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Serian Camp - Masai Mara, Kenya

Alex Walker's Serian - Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya

SERIAN (meaning "peaceful, calm or serene" in the Maa language of the Maasai people) is the charismatic bush home of Alex Walker, filmmaker and wildlife guide for the Masai Mara National Reserve. An exclusive bush camp, Serian camp lies in a secluded valley of the Mara River. Accommodation is provided in 8 luxurious marqee tents, which overlook the river and are set in the shade of the large walburgia trees that surround the camp. There is a luxurious central mess area with deck, library, boutique and campfire area.

The camp operates all year but from June until the end of February is the best period for wildlife viewing. For keen ornithologists April and May are incomparable.

World renowned for the breathtaking spectacle of ‘the greatest wildlife show on earth', the awe inspiring annual migration of the wildebeest, the Mara is Kenya's most visited protected area. Technically an extension of Tanzania's renowned Serengeti National Park, the Mara constitutes only 4% of the entire Serengeti ecosystem but its rolling grasslands, meandering rivers and towering escarpments offer one of the world's most rewarding and evocative wildlife arenas.

Kenya hotels and accommodation
Amongst the wide range of Kenya hotels, some make the ideal Kenya safari destination. Choose a safari lodge, safari hotel, bush camp, luxury lodge, safari camp, tented camp or bush lodge. National park accommodation usually takes the form of a traditional safari lodge or tented camp, but numerous other options exist on the park boundaries. Luxury lodges and luxury camp options are also offered in the private wildlife conservancies.

L ocation
The Masai Mara is 270 miles from Nairobi (five hours by road). From Nairobi, guests can travel to Serian by plane and vehicle, or by helicopter. The drive takes approximately 5 hours, via Narok and Mulot. Scheduled charter flights (45 minutes) land at the permanent airstrip at Musiara (1.5 hour's drive from camp).

The Background
The Masai Mara National Reserve
When it comes to game-viewing, there is nowhere in Africa richer in wildlife or more eventful in encounters than the Mara. A pristine wilderness of haunting beauty, it promises its visitors a profusion of wildlife, prolific bird life and the unprecedented opportunity of catching up with all the members of the ‘Big Five' in one morning.

As to scenery, the 1,800 sq kilometres of this veteran reserve offer the classic mix of African imagery; miles of lion-gold grasslands, shoals of lilac-misted hills, a meandering river, acres of thorn-bush and mile upon mile of undulating wilderness.

The Miracle of the Migration of the Wildebeest
Between the end of July and November, over one and a half million wildebeest accompanied by half again as many zebras and gazelles, migrate from the short-grass plains of the Serengeti to fresh pasture in the grasslands of the Mara; thus creating one of nature's grandest spectacles. Moving in groups of up to 20,000 at a time they thunder across the plateau hesitating only briefly to cross the Mara River, where many fall prey to the waiting crocodiles. Towards the end of October they begin crossing back into Tanzania. The actual timing of the migration, however, is dictated by the weather and does not always ‘run to schedule'.

There are eight ensuite luxury tents, each with its own ensuite bathroom (hot and cold running water, shower, flush WC) and verandah. Furnished in classic safari style, they offer comfortable double beds, elegant safari furniture and laundry, valet and personalized room service.

The adjacent Ngare Camp offers four ultra-luxurious tents, which can be configured to suit private groups. The camp has its own chef and access is via rope bridge (the camp has a private helipad).

Dining and bars
The central mess tent is partially thatched and features an extensive timbered deck and inviting safari furniture. As well as being served in the mess area, meals are served in the bush, in the shade of the camp's trees, by a roaring fire or beneath the stars. The cuisine features fresh produce and is typically a fusion of Mediterranean and Swahili cuisine. Meals can also be served in the privacy of your own verandah and to your personal specifications.

Wildlife highlights
Offering an abundance of herbivores, the Mara makes the ideal hunting ground for Kenya's famous ‘big cats' and hosts her largest population of lions. It also offers the best chance of spotting a leopard in the wild. Other predators include cheetah and spotted hyena. Historically teaming with wildlife, the Mara is famous for the large herds of elephant and buffalo that meander its plains; also for the fat pods of hippo that wallow in its mud-brown rivers. Other stars include the distinctive Masai giraffe, plum-coloured topi, Coke's hartebeest, Grant's and Thomson's gazelle, zebra, impala, Kirk's dik-dik, bushbuck, waterbuck and red duiker. The Reserve also boasts plentiful Nile crocodile, monitor lizard, baboon, vervet, blue and red-tailed monkeys, nocturnal bush babies, and tree hyrax. There are over 550 resident and migratory species of birds.

The camp welcomes children, but parental supervision is required at all times.

What to see and do
Your driver guide is crucial to the success of your day. Organizing your game drives and seeking out the big game which you have come to see, designing your day to suit your own pace. Our guides have specialist local knowledge and are experienced at handling and approaching dangerous big game safely. Affording guests the best game viewing opportunities to be had. Some Driver / Guides speak an additional foreign language such as; Hebrew, French, German, Spanish, Italian and a little Chinese or Japanese. Every attempt will be made to provide such Driver / Guides when specially requested.

The experience at Serian is focused on viewing wildlife, in particular, the big five, Cape Buffalo, Lion, Leopard, Elephant and Rhino. Each day will be new and exciting. Meals in camp will be interspersed with picnics out in the bush. There are no schedules to be met and you are free to make your own timetable on a daily basis. The 1,512 km² Maasai Mara National Reserve was declared a wildlife sanctuary in 1961. This when paired with the inextricably linked Koiyaki /Lemek Conservation area of around the same size gives guests access to a huge natural wildlife area. Following the initiation of the Campfire Conservation enterprise and other concerted preservation efforts to save the big cats, the lion and leopard population are very visible and stable. For the keen ornithologist there are four hundred and fifty three recorded bird species in the Mara, fifty-three of which are raptors.

The camp situated in the core area of Koiyaki/Lemek, which measures around 1,500 square kilometres, presents the best opportunities for spotting Lion, Leopards, Elephant, Buffalo, Hyenas and a variety of plains game. Interestingly, Lion sightings in Koiyaki are among the best in Africa. Elephant Leopard and Lion frequently pass through at night; Impala and Waterbuck are often seen grazing in front of camp. Baboons and Vervet monkeys are common residents and Hyena are heard in the late evening. Zebra, Wildebeest, antelopes and gazelles can also be seen roaming the savannah whilst the rivers and waterholes are home to the Hippopotamus and Nile crocodile. Bird life, both resident and migratory, is prolific and over 450 species have been sighted within the park.

The best time to view game is in the early morning and late afternoon. The camp operates four-wheel drive, open-top vehicles customized for safari viewing. The morning starts with tea or coffee at 5.45am with the vehicles leaving camp shortly after. Excursions last around three-and-a-half-hours and take place as many times a day as wished. Knowledgeable driver guides take guests on a range of routes through the area. The morning game drive generally returns at about 10.30am when brunch is served. The afternoon drives leave camp at around 4.30pm and generally return soon after dark. Your day is totally flexible and can be arranged with your guide. You may choose to spend the whole day out having packed a delicious picnic lunch, or go for an evening sundowner, followed by a game drive with spotlights picking out eyes, reflecting from active nighttime predators.

Other Activities
There is also the chance to fly camp . Here we aim to put some adventure into your safari, walking with experienced armed guides we will take you into the heart of the Mara. You will immediately notice the difference between a vehicle tour and one conducted on foot. Senses that may have been a little dulled in a car will strain to perceive indications of the wild game that surrounds you. Your perception of the bush will change until you feel an intimate relationship with the environment through which you trek. You will be experiencing the bush in much the same way that our pre-historic ancestors did. At night we will camp under the stars enjoying a wholesome meal in the company of roaring lions.

Ballooning ; at dawn you will climb aboard a hot air balloon and fly along the course of the Mara River and over the vast plains as the sun rises. This is a unique and incredible opportunity to witness the majesty of the African bush. Suspended in a basket beneath the balloons canopy, you will have the chance to view the wildlife from an entirely different perspective. As you float over the plains and above the forest alongside the Mara River, you will see Hippos, Crocodile and Elephant from above. The flight time is generally in the region of one hour and ends with breakfast in the open grassland within the reserve.

Alternatively step straight out of your plane into an atmosphere of sweet tranquility. With Lake Victoria's calm waters gently lapping the shores, Rusinga Island Lodge's lush semi-tropical gardens abound with a myriad of vibrantly colored birds, the air sweet with frangipani and jasmine. Rusinga's Island Lodge spacious grounds offer a safe environment for children to release their energy, the more active to catch up on their exercise. For those wishing to relax, a halcyon oasis in which to unwind and take respite. The Lodge's newly opened Spa offers a range of luxurious treatments, whilst on the lake guests may enjoy invigorating water sports such as water skiing and doughnutting. For the keen fisherman, the shallow waters of Lake Victoria are home to legendary Nile Perch growing up to 300lbs, and even the most reluctant fisherman can reap gratification casting off the jetty for abundant tilapia.

We are also supporting a predator programme, hoping to engage a researcher in our own area specializing in the big cats. Guests are encouraged to take part in data collection, recording sightings and individual animal behavior. This data will enable the management of the conservancy to establish long-term policy goals and help maintain the natural habitat.

Time on safari is a very special and intimate experience. We are very privileged to enjoy private concession agreements with many indigenous people throughout East Africa. These colorful and hospitable people are very much part of your safari crew. Our responsibilities to local communities extend beyond the mere financial. In conjunction with the landowners we encourage the sustainable use of natural resources such as firewood and water. We have been gratified to find these practices adopted by local communities and consequently a real improvement made to their quality of life. A significant proportion of your guest fee is dedicated to the preservation of these threatened dispersal areas. This finance enables the indigenous peoples with whom we work to maintain their ancestral lands in a pristine state.

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