Masai Mara Private Conservancies
The private conservancies in the Masai Mara are a relatively new development with the first ones established in about 2005. But these private conservancies are one of the major conservation success stories in Africa! They have transformed the safari experience in the Masai Mara area.
What are now the Masai Mara private conservancy areas were originally used for cattle grazing and farming by the local Maasai communities. But agreements with safari operators have subsequently turned them into protected wildlife areas - although the Maasai still have limited rights to graze their cattle in these areas. The arrangement has obvious benefits for the local communities, providing them with a reliable source of income as well as employment. There are no fences between the private conservancies and the National Reserve, so wildlife is free to roam over the whole area.
Probably the biggest advantage of the private conservancies is the exclusivity they offer, and the lack of crowds. In the National Reserve there are no limits on the number of vehicles operating. But in the private conservancies there are strict limits on the number of camps in each conservancy - and only those camps can do game drives in that area. There are also limits on the number of vehicles allowed at a sighting. There are other added advantages in that you can go ‘off road’ to get very close to the wildlife. Walking safaris and night drives are also permitted in most of the private conservancies.
There are some things to consider though when choosing which private conservancy to stay in or whether to stay in the National Reserve instead. Not all the private conservancies enjoy the vast open grass plains that the Masai Mara is famous for and none of the private conservancies have migration river crossing points in them. All camps will offer day trips into the national reserve though. But during migration season keen photographers who want to capture the action of the river crossings may prefer to stay inside the National Reserve. Also, camp prices in the private conservancies will generally be more expensive than similar quality camps in the Masai Mara National Reserve.
The following sections describe the various private conservancies in more detail.
Olare Motorogi Conservancy
The Olare Motorogi is in our opinion one of the best private conservancies. It was one of the first private conservancies to be formed, and set the benchmark for sustainable tourism and exclusivity that the other private conservancies aimed to follow. With its vast open grass plains and superb game viewing, it offers a safari experience as good as or even better than in the National Reserve. With only a limited number of small camps allowed to operate in the Olare Motorogi it is never crowded.
If clients do wish to venture into the Masai Mara Reserve from Olare Motorogi, it is close to the excellent Musiara sector of the National Reserve, where some of the most spectacular river crossings on the Mara river occur during migration season.
Given the high-quality experience Olare Motorogi offers, it is not surprising that prices are generally some of the highest in the Masai Mara. Camps like Mahali Mzuri and Mara Plains are some of the most luxurious and most expensive camps in the region.
But for clients who have the budget the Olare Motorogi private conservancy offers one of the finest and most exclusive safari experiences in the Masai Mara region.
Mara North Conservancy
With 320km² of land, Mara North is the largest private conservancy and offers the same sweeping grass plains and superb game viewing that you will find in the main reserve.
And if clients do wish to venture into the Masai Mara Reserve then it is the closest conservancy to the Musiara sector, which has some of the best game viewing in the reserve as well as some of the most spectacular river crossings on the Mara River during migration season.
There is a good range of camps in the Mara North conservancy with the larger Karen Blixen Camp offering some of the best prices in the private conservancies, whilst Serian and Saruni Mara offer small, intimate, and more upmarket accommodation.
Mara North is one of most popular private conservancies. Its combination of classic grass plains, superb game viewing and well-priced camps makes it fantastic value for money.
With over 200km² of pristine savannah and wild bush, Naibosho is one of the largest private conservancies. The terrain in Naibosho is diverse and quite different to the Masai Mara Reserve. It is a mixture of rocky outcrops, small hills, dry riverbeds, bush, and small grassland areas. It should be noted though that it lacks the vast open grass plains that the Masai Mara is famous for. All camps here will offer a full day trip into the National Reserve, but it Is quite a long drive to the best areas close to the Mara river
The game viewing in Naibosho is excellent with some of the highest densities of lion in the Mara region. Cheetah and leopard are regularly spotted here as well as abundant plains game. The camps here can offer excellent value with cheaper prices than similar quality camps in other parts of the Masai Mara.
The Naibosho Conservancy offers a truly wild and exclusive safari experience with excellent game viewing. A lack of vast grass plains means that we may not recommend it to first time visitors if it is the only place where they will be staying. But it would be a fantastic option for repeat visitors to the Masai Mara or when combined with a camp in the National Reserve or the Olare Motorogi or Mara North conservancy.
Ol Kinyei Conservancy
Ol Kinyei is one of the smallest private conservancies with 65km² of land and just two permanent tented camps both operated by Porini Safaris. The terrain here is similar to Naibosho Conservancy with a really diverse mix of rocky outcrops, small hills, dry riverbeds, bush, and small grassland areas. Clients should not be deterred by the small size of the conservancy as the camps here have permission to do game drives in the much larger Naibosho conservancy where the game viewing is superb. The prices at the camps in the Ol Kinyei conservancy are also some of the most affordable of all the private conservancies. So this is a fantastic option for clients who are on more of a budget but who are still wanting an exclusive safari experience in the Masai Mara region.