Affordable African Safari Camps with Great Wildlife Viewing

At the base of the hill, dirt pathways slice through the grass leading to five guest tents. A wooden dining table sits at the edge of the camp’s perimeter seats ten, a large umbrella rising from its center. A thinning of the trees created a natural frame for the Masai Mara beyond, enabling diners to see nearby wildlife while they eat.

My guide Jackson and tracker Dickson were a unique pair. Jackson was an excellent guide, but our personalities didn’t click (it happens), and it made our time together challenging.

Camp Details – Porini Mara

  • Highlight: Outdoor dining area facing the Mara
  • 6 guest tents (including one family tent) with en-suite bathrooms and flush toilets 
  • Bush showers
  • Large dining tent with lounge

Porini Camps in a Nutshell

Every Porini camp has its distinct personality, but, on average, they boast a rustic glamping vibe. They are all 100% solar-powered, and the local Maasai fill most staff positions.

Tents are spacious with ensuite bathrooms and accessorized with animal-themed minimalistic decor.

Drinking water is refilled daily and provided in lovely glass carafes with Maasai-inspired beading on the neck. 

Showers are mostly of the bush variety. A large rubber bag with an attached showerhead is filled with hot water controlled by a lever.

The experience is like other showers, except it’s best to turn the water off when soaping and back on to rinse so you don’t run out. It’s not a hardship and saves an enormous amount of water.

On the whole, the guides, trackers, and staff were lovely.

The food was fine, but if superb cuisine is a “must-have,” Porini may not be your cup of tea.

My only pet peeve is that the camps don’t offer laundry services (they supply laundry powder), which is a shame.

A Typical Day on Safari

At 5:30 am, a friendly “Jambo,” hello in Swahili, is my wake-up call from one of the Maasai porters carrying a mug of hot chocolate and a few biscuits (a.k.a cookies).

Wake-up times and game drive departures were decided the night before with my guide. Photographically, I like to be out early to take advantage of the beautiful light. 

A Porini Lion Camp Landrover driving in the Masai Mara
A Porini Lion Landrover on the plains during a game drive

Game drives, depending on what you see, average about three hours, including a 30-minute stop in the wild for a bush breakfast of fruit, yogurt, small pancakes, and bacon.

The midday hours, often the hottest of the day at 90+ degrees in October, were left for lunch and relaxation. 

Evening game drives start around 4:30 pm, last for three to four hours, and may include a cocktail in a scenic location––often referred to as sundowners––unless you’re engrossed in a sighting. Based on the camp, you might also indulge in an exciting night drive or walking safari. 

Dinner is served at about 7:30 pm. Afterward, I sometimes sat by the fire pit, but mostly I prepared my gear for the next morning, then hit the sheets. 

Final Thoughts

Susan Portnoy, The Insatiable Traveler  in a safari vehicle wearing a Carkella Hat
Moi during the trip!

I chatted with a lovely young couple in Amboseli who touched on an important truth. They were on their honeymoon. Initially, they looked at some of the ultra-luxe safari properties. The type featured in high-end travel magazines that cost a small fortune.

They said they’d considered a once-in-a-lifetime splurge for the occasion but decided against it. Porini, they said, offered them a wonderful holiday and the opportunity to return.  For them, the camps’ relative affordability meant saving for another visit felt possible.

Is every “I” dotted and every “T” crossed with Porini? Not really, but that’s somewhat the point. Grieves-Cook created Porini camps to preserve habitat and provide the local communities with a way to earn revenue, and gain training and employment.

Providing a great tourist experience is a means to a very important end. So, yeah, the jeeps are a tad worn, and the hospitality is a little uneven because the land and the people come first, not expensive tents and five-star service.

And I’m more than ok with that.

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