JW Marriott Masai Mara: Marriott’s First Luxury Safari Lodge (Redeem Points)

JW Marriott Masai Mara: Marriott’s First Luxury Safari Lodge (Redeem Points)

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Note: Thanks to reader Esteban for pointing out that award availability at this hotel is wide open once again, so this is a great opportunity to redeem points, if you’re interested in going on a safari.

In April 2023, we saw the opening of Marriott’s first safari lodge in Africa. I wanted to post an update about this property, as it’s bookable with Marriott Bonvoy points, and availability is quite good.

Marriott’s first African safari lodge

The JW Marriott Masai Mara Lodge is now open, and it marks Marriott’s entry into the safari segment in Africa. The property is located in the Mara National Reserve in Kenya, overlooking the banks of the River Talek.

The newly built lodge features 20 private tents, including one presidential canvas-topped pavilion and two interconnecting canopied suites. Shared spaces 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.

Stays here are inclusive of most things, including meals on a full board basis, alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks (except premium drinks), bush meals, sundowners, game drives, a pair of binoculars for use during your stay, Wi-Fi, return transfers from Keekorok airstrip, and laundry service.

Stays here exclude flights to Keekorok airstrip ($400 per person roundtrip), the Masai Mara Park entrance fee ($70 per person per day), spa treatments, and gratuities.

Nonstop Points has a great review of what it’s like to stay here, as he has already completed a stay using points.

Below are some pictures of the JW Marriott Masai Mara, which I must say looks quite nice.

JW Marriott Masai Mara tents
JW Marriott Masai Mara tent
JW Marriott Masai Mara tent
JW Marriott Masai Mara tent
JW Marriott Masai Mara tent
JW Marriott Masai Mara communal area
JW Marriott Masai Mara communal area
JW Marriott Masai Mara communal area
JW Marriott Masai Mara gym
JW Marriott Masai Mara pool
JW Marriott Masai Mara spa

JW Marriott Masai Mara pricing & points costs

What are rates like at the JW Marriott Masai Mara? They vary throughout the year, but based on double occupancy, rates seem to start at $2,000-3,000 per night for the base accommodation.

JW Marriott Masai Mara cash rates

This hotel is an incredible value with points, given how much cash stays would be, and given all that’s included with stays. Marriott Bonvoy has dynamic award pricing, so the cost of a stay can change over time. Award stays currently start at just 98,000 Bonvoy points per night based on double occupancy. With Marriott Bonvoy you can get a fifth night free, which would lower the cost to an average of 78,400 Bonvoy points per night.

JW Marriott Masai Mara points rates
JW Marriott Masai Mara points rates

Award availability is much better than it was before, though you still won’t quite find availability every day. That’s not surprising, when you consider how few accommodations this property has. It’s nice to see that space is being released regularly, so if you’re planning a special trip, it’s worth keeping an eye on availability.

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 is 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 confused as to why Marriott wouldn’t brand this a bit more upmarket and boutique, and it makes me wonder what I’m missing
  • The award pricing at the lodge is currently an awesome value, given the cash rate of a stay, and what’s included
  • 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
  • This property has steep pricing, in line with what many of the top safari camps charge; if I were paying in cash and spending thousands of dollars per night, I’d go with a known player (like Singita) over a JW Marriott
JW Marriott Masai Mara lodge

Bottom line

The JW Marriott Masai Mara Lodge in Kenya has opened as of April 2023, and is Marriott’s first luxury safari property in Africa. It’s awesome to see Marriott open a tented camp safari experience in Africa, and it’s cool to see what a great value this is using Bonvoy points, especially given the all-inclusive experience.

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

Conversations (15)
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  1. iamhere Guest

    Knowing what is included is very important.
    Airfare to/from the airstrip?
    All meals?
    Park fees and donations?
    Transportation to/from game reserves?
    etc.
    Furthermore, while Singita does not have properties in Kenya there are many other local providers that have been doing this much longer than Marriott. I would much rather in this instance go with one of those providers where it is really all inclusive. For those fees that...

    Knowing what is included is very important.
    Airfare to/from the airstrip?
    All meals?
    Park fees and donations?
    Transportation to/from game reserves?
    etc.
    Furthermore, while Singita does not have properties in Kenya there are many other local providers that have been doing this much longer than Marriott. I would much rather in this instance go with one of those providers where it is really all inclusive. For those fees that are not included one has to wonder how it will be handled - added to your bill or what?

  2. JetSetFly Guest

    Singita doesn’t have any properties in Kenya so if you are keen on seeing the river crossing with crocs jumping up to bite zebras etc. in July/Aug then staying in Masai Mara area (Kenya) is the only game in town. The best property in Masai Mara is Angama hands down. Sweeping view of Masai Mara from cliff top “tents” is nothing short of majestic. If seeing cheetah is on your bucket list, then the Singita...

    Singita doesn’t have any properties in Kenya so if you are keen on seeing the river crossing with crocs jumping up to bite zebras etc. in July/Aug then staying in Masai Mara area (Kenya) is the only game in town. The best property in Masai Mara is Angama hands down. Sweeping view of Masai Mara from cliff top “tents” is nothing short of majestic. If seeing cheetah is on your bucket list, then the Singita properties in Tanzania can’t be beat. Sasakwa is especially nice if you want to live out that Swifties “widest dream” video.

  3. MC Guest

    The fact that someone would travel halfway around the world to stay at a basic culture-sanitized American hotel versus a conservancy property blows my mind. Come on people. Some places don’t need to be redeemed with points; this is one of them.

    1. Shar Guest

      100% agree; can’t imagine doing a bucket list safari at a sanitized Marriott property.

    2. Steve Diamond

      Exactly! There is a time and place for our Marriot and Hyatt obsessions. This is not one of them.

      Got a reservation next year at Singita after readings Lucky's report from a few years back and can not wait!

  4. Chris M. Guest

    Keep in mind that they changed the cancellation policy on award nights from 2 days to 45 days. Paid stays are 30 days.

    Booked for four nights in October! Thanks for the heads up.

  5. Chris M. Guest

    Booked for four nights in October!

    Keep in mind that they changed the cancellation policy on award nights from 2 days to 45 days. Paid stays are 30 days.

  6. Brandon Guest

    Just grabbed five nights in May 2024... Thank you for the heads up!!

  7. _ar Guest

    Unfortunately, the last place I would want to go on safari is the Masai Mara... It's too overcrowded to start with.

    The notion of the big 5 comes from hunting. The 5 most difficult animals to hunt. Now it's a marketing term. Do you really want to see the African buffalo?

    Do folks even know what wildlife they want to see?

    1. John Guest

      Yeah, I currently live in Nairobi. If you must go to the Mara National Reserve, I'd recommend it for a (1) First time whose looking to just get the classic feel with 10,000 of your closest friends; or (2) Locals who stay at cheaper camps and just make a weekend out of it.

      The Conservancies are significantly better and you can get great accommodation for much less than this property.

      The Mara really isn't...

      Yeah, I currently live in Nairobi. If you must go to the Mara National Reserve, I'd recommend it for a (1) First time whose looking to just get the classic feel with 10,000 of your closest friends; or (2) Locals who stay at cheaper camps and just make a weekend out of it.

      The Conservancies are significantly better and you can get great accommodation for much less than this property.

      The Mara really isn't that big a place, and Kenya's unfortunately leaned a little too heavy into mass market tourism. For example there are only slightly more lodges across the border in Tanzania in the Serengeti, but the Greater Serengeti is something like 10 times larger than the Greater Mara.

    2. _ar Guest

      Indeed you can get lost in the Serengeti if you wish. I agree about the conservancies - much better option for Kenya.

      Unfortunately, safaris are a bucket list item these days and associated with luxury travel. I have friends who have only looked at the lodge because they want to go some place fancy, and others ask - you already went on safari, why do you want to go again? The vast majority of people aren't truly interested in wildlife. But that's ok I guess,

  8. Dave Guest

    Having lived in Kenya, paying $3k a night on a safari tented camp is the greatest colossal waste of money.

    Anyone who knows about Safari knows that it’s normally a 3 day/2 night gig, and the one full day that you get … you ain’t having breakfast as your up for an early morning drive and back around midday.

    Likewise the evening drive takes you out at 4pm and back around 730pm.

    You think you...

    Having lived in Kenya, paying $3k a night on a safari tented camp is the greatest colossal waste of money.

    Anyone who knows about Safari knows that it’s normally a 3 day/2 night gig, and the one full day that you get … you ain’t having breakfast as your up for an early morning drive and back around midday.

    Likewise the evening drive takes you out at 4pm and back around 730pm.

    You think you can lounge by the pool, we’ll think again with flies and insects galore! This is a natural habitat after all!

    1. John Guest

      Eh, if you lived in NBO, that's often the case. I don't think Amboseli, Lake Nakuru. or most Laikipia conservancies are worth more than that amount of time. But if you're out in Meru/Kora or in one of the Tsavos, this sort of mini trip definitely is not sufficient. All in all most Kenya parks are relatively small next to Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe. Kruger, Namibia, Botswana, etc., so the mini safari works there better than elsewhere.

  9. DMNYC Guest

    @Ben are these rooms priced like a regular hotel, with double occupancy, as opposed to per person, like most luxury safari camps?

    If so, even $3K night is tremendous value if that covers all-inclusive for two people. If that's the case, WOW that is a steal.

  10. ArnoldB Guest

    Looks amazing and that is a very good price, cheaper than the Al Maha!

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

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

Steve Diamond

Exactly! There is a time and place for our Marriot and Hyatt obsessions. This is not one of them. Got a reservation next year at Singita after readings Lucky's report from a few years back and can not wait!

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iamhere Guest

Knowing what is included is very important. Airfare to/from the airstrip? All meals? Park fees and donations? Transportation to/from game reserves? etc. Furthermore, while Singita does not have properties in Kenya there are many other local providers that have been doing this much longer than Marriott. I would much rather in this instance go with one of those providers where it is really all inclusive. For those fees that are not included one has to wonder how it will be handled - added to your bill or what?

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Shar Guest

100% agree; can’t imagine doing a bucket list safari at a sanitized Marriott property.

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