Do not be misled into believing that the larger conservancies are more well-organized than others. For example, Siana Conservancy borders Kambu’s Mara Camp and is managed partly by its community members, even though it has fewer resources than other conservancies nearby. In spite of this limitation, they have still been able to provide rangers with the necessary equipment in order to protect their wildlife reserve.
In this guide, I will explain in detail all the major conservancies in this ecosystem and the various activities they have to offer.
What is a conservancy?
Conservancies are community-run wildlife reserves that provide a safe home to some of the most endangered species in the world. They act as natural parks, providing areas where animals can roam freely without interference from humans. The focus is on sustainable conservation and eco-tourism, allowing visitors to experience nature while contributing to its long-term protection.
Kenya became a signatory to the CDB(Convention on Biological Diversity) in 1992, and since then several conservancies have been established in the Maasai Mara Ecosystem. Having ratified the CBD, Kenyan Government has taken significant steps to conserve more of its diverse wildlife starting with doubling the acreage of Maasai Mara National Reserve (MMNR).
Group ranches were also given the option of being converted into conservancies to strengthen the conservation efforts of wildlife.
Why the Mara Conservancies are Important:
After Kenya committed to promoting wildlife diversity, the Mara Conservancies have been critical in ensuring that the wild animals are well-protected. The CBD protocol in Cop7 Summit paved way for countries to set aside land where wildlife can be conserved, and Mara Conservancies have brought a sense of responsibility towards the conservation of wild animals in Kenya.
Since an estimated 65% of Kenya’s remaining wildlife lives outside National Reserves, it was important to develop a community-based conservation model that safeguards the habitats while offering economic opportunity for thousands of people. This is why the Mara Conservancies are so important, as they represent a model of conservation that is both effective and sustainable.
The majority of the conservancies in this ecosystem have been supported by initiatives such as the Big Life Foundation, the Mara Lion Project, the Mara Cheetah Project, Maasai Mara Wildlife Conservancy Group, and more recently through various TUSK initiatives. These organizations provide training, technical support, and resources to each conservancy.
Benefits of Conservancies:
Income to locals: $30-50 per hectare yearly
To help this discussion progress, we must assess whether landowners would benefit more from cultivating their land or converting it into a cattle ranch. I have done the research and it is totally worth it for the local community.
On average, conservancies give a direct payment of $30-50 per hectare yearly to the owners whereas the livestock pays no less than $40-50 per hectare and farming around $100. With those details in mind, let us explore which path will be most profitable for these individuals.
24,000 currently benefiting:
With the establishment of conservancies, more than 24,000 people are now directly benefitting from a reliable income source. This is an incredible feat that no other activity can replicate – providing financial security to local landowners and their families who use it for various services such as healthcare, education loans and veterinary care for livestock. It also offers protection during harsh weather conditions like droughts where they have access to food or even relocate their cattle if needed.
Maasais can still graze their cows on the land:
The best part about conservancies is that Maasais can still graze their cows on the land even after it has been converted into a protected area. This allows them to live harmoniously with wildlife while also earning an income without having to worry about predators or poaching. It also helps maintain grasslands and other important resources for both animals and people.
Read all the benefits of conservancies on the maraconservancies.org page.
Conservancy vs National Reserve vs National Park – Key Differences:
Operation & Management:
National parks are owned by the government and managed by the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS). On the other hand, conservancies are run and operated by local communities or private entities that own them. In the Mara, most conservancies are run and operated by foreigners with only a few such as Naboisho Conservancy being run by the local Maasai community.
All three differ in terms of wildlife conservation. National parks have the highest levels of protection and are managed to conserve wildlife for the general public. Conservancies are also run with a similar objective but with an additional focus on community development and eco-tourism.
National reserves allow activities such as game viewing and bird watching. National also parks allow only game viewing but several conservancies can provide several additional activities in addition to game viewing. In some conservancies, you can expect activities such as bush camping, fly camping, camel horseback rides, cultural visits and even big game fishing depending on their size and resources.
The table below by Asili Africa shows the key differences between the Maasai Mara National Reserve and the Mara Conservancies;
Go2Africa.com blog has more info on the differences between Mara Conservancies and Mara National Reserve. See the snapshot below;
About Maasai Mara Conservancies:
The Maasai Mara Conservancy is a protected area of 347,011 acres, encompassing 15 conservancies. Since 2015 the region has seen an astounding rise in its conservation efforts; from 178 rangers to 280 and 970 km2 up to 1450 km2 – making it almost exactly as large as MMNR itself! This remarkable development has ensured that more wildlife than ever before can now find a safe sanctuary under the watchful care of dedicated professionals.
To promote conservation, The Maasai Mara Wildlife Conservancies Association (MMWCA) with a total of 15 conservancies as members has taken the initiative in Kenya to protect the greater Maasai Mara ecosystem through a network of conservancies and protected areas.
Conservancies in the Mara:
This sprawling 18,700-acre Kenyan wildlife sanctuary is situated on a portion of land owned by the Maasai people. With their generous consent, Gamewatchers Safaris was able to use this beautiful area for conservation and preservation efforts.
If you are traveling to the Mara via road through the Narok-Sekenani Road, OlKinyei Conservancy is the first conservancy that you’ll encounter before you reach Mara’s Sekenani Gate. This conservancy was founded in 2005.
Ol Kinyei Conservancy was the first conservancy established in the renowned Great Masai Mara Ecosystem. This sanctuary is a partnership between 171 Masai landowners and an esteemed safari operator, allowing wildlife to roam freely without restrictions from man-made barriers or fences on their journey throughout various properties owned by the Masai people. The result? No more cattle grazing within this incredible area, giving it a chance to thrive and regenerate after years of exhaustion due to overgrazing!
The conservation efforts of the conservancy have been so successful that it is now teeming with a wide variety of wild creatures, from gazelles to buffalos and leopards to lions. You’re even in for a treat if you get lucky enough during your stay – there are rare chances for witnessing wild dogs!
What else is interesting about this conservancy?
Every summer and autumn, Ol Kinyei is flooded with life as countless gazelles, zebras, and wildebeests migrate through the conservancy. But don’t forget about the less well-known Loita Hills migration in January: it’s estimated that when this annual event takes place between 100000 to 250000 creatures will pass through the Ol Kinyei Conservancy towards Naboisho Conservancy and Olare Motorogi Conservancy before heading back to their destination of Loita Hills.
Each year, the arrival of the Loita Hills Migration can vary, and it is impossible to predict exactly how many wildebeest and the buck will be migrating. However, if you choose to visit the conservancy at this time of year and take part in a safari while they are on their journey – you’ll experience something truly unforgettable! On top of that, should your venture come a little later than anticipated (February or March), there’s an excellent chance you may bear witness to the annual wildebeest calving season too!
Below is a map of OlKinyei Conservancy;
Siana Conservancy is one of the fifteen conservancies located in the Greater Maasai Mara Ecosystem. It covers an area of 35,000 acres and is a partnership between 1,517 landowners and 15 tourism camps.
In 2015, Mara Siana was born after 1,200 landowners banded together to form a partnership. After lengthy deliberations, the local inhabitants consented to vacate their Bomas – rural homesteads in which they lived – so that their biodiverse land could be returned to its natural state and open up again for wild animals of the Mara region.
Why this conservancy is important to conservation efforts:
Siana is the latest conservancy in the Greater Maasai Mara. It is home to an incredible array of wildlife, including cheetahs, lions, leopards and the rare African wild dogs.
The Conservancy is a vital transit point for massive elephant herds that can contain up to an astonishing two hundred members. But the Loita Hills area also offers its own unique marvel – between January and February, visitors are enthralled with witnessing thousands of wildebeest calves being born! This primeval show pales in comparison during July through October when the Great Migration carries innumerable beasts on their journey, providing spectators with an unparalleled natural experience.
Below are accommodations within Siana Conservancy;
In stark contrast to the vast wildlife, Mara Siana’s conservation model has sought to attract few tourists with exclusive packages. This gives rise to unhurried and uncrowded game viewing as it was designed in accordance with the conservancy model. With a ratio of 1 room per 250 acres, this expansive area contains only 6 safari camps – providing an unmatched experience for all visitors!
- Leleshwa Camp
- Mara Bushtops
- Siana Springs Tented Camp
- Entumoto Safari Camp
- Spirit Of The Mara
- Entumonto Safari Camp
Enonkishu is located on the Northern border of the immense Greater Mara Ecosystem, encompassing a land area of 5928 acres and including two tourism partners as well as 42 local landowners. The core purpose of this conservancy is to improve livestock health by means of cutting-edge cattle management practices and innovative tourist initiatives. In fact, its name – Enonkishu (Maa for “healthy cattle”) was chosen by community elders in recognition that healthy herds are essential.
At the Olerai boundary, there is a spectacular array of wildlife from giraffes and buffalos to elephants. Lions have even taken up residences near Enonkishu and Ol Choro Oiroua. The Mara River that borders the conservancy teems with hippos and crocodiles, while leopards can often be found in its lush riverine forests.Every once in a while, rare species like Aardvark, Caracal, serval cat and Aardwolf show up. Colobus monkeys have even been seen inhabiting the valleys of Kileleoni Hill and wild dogs were spotted roaming around the conservancy.
In September 1995, Lemek Conservancy was established as part of the Koiyaki Lemek Community Wildlife Trust. However, in 2009, members unanimously decided to separate from the trust and officially register their own conservancies. From that moment onward, they’ve been continuously working towards achieving a balance between conservation and community development.
Home to 6,027 acres of breathtaking scenery and 480 landowners, Lemek Conservancy is renowned for its abundance of wildlife in the Great Plains area. When you visit here, be sure to keep your eyes peeled—you may spot one of the big cats such as lions, leopards, and cheetahs roaming around! Even large herds of elephants can occasionally be seen if you’re lucky enough. There are few better places than this Maasai Mara ecosystem to get a glimpse at some remarkable wildlife viewing areas.
From Hippo to Warthog, Buffalo and various Antelope species, the Lemek Conservancy is home to abundant wildlife. This savannah consists of a tree-lined section of Mara River with substantial concentrations of plains game and these numbers are further intensified during the wildebeest migration season every year.
Exploring Mara Naboisho conservancy is like entering a wildlife paradise – an impressive 52,000 acres with 636 landowners that borders the renowned Maasai Mara National Reserve. Abundant in big cats and other species such as elephants, giraffes, and wildebeest, it can take pride in its lion population of more than 70 who call this place home. Its density of lions is one of the highest globally!
Map showing all Conservancies
List of all Mara Conservancies:
- ENONKISHU CONSERVANCY
- LEMEK CONSERVANCY
- MARA NABOISHO CONSERVANCY
- MARA NORTH CONSERVANCY
- NASHULAI CONSERVANCY
- OLARE MOTOROGI CONSERVANCY
- OLARRO NORTH AND OLARRO SOUTH CONSERVANCY
- OLCHORRO OIROWUA CONSERVANCY
- OL KINYEI CONSERVANCY
- OLDERKESI CONSERVANCY
- OLOISUKUT CONSERVANCY
- PARDAMAT CONSERVATION AREA
- SIANA CONSERVANCY
Check back soon as we add more descriptions of each Conservancy located in the Mara Ecosystem.