3 nights in the Mara.....where to stay???

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Nov 5th, 2012, 09:38 PM
  #1
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3 nights in the Mara.....where to stay???

We have booked the Tanzania portion of our trip and want to conclude our trip with 3 nights in the Masai Mara before heading to NBO. We finish in Tanzania at the end of July, 2013.

We are looking for a camp that is small, no more than 10 tents, where we could do a night game drive and possibly spend one of those nights fly camping.

Can anyone provide me with some suggestions for camps they have actually stayed at and also for safari companies to contact?
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Nov 7th, 2012, 12:15 PM
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You might check out Alex Walker's Serian Camp. They also have a mobile camp they use, Serian Nkorombo. I'd just stay in one camp for three nights, rather than trying to do a fly camp, perhaps the mobile if you want something akin to a fly camp. The Migration will just be arriving in the Mara at the end of July, so you want a location that has access to the southern part of the Mara, along the Mara River. Are you also staying in the northern Serengeti in Tanzania? That will be your best bet for seeing the larger Migration herds (and without the Mara crowds.)

I've stayed at Offbeat Mara Camp in the Mara North Conservancy... great location and camp! We did an all-day drive down to the Mara River, so that's also an option if you stay in a conservancy. If you want to do a night drive, you'll need to be in a conservancy, as you can't do that in the Reserve itself.
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Nov 8th, 2012, 09:05 AM
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There are a number of excellent small camps - what is your budget ? I assume you are aware that, unless you want to take a very long road trip, you will probably have to return to Nairobi before flying or driving down to the Mara ?
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Nov 8th, 2012, 01:09 PM
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As you no doubt know, you are going at high season, and prices reflect that.
Mara Bushtops which has 6 tents.Asilia's Rekero has nine tents, Kicheche Mara has eight, etc. There are many others that fit your description (although i dont know about the fly-camping) .
All can do a pkg that includes return air transfers from Nairobi. Bushtops for example, comes to about $5,300 for two people, for three nights including plane transfers to the nearest airstrip.
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Nov 8th, 2012, 01:11 PM
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ps sorry, i just saw your request for camps actually stayed at. I have NOT stayed at any of the above due to budgetary restraints!
There IS one small camp that costs considerable less, can't recall the name. IF you are interested , write that here , and i'll rack my brain.
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Nov 8th, 2012, 07:29 PM
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Our last night in the northern Serengeti will be at Lemala Mara Camp, which I am told is about a 4 hr. drive from Isibania. After this much rough driving I don't think we would want to do much more of the same, so either we need to find a camp closer to the border, or fly from Migori to ???? Our goal is to see the Migration...we hope anyway.

We are traveling with our 13 yr. old, so 3 of us. I was hoping for somewhere in the $3000 for 3 nights. We really would prefer not to stay in a big, crowded lodge that caters to families so much, nor do we want to self-cater in a campground. I did get quotes for Kicheche, which sounds just perfect, but it was over $6000, which I am having a really hard time accepting for just 3 nights. Am I being unrealistic as far as price?

I do realize that if we add flying from Migori further into the Mara and also flying from the Mara to Wilson would add about $1500. This was included in the Kicheche price, but this camp only gives you one day in the Mara and is really far north from where I thought the migration was supposed to be.

About the flights.....I have tried to book tickets on the Safarilink site, and no matter what day or route I chose it tells me no flights are available. Do they only take bookings from agents? I even sent them an inquiry for one of their "safari packages" but go no response.

Thanks for all the help....please keep it coming!!
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Nov 9th, 2012, 09:29 AM
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Hi

You should be able to find something within this budget. Take a look at the Gamewatchers site as I think they price all their Mara camps on the basis of 3 nights, park fees and flights from Nairobi. You will probably also be able to get a small (5% ish) discount of you ask !

My understanding is that you lose pretty well a full day by driving from Northern Tanzania to the Mara. The Tanzanian authorities intentionally make if difficult to try and keep the tourists!

Perhaps most importantly, if you are in the Northern part of the Serengeti in late July, you will probably see the migration there. All years are different bit I think you would be unlucky to miss them.
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Nov 9th, 2012, 09:45 AM
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What is your full itinerary and how long are you staying at Lemala Mara Camp? If your goal is to see the Migration and you're in Tanzania in late July, you really don't need to go to Kenya and the Mara (an extension of the Serengeti ecosystem.) I stayed at the Serengeti Mara Camp in the early days of August this year and was blown away by the huge herds and crossings! The camp is currently the only one in the Lemai Wedge, up against the Kenyan/Masai Mara border on the northern side of the Mara River. We had been in the Mara earlier (July 21 - 25) and the herds really hadn't arrived yet, except for the zebras. It can change year to year, but much of the Migration actually stays in the Serengeti in the Lemai Wedge. By doing this, you wouldn't lose a day of your safari traveling a few miles north into the Mara (not to mention the expense.) I'd give the Serengeti Camp a big "thumbs up"!
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Nov 9th, 2012, 02:24 PM
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Philw.....I did contact Gamewatchers and their quote was between $6000 - $7000+ for 3 nights depending on which camp we chose. (they priced 3 camps for me, but really pushed the Porini Lion Camp, which apparently is one they own) This did include driving from Isebania to the camps....about 6 1/2 hours on top of the 4 1/2 we will have already done that day, so yes, a full day of driving for sure. It also included flight from Mara to Wilson, but still it's just too much.

I know trying to fit in Kenya may seem like too much, but this is our one and only trip to Africa and it just won't feel "right" if we don't make it to Kenya for more than just a jaunt at the airport, so I am not quite ready to give up.


So, how long is the drive really from Isebania to Migori and then on to the very northern tip of the Mara on (I think ) the C13 highway? Maybe I should be looking for camps in this region instead?

While I know the migration will not be in this region, hopefully we will have already seen it in the Serengeti.

We will be at Lemala for 2 nights....so hopefully we get lucky. I will look into the Serengeti Mara camp too too.

Thanks to all....please keep the ideas coming!!
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Nov 9th, 2012, 03:34 PM
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Hi Gabriella1,

Although I have not personally done the trip, I did a lot of research for some of my clients. At the border, it takes about 20 minues to clear the Kenyan and Tanzanian formalities (you can get the visas at the border withoutt any problems). The drive from Isabenia border to Migori is about 20 minutes. If you were to fly from Migori to the Mara, it is Safarlink that can take you to one of these airstips served in the Mara: Olkiombo, Keekorok and Musiara or Kichwa Tembo, whichever of the latter two has a miximum pax loads. The flghts are subject to minmun 2 pax. Hope this helps.

Regards...
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Nov 9th, 2012, 06:30 PM
  #11
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Hi Baraca,

Thanks for clearing up the timing at the border. I have heard that taxis are available at the border to take us to the Migori airstrip...true?


Do you....or anyone else....happen to know how long it would take to drive from Migori to Oloolola Gate at the very northern edge of the Mara? According to my map this looks like a highway, so is it pretty easy going?
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Nov 10th, 2012, 12:07 AM
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according to Google Maps, it is 2.5 hours from Migori to Oloololo Gate. I would add 50% to that for stops, unexpected delays, and just in general that computerized maps assume all driving is like that in USA..not Africa
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Nov 10th, 2012, 08:04 AM
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Shay Tay,

"I stayed at the Serengeti Mara Camp in the early days of August this year and was blown away by the huge herds and crossings! We had been in the Mara earlier (July 21 - 25)"

How did YOU travel between Mara (where abouts were you?) and Serengeti Mara Camp? I think it would be MOST helpful for many to know what travel options exist in that corner?

Many thanks!!
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Nov 10th, 2012, 10:18 AM
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Porini Lion is truly a stellar experience. When we went during late July two years ago, it wasn't nearly as pricey. Did you ask if your son could stay in the tent with you?
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Nov 11th, 2012, 01:20 PM
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Baraca, a few in our group did a week's safari in Kenya, then joined the rest of the group for a Tanzania northern circuit safari. We didn't go directly between the Mara and the northern Serengeti. We got to the Serengeti Mara Camp via road (Tarangire, Crater, central Serengeti, Bologonja area of northern Serengeti, then the Lemai Wedge area.) We used the guides and vehicles of the Serengeti Mara Camp because they use the only truly open vehicles in the Serengeti. The guides were really good the the food was the best we had on the trip.

The Lemai Wedge is not the entire area above the Mara River, but a smaller slice of that area north of a small bridge after the river crossing at Kogatende. I saw another tented camp on the north side of the Mara River... Tim's Camp I think it was called. Also, Singita is building a camp up there. I don't know if they've opened it yet, or not.
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Nov 12th, 2012, 04:49 AM
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Thanks Shay Tay! I was especially interested to read about Lemai Wedge in your note. How did you find the bridge that you crossed, in a good shape and safe??? I have seen pictures of it that were a bit of a concern to me!
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Nov 12th, 2012, 08:58 AM
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The crossing (not really a bridge) over the Mara River at Kogatende is a low water crossing. We had no problems, but there was a supply truck that had turned over into the river off the crossing. We had to wait until a bulldozer that was trying to right it moved for us. During the rains, this crossing can be a problem, but I understand there are ways around it. During the dry season, I don't think it's usually a problem... don't know why the truck turned over. The other, smaller bridge I mentioned is just a culvert-type crossing over a dry creekbed (at least that's what it looked like to me)... no problems there.

The one issue we had in the area was that TANAPA decided to set a bunch of fires in the Wedge, so it was really smoky. After the sun went down, we were looking at flames on three sides of us around the camp. There was no danger to the camp, but the smoke was unpleasant in some areas we drove through. The camp staff wasn't too happy about it. They aren't "controlled burns"... just fires that burn until they naturally go out. It certainly reduces the grasses available to the herds, which is why the staff was questioning the timing of the fires.
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Nov 12th, 2012, 09:34 AM
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Thank you Shay Tay! All most interesting...
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Nov 15th, 2012, 10:13 AM
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You can fly from the Northern Serengeti/Kogatende (Coastal Air) via the Tarime airstrip where it's a road transfer to Isebania for border precedures (Visas), then a road transfer to Migori for the Safarilink flight into the Mara. Cost is about $450/person.

The drive portions vary in time depending on road conditions, as well the time spent at the border traffic dependent... the more trucks, the longer.

Most camps located outside the Mara Reserve itself... those on the Conservancies - Mara North, Olare Orok, Naibosho, etc. staying for 3/nts allow for 1/full day trip into the Reserve. Any additional trips will incur a fee for that day which during that time is currently $85/person.

From the Mara (various airstrips) to Nairobi's Wilson (domestic) airport costs about $180/person one-way.

As to camps in the Mara Reserve or on the adjacent Conservancies... there's something for everyone, so you'll have to check the offerings based on your budget or 'specials' that might be offered. Admittedly, July/August are at the highest prices and while some camps offer a discount for child up to 12/yrs (some to 16/yrs)... doubt the $3K will cover for this.

While you will see the large herds, there is no guarantee of seeing a river crossing in the Kogatende area/Lemai Wedge or in the Mara, I'd suggest staying in the Serengeti where there are only 5-6/camps vs many many more in the Mara and thus more vehicles waiting for something/anything to happen.

Am just back from both Tanzania and Kenya and on reaching Kogatende, the herds were lined up across the river waiting to cross. Sadly not that day and as it was already getting dark (difficult to see as you're kept at quite a distance here till the herds start to cross... if they do), decided to call it a day. Next morning, my travel partner went out at 8am with my words "guess they'll cross by 8:30am" and sure enough the herds did within a few minutes, at 8:32am (amazing I could time it and then returned to camp. No need hanging out any longer. Came, Saw, Whoopie!

Hope this helps.
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Nov 15th, 2012, 02:16 PM
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Check out Kicheche Bush Camp on Olare Orok. I've also stayed at Kicheche Mara Camp but it's a bit less intimate.
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