Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

What is a Conservancy?

A conservancy is a very specific form of land and wildlife conservation whereby landowners enter into lease agreements with safari operators. In the Masai Mara, this means that thousands of small-scale farmers and residents who own small parcels of land come together, pool their properties and enter into contracts with safari operators in return for monetary compensation and other assistance, which could be anything from educational and healthcare programmes to livestock management and grazing management.

A conservancy differs from a concession, which is normally when a safari operator rents a tract of land from the state or government.

Because they have had people living on them (and some still have significant villages) and have supported agriculture, conservancies are not pristine pieces of land. But it is amazing how quickly wildlife recovers after cattle, goats and people move on. The Mara’s conservancies consistently offer some of the most reliable and exciting predator sightings in Kenya.

Conservancies vs The National Reserve

There are several key differences between the Mara’s conservancies and the neighbouring Masai Mara National Reserve:

National Reserve Conservancies
Wildebeest Migration yes no
Night drives no yes until 10pm
Vehicle limit at sightings no as open to the public yes
Off-roading no yes but infrequent
Fly-camping no yes
Guided walks no yes
Limit on new camps no yes 1 bed per 350 acres limit average

Travel Tips:

  • If you want to see the Great Wildebeest Migration, then be assured that most lodges in the conservancies offer game drives in the national reserve. You can opt to pay extra park fees to return to the reserve to give you more chances to see the river crossings. We suggest a minimum 4-night stay if you’d like to do this.
  • Conservancy vehicles can enter the national reserve but the public and other safari operators may not enter the conservancies. This is important if low vehicle numbers and uncrowded sightings are non-negotiable for you.
  • There are very few lodges and camps in the conservancies because they maintain a strict limit of about 350 acres per guest (700 acres per 2-person tent). Because of this, the accommodation fills up fast, especially over the mid-year peak season, and it is best to book as soon as you know you want to go.
  • Conservancies try to recruit as many staff from the local area as possible. This may mean that some staff aren’t fluent in English but it does mean that the Maasai people are gainfully employed and fully invested in the safari industry.

What do Conservancies do for Local Communities?

Local communities voluntarily enter into conservancy agreements with safari operators and all decisions are taken collectively, meaning regular meetings are held. No one is forced to rent their land or move away, and different conservancies have different agreements with landholders.

Broadly speaking, conservancies are conservation success stories because:

  • They offer habitat protection against logging, mining, charcoal production and other ‘development’.
  • They have considerable anti-poaching activities.
  • They help with criminal prosecution where necessary.
  • They help save livestock via predator-proof bomas or enclosures, and by ensuring sustainable grazing rights.

The Big 4 Conservancies in the Masai Mara

There are other conservancies in the Mara and our Africa Safari Experts can help you understand what those offer. The following are the major and among the longest-standing conservancies here:

1. Mara North

Go2African Rikke watches Maasai cattle wander past in Mara North.
  • Founded: 2009
  • Size: 74 000 acres
  • Density: 1 tent per 700 acres or 1 guest per 350 acres
  • Ownership: 788 lease agreements of between 5 and 15 years each

Unique features:

  • Forestry school
  • Location for BBC’s Big Cat Diary series that followed the Acacia and Gorge prides
  • The Lemek Hills are a refuge for wild dogs
  • The Loita Hills see part of the December to May Great Wildebeest Migration

Where to stay:

Masai Mara, Kenya
En suite bathrooms are simple but functional, overlaid with luxurious touches. Guided walks also let you experience the thrill of seeing big game while on foot - pure safari magic! Guests at this traditional, unfenced safari camp enjoy great game viewing from virtually any location! Walks with Maasai guides reveal the smaller secrets of the Masai Mara environment. Elephant Pepper's tents enjoy panoramic views of the Mara plains from their shaded verandah. Couples can look forward to a table for two - feel free to choose the location! Open-sided vehicles allow everyone to get a view while on a game drive.

Elephant Pepper Camp

Activities Travellers Enjoyed
Bird watching Bush dining Cultural visits Game drives
Masai Mara, Kenya
Kicheche-Mara-family-suite-private-dining-(Marketing-Kicheche's-conflicted-copy-2019-12-20) Kicheche-Mara-Camp---Breakfast-5 Kicheche-Mara-Camp Kicheche-Mara-Family-Suite-(4) Kicheche-Mara---dining-area-(2) Kicheche-Mara---double-tent-in-to-out-view Kicheche-Mara---game-drive-(2)

Kicheche Mara Camp

Activities Travellers Enjoyed
Game drives Guided walks Hot air ballooning Local village visits
Masai Mara, Kenya
Saruni_Mara_Game-driving-through-the-Migration Saruni_Mara_Hot-air-balloon-over-the-Migration-by-Tom-Harding Saruni_Mara_Maasai-warriors-jumping Saruni_Mara_Picnic-lunch-under-the-acacia-trees Saruni_Mara_The-Artist's-Studio-Bedroom-overlooking-the-valley-at-Saruni-Mara Saruni_Mara_Themed-Rooms-at-Saruni-Mara_The-Artist's-Studio Saruni_Mara_Walking-the-Mara-plains-with-giraffe

Saruni Mara

Activities Travellers Enjoyed
Bird watching Bush dining Cultural visits Game drives

2. Naboisho

Maasai village visits with Encounter Mara.
  • Founded: 2010
  • Size: 50 000 acres
  • Density: 1 tent per 700 acres or 1 guest per 350 acres
  • Ownership: 500 Maasai landowners

Unique features:

  • Controlled grazing for cattle
  • Home of the prestigious Koiyaki Guiding School (KGS)
  • Healthcare, water access and female empowerment projects
  • Private Naboisho / Ol Seki airstrip
  • Enesikiria or KGS pride of 70 to 100 lions

Where to stay:

Masai Mara, Kenya
EncounterMara-Exterior-ArialView Encouter-Mara-room-exterior-veranda EncounterMara-Dining-Drinks EncounterMara-Dining-Supper EncounterMara-UpperLevelBedroom-Afternoon EncounterMara-Bathroom-StandardRoom EncounterMara-Interior-Lounge

Encounter Mara

Activities Travellers Enjoyed
4x4 Drives Bird watching Bush dining Children's activities
Masai Mara, Kenya
View of camp on arrival Entrance to Naboisho Camp Main dining area Main lounge area Main lounge area Main lounge area Utter relaxation at Naboisho Camp

Naboisho Camp

Activities Travellers Enjoyed
4x4 Drives Bird watching Bush dining Children's activities

3. Ol Kinyei

A classic Kinyei sunset with Porini Mara.
  • Founded: 2005
  • Size: 18 700 acres
  • Density: 1 tent per 1 000 acres or 1 guest per 500 acres
  • Ownership: 171 private Maasai landowners paid per acre leased and per bed night

Unique features:

  • Livestock exclusion zone
  • 90% of lodge staff are from the community
  • Among the highest lion density in the country
  • At least 330 bird species

Where to stay:

Masai Mara, Kenya
Porini Mara Camp_rf_1115 Porini Mara Camp_tr_3267 Porini Mara Camp_dsr42602 Porini Mara Camp_Family-Unit Porini Mara Camp_Picnic-in-conservancy Porini-Mara-Camp-Sundowner Porini-Mara-Camp

Porini Mara Camp

Activities Travellers Enjoyed
Bird watching Cultural visits Full-day safaris Game drives
Masai Mara, Kenya
Porini-Cheetah-Camp Porini_Cheetah_Camp_img_4564 Porini-Cheetah-Camp_1 Porini_cheetah_camp_1 Guest-Tent-Porini-Cheetah-Camp Porini-Cheetah-Camp Wildebeest-Porini-Cheetah-camp

Porini Cheetah Camp

Activities Travellers Enjoyed
4x4 Drives Game drives Guided walks Hot air ballooning

4. Olare Motorogi

Bush dinners with Mahali Mzuri.
  • Founded: 2006
  • Size: 32 9000 acres
  • Density: 1 tent per 700 acres or 1 guest per 350 acres
  • Ownership: 277 Maasai landowners

Unique features:

  • Olare Orok and Ntiakitiak Rivers plus extensive escarpment
  • Snare removal and beekeeping projects
  • Integrated livestock management
  • Secured against incompatible land usage such as wheat farming
  • Wild dogs and rhinos sometimes sighted
  • Home of the Enkoyanai lion pride

Where to stay:

Masai Mara, Kenya
Kicheche-Bush-Camp-Lounge-exterior Kicheche-Bush-Camp---dining-area Maasai-Mara-guided-walk Kicheche-Bush---double-tent-(2) Kicheche-Bush---twin-tent Kicheche-Bush-Camp Maasai-Mara---picnic-breakfast-in-the-bush-(2)

Kicheche Bush Camp

Activities Travellers Enjoyed
Bird watching Game drives Guided walks Hot air ballooning
Masai Mara, Kenya
MahaliMzuri-Exterior-ArealView MahaliMzuri-Exterior-CommunalArea MahaliMzuri-Dining-Evening MahaliMzuri-UpperLevelBedroom-LuxuryRoom MahaliMzuri-UpperLevelBedroom-FamilyRoom MahaliMzuri-Bathroom-Bathroom MahaliMzuri-SwimmingPool-CommunalArea

Mahali Mzuri

Activities Travellers Enjoyed
Bush dining Full-day safaris Game drives Hot air ballooning
Masai Mara, Kenya
Porini-Lion-Camp Porini Lion Camp_Tent-Interior Porini Lion Camp_rf_2096 Porini Lion Camp_o1 Porini Lion Camp_bonfire Game-drive-from-Porini-Lion-Camp Mess-Tent-at-Porini-Lion-Camp

Porini Lion Camp

Activities Travellers Enjoyed
Bird watching Cultural visits Full-day safaris Game drives
Written By


Share with a Friend