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

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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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