Editors' Picks

Ishara Mara



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At a Glance

This very special 10-tent property in the heart of the Masai Mara National Reserve is challenging the safari status-quo with its fresh take on the safari experience, down-to-earth staff, inspired food program and elevated photography offering—plus, access to fabulous wildlife viewing opportunities.

Indagare Loves

  • Its wildlife-rich location in a beautiful part of the Masai Mara, which makes for great game-viewing
  • The innovative photography program, which allows all guests use of one of their Canon cameras, time with one of their photographers-in-residence and the option to edit and print photos in their on-property studio
  • The innovative food program that features all of the fresh produce grown in their on-property shamba, or garden


Opened in March of 2022, Ishara is the passion project of the Kenyan Madhani family—led by their son and young co-founder, Azhar, and born from his friendship with the local Maasai. After many years of camping with his Maasai friends along the Talek River, Azhar set out to build a lodge that would benefit the local community for many years to come—and share the magic of this special part of the Mara with others. The family spared no time, energy or expense in pooling their passions and interests to collaborate in dreaming up and then bringing to fruition an incredibly special 10-tent lodge that redefines the classic safari and creates a truly special guest experience. Named for the Swahili word for "sign," Ishara invites guests into a special home in the bush and encourages travelers to relax, listen to and embrace all of the signs that nature gives us. 

Perched along the Talek River, Ishara's location endows the camp with its very own private watering hole, and the animals often come to drink, so guests can watch them from the comfort of their private decks. Beyond, the game-viewing is incredible—as the lodge is located in a very wildlife-rich area. It would not be uncommon to see both a leopard and a cheetah, among other animals, in a single game drive. The trade-off is that this part of the Maasai Mara (the Maasai Mara National Reserve) has a higher vehicle density, especially in the peak season of June to September. If you can get past that, the game-viewing will make up for it.

Ishara further enhances the experience by providing guests with a wonderful and innovative photography program, which includes use of their Canon cameras, access to their photographers-in-residence for photography lessons and pointers (they will even join you for a game drive to provide live instruction, if you’d like) and a beautiful photo studio for editing and printing photos. This program takes the guests’ attention off of the other vehicles at a sighting, and refocuses it on wildlife photography—and getting that perfect shot. And by providing private vehicles for all guests, Ishara ensures that all game-viewing experiences and schedules can be customized to your preferences.

The public spaces are well-located, welcoming and charmingly decorated, and they foster social interaction with other guests while also making room for a few private dining spots for memorable meals. The tented rooms are the perfect size, layout and design—exactly where you want to be for your midday and evening respite. They have luxurious touches like large double-basin sinks in the bathroom, a beautiful open rain shower (both indoors and outdoors) and an outdoor copper tub with a privacy screen. The curation of design elements is impressive, from the hand-crafted wooden furniture from the island of Lamu off the Kenyan coast to the custom Ishara birdlife coloring book and the personal Nespresso machine. Nothing is over-the-top or grandiose, and the luxury is really in the details. All of this contributes to Ishara feeling more like a home than a lodge—a sanctuary in the Mara. 

The camp has two beautiful elevated bridges connecting one side of the river with the other, creating a treehouse feel, but the property is connected by a network of sandy pathways through the trees (there is always a friendly Maasai warrior to walk you to your room). Among the 10 accommodations are a pair of two-bedroom family suites, as well as a villa suite, made up of two separate suites and an adjoining entertainment area with private plunge pool, fire pit and dining area (perfect for families or groups of friends). 

Within a cluster of trees is a relaxing spa zone with a welcome tent, pool, dining area, gym and elevated treehouse spa tent for treatments. There is also an observation deck and starbed for a sleep-out experience.

The menus are à la carte and the food is fresh, delicious and satisfying. To the delight of someone on a multi-stop safari, the portions are smaller, and there are lots of healthy options. Whether you’re in the mood for a craft cocktail or freshly brewed espresso, a local curry dish or a cheeseburger, they can do it all.

Akin to many other Indagare-favorite lodges in Kenya, like Segera and Finch Hattons, Ishara shines because of the Madhani family's personal vision, and their careful attention to detail in bringing that vision to life. They are also conservation-focused—and not only was not a single tree cut down in the building of the lodge but, in fact, over 12,000 trees have been planted at Ishara since construction. They are fully solar-powered, employ an extensive rainwater harvesting system and tend their own shamba (garden) to grow a lot of their own foods to eliminate waste (and guarantee quality). And most of all, the warm and fun Kenyan staff truly find joy in sharing the Ishara experience with their guests. By the time you leave, you, too, feel like family.

Who Should Stay

Ishara is a great choice for couples, groups of friends and families (note there is a minimum age restriction of 8 years old), who are focused on great game-viewing and who will appreciate a fresh take on the traditional safari experience. Food-focused travelers and those passionate about photography or looking to learn more about wildlife photography will be happy here as well. 

For seasoned safari-goers who do not want to see other vehicles while on game drives, consider a property on a private conservancy instead.

Written by Rose Allen

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