Review by: Keith Bennett & Susan Fuchter

Overall Impressions

Overall, our trip was excellent. We score 4/5 rather than 5/5 because: We are aware it was less expensive but the Saruni Mara camp was far inferior to the Elewana Sand River as follows: a) It was a long way to the start of game drives, up to an hour every time we left the camp b) The Land Rover vehicles that were used were very old and very uncomfortable, bordering on unpleasant at times. They had bench seats and no passenger doors, requiring an awkward climb, difficult for older people. The wooden steps used to help the initial climb into the vehicle were unsafe and falling to pieces c) The Elawana Sand River vehicles were brand new Toyota Land Cruisers with a permanent cold box containing beer and soft drinks; there were nor drinks of any kind available on the Saruni Mara vehicles. d) The food was OK, but only OK. There was no choice of starter, main course or desert at lunch and dinner, and we were not advised of the menu until the food arrived, giving no opportunity to ask for a substitution e) Our guide/driver was not great; he was relatively uncommunative and unwilling to consider swapping us to the one vehicle that they had with doors and bucket seats, even for our full day trip and even though our party of four included the three oldest people in the camp at the time. f) The organisation was lacking at times; it just didn't feel a slick as the other camp and the hotel in Rwanda g) The staff came across as surly at times The rooms were very good. The representatives in Nairobi, Cheli and Peacock, were excellent apart from they stored our luggage in their office at WIL when we went to the Maasai Mara; they were supposed to liaise for Hemingways to collect our luggage before we arrived back at WIL but they didn't. Our flight back to Nairobi from Mara North was very late and the Cheli and Peacock office was closed. We did however get lucky as the member of staff who had closed the office was about fifty metres away and was called back by a third party to assist us, otherwise we may have had to leave our luggage behind. Also, the Hemingways driver assigned to collect us from WIL was waiting at the SafariLink terminal at WIL but we were travelling with Air Kenya. Note that we were advised at Mara North airstrip during our wait of nearly three hours without any water that AirKenya was unreliable and we would have been much better advised to travel with SafariLink.

Countries Visited

Rwanda

Clean, friendly, safe. Our guide/driver, Henry, was excellent The Genocide Museum was harrowing. At Henry's suggestion, we also had a bonus visit at additional cost (which was not a problem) to the museum at the Parliament building.

Kenya

We didn't venture outside of the hotel in Nairobi; Nairobi did not feel very safe. The Maasai Mara was awesome; we saw some wonderful animals but, unfortunately, did not see a migration crossing, possibly because the camps, especially Saruni Mara, were too far from the main crossing points. The souvenir sales people at the Mara gates and, especially at the shop that we visited on our Nairobi city tour, were over enthusiastic. Rwanda was quite different in this respect.

Accommodation Visited

Five Volcanoes Boutique Hotel

Excellent. Lovely position, food was very good, staff were lovely. Shoe cleaning service was excellent!

Kigali Serena Hotel

Lovely, well-appointed hotel with good facilities.

Sand River Masai Mara

Top notch! Food was wonderful, staff were excellent. Our guide/driver (Dixon) and our assigned waiter (Robert) were faultless. Indeed, all the staff were first class. The General Managers were attentive, thoughtful and extremely well organised.

Saruni Mara

See above. We did discuss some of the issues outlined above with the General Manager who, to be fair, recognised that we were trying to be constructive rather than critical. And, the rickety steps were fixed the following day!

Hemingways Nairobi

Fantastic hotel. Only negative was the frantic meal service; our main course arrived literally 15 seconds after we finished our starter and we were invited to choose our desert, again, literally fifteen seconds after finishing our main course. One effect of this is that, having allocated one and a half to two hours for an early dinner before our drive to the airport, we finished our meal after thirty minutes and therefore had ninety minutes to kill. We did discuss with the restaurant manager and, we're sure if we stayed for more that one meal next time it would not have been so frantic.

Staff Review

Donna was absolutely excellent; only slightly negative comment is that, whilst Donna did tell us that the Maasai Mara camps that she had chosen were not in the central area, we didn't realise quite how far away they were, especially Saruni Mara, which is a drive of up to three hours each way from the main crossing points (and in very uncomfortable vehicles). The other staff that we dealt with were also very good; no complaints.