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Susan Tyzack review 1 Aug 2007
1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?
Watching a cheetah and 2 cubs playing, chasing each other round and round a clump of trees. A classic safari sunset.
2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?
Be aware that
a) the road between Nairobi-Nakuru-Masaai Mara is under construction and is like driving down a motorway building site. This journey to and from the Nara takes up 2 whole days of your vacation.
b) You don't actually go into the Maasai Mara National Park, only in the wider conservation area. You are supposed to see as many animals, but I doubt this, and I'm sure the National Park regulations make it more environmentally responsible.
3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?
Some benefits through employment, but the Lodge was part of a chain and am not sure how much if any of the money gets into the local community. The tented camp employed about 10 people but the atmosphere was rather colonial and interactions with staff were rather stilted. On game drives in the Mara conservation area, off-roading is allowed. This means a lot of churned up tracks and 'track-creep'. This and radio contact between vehicles in the area meant that as many as 20 vehicles could encircle an animal quite closely, influencing its behaviour and direction of travel, even following it further into the bush.. Surely this isn't very responsible tourism.
4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?
Not very good value for money. We saw the 'Big Five' which was what seemed to be the main aim, but the lack of big variety of species and lack of real engagement with the drivers was disappointing after our experience in the Serengeti the previous week. 3 short optional extra walks seemed excessively priced at $20 per head.
Read the operator's response here:
1. We acknowledge that the road conditions in Kenya are terrible and there are two long journeys which we specify in our trip notes.
2. The Conservation Area is as good as the Reserve, in June I know the Conservation Area was better. During the migration the river crossing points are only in the Reserve and during this time the trips do spend a day in the Reserve.
3. The Conservation Area AND the Reserve are unfortunately NOT well managed, overcrowding does sometimes happen and 20 vehicles around a sighting is indeed outrageous. I do agree with your sentiments but unfortunately it is no better in the Reserve. There is currently a movement underway to bring professional management to the Conservation Area, the Reserve is managed by the local County Council.
4. With regards to Kicheche being part of a 'chain', there are a couple of camps under the same management team, which I guess you could label as 'a chain'? The Camp being colonial and interactions with staff being stilted, this has never been mentioned before, in fact guests tend to be very enthusiastic about the staff friendliness, However, I apologise that you did not feel this way. The manager William is Masai, the staff are all Masai apart from 2 chefs. The staff are nearly all from the local community, the money from souvenirs sold at camp goes straight to staff, we run a community project that recently rebuilt the local nursery school, we lease 1,000 acres of land from local masai landowners. In addition 100% of her Park fee goes to the local Masai landowners in the Conservation Area to leave their land undeveloped (which is why the land is still there for the wildlife today).
5. The negative comment about the drivers is a concern for us to follow up on. After some research I believe that the cost of the walks at $20 pp is actually cheap compared with any other properties in the area.
Thank you for your comments.