The Fairmont Mara Safari Club is a top notch hotel in the Mara North Conservancy in the Maasai Mara National Reserve. This hotel has become very dear to us for it’s amazing location, beauty and especially, their great staff and exceptional customer service. In our previous blog, we mentioned our safari tour-guide driver, Henry. Henry was absolutely wonderful. Starting with his over 10 years experience in game drives in the area, his personality makes you want to stay forever. He has definitely won a place in our hearts for as long as we live. Anne, at the reception, was also astounding in helping us with whatever we needed. What made our experience in Kenya that much better was the fact that everyone was friendly and eager to help at all times. No matter if it was first thing in the morning or the middle of the night. So today, I will be writing a review on our experience staying in this hotel.
We, originally, planned on visiting Africa in December 2014. Unfortunately, with the Ebola outbreak, we decided to postpone the trip further down the line. Although, the outbreak was nowhere near Kenya, we didn’t want to risk spoiling the fun with extra precautions in the airports and whatnot. So, we wrote to the manager of the hotel and they were kind enough to postpone the dates for us. Now, usually we always try to redeem free nights or points through our credit cards for hotels just like we do for flights. For more information on how to get to stay in this hotel for less or for free, click on the following link to read our blog “First Safari vacation in Kenya, Africa.” Let’s go to the first topic of reviewing this hotel…
This was the most interesting part of the whole safari experience since you don’t really have a hotel room or a key, you have a “tent” and a zipper to open and close your tent. And, in this hotel the tents are pretty upscale. A lot of resorts or “camps” in the Mara are real tents or camps that pack up and move to the next location, following the animals. Which also makes it more dangerous. Here, in the Fairmont, you have a little bit of both worlds. The tents have plumbing for showers and toilets. No air conditioning or permanent outter wall/roof structure. It’s all tent fabric with mesh for the outside breeze to flow through the tent. So during the day all the “windows” are open for natural light to come in and at night there are closed for privacy. You also have a mosquito net around the bed if you wish to use it just in case. There’s also, electricity for light and power to charge your electronics. But, there is no WiFi or television in the tent. Which is ultimately what makes it feel like camping. Consider it, camping with luxury commodities.
You also must remember to keep your tent door/zipper closed at all times. If you do not, the bush babies WILL terrorize your belongings looking for food. (lol) This actually happened to us one night. We came back from a long day out on safari and quickly left our belongings in the tent, along with whatever was left in our packed lunch boxes, and went to dinner. We either didn’t close the tent completely or those little rascals opened it themselves because when we came back from dinner, our tent was upside down! Rugs and blankets everywhere, shoes scattered, banana peels all over the floor, etc. It was a mad house! We first thought it could’ve been the wind. But, then later that night, while we were sleeping, they struck again! They were literally trying to open the tent zipper. We couldn’t believe it. Laughing in astonishment, we scared them off and made sure to close the tent very well and not leave anything lying around just in case.
But back to the tent, it was very comfortable and definitely fit the African Safari theme. The tent itself had plenty of space and was situated perfectly under a lot of shade so it was never too hot or too cold. The weather was always just right. You will even hear the soothing sound of nature while you sleep (water flowing, wind blowing and wildlife like birds, monkeys or zebras in the bushes surrounding the hotel)
The Fairmont offers more of a luxury experience and is one of the more expensive hotel camps in the reserve due to all of the commodities that are offered. But this might not even matter since you can get a good discount or get free nights with credit cards. So, in reality, there aren’t any real con’s to staying in these tents.
The Hotel grounds and Lobby
Some of the amenities include complimentary WiFi anywhere in the main building/lobby aside from a business room with a television and a few desktops for use at anytime by anyone. There is beautiful pool right behind the main lobby to refresh after a long, hot game drive. And various “Hippo Corners” to snap a couple pictures of them at anytime throughout the hotel grounds. The entire hotel is guarded and protected by an electric fence so that no real predator may enter the premises. They truly make you feel welcomed and safe at all times.
African food is very unique and delicious. And this hotel serves it well. With breakfast and lunch being buffet style and dinner being a 3-course “a la carte” menu. Every night you have different options as for what to order. All healthy, some light and absolutely decadent, from the starters down to the desserts. These traditional African plates come out to your table always beautifully decorated and appealing to the pallet. And once a week, they have BBQ buffet style dinner with entertainment from a local Masai Village that sings and dances while you eat to change it up a bit.
They do, however, have schedules. Breakfast is from 6:30am through 9:00am. Lunch is scheduled from 12:00pm to 2:30pm and Dinner from 7:30pm to 9:00pm. Here at the Fairmont Mara Safari Club, like any other camp/hotel in the park is considered full board or all inclusive if you pay out of pocket. This means breakfast, lunch and dinner. But, if you choose to redeem your free nights, as we did with credit cards, you will need to cover a daily charge of about $80.00 per person for the food and game drives to be included in your stay. You can also opt to having a romantic bush dinner while watching the amazing sunset on the Mara for an additional cost.
The Game Drives
Now, this was my favorite part of the whole trip. The game drives are like nothing else you have experienced. Unless, you’ve done game drives before on safari in Africa. Then you know what I’m talking about. The drivers, are experienced and well trained in looking for these marvelous creatures to ensure you will never be disappointed. We saw something interesting and exciting everyday. Whether it was the morning drive or the afternoon drive or the all day drive. Always something new and different. These drivers are talented in the art of surprising you. For things you can see on a game drive, check out our post “AFRICA: Safari in the Maasai Mara National Reserve“. On a full day safari, he will make sure to bring you a packed lunch and something to drink. And, on shorter drives, like morning or afternoon drives, he makes sure to have plenty of water in a cooler with ice for everyone to enjoy.
Most morning drives start at 6:30am and go to about 8:30am or 9:00am if something special is found. The afternoon drives start at 3:30pm and can go to about 7:00pm, giving you enough time to relax a little while and freshen up for dinner. If you and your group decide with the driver to do a full day drive, it will start around 7:30am or 8:00am to about 5:00pm. Now, this hotel assigns a safari driver tour-guide to you and he will be with you for your whole stay. He will take you out, day and night, pick you up from the air strip and drop you off when it’s time to leave. This is great idea from the hotel because this way you feel more comfortable and are more at ease with your driver everyday. This aspect makes it more enjoyable for you and the driver. Of course, aside from the regular game drives during the day, the hotel also offers night safaris and balloon safaris for an additional cost.
There are so many little details about this hotel that makes your stay worth while. For example, if you decide to take full advantage of all of the game drives, you can participate in the morning game drive which, as we mentioned, starts at 6:30am. So, you may ask, what about breakfast? Hakuna matata! You will never miss out on breakfast unless you wanted because all of the staff is aware of where you were and will make sure you get your breakfast by staying open a little longer just for you! During dinner they come to your table and kindly ask at what time you would like your wake up call and what you would like in your tent that early. Coffee? Juice? Tea? Anything you’d like. The staff here is always looking for ways to makes sure they exceed your expectations and go above and beyond to make you feel comfortable, safe and right at home.
Everyday, you receive the warmest “Jambo!”, “Good Morning! How are you this morning?” and my favorite “Karibu!”. You will wake up with them knocking on the steps of your tent and respectfully waking you up with “Jambo, jambo!”. And when coming back from every game drive, you are welcomed “home” and given a chilled wet towel refreshingly scented with eucalyptus for you to freshen up if you wish. It’s a remarkable hotel which we had the pleasure to experience and we would recommend it to anyone who decides to go on safari in the Maasai Mara National Reserve and surrounding conservancy!
Thank you Fairmont for such an amazing time. It was an experience of a lifetime!