If you are preparing to visit the Mara Ecosystem, one of the most interesting and successful conservation efforts has been taking place in the Maasai Mara North Conservancy. Though established earlier the conservancy was incorporated as a non-profit in 2009 and as a collaborative effort between local communities and non-governmental organizations to protect the area for wildlife and promote sustainable use of resources.
What is a conservancy?
A conservancy is an area of land set aside for conservation. It’s a tool used to conserve wildlife and promote the responsible use of natural resources. The Maasai Mara North Conservancy is one such example, with over 250 species of birds, numerous large mammal populations and stunning landscapes encompassing the area.
The Conservancy works closely with local communities and organizations to ensure that Mara’s natural resources are used in a sustainable way. This means balancing the needs of local communities, wildlife populations, and other users such as tourists. To achieve this, they manage grazing, and water sources and use incentives for responsible land management throughout the area.
The Conservancy also works to promote tourism to the area, providing high-quality sustainable safaris that leave a positive impact on the habitat and communities. Tourists come from all over to experience the incredible wildlife populations, landscapes, and culture of the Maasai Mara North Conservancy.
The Conservancy has also been working with local schools to increase knowledge of conservation within the community. Their aim is to promote an understanding of the importance of conservation and to encourage the responsible use of natural resources.
The Conservancy is a shining example of how partnerships between local communities, non-governmental organizations, and other stakeholders can work together for successful conservation. By using incentives for land management and promoting sustainable tourism, they are ensuring that the Mara Ecosystem is preserved for future generations.
Below is a map showing Mara North Conservancy;
Image credit: Maranorth.org
Below is another clear map showing Mara North conservancy and all the other adjoining conservancies;
History of Mara North Conservancy:
In the 80s and 90s, land fragmentation caused a devastating effect on the Masai Mara environment as well as led to an increased impoverished status for many people in this ecosystem. To provide adequate protection of wildlife within these lands, joining forces between local landowners and private tourism companies was essential; however, without such a partnership, it seemed impossible to guarantee sustainable practices that would be beneficial for all involved. It wasn’t until 2008 when founding members of MNC deliberated with Masai leaders how they could come up with a long-term solution that ensured conservation while delivering rewards everyone could recognize.
After months of conversations beneath the cover of acacia trees, 750 Masai landowners made a historic decision to lease their land to Mara North Conservancy – an agreement that was finalized on January 1st 2009. This pioneering approach promised fixed payments from MNC member camps for the right to conduct game drives in this exclusive wildlife region – regardless of any fluctuations in tourism.
Size of Mara North Conservancy:
In my research, I found varying figures of how big the Mara North Conservancy is actually. It is safe to assume that the exact size of the Conservancy ranges from 28,000 hectares to 30,000 hectares which in acres converts to 69,000 acres to 74,300 acres. The Conservancy covers an area of the Maasai Mara National Reserve and conservancies such as Ol Chorro Oiroua, Ngamaiyesurai, Naboisho and Enonkishu.
This brochure by MaraNorth.org quotes 28,000 hectares (69,000 acres) as the size of the Mara North Conservancy while other blogs such as this claim that it is 74,000 acres. Whichever the case this is a fraction of the 373,000 acres that the entire Mara Ecosystem covers (read more on Wikipedia here)
Why this conservancy is important: 6 Reasons
Densely populated with wildlife:
The Mara North Conservancy is home to an incredibly high diversity and abundance of wildlife. With its vast plains, woodlands, and the riverine habitat it boasts a healthy population of lions, cheetahs, elephants, zebras, wildebeest and other amazing animals unique to the area.
To the south, the grand Oloololo Escarpments border the conservancy and draw in much-needed rainfall—which is essential for sustaining red oat and spear grassland regions. Throughout each season, herds of herbivores such as elephants, giraffes, zebras, Thomson’s gazelles and impalas make their way to these areas looking for water sources; always followed closely by predators such as big cats.
Best location to watch the wildebeest migration:
The Mara North Conservancy is said to be one of the best locations in the world for tracking and witnessing the great wildebeest migration. Thousands of animals including wildebeests, zebras, and antelopes can be seen trekking across the plains in search of food and water. The conservancy’s open spaces give you a great view of the action, with sightings that can often be far more impressive than in other parts of the Mara.
Due to its exclusivity, visiting the Conservancy is an amazing experience as you get to witness nature’s beauty and diversity without any crowds or disturbances. There are also plenty of game-viewing activities to indulge in such as guided walking safaris, night game drives and hippo-spotting on the Mara River.
Watch the short 56-second video below of Wildebeests and Zebras crossing the River in the Northern Conservancy;
From July to October, several animals including Wildebeest, Zebras, and even Elephants can be seen crossing the Mara River. With a massive number of animals congregating in one area, this is also a prime time to spot predators like lions and crocodiles.
Refuge for African wild dogs:
The Mara North Conservancy is a crucial sanctuary, notably for the endangered African wild dog or painted wolf. These timid predators have been evicted from many of their habitats due to destruction, making safe havens such as MNC increasingly important in order to ensure their survival. In this region’s stunning Lemek Hills, the area serves as an invaluable wildlife refuge and is home to a pack of highly vulnerable African wild dogs. Check out this video of a standoff between African wild dogs and a giraffe.
Below is an image of an African wild dog from madikwehills.com blog
Mara North is home to Leopard George:
Leopard George is a very special cat who calls Mara North Conservancy his home. His name originates from the fact that he was first spotted in 2008 by a guide named George while on game drive in the region. By 2010, Leopard George had become something of an attraction and has since been regularly seen near Nkoiroo Camp and sometimes even in front of the camp.
He is an iconic ambassador for conservation, and we are so lucky to have him as a resident in Mara North Conservancy!
Unfortunately, there isn’t much known about the life or habits of Leopard George but it is believed that he is quite old (approximately 10 years) and has been spotted with a mate.
Protecting the Mara North Conservancy:
Mara North Conservancy is committed to protecting and conserving this incredible piece of land and its wildlife while promoting responsible tourism. To ensure that the Conservancy remains intact, they have adopted five core policies:
1) They only allow a maximum of 100 vehicles in the Conservancy at any given time to protect the wildlife and reduce chances of human-wildlife conflict.
2) They are actively working with communities in the surrounding areas to ensure that the protection of the Conservancy is not compromised by poaching or illegal grazing.
3) They are dedicated to conserving large predators and their prey species.
4) They practice low-intensity tourism, which means there is a maximum of 6 guests per vehicle and they have strict guidelines on the time and distance that vehicles can spend with animals.
5) They are committed to empowering the local community by providing jobs and educational opportunities.
The Conservancy also has a team of anti-poaching rangers that patrol the area day and night in order to ensure that wildlife continues to thrive.
Location for BBC’s Big Cat Diary series:
Following the successful Acacia and Gorge pride towards the end of 2017, Mara North Conservancy was selected as the location for BBC’s Big Cat Diary series. The crew came to explore and document some of the most remarkable and endangered species in the world.
The project originally began in 1996 with Acacia and Gorge prides at Maasai Mara National Reserve, where the Trust supported Mara North Conservancy:
In 2016, the Tusk Trust made a significant contribution to support conservation efforts in the Mara North Conservancy. This included providing resources to guarantee that the anti-poaching team was provided with proper training and necessary equipment.
The trust also funded community development activities such as educational programs and livelihood projects. The Trust has also provided support for the construction of a hydroelectric power station to provide a clean, reliable and affordable source of energy for local communities.
The contribution from Tusk Trust has enabled Mara North Conservancy to continue its mission of protecting the area’s wildlife and promoting responsible tourism.
In addition, by providing education, the Trust also worked with the local community to introduce a program for the sustainable use of resources. The program increased awareness and understanding of conservation issues, helped build capacity in local communities and strengthened their ability to manage natural resources more responsibly.
The video below shows you some of the great filmwork done in this conservancy and currently available on BBCearth.com;
The future of Mara North Conservancy:
Mara North Conservancy is currently a model for conservation and responsible tourism, and its success is due to focused dedication from all stakeholders. However, a number of challenges still remain, such as climate change and increasing human-wildlife conflicts.
The Conservancy is committed to addressing these issues and continuing its path of conservation, ultimately ensuring a brighter future for the Mara North Conservancy and its wildlife.
To do this, they will continue to involve the local community in their initiatives, as well as maintain their commitment to low-intensity tourism.
Accommodation in the Mara North Conservancy:
If you are looking to experience a luxurious and eco-friendly getaway in the Mara North conservancy, look no further than its twelve scattered safari lodges. From boutique lodges to tented camps, these accommodations prioritize sustainability through measures like solar panels, compost systems for organic waste, water-saving systems and the use of other environmentally friendly products. You can relax knowing that your stay leaves a little negative impact on this gorgeous natural environment!
I managed to obtain contact details of the 12 hotels/lodges located within the Conservancy.
Below is a list with all the accommodations in Mara North Conservancy;
- Elephant Pepper Camp; www.elephantpeppercamp.com; email@example.com -+254 (0)20 6003090/1
- Exploreans Mararianta; www.exploreans.com; firstname.lastname@example.org-+254 (0)20 3607282
- Mara Bush Houses -www.marabushhouses.com -email@example.com -+254 (0)20 232 4904/6
- Mara Toto Camp; www.greatplainsconservation.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; +254 (0)20 2180181/(0)702 170650
- Saruni & Saruni Wild- www.saruni.com- email@example.com -+254 (0)20 2694338
- Karen Blixen Camp; www.karenblixencamp.com; firstname.lastname@example.org;+254 (0)20 3524215
- Offbeat Mara Camp;www.offbeatsafaris.com; email@example.com; +254 704 909 355
- Offbeat Riding Safaris; www.offbeatsafaris.com; firstname.lastname@example.org;+254 (0) 722 888 399
- Kicheche Mara Camp; www.kicheche.com email@example.com;+ 254 (0)20 2493569
- Royal Mara Safari Lodge; www.royalmara.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; +254 (0)788 319102
- Serian Camp; www.serian.net; email@example.com; +254 (0)735 566 237
- Safaris Unlimited; www.safarisunlimited.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; +254 (0)727 535019
The Go2africa blog reports that optimal occupancy at this conservancy is set to 1 tent per 700 acres of land or 350 acreages for one guest, and the conservancy currently possess 788 lease agreements ranging from 5-15 years.
The Mara North Conservancy is governed by a board of directors who have been chosen by the member camps. This goes hand in hand with the Maasai Landowner Committee to achieve both short and long-term goals that are planned for this land’s future. The Landowner Committee will provide reports to each of the landowners so they can make an informed decision, granting their final approval after council. Furthermore, twice annually all these involved parties come together for full community meetings which promotes open dialogue between everyone on how exactly things should proceed moving forward.
Mara North Conservancy Fees:
The rates charged by the 12 members of the Mara North Conservancies varies with some such as Karen Blixen in the West charging $116 per adult per night/$58 per child per night for non-residents. If you decide to wander into the Masai Mara game reserve fees, you’ll need to pay the standard rate of $80 per adult/$45 per child below 16yrs per day for non-residents.
Please note that there are 3 key tourist seasons in Kenya and the rates may vary as indicated on this Karen Blixen’s fees document (PDF)
Is Mara North Conservancy open to the public?
Yes, Mara North Conservancy is open to the public, but access is restricted to a certain area for safety reasons. Tourists will need to book accommodation in order to explore the conservancy and its wildlife.
What are the activities offered inside Mara North Conservancy?
Mara North Conservancy offers a variety of activities including game drives, walking safaris and bush meals. Hot air balloon rides can also be organized here in the early mornings.
Are there any restrictions on what I can bring to Mara North Conservancy?
Yes, please make sure that you do not bring any outdoor cooking equipment or firewood into the conservancy as it is prohibited.
- Don’t Crowd – 5 cars at a sighting.
- Keep your distance -20 meters.
- Give animals space.
- Leave animals in peace.
- Keep it to a whisper.
- Stay in the car.
- Keep out of thickets.
Are there any conservation projects taking place in Mara North Conservancy?
Yes, there are a number of ongoing conservation initiatives such as anti-poaching patrols, research and monitoring, habitat restoration and education programs. The conservancy is also working with local communities to promote sustainable development.