Masai Mara Lodging question - two options

Old Sep 27th, 2006, 04:24 PM
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Masai Mara Lodging question - two options

Am going to the Masai Mara in December for a 3 night safari after gorilla trekking in Rwanda. This board helped me get this far in planing the trip, so I return for your expertise in choosing between the following:

Option 1) Mara Serena, which at present time is booked, but we can be wait listed and guaranteed at Mara Simba in the mean time.

Option 2) Ilkeliani. I'd read several good reviews of Ilkeliani, but then I read a recent not so good review of it.

We're flying round trip from Nairobi, and doing private game drives organized by the lodge/camp regardless of which option we choose. Option 1 is about $400 per person more than option 2.

Two totally different experiences, I know, but I thought I'd solicit some opinions. Thanks in advance.
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Old Sep 27th, 2006, 06:52 PM
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We just got back from 2 weeks in Tanzania and Kenya. Out last leg of the trip was the Maasai Mara. We stayed at governors' Camp. Would highly recommend. it. Top notch accomodations, service and drivers. Would go back in a heartbeat
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Old Sep 28th, 2006, 06:11 AM
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I'm the one who gave the bad review of Ilkeliani and I highly advise you NOT to stay there. It's not that the place is inherently bad, I think they used to be quite good...some on this forum had a wonderful stay there...it's that they are having serious management problems. The food was terrible, the service was very spotty and in general my stay there was not nearly as enjoyable as elsewhere that we stayed. We were there this August.

Just so you know some context...I wasn't looking for luxury. While in Rwanda we stayed at very cheap accommodations. However, if I'm going to spend a lot (which we did for our safari) than I'd like to have a decent time.

We stopped by the Mara Serena and I thought it looked lovely. BEAUTIFUL setting, well thought out. I'd love to sit there with a drink and watch the sun go down.

At the same time, it's nice to stay in tented accommodations and if you could afford Governor's than I'd do that or one of the other tented camps that are raved about here.

We stayed at Basecamp, very close to Ilkeliani and really enjoyed our stay there. I would definitely recommend it...and their fly camp.

I also think that if I was going to do it again, I'd stay inside the Mara. Many people say there's not much difference as there are no fences, etc. But I did find a difference--mostly because the serenity is disrupted. A night game drive wasn't such a big deal to me...because we were out all day. So if I was going to do it again, I'd stay in the Mara.

How long will you be in Rwanda for? Make sure you buy LOTS of coffee. Soooo good.
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Old Sep 28th, 2006, 07:53 AM
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For the mara, Serian camp is another option....

I hv stayed at Governor's/Little Governor's and Kitchwa- they were all very good. Very close to each other in location, but, Kitchwa outside the immediate Mara.

Some other good ones are Rekero, Olonanna.

Check the rates for all of these camps. Early December may offer better pricing than July/August???

Hari
 
Old Sep 28th, 2006, 07:59 AM
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I second Little Governor's. there last month. marvelous because on a marsh. lots of animals right there. actually at times in the camp
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Old Sep 28th, 2006, 08:00 AM
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I've also heard great things about Serian. Some travellers we met always stay at Elephant&Pepper and love it. But this time they stayed at Mara Siria, as their son was working there. They said it was gorgeous and had a wonderful view of the Mara.
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Old Sep 28th, 2006, 08:34 AM
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I stayed at Ilkeliani almost one year to today!

It PAINED my heart when I heard that Lucy got such rotten service there. I can only hope that the management issues get worked out ASAP.

Ilkeliani was the first place we stayed once we got out of Nairobi. Waking up that first morning at our camp represents the spirit of my trip more than anything.

I think there is someone else on this board who is on their trip even as we speak and Ilkeliani is one of their stops. I will be anxious to read their trip report.

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Old Sep 28th, 2006, 08:50 AM
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I should mention that the head of our safari company, who is prominent in KATO, was also upset to hear about Ilkeliani. He too had stayed there and enjoyed himself. He was going to call the owner and try to find out what was going on. So fingers crossed things will be sorted out soon, or already are! Honestly, all they need is to hire some more full time trained staff (I spoke with their recently departed Manager who explained how they are only hiring part-timers and temporary staff, so don't have time to train them. This explains the lack of communication, understanding and general spottiness). the other big key is to fire the cook or make him stop drinking when he cooks! I think a lot of the problems are related to an owner not being onsite and also not giving any authority to the manager.

I have to say that I also found the aesthetism and layout of Basecamp was more pleasing. I think they are the same pricepoint, so consider there too. Their bushcamp is absolutely stunning as well.
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Old Sep 28th, 2006, 09:20 AM
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Hello-

I spent two days at Mara Serena and two days at Basecamp almost exactly one month ago. My wife and I had a better experience at Serena, but that had quite a bit to do with the fact that the wildebeest were in the western Mara. We were initially going to stay at Ilkeliani but switched to Basecamp for better walking safari options. From ESS, basecamp was slightly more expensive. I don't know about low season pricing but I strongly suspect that Governors will still be quite a bit more than Serena or Ilkeliani. Others in that price range may be Kichwa and Mara Intrepids.

Here are some things to consider between Serena and Ilkeliani:
1. Night drive: Serena now offers these
2. Size: If you prize intimacy, Serena is not as good an option
3. Location: Staying in the park is nice so you don't waste time driving in and out (that took 20-30 min from Basecamp).

Since the Serena availability is iffy and Ilkeliani may be in transition, I'd inquire about other options as well.

-Matt
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Old Sep 28th, 2006, 01:35 PM
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I hadn't heard of Serian before - does anyone have a URL?
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Old Sep 28th, 2006, 01:37 PM
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www.serian.net

You can find their location on Eben's go-safari.com maps.
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Old Sep 28th, 2006, 01:56 PM
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Just FYI, I believe Serian's rates are higher than Governors/Little Governors. If you're planning to travel before Dec 15th, look at Olonana as their low season rates are greatly reduced.
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Old Sep 28th, 2006, 02:07 PM
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If the beginning of December, many properties are offering their low-season rates. However, camps as Elephant Pepper and other like seasonal camps are closed during November thru December 14.

Serian, even at low-season prices is somewhat costly. I agree with Patty, to inquire about Olonana whose low season rate is less than Main Governors. Olonana is also smaller and more intimate.

You indicate Opt.#1 is $400/person higher than Opt #2, but what is your budget, which I assume includes flying in/out of the Mara.
 
Old Sep 28th, 2006, 02:07 PM
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Thanks for the info.

And Rats - I grew suspicious when the rates weren't listed on the website

Unfortunately we're traveling over the holidays.
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Old Sep 28th, 2006, 03:20 PM
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Option 1 is around $1500 pp for the 3 nights, including flights and private game drives. We wouldn't want to spend more than a few hundred more than that.
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Old Sep 29th, 2006, 06:53 AM
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Toshi check out Gamewatchers site: http://www.porini.com/gamewatchers/home_index.html

I went with them on our safari and it was wonderful. On their site they list prices for flying safaris staying at a variety of places. The packages are for 2 nights, flying, but they have the option of adding an extra night.

It looks like a number of places are well within $1500 pp, actually a lot appear to be around $900 pp.
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Old Sep 29th, 2006, 07:29 AM
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Thanks for the info - what hikes up the prices is the private game drives which is often another $250-$500 per day.

Lucia78 - I read (and loved) your trip report. You sound WAY more tolerant of budget accommodations than we would be. We'll be in Rwanda for 4 days, 2 days with the gorillas. Too short, I know, but we get a very limited amount of vacation per year - and have to work to afford luxuries like these vacations, right
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Old Sep 29th, 2006, 07:41 AM
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Ahhh I see now. Could you do a driving safari and then fly back? Or will that limit your short time too much? A random thought is to ask some of the operators who are recommended...and I'll put in another plug for Gamewatchers...how much they would charge to do a flying safari with a private guide/vehicle. It may work out less than paying the premium at the lodge/camp for a private guide/vehicle.

I know Gamewatchers operates two camps in the Mara so it's feasible that they could just provide a guide/vehicle from there for you and they could pick you up from your flight in the Mara. It could end up being less than other operators as their driver/vehicle may not have to come from Nairobi.

You'll have a FABULOUS time in Rwanda. Where are you staying? Four days is a good amount of time to see a bit. Try to go to one of the lakeside towns if you have a chance...Gisenyi isn't too far from Ruhengeri. And I'm serious about the coffee...my supply is gone and now I'm making my Rwandese friends in DC bring me more! Sooo good!!!
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Old Sep 29th, 2006, 10:26 AM
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Even Gamwatchers (Porini Camp)in the Mara on a fly-in/out safari between Dec 16 - Jan 2 - runs $1495 (for 3/nts) and that is without private game vehicles.
 
Old Sep 29th, 2006, 10:41 AM
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If during the Christmas/New Years period, all properties are at "peak" rate which is often higher than prices during "high-season"... some you're going to have to compare per night rates and then those pvt vehicles which are costly on a daily basis.
 

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