Mara Plains Camp
Olare Orok Conservancy, Greater Masai Mara, Kenya
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MARA PLAINS CAMP -
OLARE OROK CONSERVANCY, GREATER MASAI MARA, KENYA
Imagine a camp set right in the heart of some of the greatest predator country of Africa...
This is Mara Plains Camp, located on the northern border of the Maasai Mara Game Reserve in the 35,000-acre Olare Motorogi Conservancy. Rarely a night passes without lion roaring nearby, while leopard are regularly found to wander through the camp and cheetah have established territories on the savannah nearby the main area.
Mara Plains Camp is a small, high quality, seven-roomed camp under canvas and on raised decks with sweeping views across Kenya’s notable savannahs. It is among the smallest and most personal camps in the Maasai Mara region. It is just one of four camps currently operating within the Olare Motorogi Conservancy, which boasts the region’s lowest vehicle density with no mini-buses, and lowest ratio of guests to land. Here, it is possible to avoid the high tourist density of the Maasai Mara Game Reserve proper, if desired. In total, guests of Mara Plains have access to over 100,000 acres of low-density vehicle tourism lands as well as an additional 375,000 acres within the Maasai Mara Game Reserve itself.
Mara Plains offers possibly the widest range of activities anywhere in the greater Maasai Mara – early morning, late afternoon and night game drives, balloon safaris (at extra cost), authentic local village visits, wildlife walks and unrivaled access to superior wildlife habitats.
Each guest at Mara Plains contributes considerably to the success of the Olare Motorogi Conservancy’s flourishing ecosystem; conservation fees paid safeguard this habitat, while supporting over 1,000 Maasai families. This partnership agreement ensures the survival of an astounding volume andvariety of wildlife.
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Mara Plains Camp is in an extraordinary location on the Ntiakatek River, a mere two kilometres from the Maasai Mara’s north-central border. Upon arriving at Mara Plains Camp, it is immediately clear that this is a unique place. The camp is nestled in lush forest on the meandering bends of the river, and careful thought was given to every detail. The camp is not an imposition on the landscape, but rather a subtle refuge among the wild. Itspresence does not detract from the visual beauty of the ecosystem, but incorporates it with sweeping views across the plains and careful position among the riverine forest. It is captivating on arrival. The camp is secluded, and as you cross the commanding swinging bridge, Africa is revealed. And ittakes your breath away. Positioned just so, the horizon lies ahead, punctuated by a single acacia tree. It’s the Africa of the mind’s eye. Flanking the main area is both a library and dining area, two places to enjoy life’s finer things. Flowing fabrics, open-air spaces and strong teak structures ground the space.
Mara Plains Camp is centred around open-air marquis tents connected together in a pod concept. There are two lounges, one with a small library and writing area. A main dining room with a grand wood table and magnificent chandelier host breakfast and some dinners, when we are not dining under the stars. Raised on decking, and blessed with sweeping views, the central area brings together the whole camp. Each of the seven tents has deep canvas canopied ceilings; rough hewn wood floors and accents of East Africa’s rich safari history. Thick Lamu wood doors, deep purples, and brass accents – these small details transport guests to a time and land far away. The well-appointed en-suite facilities (including a deep copper bath) plus the extensive private verandah complete what is genuinely a stunning concept. These stylistic elements coupled with thoughtful environmental elements such as solar power and no cement make Mara Plains is a modern-day safari retreat. No two tents is the same, each named after the colorful Maasai people. As each evening ends, weoften move to the open-air campfire and listen as the resident lion prides begin their night’s exploits.
The fresh air, getting on and off vehicles, and walking will incite an appetite and there’s no going hungry here. Complementary refreshments and snacks are served on all our drives and include tea and coffee on the morning drive and the traditional "sundowner" cocktail in the late afternoon. Special meals and dietary requirements can be catered for on request. (However, please note, due to the remoteness of the location, we do appreciate your requests in advance).
We are among the only, if not the only camp, in the Maasai Mara to have completely open game drive vehicles. Game drives (day & night) take place in some of the Mara’s most coveted vehicles. Each of the four Toyota Land Cruisers is open-sided,canopied and customised for photographers (fold-down screens, raised roofs,photographic bars, multi-plug invertors). With just four to six guests each, the Cruisers also have fully-stocked fridges stocked with drinks and snacks.
No two days are the same on safari. Game drives typically start at sunrise, returning for lunch and depart again in the mid-afternoonbefore returning just after sunset. However, very often we will go out all day, deep into the Reserve or Conservancy with pack breakfast and lunch. Very often, our safaris will continue into the night, a possibility because of our location on a private conservancy. Night drives are particularly prolific in the Olare Motorogi Conservancy, and while they take patience, sightings commonly include lesser known nocturnal mammals and even lion and hyena hunts.
Mara Plains also offers walking safaris. Feeling the soil of Africa beneath our feet is an enriching and invigorating way to safari, and we are lucky enough to be able to do this rare activity in Olare Motorogi Conservancy. Hot air ballooning is available, but should be booked in advance and is subject to availability and additional cost. Departures are very early in the morning to allow time to transfer to the nearest launching point.
If a chance to learn about the Maasai is of interest, then a visit to Endoinyo Erinka village (locally known as an “enkang”) is also a highlight. The women’s beading group, the local school and the choir are common activities, but we do strive to keep it impromptu and natural, so there are no guarantees in advance as to what will be experienced with our friends. Locally produced crafts are available for purchase at the camp, all proceeds of which go toward the community, and particularly the women’s groups and schools.
Community Support Projects - Conservancy Development
The Olare Orok & Mara North Conservancies are initiatives that address both community upliftment and wildlife conservation on Masai-owned land on Masai Mara Game Reserve’s northern border. This intriguing new conservation and land use initiative is just three years old and is set to become the blueprint for a sustainable greater Masai Mara ecosystem.
Until recently, Olare Orok’s 30,000 acres and Mara North’s 80,000 acres of prime rolling grasslands and riverine forest were filled with rural homesteads and large herds of cattle and goats. The ecosystem was being overgrazed, risking the sustenance of both wildlife and cattle, and to the detriment of both. Sustainability was at risk for both the people and the wildlife.
After lengthy consultation with the Masai, it was agreed that a new community conservation vision was needed – one which addresses sustainability. Together, all stakeholders developed the Olare Orok & Mara North Conservancies, a win-win for both the Masai landowners and the wildlife of the Masai Mara ecosystem. A lease agreement was developed to address the fickleness of the tourism industry, the culture of the Masai and the impacts of agriculture and wildlife. It was agreed that the Masai landowners would receive a steady monthly income throughout the year, regardless of how few guests have visited the area in exchange for halting grazing on the conservancy. This guaranteed income minimizes the economic risk incurred by the Masai, while also supplementing the income lost from agriculture. It is paid by the camps within each Conservancy.
Mara Plains (& Great Plains) commits US$150,000 per annum directly to the neighboring Masai communities to maintain and support both Conservancies and its wildlife – the highest paid by any camp in the region and the only camp to contribute to both.
This is conservation in action, a commitment to striving to ensure the livelihoods of both people and wildlife.
Experience and Wildlife
In the late afternoon, as the sun wanes, we are off again in search of wildlife. This time we might even do so on foot, tracking with our armed guide for some exercise, excitement & exploration. It's a time to savour the African sunset with refreshing sundowner drinks and snacks before continuing our evening drive as nocturnal animals become more active with dusk.
A hearty dinner awaits us back at camp, whenever its time to return. We share stories of the day around the campfire and under the stars. So goes another blissful day in Africa.
We venture daily into the Maasai Mara Game Reserve as well. These are particularly popular during the wildebeest migration season. For full day expeditions, lavish picnic boxes with cold drinks are provided.
But most of all, Mara Plains is a showcase for one of the world's most magnificent wildlife havens. And it must be done right. We believe in keeping the safari experience intimate and personal, so there is no set camp schedule or set meal times. The day's activities and dining arrangements are tailored around guest preference and the wildlife opportunities of the moment. Each guest tent comes equipped with a set of professional Canon camera and lenses. And to it the pair of Swarovski binoculars, and it is impossible not to see and capture the region's incredible wildlife scenes. After all, we are located in one of the most wildlife rich regions of the world.
No other camp in the greater Maasai Mara Game Reserve or Olare Motorogi Conservancy has the privilege of traversing opportunities ofMara Plains Camp. Guests are able to traverse three wildlife filled regions as part of their stay at Mara Plains:
Olare Motorogi Conservancy: 35,000 acres
Mara North Conservancy: 80,000 acres
Maasai Mara Game Reserve: 375,000 acres
Olare Motorogi Conservancy is reputed to have the lowest vehicle density in the Maasai Mara region, while also having the highest concentration of big cats anywhere in Africa. There is only one guest bed per 350 acres, leaving the land unadulterated for the wildlife to roam and thrive, as nature intended. By day and night, the camp is a sanctuary for resident species, including many of the Maasai Mara's 300 bird species. After dark, larger mammals frequent the camp and Maasai warriors escort guests to and from their rooms. Hippos snorting and leopards barking often provide the night's chorus.
Seasons: Mara Plains Camp is open year-round.
Travel: From Nairobi's Wilson Airport, daily morning and afternoon scheduled flights to nearby Ol Kiombo airstrip take about 45 minutes. Transfer from the airstrip to camp is approximately 20 minutes.
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