The true wildlife experience
The Maasai Mara Conservancies
The Mara Conservancies offer visitors the ultimate safari: the lowest tourism densities; incredible day and night game viewing; and authentic cultural interactions. But above all, these Conservancies are managed according to a model that protects the delicate eco-system and benefits the landowners themselves – the Maasai people.
This website portrays the excellent work done by the Conservancies and profiles the Tourism Partners - the unique camps and lodges that raise the Conservancy fees and ensure guests enjoy the true wildlife experience. It is hoped that this site will educate and encourage visitors to choose the Conservancies for their safari and in doing so contribute to the protection of this remarkable destination.
The Conservancy Movement
Much of Kenya’s wildlife lives on rangelands outside the National Parks and National Reserves. These rangelands belong to a variety of landowners, some of them private individuals, some of them communities, and some of them groups of individuals on lands that were formally community owned but have subsequently been subdivided. Many of the landowners are pastoralists like the Maasai and Samburu peoples. Their lands comprise most of the key wildlife dispersal areas and migratory corridors bordering the country’s famous tourism destinations, such as the Masai Mara National Reserve, Amboseli National Park and Tsavo National Park. Few Protected Areas are self-sufficient ecosystems and were these landowners to decide to fence their land, plough it up for agriculture, or simply get rid of the animals, the country’s wildlife would become a shadow of its former self. The establishment of wildlife conservancies on the rangelands and dispersal areas beyond the parks and reserves has been an important step forward for conservation and instead of 6% of Kenya’s land being protected for wildlife, it may soon be 15% or more. This could mean that the biggest winners will not just be the animals and conservationists but, as importantly, the landowning communities for whom wildlife will prove to be much more of a benefit than a cost.
With the sub-division in recent years of much of the eco-system outside the Masai Mara National Reserve into small parcels of land, some far-sighted people realised that unless steps were taken to protect the area, this fragmentation of the outer Mara into individual plots could have a devastating effect on Kenya’s premier wildlife resource. They recognised that the sub-divisions could result in the loss of wildlife habitat with too many new tourist lodges mushrooming on parcels of land in ribbon developments along the Reserve boundary, as well as increased human settlement and buildings springing up, fencing and agricultural cultivation, intensive ranching with increased livestock causing over-grazing and other developments which would mean the loss of the former pristine wilderness which was the Mara. A number of stakeholders worked together to offer an opportunity for the individual Maasai landowners to put their plots of land together to form conservancies which could be leased by tourism partners to generate an income for the landowners from rents per acre and to create jobs and livelihoods for their families. Within the conservancies there is a maximum of 1 tent per 700 acres and no more than 12 tents per camp, in order to limit the scale of tourism and to minimise the number of tourist vehicles. This ensures a low-impact and more sustainable form of tourism. Following the first conservancy set up along these lines at Ol Kinyei in 2005, Olare Orok was next to adopt this model in 2006 and was followed by Motorogi, Mara North and more recently, Naibosho. By protecting the habitat for wildlife, the conservancies have helped to increase bio-diversisty as well as creating benefits for the communities and providing a more rewarding experience for tourist visitors.
A joint initiative
The various Mara conservancies have evolved independently, though each operate a similar model: leasing land from the Maasai landowners, investing tourist revenues back into the communities and ecosystems, and creating successful tourism products.
Maasai Mara Conservancies – the true wildlife experience is a significant step forward in the Conservancy Movement – it is a joint initiative involving like-minded stakeholders within the Mara conservancies: conservancies that are committed to developing equitable and sustainable partnerships with the landowners and those that enforce the established rules for game viewing and tourist density. The aims of this collaboration are: to share expertise and resources and establish best-practices; to create a platform from which to market the Tourism Partners and attract donor support for the numerous conservation and community projects; and to lobby government on leglislative issues. This will create a knowledge-base, improving efficiencies across all areas of conservancy management, from administration and marketing, to fund-raising, to project implementation and logistics.
The Maasai Mara is a unique tourist destination and the Tourism Partners within the Mara Conservancies all share a commitment to providing visitors with an exceptional safari experience.This is a world apart from the Masai Mara National Reserve where high levels of visitor use, especially the harassing of wildlife and off-road driving in unsuitable locations, as well as the rapid and uncontrolled expansion of tourism accommodation in the greater ecosystem, are all having a severe impact on the Reserve's wildlife and natural habitats and a negative effect on the visitor experience. Whilst the operators of these boutique camps and luxury lodges compete for visitors, all share a love for the Mara and a deep desire to create a sustainable tourism model that will involve and empower the communities in which they operate and ensure the magical fauna and flora are protected for the benefit of future generations
Currently five conservancies have committed to the initiative
Mission StatementThe Maasai Mara Conservancies have common goals:
- Safeguard the Masai Mara through professional wildlife management
- Direct and transparent revenue distribution to the Maasai landowners
- Promotion of strong eco-tourism practices and use of environmentally friendly technologies
- Controlled tourism and guaranteed low vehicle density for lower environmental impact
- Fundraising for the betterment of the local communities
- Lobby government on legislative issues