Mara Conservancies, at a Glance

Situated in Kenya's South West, the Maasai Mara National Reserve covers just over 1,500km². Unlike national parks, the Maasai Mara has no fencing and is instead bounded by the Ololoolo (Siria) Escarpment on its western edge and extends south to the Tanzania border, where it seamlessly merges with the Serengeti National Park.

However, the national reserve's north and eastern borders are surrounded by private wildlife conservancies. 

Prior to becoming conservancies, the land here was owned by the local Maasai and mainly used for cattle grazing, agriculture and settlements. This land use was at risk of encroaching on established migration routes, water and food resources for wildlife.

Mara Conservancies

Under conservancy agreements, Maasai landowners established zones that enabled these areas to return to their natural and pristine state for wildlife to return.

Once the land had restored itself, the Maasai worked in partnership with lodges and other travel partners to generate revenue that directly benefits the local community and wildlife preservation.

The conservancies add 350,000 acres to the greater Mara area, and animals are free to roam anywhere within the Mara ecosystem.

There are fourteen in total, but the top four conservancies, also known as the Big Four are Mara North, Mara Naboisho, Ol Kinyei, and Olare Motorogi. 

Mara Conservancies

Mara National Reserve or Mara Conservancy? Help Me Choose

Mara Conservancies

The Mara conservancies are the best option for those wanting a secluded safari experience, as guest numbers are strictly limited on a number of acres per-guest basis. One guest per 350 acres is the standard. Some conservancies also restrict the number of tents per camp to just 12.

In the reserve, some larger hotels sleep 2,000 guests and heading out on an early morning game drive can feel similar to a parade, as minibuses all leave at once, one after the other.

The conservancies are great for wildlife viewing and game driving. Olare Motorgi has one of the highest lions concentrations in Africa. Mara North and Ol Kinyei are particularly good during the great migration, and Mara Naboisho is famous for big cats like cheetah and leopard.

Mara Conservancies

Only those staying in member camps are allowed to game drive in the conservancy, and the number of vehicles per sighting is strictly limited to just five with no self-driving allowed.

This is also a rule in the national reserve but rarely followed. In the peak season, it is not uncommon to see 15-20 vehicles at one viewing, particularly river crossings in the reserve.

Conservancies offer a more flexible approach to the safari experience, with walking safaris, horseback riding, off-roading and night game drives up to 10 pm, all of which are not allowed in the reserve. This enables closer wildlife encounters and a wider variety of experiences.

If you're staying in a conservancy, you will likely spend one or two days in the national reserve, depending on the length of your stay. This is so you avoid high reserve fees, which at the time of writing are $80 per person per day and allow you to take part in other activities not permitted in the national reserve.  

Mara Conservancies

Maasai Mara National Reserve

The national reserve is at the heart of the Mara ecosystem and includes some of the most breathtaking scenery and wildlife action. The spectacular migration river crossings only occur in the national reserve and the Serengeti.

The Mara, Sand, and Talek Rivers and surrounding areas are some of the most beautiful Kenya locations and are found solely within the reserve.

The national reserve is public access, and there are close to 60 camps and lodges and plenty of day visitors.

However, the reserve is five times larger than Mara North, the largest conservancy, so outside the peak season (July - September), the park need not feel crowded, especially if you have a good guide who knows where to avoid the crowds.

Due to the threat of poaching and security, rhinos are only found in the national reserve, so if you want to complete the Big Five in The Mara, you will have to enter the Reserve. The Mara Triangle is the best place to observe them. 

Mara Conservancies

Mara North

Mara North, the largest of The Mara conservancies at roughly 70,000 acres, lies immediately next to the northwestern edge of the Maasai Mara National Reserve.

From golden savannah plains to dense woodland and riverine forest, Mara North has a diverse and beautiful topography that attracts many animals from all over The Mara. During the Great Migration, Mara North is the furthest wildebeest, zebra and impala will travel before turning back towards the Serengeti on their annual migration.

These herds are accompanied by good numbers of predators, including lions, cheetahs, spotted hyenas and jackals. Elephants, leopards, hippos and giraffe are also found here year-round in high densities, particularly in the woodland areas.

There are 15 camps in Mara North which all fall under the luxury and mid-range category.

Mara North is a great choice for eco-conscious travellers. All member camps are devoted to having a low impact on the surrounding environment and harnessing renewable and low-waste initiatives. 

Mara Conservancies

Mara Naboisho

Set on the Maasai Mara's northeastern edge, Mara Naboisho Conservancy is 50,000 acres and is the second-largest conservancy.

Mara Naboisho offers a very exclusive and intimate safari experience with less than one bed per 350 acres and only four vehicles allowed at one animal sighting.

Naboisho means 'coming together' in the Maasai's Maa language and symbolises the 500 Maasai who contributed their land for the conservancy.

At Mara Naboisho, you can experience the true African wilderness through walking safaris accompanied by Maasai guides who grew up on this land, or you can go back to basics and sleep beneath the stars with a fly camping experience.

There are eight camps in Mara Naboisho, all of which are in the higher mid-range to luxury budget, and are all strongly committed to ensuring that any negative impact on the land and wildlife is minimal and that the Maasai community benefits from your stay. 

Mara Conservancies

Ol Kinyei

Founded in 2005, Ol Kinyei was one of the first private Mara Conservancies, and is one of the smallest of the ‘Big Four’ at 18,500 acres.

Distinguished by undulating hills, riverine forests, open savannah grasslands, and an abundance of water in the form of rivers, streams and springs, Ol Kinyei draws in plenty of wildlife, including The Great Migration, to its green pastures.

There are two camps in Ol Kinyei, both modest but offer guests spectacular views and great locations to explore the Mara.

At Ol Kinyei, you're not confined to the dining room. Set up breakfast overlooking the plains or take a break from game driving with a picnic under the shade of an acacia. 

Mara Conservancies

Olare Motorogi

Olare Motorogi is a secluded conservancy northwest of the Maasai Mara National Reserve.

Spanning across 33,00 acres, prime grasslands, riverine forests, and acacia woodlands characterise the area and draw in wildlife.

Olare Motorgi is renowned for having the densest population of lions in East Africa, so it is a great choice for lion lovers.

It is also one of the most exclusive and luxurious conservancies, with only 95 rooms across eight luxury lodges, which equates to one bed per 650 acres and one game-viewing vehicle for every 2,100 acres.

This is aimed at maximising the guest wilderness experience and minimising the environmental impact of tourism.

Mara Conservancies

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