Review: Fairmont Mara Safari Club, Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya


For our three day stay in the Maasai Mara, we selected the Fairmont Mara Safari Club. We did this as they were easily accessible by air, were able to be partnered with our pre-safari lodging at the Fairmont Norfolk, and thanks to the Fairmont brand, we knew we were going to have a quality stay experience.

This post is one chapter on our trip to South Africa, a Safari in the Maasai Mara in Kenya and Mauritius. This trip was redeemed through Air Canada’s Aeroplan and through Starwood Preferred Guest (Marriott Bonvoy) and Hyatt Gold Passport. For more information on how this trip was booked, please see our trip introduction here. For other parts of the trip, please see this index.

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Review: Fairmont Mara Safari Club, Deluxe Tent, Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya

“The Fairmont Mara Safari Club offers an all inclusive experience, with included game drives and glamour tents that overlook a watering hole for hippopotamuses.”

This post outlines our stay with the Fairmont Mara Safari Club. For information on our game drives, please see the Game Drives in the Maasai Mara, please see this earlier review. For our visit to a village in the Maasai Mara, please see this activity.

How we Booked:

We ended up at the Fairmont Mara Safari Club as we did not have the vacation time to commit to a 10 day safari through Kenya or Tanzania AND visit South Africa and Mauritius on the same ticket. The Fairmont fit the bill as a tented camp with “included” game drives and full board (not including alcohol or soft drinks). We had already taken 3 weeks for this holiday and while we would have liked to have gone on a tour of the Ngorongoro Crater, or visited Mount Kilimanjaro, the fact was our relationships with our bosses would have suffered if we were away from work for more than three weeks. The answer to this circumstance was a three day safari at the Fairmont Mara Safari Club in the Maasai Mara, Kenya where we could visit all the animals and get in a safari experience.

We booked direct via the Fairmont website. As Fairmont President’s Club Members at the time, we ended up earning Fairmont Silver Status for the year thanks to our three separate stays tied with an Air Canada Elite promotion that was on at the time.

The Room Rate was full board and included breakfast, lunch and dinner (excluding alcoholic drinks) two game drives a day, airstrip transfers, and local state taxes for the game park.

It’s also worth noting that this property is less than 15 minutes transfer time by car from the Ngrende Airstrip to the resort, unlike some other properties in Kenya that involve more than a 60 minute transfer time. This allows you to maximize your time at the resort, an minimize your time travelling. I enjoyed this aspect of it, given that we were going be spending up to four hours a day in a car on a game drive.

Transferring to the Fairmont Mara Safari Club:

While it is possible to drive the 235 kilometres (posted at four hours and thirty five minutes) from Nairobi to the Fairmont Mara Safari Club, we opted for an air transfer with Air Kenya. After arriving from our Air Kenya Nairobi Wilson – Ngrende Airstrip flight, we were escorted off the airstrip to the parking lot where Fairmont provided a scented towel service and welcome drink. Aircraft took off for next destination with a dusty spool up of the engines, departing in the reverse direction from landing. It was a pretty unique experience arriving and watching the plane take off in the middle of nowhere surrounded by safari vehicles.

Fairmont Mara Safari Club Toyota Land Cruiser
Fairmont Airside Welcome Refreshments

The lounge was closed on our return visit. We didn’t get the opportunity to indulge. 

The Ngrende Airport Duty Free Lounge

The arriving passengers climbed into 2 separate Toyota Land Cruisers the trip to Fairmont Mara Club tented camp. Of course, the road to the camp and all other roads in this area are unsealed and unpaved.

Transferring to the Fairmont

Arriving to the Fairmont Mara Safari Club:

After a 10 minute drive from the airstrip to the Mara Club, we were given a personal tour of the lodge facilities and escorted to our room.

Welcome Signs

We saw some beautiful owls that were checking us out on the walk in. 

Magnificent Owl’s inspecting our arrival

The hotel check in formally completed in the tent. Surprisingly, no credit card deposit was required.

The Room: Deluxe Riverfront Tent, Queen, Non Smoking

All the rooms at the Fairmont Mara Safari Club are Riverfront tents. The tents consist of a permanent base with sealed edging.

The Fairmont Deluxe Riverfront Tent
A Deluxe Safari Tent.

Despite the plain looking outside, the tent was much more charming and elegant inside.

A Tented Bedroom
A Comfortable Queen

The tent had a small fridge, a pay mini bar, a radio phone to contact the lobby, an outdoor and indoor shower (the regular tents do not appear to have an outdoor shower). Those looking to relax with electronics may be disappointed as there was no television or internet available in the tent. Free wifi was available in the lobby.

There was a counter top chest with a portable phone. Inside the chest was the tea and coffee kettle, which was of the instant variety. They had also stocked the room with glassware and a fruit platter.

A Room without a television
Welcome Fruit Amenity and Instant Tea and Coffee
Available In Room Mini Bar

A Tented Washroom with an Outdoor Shower:

The tent’s back half of the room was the bathroom area. It was carefully divided into two zones; an indoor and outdoor zone. There was a small amenity table with mirror accompanied by Fairmont bathrobes. The bathroom was pretty spacious for a tent; much more spacious than any tent bathroom that I’ve been in.

Seated Amenity Mirror
Running Water in the Tent with a Single Vanity
Towel Racks and Space to Store your Clothes

Despite being a “tent” there was also an indoor washroom and shower. The washroom featured proper plumbing and sewage draining.

Our Deluxe Tent Room also featured an outdoor shower. As one of the world’s best privileges of travelling, I’ll never turn down an outdoor shower. This one was quite large in a round space. It’s worth noting that it wasn’t especially hot temperature wise outside in the air during our visit. If you’re looking for that tropical warm experience of an outdoor shower, this isn’t the place for it. The outdoor shower has more of an outdoor rustic feel to it closer to camping than exotic luxury. It was cold enough during my run from the tent to the shower and back!

Fairmont Deluxe Tent – Outdoor Shower

View from the Tent: A Hippopotamus Bathing Hole

Instead of televisions for entertainment, the tent backed onto the river which was a favorite bathing area of hippopotamuses. I spent a lot of time at the coffee table outside watching these guys swim about. It was better than any time I would have spent at the resort pool. 

View from the Tent Deck
Hippopottamus Float Outside the Tents
It’s something waking up to that view everyday

Lastly, it’s worth mentioning that there are no locks on tent door, and we were encouraged to leave all valuables in the in room safe. On our arrival the safe was not working- and it was resolved after 2nd night. 

Around the Resort:

The property offered a nice, but not over the top infrastructure. There was a pleasant lobby, a restaurant and a bar and lounge. There was also a library, which served as more of a quiet space.

Dining Area and Lobby Space
The Bar
The Lounge
The Library

There was also a small pool on the property. It had a bit of a shady exposure from what we saw when we were not on game drives. We did not use it during our stay. It didn’t have a beautiful infinity pool view like some other more modern water concepts but it would be a reasonable place to exist in the warmer months if you were not taking a game drive.

Fairmont Mara Club Outdoor Pool

Food and Beverage at the Fairmont Mara Safari Club:

The food at the Fairmont Mara Club, like many other safari lodges, is offered in alignment with the game drive times. The lunches and dinners were a la carte ordering (not buffet styled) and involved the choices of a starter, soup, main and dessert. The food was of satisfactory quality – I wouldn’t expect the usual Fairmont flair or haute cuisine, but it was perfectly average given the environment where we were in. The food was nicely presented and always available.

Lunch with Kenyan Local Tusker Beer
Local Burgers
Chicken with Rice for Lunch on the Pool Terrace
Beef Filet with Mixed Vegetables
Artistic Desserts

While there were wine lists available, we didn’t partake in them. Being in Africa, the wines were focused on South Africa with the occasional French label available. Given the early morning game drives, and the early bedtimes, were were not feeling overly indulgent.

Wine List
Wine Lists

Overall the accommodations aspect of the Fairmont Mara Safari Club lodge led to having a very comfortable stay. It is glamping (glamour camping) and if you keep this in perspective it makes for a very enjoyable stay. I slept really well, where as MrsWT73 had a sleepless night or two after the grounds surrounding our tent were ravaged in the middle of the night by “bush babies” – small nocturnal herbivore monkeys that ravage the Mara floor looking for food. We heard then scattering around the tent which kept MrsWT73 up for hours. There was also a turn down service provided while we were at dinner. On our first night, my wife found a hot water bottle in the bed. Although she was not expecting such an item and she jumped about 10 feet into the air. We usually heard crickets and frogs cricketing in the late night. There were also hippopotamuses groaning and snorting in early morning at 5 AM.

In Summary: The Fairmont Mara Safari Club

All in, the stay experience is perfect for those looking for a quicker safari that can’t commit to a longer 5-10 day trip. The Fairmont was able to accommodate a 3 day trip with ease and perfect for those that are looking to get in a little game viewing paired with a busy schedule. The quality of the resort, while not up to true first world standards, is pretty good and excellent if you take a view of it as luxury glamour – camping. Like most Fairmont Resorts we’ve stayed at, the service was excellent. It was professional, subdued and discreetly attentive. I would easily return to this resort as our experience was very good bordering on excellent.

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