Just north of the legendary Masai Mara National Reserve, in the quiet wilderness of the Olare Motorogi Conservancy, there are seven tents hidden within a copse of riverine trees. To get to them, you follow a wooden walkway that leads straight between an acacia tree's branches, which curve upward like a candelabra. Acacia trees, flat-topped and seemingly frozen in motion, are a symbol of East Africa, and this particular tree was a deciding factor when National Geographic Explorers-in-Residence Dereck and Beverly Joubert and their partners at Great Plains Conservation set out to build a lodge here. The tree is a natural gateway to an exceptional safari experience.
Mara Plains Camp is at once elegant and unassuming. The seven elevated tents and the main camp area are crafted of rough-hewn wooden floors and billowing canvas and filled with an exquisite collection of furnishings and decor that recall the colonial influences of bygone centuries, as well as Kenya’s Swahili and Maasai roots. Whether you come for the thundering wildebeest, the rainbow-colored birds, or to experience the culture of the Maasai person firsthand, Mara Plains Camp is the perfect setting for immersing yourself in the mystique and the beauty of the East African savanna.
What happens when a handful of leading conservationists get together to design a safari lodge? A place barely visible from the outside but extraordinary from within, where nature is the star and wildlife is welcome, where canvas wins out over concrete or glass and even the flashlights are solar powered. Great Plains Conservation, the ecotourism group founded by conservationists and filmmakers Dereck and Beverly Joubert and their partners, has created their lodges and travel experiences with the main goal of supporting local communities and the conserving the area’s wildlife and culture. It's a concept known as “conservation tourism,” and you can see it in action at Mara Plains Camp and two sister properties that are also featured in the National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World collection: Zarafa Camp and ol Donyo Lodge.
What it means for you is 100,000 acres to explore and rarely another safari vehicle within sight. It means a top-notch experience from the meals to the professional camera equipment that’s yours to use during your stay, but also an experience that’s never far from the wilds you’ve come to see. You might just find a monkey on your veranda or a bushbaby on your roof. Most certainly, you will fall asleep to the low bellowing of hippos in the nearby river and the nocturnal sounds of the African bush all around you.
Guests who reserve their space through National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World will be invited to join the lodge manager and a Maasai warrior for a private bushwalk at twilight, followed by a sundowner (a cocktail) under an acacia tree. Enjoy a chance to discuss Maasai culture and get an inside look at ongoing conservation projects at the lodge.
With conservationists at its helm and a well-respected conservation tourism group at its back, Mara Plains Camp is involved in numerous ongoing projects to preserve the region’s wildlife and ecosystems. One example is National Geographic’s Big Cats Initiative (BCI), a comprehensive program established by the Jouberts to raise awareness about falling populations of lions, cheetahs, and other large felines and to support efforts to reverse their decline. BCI currently funds 35 projects (and counting) in 13 countries, and Great Plains Conservation has secured a substantial BCI grant for the area surrounding Masai Mara.
The lodge is located within a conservancy on private land owned by the local Maasai and leased to Great Plains Conservation. This model, used throughout Kenya thanks to the efforts of conservationists and communities to foster such partnerships, creates a viable economic incentive to protect wildlife and conserve the natural habitat.
The Safari Awards: Best New Camp-Finalist 2015
The Safari Awards: Best Romantic Room or Tent-Finalist 2015
The Safari Awards: Best Ecologically Responsible Property-Finalist 2015
Please note: A State Department travel warning for Kenya is currently in effect (click here to view the State Department's information page on Kenya). We closely monitor events in the region, and will alert booked guests to any significant developments.
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