Mara Plains Camp
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 Masai Mara Game Reserve in the 30,000 acre Olare Orok 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 Masai Mara region. It is just one of three camps currently operating within the Olare Orok Conservancy, which boasts the region’s lowest vehicle density with no mini-buses, and only one guest room per 700 acres!
Here, it is possible to avoid the high tourist density of the Masai 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 Masai Mara Game Reserve itself.
The camp caters for only 14 guests in seven uniquely designed octagonal canvas rooms. Each is raised on decks, and opens on three sides to the outside. Floor to ceiling net walls and the marquis ceiling make for very open-air and inviting environs. The rooms have a dressing area as well as private verandahs with seating and exquisite views. The en-suite facilities consist of a double basin vanity, flush toilet and shower.
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.
Mara Plains offers possibly the widest range of activities anywhere in the greater Masai Mara – early morning and late afternoon and night game drives, balloon safaris (at extra cost), authentic local village visits and unrivalled access to superior wildlife habitats.
Game drives – day and night to see the wildlife and beauty of the conservancy
Bush walks - get up close with the landscape and wildlife on guided walks
Cultural & village visits
Photographers – for photographers and non-photographers alike – have specially designed our Toyota Land Cruisers. We are among the only, if not the only camp, in the Masai Mara to have completely open game drive vehicles. The thoughtful engineering provides all-round visibility with a (removable) canvas roof, and comfortable bucket seats. These rugged, 4X4 vehicles provide access to all of the region’s diverse ecosystems, and do so with ease.
Bush breakfasts & lunches
Mara Plains is located on the Olare Orok Conservancy, one of the northern conservancies which act as a buffer zone to the Mara reserve in south western Kenya. The OOC is run and based on a low impact but high yield model of conservation and what makes it special is that it is the local Masai people who benefit from having the wildlife on their land.
Mara Plains is one of a few camps in the Mara that have been constructed without any cement so making it possible for the entire camp to be removed leaving no trace. All the existing structures in the camp are on raised decks limiting covered surface area. The rooms all have only three ‘feet’, each resting on a flat river stone lying on the surface.
As any camp should, Mara Plains tries to minimize any impact it may have on the surrounding ecosystem so as to be as natural and eco- friendly as possible.
Water – Water for the camp is drawn from a hand dug well located next to the Ntiakitiak River. This water is pumped by solar pump to header tanks so as to cut out any burning of fuels. The water from the header tanks then passes through a triple filter system with UV treatment before heading to the camp. At present hot water is heated in eco boosters. Due to the delicacy of the areas ecosystem the conservancy does not allow the collection of any form of fuels from the area. For this reason Mara Plains runs its eco-heaters on sustainable fire wood brought in every couple of months from exotic plantations outside the region. We hope that by October we all hot water will be solar heated.
Electricity – The Electricity in the camp is currently run on 24 deep cycle batteries operating through a duel inverter system. The batteries are charged by a 15.5 KVA generator which is run only four hours a day and is located inside a room soundproofed with mud walls and recycled egg trays. From October 2011 we hope to have the camp power running 100% on solar cutting down fuel consumption as well as our already minimal noise pollution.
Wastes - Mara Plains tries to cut down as much as possible on our waste. All drinking water is bottled and is brought to the camp in 20L recyclable containers. When guests arrive they are given their own personal water bottle for the duration of their stay. These bottles are filled as need-be and re-used meaning other than the plastics collected by guides on drives the camp has very little plastic waste. The small amounts collected at Mara Plains as sent to Nairobi for re-cycling. All metals, cans, tins etc are collected and stored in the camp before being sent to recycling plants in Nairobi.
All glass is also collected and sent to Nairobi for recycling.
All combustibles are incinerated on site.
Organic waste is put into a bio pit where it decomposes. This pit is not accessible to the wildlife ensuring there is no dependence being caused by the presence of the camp.
Grey Water – All grey water from the kitchen passes through a large grease trap cleaned weekly. It then passes into a sedimenting pit before continuing into a soak away pit.
All linen is washed ‘off-site’ at a location outside the conservancy. This ensures that we only use minimal amount of detergents on guest clothing. All water used for the ‘in-camp hand washed laundry’ passes through a constructed natural filter to remove soaps and detergents before returning back into the ground.
Black Water – Currently the camp operates using septic treatment systems for its black water. In the near future we hope to install new existing technology systems which cleans black water into a state fit to be recycled around the camp grounds etc.
Born and bred in the Mara region, Daniel attended schools local to Mara Plains camp, and always strived to work in the tourism industry to meet people from all over the world and to share with them the beauty of his country. He graduated from Koiyaki Guiding School in 2007 with a certificate in Tour Guiding and First Aid, and furthered his education there in 2009 qualifying in Advanced Field Guiding. He was immediately employed by Ol Seki camp in the Mara, and later moved to the Chyulu Hills near Kilimanjaro, to guide at Ol Donyo Lodge, in one of the most extraordinary landscapes in Kenya, where his knowledge of birds and plants were especially enriched. Staying with Great Plains Conservation, Daniel joined Mara Plains in 2011, and is thrilled to come back home to his native lands. Most importantly Daniel strives to teach his guests about the rich diversity of wildlife here, as well as the desperate importance of protecting this priceless ecosystem. He feels extremely privileged to have the opportunity to deliver the message of wildlife and environmental conservation to a global audience for the benefit of generations to come.
Born in Talek in 1985, local town to Mara Plains, Kevin attended Ole Sankale boarding school, and then Olchekut Sipat Apostolic School where he developed a keen interest in tree planting and was a member of the Friends of Conservation Society. He later joined Riverside Camp, working as a freelance guide for two years, developing his understanding of mammals and birds. From there he enrolled in Koiyaki Guiding School near his home in the Masai Mara, excelling in his studies of flora and fauna, and graduating with a certificate in Tour Guiding and Wildlife Management. Joining the Mara Plains team in 2009, Kevin continues to wow his guests with his hawk eyes, uncanny intuition and acute understanding of wildlife.
Richard Pye, born in Mombasa, Kenya, grew up speaking Kiswahili and learning the ropes from local fisherman. Throughout his life, Richard spent much time in the Chyulu Hills, where along side his uncle Richard Bonham, he developed and nurtured his love of wildlife and conservation. He began guiding at age 17, specializing in walking safaris. As a Kenya native, he’s educated on continent in Kenya & South Africa, where he graduated from the University of Cape Town with a BSc in Social Sciences, focused on Archaeology and Anthropology. His safari experience is extensive – managing camps across Kenya and Tanzania, operating a conservancy in the Tana Delta (Kenya), guiding a 3-month exclusive overland trip through East Africa, and tracking African wild dog on foot across Northern Kenya as a researcher. We are pleased to have a man of this diverse experience at the helm at Mara Plains.
Joining Richard is Lorna Buchanan-Jardine, hailing from Scotland, where her love of the outdoors was fostered by exploration of the surrounding highlands. She was first hooked on Africa & travel at the age of 14 when on safari in the Kruger, and she’s been on-the-go since. After school, Lorna immediately left for South America to hike the Inca Trail, then onward to drive the length of New Zealand and Australia, kayak Malaysia, and cycle across France. All of this bolstered her appetite for photography, which she later studied at the International Centre of Photography in New York and then at Newcastle College. Post-degree Lorna assisted well-renown London-based photographers, traveling intermittently to pursue personal photographic projects in India and to gather material for her exhibitions. In the following years as a freelancer, she landed in Kenya with her rucksack, an old manual Nikon and an intention of photographing the Digo tribe. But with the then elections and slightly associated chaos, she & Richard instead drove 15,000 kilometres around Southern Africa. After 2 years, she moved to Kenya full time and we are lucky to have her, and her immense talent – leading Mara Plains.
For anyone wishing to learn photography while on safari at Mara Plains, Lorna is more than happy to show you how to get the best results from your camera.
Johnson ‘Ping’ Nkukuu:
Born in 1973, Ping began his training as a naturalist whilst herding cattle with his father, who taught his son all of the Maasai’s medicinal uses of plants and trees as well as explaining the behaviour of the wild animals. At primary school Ping enrolled in the Environment and Wildlife Club, and then in high school became Provincial Organizer for the Science Clubs. Moving on to Nairobi, Ping studied Tours Travel Administration, Guest Relations and Essential Guiding Skills, and then trained as a ranger and safari guide in two prestigious South African guide schools. After graduation Ping guided for three safari camps in the Masai Mara, before travelling further afield. He moved to Florida in 2000 to work for Disney as guide and host of their Animal Kingdom attraction, and then to Atlanta Zoo where he interpreted and explained African wildlife behaviour for visitors. Coming home again to Africa Ping returned to the Masai Mara to guide safaris in very high end camps, conduct environmental awareness programmes for local children, and to give lectures on the very rich Masai culture. He joined Film Safaris Camp in 2007 and stayed on when it changed hands in 2009, becoming Mara Plains. He is senior guide, a fountain of information and a huge asset to the team.
Juma, our head chef, trained for 3 years in Food & Beef Production, Service & Control at NYC College, Nairobi. Then he went on to train for 2 years in bakery, pastry, cake making and decoration. So he loves nothing more than to make cakes for special occasions, and all round is an outstanding chef.