Alex Walker's Serian properties offer a truly authentic safari experience. If you're looking for fantastic locations, superb hospitality and top quality guiding then put this camp on your short list. We loved it.
Each of the camps share some common factors:
Game drives are operated on an EXCLUSIVE basis for all guests - a huge benefit;
A wide range of tailored activities is offered including game drives, walking, night drives, bush dining and sundowners;
There is a strong conservation ethic with the camp being involved in various wildlife projects and many guides and camp staff coming from the local Maasai community.
Please note: there is no wifi at any of the camps (however you can buy a cheap SIM at the airport as there is mobile coverage in this area).
There are four camp options in Kenya's Masai Mara:
Ngare Serian has just four fabulous ensuite riverside tents;
Serian Original (Mara North) has seven ensuite tents including one family tent;
The Nkorombo Mobile Camp has five tents with bush bathrooms and safari showers;
The Serian 'Nest', is a charming satellite overnight camp comprising of a treehouse for romantic sleep outs overlooking the river.
This was the first of Alex Walker’s camps, and it perfectly captures the essence of its name, meaning ‘peaceful, calm, serene’ in the Maasai language. The camp was designed to be a retreat from the bustle of contemporary life, and a chance to experience untamed Africa in traditional tented fashion. The camp lies in the private Mara North Conservancy, with its seven tents and mess strung out along the river. The beauty of this location within a private conservancy is that only 10 or so other small safari camps have access to the land, with a ratio of around 1 guest to 350 acres. This helps to ensure exclusivity and a top quality, low density safari experience.
The tents are very private and all slightly different. Each one is set on hardwood decking, concealed by the bush, high above the Mara River with views over the Olooloo Escarpment beyond. Malindi fabrics and lovely accessories ensure a shabby chic African feel throughout. The camp feels very organic and has lots of character with quirky touches. Uneven floors add to the camp's charm.
All guest tents have their own characterful bathrooms with running hot and cold water, flush loo, shower and fantastic custom bathtub. These self-contained bathroom areas are a few steps away from the main bedroom tent. Tents 7 and 5 have a stylish washroom incorporated within the main bedroom tent as well as a full bathroom beyond.
The main mess area at Serian Original is elevated above the river and catches a glorious breeze through the trees - the views are stunning. There are lots of comfortable shady places to sit and relax and the main boma with its thatch roof, large dining table, comfy sofas and log fire is completely lit by candles at night ensuring a very atmospheric and convivial space. Off this central mess area is also a Research room with additional charging facilities, books and information about the conservancy and wildlife. You can read up about various projects like the Mara Lion, Mara Cheetah and Mara Elephant projects.
Our favourite camp undoubtedly was the intimate Ngare Serian on the opposite bank of the river to Serian Original - a really beautiful small camp which we were delighted to be invited to stay at in May 2017. To reach Ngare Serian you need to brave the narrow bridge strung over the river - it's strictly one person at a time! Once across you will be warmly welcomed by Sophie, the Argentinian tap dancing camp manager. Ngare is a small and perfectly formed tented camp. The bridge takes you to the lovely main mess tent which has a deck looking straight out over the river. The tent has comfy chairs and books, and a large dining table and bar area. There's a small lawn behind - I'm told that croquet has been played here. This area was beautiful by night with lanterns and a roaring fire pit. Bush babies jumped around in the trees and you could hear hippo song from the river below. Wifi - the camp dog - was flaked out on the deck for most of my visit, keeping half an eye out for marauding monkeys.
The four tents are positioned east of the main mess, right on the riverbank far apart from each other for maximum privacy. All the tents have the same footprint, sitting on large wooden decks right down at river level. The tents are larger than those at Serian Original. Tent One is the closest to the mess area and is framed by a mown path and lawn and enjoys the rush and babble of white water. Tent Four is furthest away and is known as the Hippo Tent as it overlooks the calm, quiet water of the hippo lagoon further downstream. Tent Four's bath tub is also positioned for optimum views of the river. All the tents have lovely showers, sunken custom bathtubs, double vanity sinks, huge bed(s) and a comfy sofa on the deck. Morning tea/coffee arrived with the sunrise. Everything felt effortlessly stylish.
Wildlife is prolific in this area, from large family groups of giraffe and elephant to big cats. We were lucky enough to see a lioness with her cubs - they were tiny, just a few weeks old. The guides knew her family history and were even present when she gave birth so were able to give lots of information. Spending time with gorgeous Fred, a 53 year old bull elephant with the most stunning tusks and part of the Mara Elephant project was a real highlight.
We would recommend a minimum of three nights at Serian Original or Ngare - stay longer if you can or consider combining nights here with the Nkorombo mobile to make a fantastic five or six night safari.
The Nest Treehouse
The 'Nest' is reached beyond Tent Four - it's a short walk through the bush with your guides. The treehouse, reached by a ladder, has a double bed and a sofa bed so could sleep a family. There is a also a washroom. The treehouse looks out east over the river and I'm sure sunrise here would be very special indeed. We walked to the Nest for afternoon tea which was a great way to start the afternoon's activities.
The Nkorombo Mobile
This is a private mobile tented camp perfect for getting as close as possible to wild Africa. Staying in a mobile camp and sleeping under canvas gives you a different experience. You still have an ensuite bathroom with flush loo but enjoy a safari hot water 'bucket shower' for instance, and camp life very much revolves around the camp fire. The camp has a riverside location and is adjacent to a salt lick where black rhino, leopard and lion are regular visitors. During migration months the mobile allows you to get closer to the river crossings too. We like to use the mobile for 2 or 3 nights before a stay at main camp or Ngare.
All the tents are incredibly comfortable and stylish with everything you might need - my tent even had wellies! Lovely bathrobes are hung up waiting for you, filtered drinking water is provided in lovely glass bottles with Maasai beading. A hot water bottle was delivered when I was away at dinner and I returned to find my deck covered in lanterns. All the accommodation here is high quality - I would say the Ngare Serian tents are more spacious and a little more luxurious and I enjoyed their proximity to the river. However you do need to negotiate the bridge at least four times a day (sometimes in the dark!) to reach Ngare - I woud say it is definitely worth it. Camp watchmen (askaris) escort you to and from your tent after sundown. During our stay we were treated to the most wonderful chorus of lion roars coming from just behind camp after dinner.
In all the camps, dining is usually communal. Breakast is most often taken as a bush breakfast with your guide and driver with lunch and dinner being served at the camp around a large table. Food was healthy and delicious with lots of choice. The camp aims to offer a special bush supper out on the conservancy at least once a week.
Expert guiding is something Alex Walker's camps are known for, always aiming to deliver an exceptional and authentic safari experience. As well as game drives in the wonderful Mara North conservancy you can also enjoy balloon rides, bush dinners, exploring at night, getting out on foot, river fishing, learning traditional cultures amongst other things.
Game drives are conducted in custom 4x4 vehicles, usually with both a driver and a guide. All game drives are on an exclusive basis just for your group meaning you can spend time doing the things important to you - this is a huge benefit.
Mara North is a special place - the 13 camps/lodges here work in partnership with the Maasai landowners to protect the land and its wildlife. You will see the Maasai and their cattle as you move around the conservancy. The Maasai have set areas and rotate their grazing land. There is a compensation scheme should any predator kill Maasai cattle - this has helped to reduce revenge attacks on lions for example. Several important conservation projects such as the Mara Elephant Project are based in the conservancy. Many of the lodges have Maasai staff among them, from managers and housekeepers to guides.