JW Marriott Masai Mara: Marriott’s First Luxury Safari Lodge

JW Marriott Masai Mara: Marriott’s First Luxury Safari Lodge

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It will soon be possible to earn & redeem Marriott Bonvoy points for a safari lodge, which is pretty cool.

Marriott’s first African safari lodge

Marriott International and Baraka Lodges LTD have signed an agreement for opening the JW Marriott Masai Mara Lodge, which will mark Marriott’s entry into the safari segment in Africa. The property is expected to open in 2023, and will be located in the Mara National Reserve in Kenya, overlooking the banks of the River Talek.

The newly built lodge will feature 20 private tents, including one presidential canvas-topped pavilion and two interconnecting canopied suites. Shared spaces will include a restaurant, lounge, bar, spa, and a large outdoor terrace with fire pits. Those visiting Masai Mara will hopefully get to see the “Big Five,” including lions, leopards, buffalos, rhinoceros, and elephants.

As Bruce Rohor, JW Marriott’s VP and Brand Leader, describes this development:

“As a brand rooted in mindfulness, we cannot think of a more perfect retreat for the mind, body, and soul than the Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya. JW Marriott Masai Mara Lodge will offer guests a luxurious backdrop to make once-in-a-lifetime memories as they connect with nature and wildlife as never before. We are thrilled that the JW Marriott brand will be welcoming adventure travellers, including families, to this breath-taking part of the world.”

Rendering of the JW Marriott Masai Mara Lodge

My take on Marriott’s first luxury safari property

A safari can be a once in a lifetime trip, and truly is unlike any other vacation that you can take. So it’s awesome to see that a major hotel loyalty program will offer access to a luxury safari experience. A few initial thoughts:

  • Given that this will be a small property in terms of the number of rooms, I find the branding as a JW Marriott to be odd, since I usually associate the brand with offering huge upscale hotels, largely targeted at conventions; I’m a little skeptical as to why Marriott wouldn’t brand this a bit more upmarket and boutique, and it makes me wonder what I’m missing
  • I’m curious to see what award pricing will be like at this lodge, given that safaris are generally all-inclusive (though I suppose it’s possible that won’t be the case here); with Marriott Bonvoy no longer having a published award chart, pricing could be whatever Marriott feels like
  • The tented camp experience sounds a bit like Al Maha Dubai, which is a Marriott Luxury Collection property; the variety of animals should be significantly more interesting here, though
Rendering of the JW Marriott Masai Mara Lodge

Bottom line

The JW Marriott Masai Mara Lodge in Kenya is expected to open in 2023, and will be Marriott’s first luxury safari property in Africa. It’s awesome to see Marriott opening a tented camp safari experience in Africa, and I can’t wait to learn more details. I’m just a bit confused by the JW Marriott branding…

What do you make of Marriott’s first luxury safari property in Africa?

Conversations (15)
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  1. Real Person Guest

    If you go to the Mara and stay in a Marriott, you're doing it wrong. More than most holidays, what's beyond the hardware matters. Your safari is only really as good as your guide. Nothing about Marriott makes me think they have an edge in training good guides. It's always extremely obvious when a lodge is designed or furnished by people who haven't spent a long time in the location.

    There are also just...

    If you go to the Mara and stay in a Marriott, you're doing it wrong. More than most holidays, what's beyond the hardware matters. Your safari is only really as good as your guide. Nothing about Marriott makes me think they have an edge in training good guides. It's always extremely obvious when a lodge is designed or furnished by people who haven't spent a long time in the location.

    There are also just much more interesting boutique lodges in Mara / Serengeti.

    That said, having a Marriott in the Mara and a 4 Seasons in Serengeti does mean people self select and so you're more likely to be in a lodge with like minded people (both in and out of the chains)

  2. edwin njoya kariko Guest

    welcome to kenya jw marriot maasai mara luxury safari lodge .....lets keep the swashbuckling burning.......

  3. John Guest

    Currently at Le Meridian in the Maldives and got here from Al Maha. YES, anything like Al Maha has me signing up. Marriott hit a home run at the Maldives too.

  4. Krakhauer37 Guest

    I feel like they may have managed safari camps in Kenya before. Maybe the camps that are now Kempinski or Serena? As the Virgin Group and Four Seasons already do this as well, they are far from shocking the market.

  5. FNT Delta Diamond Guest

    Marriott is its own worst enemy. Why is this a JW Marriott? It should be Autograph, Luxury or Tribute. Maybe even Design. JW Marriotts are supposed to have lounges, for example.

  6. Alex Guest

    Stoked to see Marriott getting into this category. Looking for more to come!

  7. DLPTATL Gold

    The JW Marriott (Bonvoy in general) branding may make this more approachable for people who might not have explored a safari otherwise with all the logistics involved, unfamiliar branding (for those in the US and many other parts of the world).

    It's a trip of a lifetime for many people. As long as you don't take your rifle and plan on coming back with crates full of stuffed animals, I'm not sure that going...

    The JW Marriott (Bonvoy in general) branding may make this more approachable for people who might not have explored a safari otherwise with all the logistics involved, unfamiliar branding (for those in the US and many other parts of the world).

    It's a trip of a lifetime for many people. As long as you don't take your rifle and plan on coming back with crates full of stuffed animals, I'm not sure that going on a safari makes you an evil post-colonialist. Who knows, it might actually broaden a few minds. It certainly helps the local economy and ecosystem to have responsible tourism.

    1. Dan Guest

      Actually, many African countries have environmentally responsible hunting programs, wherein tourists pay huge sums of money to hunt animals that are incredibly plentiful (sometimes to the point of nuisance). I know that appears really insensitive and awkward to American sensibilities, but most Africans are quite happy to have these programs because of the income they bring.

  8. Kiwi Guest

    Reminds me of the old Hilton redemption in the early 2000's IIRC it was a steel with the Amex 5 night package. unfortunately they discontinued it 2 months before I had enough points to redeem for a trip with my mother

  9. David Hamilton Guest

    Endre: Why is it that liberals have to ruin everything?

    1. Endre Guest

      All the pesky liberals pointing out white privilege and supremacy. Tsk, tsk, tsk. #TheGoodOldDays

    2. AC Guest

      Nevermind these are set up and run by African countries to help their economy and are consistent with environmental and game best practices. Of course that takes away from the Lib narrative doesn't in Endre? BTW there is nothing stopping non-whites from staying here and also it isn't "privilege and supremacy" to love nature and see the animals of Africa in their native environment. I assume you realize these are 90% people that take photos...

      Nevermind these are set up and run by African countries to help their economy and are consistent with environmental and game best practices. Of course that takes away from the Lib narrative doesn't in Endre? BTW there is nothing stopping non-whites from staying here and also it isn't "privilege and supremacy" to love nature and see the animals of Africa in their native environment. I assume you realize these are 90% people that take photos of animals versus the big game hunters of the past. How about taking that chip off your shoulder and enjoy things without looking for a micro aggression snowflake!

  10. Endre Guest

    Safaris are such a typical thing for white post-colonialists.

  11. etravelstheworld Guest

    Over or under 200K points per night?

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

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DLPTATL Gold

The JW Marriott (Bonvoy in general) branding may make this more approachable for people who might not have explored a safari otherwise with all the logistics involved, unfamiliar branding (for those in the US and many other parts of the world). It's a trip of a lifetime for many people. As long as you don't take your rifle and plan on coming back with crates full of stuffed animals, I'm not sure that going on a safari makes you an evil post-colonialist. Who knows, it might actually broaden a few minds. It certainly helps the local economy and ecosystem to have responsible tourism.

2
John Guest

Currently at Le Meridian in the Maldives and got here from Al Maha. YES, anything like Al Maha has me signing up. Marriott hit a home run at the Maldives too.

1
AC Guest

Nevermind these are set up and run by African countries to help their economy and are consistent with environmental and game best practices. Of course that takes away from the Lib narrative doesn't in Endre? BTW there is nothing stopping non-whites from staying here and also it isn't "privilege and supremacy" to love nature and see the animals of Africa in their native environment. I assume you realize these are 90% people that take photos of animals versus the big game hunters of the past. How about taking that chip off your shoulder and enjoy things without looking for a micro aggression snowflake!

1
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