Olonana, Mara River, Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya ****

Olonana, Mara River, Masai Mara, Kenya. That’s one big tent!
A typical tent at the Olonana. Quite a tent actually.

The bathroom in a typical tent at the Olonana camp.
A typical bathroom in a typical tent at the Olonana…

Olonana, Mara River, Masai Mara, Kenya. That
The patio where you could have an afternoon cocktail at the Olonana. The river
in the background is the Mara River. Hippos where mucking around there.

It’s hard not to order another Bloody Mary here. Very hard.
The bar area at the Olonana Camp. It’s quite hard to not order another Bloody Mary here.

Pumba, the domesticated warthog at the Olonana.
Pumba, the domesticated warthog, had quite impressive tusks. I wondered what he
really wanted to do? Charge towards the camera? Forget that he’s a herbivore?

It took only a second to find out: These guys are professionals.
Here’s the scene: After a 350 km drive I stumbled out of a muddy LandCruiser and was greeted by a smiling man who introduced himself as Maurice, Manager of Guest Relations. I’m allergic to such titles. In fact I hate them. But I soon realized that I should surrender to the smiling man with the dorky title. Maurice is a person who makes a difference. Plus; he is smiling 24/7. I tried to catch him off guard, but no… the guy is smiling around the clock. He is taking care of things, always one step ahead of you anticipating your needs. And if a problem arises he will solve it. Along with Duncan, who happened to be my personal butler, and the kitchen staff, Maurice made a whole lot of difference.

It’s the staff that makes the Olonana great.
A few things could be said about the location of the Olonana. First, try to imagine a snore that merges with the sound of an oinking pig. What is that? That’s the sound of hippos. The second most dangerous animal in Africa has a favourite spot about three meters from your tent, in a pool in the Mara River. You’d better get used to the sound. You are the visitor, OK?
Also, the sound of the rapid stream itself may affect your sleep. It affected mine, as I was asleep before I hit the pillow.
In short, you could expect a superb setting. There are, however, quite a number of camps featuring much more dramatic views and way more funky architecture than the Olonana. The prime reason to pick this place is the staff. You will be seriously well taken care of. By professionals.

Say hi to the neighbours next door. They are the Maasai.
This is Maasai land. Many staff members are Maasai. So far, so good. But on their website, the lodge will tell you that they are offering “a close cultural experience with the Maasai”. Ho-hum… the next time somebody is trying to interrupt my dinner with tribal dances, I will lock and load. It’s probably with the best of intentions and I’m sure some of the guests, like the group of Americans celebrating good ol’ Terry’s 70th birthday, were enjoying it a lot.
Seeing natives making the traditional jumps in front of dining and drinking bwanas who all suffer from high levels of cholesterol… Naah, it doesn’t do it for me. It Sorry, Olonana, that “close cultural experience” did cost you the fifth star.

Once again: It’s the staff.
The camp features 14 tents and the public area is quite tastefully furnished for being a safari lodge. Plus; the kitchen is as professional as the rest of the crew. When ordering for the first time you will be asked about preferences and/or allergies. The kitchen will serve you any meal at the time you want it. You just tell them. Also, the bartender John is probably one of the nicest persons that I’ve ever ordered a Bloody Mary from. It doesn’t hurt to spend too much time in the comfy sofas.
So, if you’re planning a trip to the Mara, consider Olonana. The level of professionalism could make the Olonana slightly less personal, but the staff easily makes up for it. And if you want to avoid any tribal dances, just arrive to dinner 15 minutes later. No, the kitchen won’t mind. After all, this is a place run by professionals.

Mara River
Masai Mara Reserve,

Phone: +254-20-6905-0002
Fax: +254-2-537-173

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