Porini Mara & Porini Lion in October 2016

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Jul 17th, 2015, 12:05 PM
  #1
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Porini Mara & Porini Lion in October 2016

Have contacted Gamewatchers regarding a 7 day safari at Porini Mara & Porini Lion for Oct 2016. Yes I know I'm early but can't help myself!

Correspondence has been amazingly quick & concise along with an attractive quote for booking early. Boy solo safaris really hit the pocket book!!

Interested in feedback from Fodorites who have been. Sounds like animal viewing at Porini Mara isn't as good as elsewhere and their vehicles just stay in Ol Kinyei Conservancy.

They do offer a full day in the Mara Reserve from Porini Lion and sightings seem to be much better here.

Anyone been lately?
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Jul 17th, 2015, 12:54 PM
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Never been there but am in Nairobi Kenya
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Jul 17th, 2015, 05:01 PM
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I went to both in June 2012. Both camps were lovely and the guides and staff were excellent at both. I did prefer the game drives at Porini Lion. Porini Lion is right outside the Mara. Minutes. It seemed like we drove much longer to start seeing game when we went to the Mara from Porini Mara. I also went back to the same area as Porini Lion in June 2013 and 2014 but different camps.

I just re-read your post and when I was at Porini Mara we did go into the Mara for game drives and not in Ol Kinyei Conservancy. I think our time was split 3 nights at P.M and 6 nights at P. L. and we ended up going a day early so it was 2/7. But I've slept since then and may be remembering wrong.
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Jul 17th, 2015, 06:54 PM
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sundowner - It does sound, by all accounts, like Porini Lion is the better of the two.

What other camps did you stay at in the area? Were they about the same price point?
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Jul 17th, 2015, 07:17 PM
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KathBC - I'm always planning to go back, too! Next year is Botswana (self drive mostly) in September for the 50th independence anniversary. Been planning since 2006. I may get a lower rate per person as a couple, but I have to pay for both. You still come out ahead. Any chance of finding a compatible travel companion?

Can't help, but hopefully atravelynn will pop in with suggestions for camps without single supplements. She's a solo traveller too.

Have fun planning!
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Jul 17th, 2015, 08:01 PM
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KathBC, 2013 was a photography trip with Andy Biggs and Charles Glatzer at Mara Toto which I believe is even higher than Porini.

2014 was a lucky, lucky deal. I decided to ask around to see what I could find for a last minute trip for my two daughters and me. Bill Given knew of this 3BR house in the Mara with a full staff that they only rent to one party at a time. A last minute booking was a heck of a deal when split with 3 people. Really it was a good deal for only one person when compared to the likes of Mara Toto or Mara Plains or maybe ever Porini. We booked with less than 2 weeks notice.

You might check with Bill (The Wild Source) to see what else is available in that area. We've been lucky by going in June in that the camps are pretty empty so we end up with private vehicles. And we go out early and take a packed breakfast and sometimes lunch, too. Asilia. That's the name of the company with the houses in the OMC and Mara North and the tent camp in the Mara.
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Jul 17th, 2015, 10:57 PM
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christabir - Can't remember what it's like not to be planning a safari! For me, like yourself, planning is half the fun!
I was quite nervous going it on my own the first time but wouldn't have it any other way now!

sundowner - I also normally safari in May or June when prices are lower, it's cooler & there's less people however I have an event to attend in Oct so Oct it is!
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Jul 18th, 2015, 01:14 PM
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KathBC, I think Kicheche Camps do not have the single supplement. They're a bit more $ than Porini though, so maybe it is all the same, in the end, if Porini has singles supplement.

I (with grandson) was at Porini Lion in June 2014. Loved the camp itself!! Loved the staff! ALL the game drives were great. We spent one full day in the Mara and saw one of the big river crossings--amazing!!! If returning, and could afford it, I'd stay at Lion Camp again!!!

If booking there, and you want to be really close to the animal inhabitants, ask for the tent at the far end. (Don't recall the name, but as you're facing the dining tent, it's the one farthest to your right---Julie at GW should know.) It's right at edge of the bank of the little river that runs through camp, and the hippos climb the bank at night, making their grunting noise and bumping against the tent. This from the folks who stayed there while we stayed.

I'm not sure if, when you asked about people having been lately, you meant the two Porini camps only, or also the Mara. So forgive this digression if i misunderstood. On previous trips to the area, I've stayed at Keekorok Lodge and Serena on the hill overlooking the main river crossing point (and decades ago, just plain old pitch-agent camping!). As you know, the lodges are quite different accommodations from the tented ones, but the prices, especially at Keekorok, are way less than Porini. I understand the reasons ...but thought I'd mention these as you mention cost. Also, Royal Mara Camp, with seven (covered) tents in a neighboring conservancy, costs quite a bit less. Haven't been, but would strongly consider if my budget less than what we could afford last yr for Porini.

GW can book anywhere, not just its own Porini Camps although obviously, they'll push those as it is the same company. And Porini Camps, likewise, can be booked by other travel companies, including the smaller local ones. I wonder if their prices are less that way? Go Kenya and Dawn Africa are two I intend to check next time.

Finally re the game drives from conservancies; One of the big selling points the camps push is that there are few other jeeps, especially at animal sightings. Ha! There may be fewer camps within a particular conservancy (e.g.Olare-Motorogi for Lion Camp) but each of those camps has three or more vehicles. At several times, we were definitely not only one or two among other vehicles. There were six jeeps at one leopard-in-cave sighting. For me, that was not a big deal--my attitude is, everyone is there to share the wealth of this beautiful experience. But i think the image of just you and the guide and the animals happens less than is "sold"--especially at the peak-season safari times of year.

Enjoy the dreaming and planning!
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Jul 18th, 2015, 07:55 PM
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Hi KathBC
I feel for you with the single prices as I am a single traveler also.
Last February I booked a 6 night Porini stay (3 nights Porini Amboseli and 3 night Porini Mara at the Adventure Camps. The price was within my budget and I was looking forward to the Adventure Camps.
3 weeks before departure I was offered a complementary upgrade to the tented camps. Did not say "no". (I did not book direct with GW but through a TA in Cape Town that I often use.)
I found the game drives on the Porini Mara conservancy to be excellent. Lots of cheetah, antelope and a serious lion fight. Only shared the sightings with one other Porini vehicle and we had the lion fight to ourselves. I thought the scenery and site of the camp was wonderful.
The day trip to the Mara was not so good for sightings but the landscape is beautiful.
The guides at Porini Mara were very good.
I did not go to Porini Lion but some other guests at Porini Mara had been there previously and raved about it.
Have a great trip. I am off the Zimbabwe in November and already packing.
Elaine
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Jul 20th, 2015, 02:53 PM
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It's so hard to tell who charges SS and who doesn't! Am not a fan of quotes without a breakdown of the costs even tho that's the way it's been done for ions. Isn't it time to change??! Last year for Namibia I knew exactly what I was being charged for at every spot which allowed me to add or take away a day here & there.

I do like the concept of the Porini Camps so want to support them. Porini Lion sounds wonderful but I'd be open to another camp in the same price range or less to replace Porini Mara. The problem is not really knowing what my ppn is for PL or PM cause there's flights included in the quote.

Will request a quote to replace PM with Kicheche and see what that looks like and report back.

Elaine you can never pack too early!!
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Jul 20th, 2015, 09:56 PM
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Kicheche do charge a single supplement in peak season (mid July to end Oct). I've used their camps a few times and really like them- they are smaller than the Porini Camps, but I think they are a bit more expensive but work out about the same if you are solo and go when there's no SS. I have always gone Jan/Feb. The Asilia camps also don't charge off peak.

I don't know anywhere that doesn't charge in peak season. But given the current situation in Kenyan tourism it's worth asking if places will waive the SS. But to be honest there is no way I'd book a Kenya trip this far in advance unless it was a very good deal. I'd wait until nearer the time. Maybe even last minute- Asilia do some very good last minute rates for example.
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Jul 21st, 2015, 04:34 PM
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Have you checked out the Offbeat Camps (Meru and Mara)? I don't think they charge a single supplement. Their Mara camp is in the Mara North conservancy. I've been there twice and love it! Meru is a great park, as well. Offbeat also has Sosian Ranch in Laikipia, so you could do a combination of camps. They usually have special deals if you stay at more than one camp.
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Jul 21st, 2015, 07:59 PM
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stokeygirl - I'm pretty stuck the the month of Oct for this trip and not booking until I find out the date of the event I'm going to. For now am just checking on what's out there. You're very brave to wait until the last minute to book! Not sure I could do it altho that might be tempting once retired.

Have you found prices any lower with less tourists going cause they still seem to be awful high to me, but then I don't normally go in Oct which I thought was shoulder season in Kenya.

Will be trying to get in on a stay 4 pay 3 deal altho one camp told me this was only available for double occupancy.

Shaytay - Thanks will check out Offbeat to see what they have on offer.
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Jul 21st, 2015, 10:27 PM
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Actually, ShayTay is right. I think Offbeat may well not have a SS all year. Definitely worth a look.

I think you are not finding deals because October 2016 is too far ahead- many deals are announced and are only until Dec 2015, then at some point they might be extended until, say, June 2016, and so on.

I get emails from blogs and FB updates from various companies, so although I haven't been actively researching Kenya recently I often see the deals when they are announced. Serian have been doing 6-for-4, Cheli and Peacock the same, Asilia has had 3-for-2 across their camps, although currently I think only Encounter Mara which they have recently taken over. But the rest of their camps are 4-for-3 I think. But most of these deals don't yet extend as far ahead as Oct 16. That's why I suggest leaving it later. Maybe later this year, early 2016 and you might start to see the offers extending that far.

You can look at camp availability for most camps on ATR's website. Take a look for this October at camps you are interested in. There's plenty of availability and that's only 3 months away. There are so many camps in the Mara, and bookings are low so I honestly don't think even leaving it really last minute would be a problem. Make a short list of half a dozen camps you like, and I bet you'll find space in one of them.
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Jul 22nd, 2015, 04:22 PM
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stokeygirl/shaytay - You're right Offbeat does not charge an SS and pricing looks attractive. A Mara/Meru combo is a possibility.

Great tips for timing on bookings - doubt I'll be in a a position to know dates till end of this year anyway.

Serian stay pay deals are only for double occupancy. Can't really blame them since a private vehicle is included with each tent. Would have loved to stay here but with SS & no stay pay Serian came in way over budget.

Replacing Porini Mara with Kicheche Valley or Rekero came in quite a bit over budget too.
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Jul 22nd, 2015, 04:31 PM
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How reliable is the info on ATR?

They're the only ones I've come across who post prices and availability.
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Jul 23rd, 2015, 12:18 AM
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I wouldn't take it as gospel but it's a good enough guideline. I've found the availability usually pretty accurate. I often check how busy my camps are going to be before I go on safari and it seems to be correct. With the pricing don't forget you need to add park fees. And prices might vary depending on who you book with, but it's a good guideline especially when looking at relative pricing between camps. I don't think the specials they list at the bottom of the page are very up to date, and especially the dates of them.

Other places for pricing and availability- some camps have their pricing and availability on their own website (I know Kicheche do). Eyes on Africa have a list of rack rates on their website (but not always up to date for all camps).

Also, when it comes to things like specials and single supplements, there's always a bit of room for negotiation. If a 3-for-2 deal ends in Dec and you want to book in Jan, get your agent to ask if they will give you the same deal. Ask if they will waive a single supplement. It always puts you in a better position if you are a repeat guest or you are booking a long stay or a lot of nights with the same group of camps.
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Jul 23rd, 2015, 08:49 AM
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I stayed at both Porini Lion and Porini Mara in Feb 2014. I loved both camps, would return again. The guiding is excellent and the wildlife is incredible in both places, far surpassing my Tanzania Serengeti experience, particularly for big cats.

I would not let access to or proximity to the Maasai Mara National Reserve change your plans. I did game drives into the reserve from both camps, and the game viewing was far better (quality and quantity) in the conservancies that the camps are in, rather than in the Reserve itself. You'll also find that the vehicle traffic is practically nil in the conservancies, oftentimes it would be my vehicle and maybe one other from our camp, as opposed to whatever you're up against in the Reserve.

My quote from the 10 days between these two camps was "you can't swing a cat without hitting a cat". In BOTH camps, I felt like we kept seeing lions, cheetah and in Lion Camp, leopard, without even trying. At Mara Camp, I saw a pride of 15 coming back from a night out hunting, and got the quintessential photo of them all lined up drinking at a watering hole in the early morning light. Conversely, I never saw more than 3 lions together on the game drives in the Reserve. The conservancies have native prides that the guides know the habits of well, so it's not hard to track them down.

I love the conservancy concept and would encourage you to stay in one. For my return safari in Feb 2016, I want to try a different conservancy in the Mara so I'm going with Encounter Mara (now under the Asilia umbrella). I booked in during the ebola crisis and managed to get three more nights on safari for the same price as my trip last year. Not sure if those sorts of deals still exist, but it's worth checking around.
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Jul 23rd, 2015, 04:47 PM
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Bill Given at The Wild Source was able to get us some great deals with Offbeat well in advance of our safari. When you get a better idea of your timeframe, check with them and get a quote.
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Jul 23rd, 2015, 06:50 PM
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stokeygirl - Good tips as always!

amyb - I could watch cats all day so am happy to hear you had such amazing sightings of them in the conservancies AND that you enjoyed both camps. The Porini Camps are definitely looking like a good option at this point.

Shaytay - Will contact Bill when dates are set.
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