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Destinations: Kenya

Maasai Mara Conservancies

Kenya Kenya

"The Mara North...lies between the Mara and Olare Orok Rivers and includes Leopard Gorge as well as a glorious sweep of rolling plains."

In Africa, wilderness is the new luxury. The harder it is to find the more valuable it becomes. That is why vast tracts of overgrazed rangelands bordering the Maasai Mara National Reserve have been transformed into hugely successful wildlife conservancies, as the Maasai have discovered.

It started seven years ago as a partnership forged between the Maasai landowners and a handful of enlightened eco-tourism investors. The result has brought benefits to everyone involved. In return for setting aside areas exclusively for wildlife, the Maasai receive a regular income from eco-tourism. Visitors benefit from the strict controls that limit the numbers of game-driving vehicles allowed in the conservancies, and the biggest winners of all are the wildlife. Until these private reserves were established the lions that roamed these Maasai rangelands were being ruthlessly exterminated. Now, given their new protection, they are more numerous than ever. At the same time the creation of the conservancies has secured the vital grazing lands beyond the Mara’s northern boundary on which the Serengeti wildebeest migration depend in the dry season.

The benefits of staying in the conservancies are notable. For a start, low-impact tourism means fewer vehicles and also allows you to participate in activities not allowed inside the national reserve: walks with armed guides, night safaris and breakfasts in the bush. The camps you will stay at are sublime. The scenery is every bit as beautiful and you can always drive into the reserve itself if you want to see the wildebeest river crossings.

The Mara North, the biggest conservancy, lies between the Mara and Olare Orok Rivers and includes Leopard Gorge as well as a glorious sweep of rolling plains. Adjoining Mara North are Motorogi and Olare Orok, two conservancies that are managed as a single unit used exclusively by a handful of luxury camps.  The other main conservancy, Naboisho, lies directly to the East of Olare Orok and is home of the Koiyaki Guiding School and the Mara-Naboisho Lion Project.

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