Safari Experience at Saruni Maasai Mara

Set high up in the hills in a private conservancy of the Maasai Mara, Saruni really lives up to its Maasai meaning - 'tranquility.'




Having grown up in Kenya I have been lucky enough to visit the world famous Maasai Mara on several occasions, but my trip to Saruni marked my first visit to a private conservancy. For those of you unfamiliar with the area, the Maasai Mara marks a 580 square mile stretch of land in South West Kenya along the Tanzanian border. The central and arguably most famous part is the Maasai Mara National Reserve and the Mara Conservancy, but dotted around the reserve are private conservancies which seem to be growing in popularity.


Saruni is located in Mara North Conservancy (MNC) which is managed by a partnership of conservationists, camp owners, and 800 Maasai land owners. What really impressed me about this arrangement was the direct benefit for the local Maasai from Tourism. The MNC has provided educational and healthcare facilities for the local population as well as providing employment opportunities.


Equally the MNC has established land boundaries to protect wildlife and prevent conflict with the Maasai. The number of tourists are also kept to a minimum and the few member camps are under strict regulation to use more eco-friendly practices such as solar power.


In summary I am a new fan of the Mara North Conservancy, now on to the lodge!

The Lodge


Saruni was built 14 years ago by an Italian journalist from Brescia. The construction of the lodge was no easy feat, with lorries carrying building supplies in the rainy season getting stuck in the mud for up to a week at a time. That being said I think the end results were worth it!


We stayed in the beautiful family villa which comprised of two rooms, two bathrooms, a central living area and a lovely verandah with a view.



 

I particularly liked how I could lie in any direction on my bed and still have room for 3 other people!




I also really liked how so many of the added touches to the room were uniquely Kenyan such as the bathrobes made out of the Kenyan Kikoy fabric, the toiletries were all sourced from a local producer, and the sun beds were lined in the shuka material.


If you have never been to the Mara it is worth noting that 99% of places in the Mara are full board, which of course makes sense as you can't really nip out for an evening meal. In Saruni the cost per night also includes two games drives and wine or beer with your meals which worked out just perfectly for us as it meant we had absolutely nothing to think about - total relaxation.


The only slight trouble was that Saruni require payment in full prior to arrival by either bank transfer or a credit card link which is unusual for Kenya and turned out to be difficult for us as we were travelling at the time with limited access to banks or internet.


The Food


The meals at Saruni were excellent and to top it off they were mostly healthy with lots of fresh fruit and vegetables. Our first meal at Saruni was a 3 course lunch consisting of pasta with a touch of olive oil and capsicum as a starter, spinach tart with beetroot, feta and fresh salad as a main course, and coconut ice cream for dessert.


In the evening our meal was served at the communal dining table which provided a great opportunity to chat to the other guests as well as our guides to find out a little bit more about the Mara and the local community. During our stay Saruni was hosting a meeting for camp owners and Maasai land owners to talk about conservation so we got an insight into the inner workings of the private conservancies.


The real star of the show was breakfast. We sat down to the most picturesque setting looking over the hills. As usual I ate far too much but it was all so delicious.


The Safari


My initial concern about staying in Saruni as opposed to in the National Reserve itself was that there may be less game to see. Our guide Kisimei definitely proved that to be false, we saw so much during our stay and the best thing about it was nobody else was around!


The downside of staying in the National Reserve can be that it is a little too popular, so if you spot lions or other rare game you will suddenly find yourself sharing the view with 6 other cars. It was incredibly special to have the place seemingly to ourselves on this trip, I think we saw only one other car the entire time.



After our evening drive Kisimei set up sundowners under a lone acacia tree, a perfect Out of Africa moment. We then sipped our wine watching the sun set over the Savanna, and to top it off we turned around to see a full moon begin to rise on the other side!


A truly magical experience!


Summary


Would I recommend Saruni to a friend?




Absolutely!

Of all my visits to the Maasai Mara this trip to Saruni was special. Kisimei was a great guide and it was wonderful to watch the wildlife with barely anyone around. The lodge itself has been very tastefully done and I was totally sold by the good work the Mara North Conservancy is doing both in terms of conservation and supporting the local community.


Liakada

8 comments:

  1. What a stunning lodge and beautiful pictures, I would love to go on safari Lucy x

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    1. Safari is such a good time Lucy, would recommend it!

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  2. Saruni sounds like a fabulous place for a safari, with stunning villas and most importantly plenty of wildlife to spot

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  3. The accommodation here looks lovely, especially with the inclusion of welcome drinks, and then pancakes for breakfast - yum! This really does seem like a lovely way of immersing yourself with the outdoors, and wildlife.

    aglassofice.com x

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    1. I did love those morning pancakes!

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  4. Replies
    1. It was very nice! Thanks for stopping by!

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