|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.
In this post:
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 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.
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.
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
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?