Inside Marriott’s First Safari, the Newly-Opened JW Marriott Masai Mara Lodge

Going on a safari? There is no question or doubt that your primary purpose is to immerse yourself in nature and observe how animals behave and interact in their natural habitat. However, if this is all safaris are promising, chances are that not a lot of people would go. Marriott International knows this, which is why for its debut safari lodge, the JW Marriott Masai Mara Lodge, which opened its doors this April, it has incorporated the main elements that make for a unique and highly sought-after safari experience.

The tents as the JW Marriott Masai Lodge
The JW Marriott Masai Lodge is the brand’s first safari. Image courtesy of JW Marriott
Accommodation at the JW Marriott Masai Mara Lodge

From its name, it is easy to guess the lodge is situated in no other place than the famous Kenyan Masai Mara National Reserve, one of the leading animal and wilderness conservation areas on the African continent.

Located strategically close to the Talek River, each of the 20 available lodges is a big, spacious, luxurious tent so that campers get to be constantly immersed in nature even indoors.

The king suite at JW Marriott Masai Mara Lodge
The lodges are tents so that guests can have the feeling of being constantly outdoors. Image of JW Marriott

Of the 20 lodges, one is a honeymoon suite equipped with a plunge pool, while two are interconnecting king and twin suites perfect for families with kids over the age of six (the minimum age of guests at the lodge). Each of the tents comes with private outdoor jacuzzi tubs and decks.

Activities at the JW Marriott Masai Mara Lodge

Observing animals, whether it is during the annual great wildebeest migration or in quieter months, can get old quickly if it is the only activity available on a safari. To spice things up, JW Marriott has included activities geared towards mental and physical stimulation, as well as others focused on fostering relationships.

The spa at the lodge
The onsite spa would include local treatments and herbs. Image courtesy of JW Marriott

There is the Adventure Lodge that doubles as a library and the place for younger people to connect; there is also The Spa by JW which combines local methods, herbs and therapies for a truly relaxing session; the Cultural Deck has a nice fire pit around which guests can gather and bond with board or card games if they so wish and the fitness centre for those who do not want to pack on extra calories during their vacation.

Meals at the JW Marriott Masai Mara Lodge

Guests can expect to do more than dine in a restaurant or in their tents. However, the onsite Sarabi restaurant, with its indoor and outdoor options and a menu based on local ingredients grown in the lodge’s garden, promises to provide a truly unique epicurean experience that it would come as no surprise if visitors choose to dine there exclusively for the length of their stay.

Inside the Sarabi restaurant at the JW Marriott Masai Mara lodge
Food at the Sarabi restaurant comes from the garden cultivated in the lodge. Image courtesy of JW Marriott

For more options, however, visitors can look to the JW Garden which hosts events every day, such as live cooking, interactive drink-making, and chef-led talks. There, they can also spend time learning about home-grown, organic ingredients like the lodge’s signature rosemary.

Guests craving a more safari-like dining experience can go into the reserve with guides from the camp to enjoy a freshly made “Bush Breakfast” or “Bush Dinner” while sipping sundowners and taking in the stunning views of the savannah. If they would rather skip meals or just want to relax with drinks in between, the bar at the Fig Lounge, with its great view of the surrounding plains, is on hand to serve refreshing cocktails and mocktails made with ingredients from the lodge’s garden.

Community building and sustainability at the JW Marriott Masai Mara Lodge

Marriott isn’t just concerned about its guests: the hospitality giant is also dedicated to the communities its businesses operate in. It is why it has chosen to donate a percentage of the nightly rate per person to The Maa Trust, an organisation empowering local people by promoting small business start-ups. The lodge also gives crafters a place to sell their Maa Beadwork and other goods while encouraging guests to visit the organisation to meet local artists and get to know the people in the area better.

The cultural deck at the lodge
Part of the lodge’s goals is to “foster meaningful connections” with its guests and the surrounding community. Image courtesy of JW Marriott

Beyond a partnership with The Maa Trust, an apprenticeship program has been put in place at the lodge for young women in the community looking to kickstart a career in the hospitality industry. Interested persons can enrol for an opportunity to gather the requisite experience.

To avoid over-disturbing the environment, the JW Marriott Masai Mara Lodge was built on land that was already set aside for a tourism project using building materials from sustainable sources.

The pool at the JW Marriott Masai Mara lodge
The water at the lodge is recycled as part of its sustainable practices. Image courtesy of JW Marriott

Recycling and reducing waste are core parts of its daily activities with the lodge’s water treatment plant providing recycled and sanitised water while food waste goes to its compost site. Water wells have been provided all over the lodge for animals to drink from as needed.

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