Lots of tourists pose the question why they should spend more money staying in a High End property as opposed to a Low End property. Their arguments?

  • The Park/Reserve being visited is the same one
  • The animals seen on the game drives are the same – the wildlife present in the Park/Reserve can be seen irrespective of where you are staying
  • Game drives are done by each property
  • Staying in High End properties is so costly that this would be in a once-in-a-lifetime trip, whereas if they stayed at a Low End property, there is the possibility of coming back for another safari.

This is an important consideration when planning your safari – it may be too late to change things once you have checked into your lodge, only to be confronted by a multitude of rooms, a huge dining room with tables groaning under buffet meals, sharing a game drive vehicle filled to capacity with other guests who want to either minutely examine every zebra, topi or eland you encounter, or else, want to zoom off after spending a minute with the lions, their only interest being to tick off the Big Five on their list.

Whether this is a once-in-a-lifetime trip, or one of many, you need to ensure you know exactly what you are paying for, wherever you are staying, so as to avoid nasty surprises.

To help you, we give below some of the advantages of staying at a High End property.

  • The guiding experience at High End camps is of a much higher level. Many of these camps have silver or bronze rated guides (rating is by the Kenya Professional Safari Guides Association), who are extremely knowledgeable in the flora and fauna of Kenya, and particularly so in the areas where they operate. They are very considerate of the animals that you have come to see. They don’t speak loudly or shout while viewing game, they don’t harass the wildlife when they are hunting or resting, and even encourage you to look beyond the predators to the smaller game. Most of them are good photographers too, and can advise you on the best angle for your shot, or even the best frame for your pic. Staying at one of the middle range camps in the Mara, I have personally witnessed our guide talking to another guide in the vehicle across from us, while viewing a pride of lions, shouting to make himself heard. He was completely oblivious to the fact that the animals were being disturbed and guests were not happy. Many a time, rangers receive complaints about such driver/guides who position their vehicles between the predator and its prey on a hunt, just so that their clients may get the best view, thereby leaving them with a handsome tip. This kind of tourism is not sustainable and the effects will be seen over time. 
  • High End properties have an all inclusive concept, which not only include drinks (both alcoholic and non alcoholic), but a host of activities like bush meals, game walks, night game drives, sundowners, hiking and rock climbing where available, and activities like mountain biking where appropriate. This means that there are no additional charges on your bill for these activities and drinks, so you know exactly how much the safari is going to cost you.
  • These properties almost always have a vegetable garden back of house, ensuring that meals you consume are fresh & flavourful, and not recycled from previous days buffet, as is common with the larger lower end properties. In fact, some camps like Angama Mara do not serve buffet meals at all – all their meals are a la carte, and a delight to indulge in.
  • High End properties are usually small and exclusive, most ranging from 5 to 10 tents only. This ensures a more personal experience, as well as more interaction between the staff and guests, allowing you a glimpse into local life.
  • All High End properties support wildlife conservancy by securing wildlife habitats and managing the Conservancies where they are located. They also actively participate in, and, fund community projects, as well as employ their staff from the neighbouring communities. Many of them have a system whereby the tourist dollar profits are shared with the communities around, so you would be supporting this venture by staying at these properties.
  • Majority of the High End properties are located in conservancies which are low tourist density areas so your game viewing experience will be far superior. Yes, you may see lions just as you would if you stayed in a lower end property, but you will come away with more knowledge about these lions, from knowledge shared by your guides and also by personal observation.

While the High End camps may seem to more expensive, remember that they offer more value for your money while giving you a much more exclusive and personal experience. The cherry on top may be that you will be helping wildlife and communities by staying at these properties so you can also feel virtuous about yourself.