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Masai Mara Conservancies

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Masai Mara Conservancies

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By Matthys van Aswegen

Safari Travel Planner

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While the Masai Mara National Reserve is the focal point of the Greater Mara Ecosystem, several conservancies were established that border the unfenced national reserve in the last decade.

These conservancies are on private land owned by Maasai families that has been set aside for wildlife conservation and tourism.

The landowners lease their land to safari companies and lodges, who then pay monthly fees, which go back into the community, funding education and other development initiatives.

In return, the Maasai are still allowed to graze their cattle on the land, but only under strictly controlled conditions.

As a result of the establishment of conservancies, Maasai communities have benefited from economic upliftment, while wildlife numbers have increased as land that was once overgrazed is now being rehabilitated as wilderness.

hyena-stalking-wildebeest masai mara safari Credit: Mara Plains Camp

Mara conservancies are the best option for people wanting a low tourist density Masai Mara safari experience, as most of the concessions only have a few camps and don’t allow self-driving, so there’s a limit to how many vehicles will be at sightings.

The other bonus of staying in a conservancy is doing the activities that aren’t allowed in the national reserve, including bush dinners, night drives, off-road driving, and walking safaris, which are all fantastic ways to experience the wilderness and animals.

On walks in the bush, Maasai guides will track animals and teach you about the ecosystem, its fascinating animal, bird, and insect life, and the medicinal and cultural uses of plants.

The conservancies, which cover an area of land almost the same size as the national reserve itself, are concentrated around the northern end of the reserve. They also lie to the east of the Masai Mara in more remote locations.

By staying at a Maasai-owned conservancy, you not only experience the luxury of exclusive wildlife viewing but also contribute to community conservation, improving the lives of local communities and helping wildlife numbers to increase.

Mara North Conservancy

On the northwestern edge of the Masai Mara National Reserve, the 74 000-acre Mara North Conservancy is one of the best concessions for its abundant wildlife, quintessential savanna landscapes, and commitment to community conservation.

Projects here work to rehabilitate overgrazed land and natural habitats and support the management of grazing areas.

wildlife masai mara cheetah

Game viewing is excellent, and particular highlights are big cat sightings and the dramatic herds of the Great Migration. Out of all the conservancies, it has the greatest number of camps – ten in total – but there’s still a lot of space and privacy, with nearly 700 acres per tent.

Mara Naboisho Conservancy

It’s easy to see why this 50 000-acre conservancy is hailed by many as the top concession in the Masai Mara for Safari.

To the north of the national reserve, the Mara Naboisho Conservancy has only seven camps (877 acres per tent), so there’s plenty of wilderness without other cars, and the environmental impact is limited.

Here the concentration of wildlife is high, with abundant big cats and herds of wildebeest, elephants, and giraffes. It also ticks all the boxes for successful community conservation.

The conservancy was established when more than 500 Maasai land-owning families decided to connect their land to allow for wildlife movement. The Maasai now practice controlled grazing to allow the land to recover from intensive herding.

Enonkishu Conservancy

At the northern end of the Greater Mara Ecosystem, the 6000-acre Enonkishu Conservancy is focused on improving cattle management so that the ecosystem and wildlife can regenerate and local communities have sustainable income from grazing and conservation fees.

Wildlife to spot includes plenty of plains game, giraffes, buffalo, elephants, and a pride of lions that lives on the edge of the conservancy.

wildlife masai mara antelopeLodging in the conservancy is offered on an estate that has been “rewilded” from intensive cattle farming.

Ol Kinyei Conservancy

With only two small camps (as well as two mobile camps) on its 18 700-acres of grassy plains and undulating hills, the Maasai-owned Ol Kinyei Conservancy provides ample privacy and exclusivity.

It offers superb wildlife viewing, with a resident lion pride and leopards, elephants, buffalo, giraffes, and more than 300 bird species. The camps in the conservancy also offer game drives in the neighboring Mara Naboisho Conservancy.

Olare Motorogi Conservancy

One of the oldest and most successful conservancies, Olare Motorogi (made up of the former Motorogi and Olare-Orok Conservancies), has been a blueprint for other concessions and community conservation in the Masai Mara.

It also offers exceptional wildlife viewing (with large numbers of lions and elephants), with one of the highest concentrations of animals and the lowest tourist densities in the Mara.

ol donyo lodge masai mara Elewana Collection’s ol Donyo Lodge

There’s a 94-bed limit on the conservancy with just one room per 700 acres on its 33 000-acres of riverine forest, valleys, and acacia woodland.

Olderikesi Conservancy

Along the eastern border of the national reserve close to the Serengeti in Tanzania, the 24 700-acre Olderikesi Conservancy is located in one of the most remote areas in the Masai Mara ecosystem.

It’s also one of the most exclusive concessions, as there are only 20 rooms on the entire conservancy – a distribution of one room per 1200 acres.

Olderikesi is your spot if you’re looking for solitude on your Masai Mara Safari. It’s also particularly rich in game and is known for fantastic lion, leopard, and cheetah sightings.

Mara Siana Conservancy

Recently established in 2015 by 1200 landowners, the 7898-acre Mara Siana Conservancy lies some distance from the Masai Mara National Reserve to the east.

If you want to get off the beaten track, this is a good option, as it’s more remote than some of the other conservancies and only has two lodging options.

In this secluded valley, there’s plenty of wildlife to be spotted, from prides of lions, herds of elephants, cheetahs, leopards, buffalo, and the occasional Black rhino and pack of wild dogs.

Loita Hills

Lying to the northeast of the Masai Mara, the little-visited mountain range of Loita Hills is home to Maasai communities and beautiful landscapes of immense plains, thick forests, verdant hills, and mountain peaks that loom up to 2150m (7054ft).

horse back safari rhino tracking

While this isn’t a conservation area, and there’s less wildlife than in the conservancies, there’s still game to be spotted, from buffalo and bushbuck to Colobus monkeys, as well as plenty of birds.

However, the main reason to visit Loita Hills is to witness the traditional Maasai culture, visit community projects and experience a walking safari with Maasai guides in an area where few other tourists venture.

There are a few options for walking safaris: staying at a base camp and doing day walks into the surrounding area or making a multi-day trip of up to 12 days staying at mobile camps with all your equipment and provisions carried by donkeys.

Loita Migration

While everyone has heard about the Great Migration, hardly anyone knows about the Loita Migration.

Around May, at the start of the dry season, a smaller movement of hundreds of thousands of wildebeest and other antelope make their way from the Loita Plains (that lie to the north of the Masai Mara National Reserve) southwards into the reserve itself.

loita migration kenya safari

The animals move through the Mara Naboisho, Olare Motorogi, and Ol Kinyei Conservancies, so if you want to experience this mini version of the migration, book a stay at one of the camps in these concessions for your Masai Mara Safari.

Travel Tips
  • The peak Great Migration months of August to October are especially busy in the Masai Mara, so be sure to book well in advance for lodging at conservancy camps.
  • Keep in mind that many camps are small and intimate, so they only offer a few tented rooms and get booked up quickly.

balloon safari kenya landscape

  • The best and easiest way to access lodges and camps on the conservancies is by flying into conservancies’ airstrips, where the lodge you’ve booked will have staff waiting to pick you up. You can drive to the conservancies, but you’re not allowed to self-drive inside the conservancy.
  • If you stay in a conservancy, you can take game drives in the Masai Mara National Reserve to see the Mara River crossings during the Great Migration months.

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Copyright © Discover Africa Safaris | Masai Mara Conservancies | Last Updated: 29 September 2023