” clientele and a scruffy writer who hadn’t changed his shirt for a fortnight.

  2. Expert Review

    5.0 rating based on 1 rating
    Aug 2014 · Kate Thomas

    Step aside, big cats: Mara Plains is the new king of the savannah. Dripping in elegance and attention to detail,...

    Step aside, big cats: Mara Plains is the new king of the savannah. Dripping in elegance and attention to detail, this is one of the finest (and most expensive) places to lay your head in the Masai Mara. In fact, the luxury tents are so aesthetically pleasing that you risk missing the incredible early morning safari drives and champagne breakfast picnics.

    Nestled in a stunning corner of the Olare Motirogi conservancy, there are no fences here to separate you from the lions, buffalo, hippos, cheetahs, elephants and jaguars that call the Masai Mara home. Above all, this is prime lion-viewing territory; the conservancy has the highest density of lions in the Masai Mara, with a population of around 80. Mara Plains’ expert guides know where to find them, and they know the best spots for a glass of wine in the shade of acacia trees. No more than 25 vehicles are permitted in the conservancy at once, so the wildlife watching feels intimate and personal.

    The camp runs on 100 percent solar power, and has a silver eco rating. A small percentage of the rate goes to community projects, further boosting its eco credentials. 28 of Mara Plains’ 30 staff are from Maasai communities. And the tents feature vintage details such as exquisite Swahili shower doors (sourced from the island of Lamu) and decking made from recycled railway sleepers from the Zambia-Tanzania train line. No detail is forgotten; inside the tents you’ll find vintage silver goblets, explorer chests, Stanley flasks, hip copper basins, warm Prathishta robes, a miniature coffee table library, reading glasses, Swarovski binoculars and individual Canon 7D cameras with wide angle lens. There’s also a private library, open to the sun and the stars, with wifi access.

    The restaurant is cozy and elegant, dripping in safari chic, and the menu (which changes nightly) is lavish. On the day we arrived, it featured orange and aniseed duck, smoky, barbecued pork, arugula and feta salad, zucchini with hazelnuts, mango and lentil salad, grilled red snapper with a cashew crust and homemade banana ice cream. The breakfast buffet the next morning included two kinds of fruit we’d never seen before (and we know a thing or two about African fruits), five kinds of freshly-squeezed juices (including beetroot and apple), posh bacon and eggs, charcuterie and a suitably smelly cheeseboard.

    Some of the tents face the hippo-infested river, but fear not, there are Maasai security guards on hand to walk you back at night. Tent Seven is our pick for honeymooners. Shoppers won’t want to miss the little store on the edge of the plains; it’s filled with beautiful, antique jewelry sourced from East Africa and India. But who comes to the Masai Mara to shop? The true test of an excellent camp here is its viewing opportunities, and Mara Plains most definitely delivers. Our guides consistently went the extra mile (or ten), patiently tracking down Handsome the lion and his pride, and even delivering a rare jaguar treetop sighting.

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