Book a Safari with Points: JW Marriott Masai Mara Lodge [Cancelled awards not returning to inventory]


Update 10/2/23: JW Marriott Masai Mara continues to have a decent amount of award availability in the spring of 2024. However, prices are higher than what we saw earlier this year with rates ranging from 102,000 to 132,000 points per night.  This means that 85K free night certificates have become useless at this property.

Note: Award nights do not go immediately back into inventory when canceled.  Due to changed plans, I canceled my December bookings and, out of curiosity, checked to see whether the award nights would be available for someone else to book.  Nope.  In the past, I have seen rooms at this hotel become available again immediately after cancelling so my guess is that they’re near capacity during the dates I had booked and so are not releasing award nights.

My original post follows…

I’ve had my eye on this new Marriott property since it opened in April 2023.  It’s an all-inclusive luxury safari lodge located in the Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya, Africa.  Since it opened for reservations, I’ve checked periodically for award availability but never found a single night… until now.  I’m currently seeing blocks of 3 nights or longer available from October to January, with the largest availability in December.  This lodge usually charges around $3,000 per night for a room with two adults, but award nights usually cost around 100,000 points or less (meaning that you’ll get insanely good value of over 3 cents per point with these awards!).

a screenshot of a room with a fireplace and a bar

I’m looking forward to trying out this safari lodge!  So far, there aren’t many reviews but the few that exist are mostly glowing with praise.

Here’s info about the lodge from the hotel’s website:

JW Marriott Masai Mara Lodge marks the debut of the first luxury safari lodge in the brand portfolio. Overlooking the Talek River and the Masai Mara National Reserve, this lodge features 20 luxurious and expansive en-suite tents (including an interconnecting family suite and accessible suite), all with their own private outdoor Jacuzzi tub and deck. Your experience includes meals (breakfast, lunch, high-tea/ sundowner, and dinner), both on-property and bush meals, a selection of beverages, game drives, airstrip transfers, and many meaningful moments. Communal areas include a dining area, lounge bar, spa, gym, photographic studio, garden and a large outdoor viewing deck with a fire pit. The lodge is designed to inspire you to focus on the ‘whole you’ and nourish your soul. For the safety and comfort of our guests, we have age restrictions for children under six.

Also check out this glowing review by Nonstop Points who has already been to the lodge via a points booking: JW Marriott Masai Mara Review: Luxury in the Savannah, a Truly Unforgettable Safari.

There are downsides, though:

  1. Getting to the property isn’t easy.  From Nairobi, it looks like the best option is to take a bush plane.  If you book through the hotel, it costs $400 per person round trip.  Additionally, you can only bring 33 pounds of stuff with you on the plane (you can check bigger bags at the airport in Nairobi for free).
  2. You have to pay the park fee: $70 per person, per night of your stay.  So, two people for a 5 night stay would have to pay $700.
  3. Adding a child to a room with 2 adults costs an extra $1,000 per night.

Despite all that, I think it still looks like an incredible experience well worth the added cost and inconvenience.

Award Nights Available

Many individual nights are available for under 100,000 points per night.  As a result, it’s possible to book nights with 85K Free Night certificates (like those that come with the Bonvoy Brilliant and Ritz-Carlton cards) by topping off with up to 15,000 points.  Alternatively, if you have lots of points, the best deal is to book 5 nights in a row in order to get the cheapest night for free.  Unfortunately, you cannot get the 5th Night free if you use a free night certificate for any of the five nights.  Personally, I booked 6 nights: 5 nights with points (and paid for only 4 nights) plus I booked one night with an 85K certificate and 7,000 points.  Update: I may drop my reservation down to 2 or 3 nights and tack on another lodge in another part of the park.

Below you’ll find the awards that were available at the time of writing this post for a minimum of 3 nights at a time:

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Raghu N

How did you handle this kind of email from JW Marriott.

“Please allow me to highlight the fine print of your booking, concerning the cancellation policy for your reservation. You may modify or cancel your booking before 12th July 2024 (60 Days prior to arrival) without incurring any additional fees.
If you must modify or cancel your reservation after that date, a cancellation fee of 49500 USD applies. The cancellation fee will be charged to the credit card provided (AMEX Card ending 1003), the certificate will be cancelled, and Points will be re-credited to your Marriott Bonvoy account. Please note, you will not be able to settle the cancellation fee with Points.”

So if I cannot go because of sudden health issues to anyone in the family, pandemic shelter in place or global events. Is there some special insurance you took. It might be worth paying 1K or 2K to protect your trip cancellation

Raghu N



Raghu, Greg
Did you find any solution to better manage this clause? It’s a hefty cancellation charge and anything can happen within 60 days.

Raghu Narayanan

Hi Greg
Somewhere you talked about splitting your time in Masai Mara between 2 different properties. How does that work. Do they have Bush planes that take you from 1 property to another or you arrange transport i.e. hire a SUV or something

Raghu Narayanan

Thanks. Getting 5 nithts in a row for family of 4 (2 rooms) will be a stretch in July/Aug/September. So maybe 3 nights at JW and aniother 2 or 3 at ankther location will be appropriate


Can you share details once you book it? We’re going oct 2024 and would love some guidance! 🙂

[…] decks that overlook the river. Rates have been hovering in the ~$2000-3000/night range, making it a terrific deal on points.Since the property just opened up this year, there’s not a ton of reviews about it, outside […]


Just booked 7 nights in January, cost about 650k Bonvoy. For my wife and I Flights over on points on emirates from Toronto with Aeroplan with a stopover in Dubai. Coming back on points with Ethiopian with Aeroplan with a stopover in London. Cheap Dream trip. Thanks FM

[…] JW Marriott Masai Mara has had quite some buzz around it lately. It’s Marriott’s first entry into the world of luxury game lodges/safaris and is located just outside the renowned Masai Mara Reserve in Kenya. The property is all-inclusive, including game drives, and offers lodging in luxury tents with jacuzzi-topped decks that overlook the river. Rates have been hovering in the ~$2000-3000/night range, making it a terrific deal on points. […]


thanks for this great overview and the updates. Re this JW Marriott Lodge being “all inclusive”: Are there any insights of that this actually means? What is included and what not? E.g. is it food only and food and drinks and what about activities/safari trips? Or in other words, how much cash (in addition to booking the property with points) would one spend for a day about per person?


Price included food, drinks and 2 game drive per day. There is no additional expense except tips to staff. But you have to pay $80 per person per day for park fee. If you stay 5 nights you will pay 6 days of the park fee.

Gerald Rebitzer

Thanks, very helpful!


Come on, Greg. Kenya, Africa? Really? Do you ever write Japan, Asia, or France, Europe?


Who has that many points to burn


With the incredible current Bilt Status/Virgin Atlantic transfer promo, Mahali Mzuri & Ulusaba for 540k VA points/3-nt stay; 860k/5-nt stay might also present a good opportunity


it looks like there is nothing available at all, at least for 3 days plus. Do you expect them to add availability for July 24-December 24?


Did I really miss out on this? How much is it normally with points for a night? This is my dream trip and I CANNOT believe i missed it lol



[…] the hotel wasn’t bookable with Marriott Bonvoy points, though that has changed, as flagged by Frequent Miler. This hotel is a spectacular value with points, given how much cash stays would be, and given all […]


I just went to play around with this and adding a child to the room resulted in a $10,000 per night fee. So that’s a no-go for most families. Still a great deal for couple or single travelers though!


We were in The Mara August 2022 for four nights in a mid-tier camp, Aruba Mara, and enjoyed an outstanding one of a kind experience. It certainly will be a pleasure to be in the Marriott Mara, but you will be spending much time outdoors in the Mara for morning and/or afternoon game drives – we loved the all-day game drive we did one day. Your guides will be supplied by the hotel and will be Masai, who live and work in the region. There are other options and variations of things to do, such as a foot hike in the Mara or a visit to the Masai town, all worthwhile to add to the game drive experiences, which are some of the best in the world. I would recommend at least four nights given the first day is a traveling day. However, you do have transportation options: plane or car. There are several airlines to choose that will fly there and the Marriott should offer a car service to pick you up in Nairobi and then also take you wherever you want to go afterwards. You can compare rates with Get your Guide and Suntransfer, if you want. The Park fees are like a Disney fee that goes to the park municipalities or government depending on the park and, though expensive, support the upkeep of the park and allows your experience. There is no discount for cash but it pays to have some or the ability to get it from a nearby ATM if the credit card network is down when you are there. If you are now finding more available nights using points, it may be because it is not prime season. Our summer is their winter which is generally the better time for animal viewing since there is less flora. That may be less important in the more arid Mara but you got the The Great Migration happening in the Mara in July/ August. All-in-all, anytime you can get to see the Mara, in all its animal glory, would be golden opportunity.
P.S. Would recommend the Aruba Mara. Food, guides, location were great.


Just to add a bit to this excellent information, if you book with a safari tour company they will typically provide your guide who also serves as your host and driver throughout your trip. If you drive between multiple parks within Kenya you will usually have the same guide throughout.

It is definitely worth checking out more than one park. My favorite is Samburu, although I don’t know what the security situation is like these days that far north.

Kenya is on the equator so temperatures are similar throughout the year. But it is a few degrees cooler during our summer and there is a wet and dry season.

If you cross the equator near Mt. Kenya you can stop to get your photo taken at the equator marker and see a dubious “science” presentation on the Coriolis effect, which is completely rigged but still entertaining.