BETHESDA, MD.—JW Marriott, part of Marriott Bonvoy’s global portfolio of 30 hotel brands, announced the opening of JW Marriott Masai Mara Lodge, marking the company’s debut in the luxury safari segment.
Sitting within the Masai Mara National Reserve in Southwestern Kenya, one of Africa’s most renowned wildlife and wilderness conservation regions, the lodge is a sophisticated sanctuary from which to discover animals and breathtaking vistas in harmony. Exhilarating guided game drives offer guests the opportunity to observe the “Big Five” that Masai Mara is home to, including lions, leopards, buffalos, rhinoceros, and elephants. Between June and September, the reserve is host to the annual great wildebeest migration, which sees more than 10 million animals travel 1,800 miles from the Serengeti in neighboring Tanzania.
“Fostering meaningful connections and nourishing the soul is at the heart of the JW Marriott brand, so entering the luxury safari segment is a natural next step,” said Bruce Rohr, Global Brand Leader, JW Marriott. “Offering our guests once-in-a-lifetime experiences and a deep connection to place, JW Marriott Masai Mara Lodge balances the thrill of a game drive with thoughtful opportunities to switch off and take it all in. We are excited to welcome travelers to a transformative and wellness-forward stay delivered with JW Marriott’s legacy of extraordinary hospitality.”
The lodge’s elegant interiors, designed by Kristina Zanic Consultants, seamlessly blend the savannah inwards, drawing inspiration from the elements with soft, warm tones, natural materials and textures, and native colors thread through its design. Each of the lodge’s 20 private tents provide a peaceful sanctuary to recharge and reset, and feature terraces overlooking the River Talek, a water source and habitat for much wildlife. The tented honeymoon suite offers a private plunge pool, while two interconnecting king and twin suites are ideal for families with children over the age of six (the minimum age of guests at the lodge).
Well-being & Mindful Practices
In keeping with JW Marriott’s ethos of mindfulness, the lodge is home to a number of thoughtfully designed spaces, from the cozy Adventure Lounge full of books to get lost in and a nook for young adults to take time for themselves, to the Cultural Deck where guests can gather around the fire pit to share tales of the day’s exploration.
Capturing the essence of rejuvenation, the Spa by JW emulates the serenity of the reserve and offers tailored experiences and signature treatments which blend locally inspired techniques and therapies. These are complemented by natural and organic products by renowned African skincare brand, Healing Earth, also available as in-room amenities. Guests can enjoy spa treatments from the comfort of their tented suite, accompanied by the sounds of the wilderness. Extending beyond body to mind and spirit with guided yoga, treatments include a “Masai Celebration” incorporating local botanicals and therapies.
Nourishing Culinary Journeys
At the heart of the camp is the JW Garden—an outdoor space for guests to spend time discovering home-grown, organic ingredients, including the lodge’s signature rosemary. The garden’s produce is used by chefs to craft personalized dishes, cocktails, and mocktails. The garden will host daily programming, including live cooking, interactive cocktail mixology, and chef-led talks for a true farm-to-table experience. A relaxing gathering place, Fig Tree Lounge offers panoramic views of the surrounding plains from the indoor and outdoor bar and serves refreshing cocktails and mocktails infused with seasonal ingredients from the lodge’s garden. An indoor and alfresco dining experience at Sarabi Restaurant takes guests on a nourishing epicurean experience guided by JW Garden ingredients and local culinary heritage. Guests can venture out into the reserve with the lodge’s guides to enjoy a freshly prepared “Bush Breakfast” or dinner while sipping sundowners and soaking in the breathtaking savannah vistas.
Connection to the Locale
The lodge’s community programming provides an authentic insight into meaningful local projects, including The Maa Trust, an organization empowering local people by promoting small business start-ups. The lodge donates a percentage of the nightly rate per person to the organization and provides a space for craftspeople to retail Maa Beadwork and produce. Guests can visit The Maa Trust to meet with local artisans and forge a deeper connection with the people in the area.
Currently, 60 percent of the lodge’s team are locals, with plans to reach 70 percent, ensuring the hotel’s contribution to the socio-economic development of the region. As an ongoing initiative, JW Marriott Masai Mara’s Apprenticeship Program invites young women from the community to diversify their skills and broaden their experience to kick-start their careers in the hospitality industry. Partnership with the community began during the early development process of the lodge. Developed on land committed to a tourism project so as not to unduly disturb the surrounding environment, much of the construction was undertaken by local experts overseen by technical specialists, with build materials sourced from sustainable suppliers. The lodge has rehabilitated access roads to the property, installed power to the area, and provided access to clean drinking water for locals through a water treatment plant.
Emphasis on waste reduction and recycling is integral to daily operations. The lodge’s water treatment plant provides recycled and sanitized water; food waste is placed at the lodge’s compost site; and water wells are dotted around the lodge for animals to quench their thirst throughout the day.
By supporting local organizations such as The Mara Elephant Project and The Mara Protector Conservation Program, JW Marriott Masai Mara Lodge contributes to protecting animals and their habitat across the greater Mara ecosystem. Bringing a passion for the surrounding wildlife and nature to guests, the lodge’s Head Guide is a lifelong conservationist who holds talks about local culture at the lodge as well as guided walking tours. With an abundance of meaningful moments to experience at the lodge, guests can delve into photography and learn new skills at the lodge’s own studio.