Maasai Mara

Kicheche Bush Camp (Kenya 2013-14)

Kicheche has 4 camps in Kenya. Three are located in the Maasai Mara (also spelled Masai Mara), and the fourth is located north of Nairobi, near Mount Kenya.

We stayed at two camps during our first safari in Kenya: Laikipia Camp and Bush Camp.

Getting to/from Bush Camp from Nairobi

Flights to the Mara depart from Wilson Airport in Nairobi. Wilson airport is a stone’s throw from the international airport (JKIA). However, driving from airport to airport can take hours, depending on traffic.

We have flown both Safarilink and AirKenya to Bush Camp. Both offer comparable services; however, we prefer Safarilink. Safarilink has a more suitable flight schedule, is located in a more modern terminal at Wilson Airport, and has slightly better planes.

All planes flying to the Mara are small propellor planes with tiny fold-down staircases. There were strict luggage restrictions (weight and size), and soft-sided duffle bags were preferred over roller bags because they were easier to get into the belly of the plane. 

At the time of writing, the closest airstrip to Bush Camp is Ol Kiombo.

The drive from the airstrip to the camp is about an hour, similar to the drive from Nanyuki airstrip to Laikipia Camp. It felt like a mini-game drive.

Camp overview

Bush Camp is located in the Olare Orok Conservancy (marketed as the Olare Motorogi Conservancy), which is located within the Maasi Mara National Park (“the Reserve”).

The camp had six private tents. There are never more than 12 guests at camp. In addition, there was a mess tent where meals and electronics charging occurred, a separate toilet tent for guests to use when in the main camp areas, and a campfire area.

Mess tent lounge area

We arrived at camp just before lunch (served at 1pm every day) and were greeted by one of the camp managers, Darren. He gave us an overview of the camp, camp rules, and what to expect over the next few days.

Note: The daily itinerary is detailed in this post.

Like Laikipia camp, the camp is unfenced; however, it doesn’t have a natural watering hole like Laikipia Camp.

All Kicheche camps are silver eco-rated by Ecotourism Kenya, a big deal in Kenya.

With this rating, the camps are designed to blend into the landscape, contain no permanent structures, and rely on solar power. A backup generator is permitted when necessary.

All food waste is buried, and all recyclable materials are brought to recycling depots.

Tents

Following our camp briefing, we were shown to our tent by Darren. Our tent on our inaugural visit to Bush Camp was called Kobe.

We were shown how things worked in the tent. We were told to refrain from flushing anything down the toilet because even though it’s a porcelain toilet, it doesn’t have working plumbing or a proper sanitation system.

The tents at Laikipia and Bush Camp are similar, albeit have slightly different design aesthetics. The first thing I noticed was that the tent at Bush Camp was brighter than the tent at Laikipia Camp.

Although we stayed in a tent, we were not roughing it by any stretch of the imagination. The size of our tent was larger than most flats in London. It had a sink, a king-sized bed (UK super king), bedside tables, a large wardrobe, a flushing toilet, and inside/outside seating areas.

The tent was stocked with toiletries: shampoo, conditioner, body wash, hand soap, and lotion.

The big difference between the tents at the two camps is that the tents at Bush Camp have traditional bucket showers, whereas Laikipia tents have water heaters.

Bucket showering was unpleasant but not as unpleasant as I anticipated.

In short, there is a five-gallon bucket that is hung outside of the tent. A hose extended from the bottom of the bucket to the showerhead inside the tent.

Inside the tent, the showerhead had two chains. One chain turned the water on (unplugged the bucket), and the other turned the water off (plugged the bucket).

Every evening before dinner, our tent attendant would transfer heated water (heated over a wood fire) to the bucket hanging outside our tent.

He’d ask us to test the water to ensure it was the desired temperature – it was always the desired temperature, and even if had not been, we’d have said it was great!

Next was the actual showering part. The goal was to use all the water in the bucket across two showers and do so without knowing how much water remained at any given time.

We found that it worked best for Peter to shower first because he required the least amount of water (minimal hair to shampoo and rinse).

Peter used about 25 percent of the water, and I used the remaining 75 percent. The most difficult part was rinsing the shampoo and conditioner out of my hair.

There were times when water remained in the bucket after our showers – we became efficient in showering very quickly.

Showering took only a few minutes, and I had goosebumps when the water was not streaming out of the shower head. The air temperature at that time of day was cool, and the shower area was a large enclosed room with wooden decking that allowed the water to drain into the earth.

It was cold to be standing there, soaking wet, while shampooing my hair without the water running. Being cold was the worst part of the bucket shower.

Protip: Reduce shower time by using dry shampoo.

Note: Hairdryers are not permitted at camp, which is a bummer because it’s cold in the evenings (including dinner) and made colder when walking around with wet hair.

Food

The food at camp was excellent. It’s amazing what the chef can do with limited kitchen facilities in the middle of nowhere.

Our days began between 5:30-6am with hot drinks (in our case, hot chocolate) and biscuits delivered to our tent as we got ready for the morning game drive. Our wake-up time was always 30 minutes before our departure time.

Breakfast was served picnic-style on the game drive, usually at 9:30am. It included everything from eggs and sausage to pastries and juice.

Breakfast was OK on our first safari. The biggest negative for me was that the picnic included foods meant to be served hot, but those foods (e.g., eggs) were ambient or even cold when we ate breakfast.

The ambient foods became increasingly offputting to me over time. By our third safari, my breakfast options had whittled to include juice, fruit, and bread with butter.

It’s a bummer that breakfast was such a miss for me because the food at camp is, otherwise, exceptional.

Lunch and dinner were served at camp. Foodstuffs ranged from soups and salads to grilled meats, bush pizzas, and “Curry Sundays.” 

Lunch was buffet-style at a large communal table outside, weather permitting.

Dinner was served inside the mess tent. It was a plated service with at least three courses and a fair amount of booze.

Dinner usually ended at 10pm.

Conclusion

We stayed at Bush Camp three times between 2013-14.

Except for the picnic breakfast, everything at Bush Camp is possibly as good as it gets.

The safari guides are incredibly skilled and knowledgeable. The tent attendants and front-of-house staff are kind, thoughtful, and attentive. The kitchen turns out high-quality and creative dishes. This camp is top-notch.

Finally, the camp managers, Darren and Emma, are two of the easiest-going people we’ve ever met. It takes a special skill set to run a tented camp in the middle of nowhere; from a guest’s perspective, they run it flawlessly.

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