Olarro Lodge and Plains: Crown Jewel of the Great Mara

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Year after year, we make plans to travel and get to see the world but it is not often that these tours come by as a surprise. Our tour of the Olarro Conservancy was a very much needed but totally unplanned excursion because well, who goes to chill out in the wild over 270 kilometres away in February right? 

I cannot say I hate travelling as hate is such a strong word, I simply dislike the feeling of my swollen and sour body after travelling for longer hours. Nonetheless, whenever possible I do not mind taking up the challenge to go see the world and its hidden treasures, after all the temporary pain cannot replace the everlasting memories we create on the road.

Anyway, for the past 3 days I have been in the Mara, the great Maasai Mara and specifically at Olarro Lodge and Olarro Plains. The two are not the same but we’ll get into that in a minute.

Located at a serene mountain top, getting to the Olarro Conservancy should take you approximately four hours from Nairobi to Narok town by road and roughly half an hour from Narok to the Conservancy by a loose murram road that leads into the Mara. 

Welcomed by a super friendly team (mind you all are locals) at the gate, cold sanitized hand towels were handed to us, the relief they brought to my burning palms was unimaginable. Such a cordial welcome after which we were escorted to the main lounge. Striking architectural details were scattered all across the space. I could not help but keep staring at the lamp-shades made of gazelle or antelopes horns.

A glass of juice was served while we took seats and had a detailed introduction to the Olarro Lodge team. This was the first time I have ever been introduced to everyone at a hotel, club or lodge which showed just how much of a personal touch Olarro adds to its intuitive service and luxury experience that can truly make a vacation.

Amos, our attendant presented us with the day’s menu. It was half past one in the afternoon and even after gulping the juice hunger was kicking in. I placed my order – beetroot carpaccio lemon dressing as a starter. Chef’s pork parcel, whole grain mustard gravy served with thyme scented mashed potatoes and vegetables was my main dish and macaroni arabiatta for dessert.

Before I could salivate, a call came in on one of those walkie talkies rangers and cops walk around with and we had to leave for the wild. A wounded elephant was in dire need of medical help and we had to rush over to witness the operation that had lasted just over 5 days. I found this as true evidence of the commitment and bravery by the Olarro Conservancy team and the Kenya Wildlife Service who against all odds stay in the wilderness to make sure the beautiful elephants stay around for generations to come.

We were later escorted to our rooms and I must admit the striking hotel’s design is super amazing. Am I in Bali or something? From the facilities, location, service, food and the overall feel of a personal relationship with the team is worth the $600 per night price tag.

The evening at the Lodge was more of a romantic getaway than 12 guys seated outside chatting as we had a bonfire dinner with assorted grilled meat, vegetables that are freshly and organically produced on the Lodge’s farm, potatoes, ugali, rice and much more. What’s more, booze flowed freely but I will not talk about alcohol as I personally do not drink.

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When day 2 came, the game drive was the first thing we woke up for since Olarro Conservancy is famed for being one of the only conservancies in the Mara with a huge number of animals. We were looking forward to an opportunity to catch a glimpse of some lions, the undisputed King of the Jungle or even a leopard, who knows what to expect in the wild.

To experience the best of both properties, we packed our bags in the morning ready to check out as we were moving to the plains. Remember when I told you that the Olarro Lodge and Olarro Plains were not the same? Now let me clarify. Olarro Lodge is on the North while Olarro plains are on the West, hoping I got my bearing right. While the two bear similar names, they offer unique amenities. Olarro Lodges are more private and perfect for those looking to have their own space in a serene environment while Olarro plains offer a more wide and sharable space especially the infinity pool facing the wild where I witnessed that breathtaking sunset view in the Mara. Just to note, the lodges offer a similar experience with a glass deck facing a water dam that is often visited by a herd of elephants who come by from time to time to quench their thirst.

Back at the plains, we had our breakfast and we were on our way to having a tour of the Maasai village that surrounds the conservancy. At the village, we got to learn more about the Maasai way of life, did the majestic Maasai dances, made a few purchases of Maasai ornaments and jewellery and we were on our way back to the plains for lunch. 

When it got past 3 pm, we changed plans and decided to enjoy the crown jewel of Olarro Plains – the Infinity Pool. Yes, a pool like nothing you have seen before. I wished the water was warmer but who cares when you get to watch fabulous scenery from your elevated pool right? Did I mention it’s lit at night as well so swimming is allowed at almost any time of the day or night? This would have been the hallmark of my day-two experience had a mega surprise not been waiting for us.

I thought I had experienced it all but when I heard of ‘dinner in the bush’ I did not know what to expect. We hopped onto a 4×4 and up the hill we rode. Every time you drive within Olarro it feels like a game drive since wildlife is all over the place. After a twenty minute drive into the deep woods we came to a stop on a flat mountain top, set up just for us to enjoy dinner in the bush, literary.

Day 3 was the check-out day, very little time with so much to do. Everyone was up by almost 6am, the guys were ready before 7am and breakfast was already served. By 8am we were on our way to meet the team braving the cold nights and hostile encounters with poachers to protect wildlife at Olarro Conservancy headquarters- about 15 minutes’ drive from the plains.

That did not last long. We learned about a few of the CSR activities done by the conservancy from water conservation, education and even employment of the locals. Then came my favourite activity, the All-Terrain-Vehicle ride. I finally had my chance to press that accelerator and off I went into the wild.

Photos courtesy of;
Risper Mutegi of www.travelbyray.com
Eliud Ndung’u of www.travelwitheliud.com

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