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Kenya’s Masai Mara & Private Conservancies

When we say ‘hands-on expertise’ – we mean it! Last month we shared Sabrina’s adventure in Southern Tanzania and Zanzibar; in October our team travelled further into East Africa to make sure our recommendations are as good as we say they are. Travel Expert Marleen explored Kenya, starting at the famous Masai Mara and then moving north to the Lewa and Ol Pejeta conservancies

Kenya is where safari travel really began back in the days and a Kenyan safari delivers the quintessential East African experience: beautiful tented camps overlooking sprawling plains studded with thorn trees and grazing antelope; red-robed Maasai herdsmen tending their cattle on the savannah, co-existing with the local wildlife. Blessed with an abundance of wildlife, Kenya is home to parks and reserves of dazzling diversity from the Masai Mara and the Great Wildebeest Migration to Mount Kenya, palm-fringed Indian Ocean beaches and so much more.

Masai Mara National Reserve

The Mara is probably best-known for the Great Wildebeest Migration; the greatest natural show on earth. With over a million animals on the move, it is a sight never forgotten. This particular year, the wildebeests and zebras already started their way back to Tanzania’s Serengeti end September/early October, somewhat sooner than previous years. This proves again that while we can roughly plan for a Migration safari, there are (of course!) never guarantees in the bush… Thankfully the Mara’s abundant resident wildlife provides a year-round paradise for predators like lion, leopard and cheetah.

Take a different perspective: start your day with a hot air balloon flight. Watching dawn break over the savannah from 1,000 feet up.

If you’d like to avoid peak-season crowds, then you may want to consider staying in a private reserve adjoining the reserve. You’ll enjoy exclusive sightings, night game drives and plenty of privacy – perfect for discerning travellers and honeymooners. Especially during the busier migration months in the Mara, when visitor numbers are usually highest, we would recommend staying at one of the private concessions. These privately-run reserves are home to excellent accommodation and offer everything the Masai Mara delivers plus night game drives, guided nature walks and exclusive, off-road wildlife sightings.

One of these private areas is the Mara Naboisho Conservancy; which falls within the Greater Mara Region, and borders the Masai Mara to the southwest, the Olare Orok Conservancy to the west, and Ol Kinyei Conservancy to the east. This game-rich and unexplored conservancy has big cats in big numbers, including one of the highest lion densities in the world. It also boasts impressive herds of elephant, giraffe, wildebeest, zebra and the rare African wild dog. In addition to the abundance of resident game, the conservancy also serves as a migration corridor for several hundred thousand animals between the Masai Mara and Loita Plains to the east. The existence of the conservancy ensures that migratory cycles and patterns are not disturbed or forced to change. If you ask us, the real magic of Naboisho is its sheer exclusivity.

Lewa Wildlife Conservancy

Kenya has more private concessions that are well worth a visit, and Lewa is one of them. Situated in Northern Kenya, this conservancy covers 263km2 of pristine African wilderness. With dramatic views of Mount Kenya, the conservancy showcases a range of wild habitats; from highland forests, wide open grasslands to melt-water mountain springs and acacia woodland. The conservancy model of Lewa envisions a future where people across Kenya value, protect and benefit from wildlife.

Image showing the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy landscape with rhinos and safari vehicle

Lewa has one of Kenya’s highest wildlife densities (incl. 12% of its black & white rhinos) and world’s single largest population of Grevy’s zebra.

More than 70 different mammal species roam the vast grasslands at the foot of Mount Kenya. The conservancy serves as a safe refuge for the critically endangered black rhino and Grevy’s zebra as well as elephant, lion, giraffe, wild dog and other iconic animals. Lewa is also home to more than 400 species of birds and offers an unforgettable combination of scenery, superb game viewing, excellent hospitality and conservation education.

Ol Pejeta Conservancy

Also well-worth a visit during your Kenya safari is Ol Pejeta: a 360km2 not-for-profit wildlife conservancy in Central Kenya’s Laikipia County. It’s situated on the equator west of Nanyuki, between the foothills of the Aberdares and Mount Kenya. The conservancy is the largest black rhino sanctuary in East Africa, and home to two of the world’s last remaining northern white rhinos. Its K9 anti-poaching dogs and their handlers play a critical role in conserving not only the wildlife on the conservancy but also supporting the local communities surrounding the area.

The conservancy works to conserve wildlife, provide a sanctuary for great apes, and generate income through wildlife tourism and complementary enterprises for re-investment in conservation and community development. It is the only place in Kenya to see chimpanzees, in a sanctuary established to rehabilitate animals rescued from the black market. Ol Pejeta is home to nine tented camps and lodges, and it’s allowed to self-drive; there is a good network of graded all-weather roads and tracks inside the conservancy.

Night game drives are allowed in the conservancy with the help of a spotlight and guide. Now you stand a good chance of spotting the more unusual creatures like aardvark, zorillas and bat-eared foxes while you may get lucky with a leopard or lion hunt. The conservancy has an astounding variety of animals, including the Big Five (black and white rhino, leopard, elephant, buffalo, and lion) as well as giraffe, Grevy’s zebra, Jackson’s hartebeest, cheetah, and chimpanzee.

During our recent visit it became apparent that the conservancy’s grasslands are still struggling to fully recover from the many months of drought, and that especially the resident buffalo herds have been hit hard... As the largest buffalo species found in Africa, the Cape buffalo that inhabit Ol Pejeta can grow up to 7 feet from head to tail. Being such large animals, they require a huge amount of fresh grass to feed on and fighting between rival males for the best territories and dominance has become even more critical. Here’s to hoping rain is on the way very soon…

The Cape buffalo is the largest buffalo species found on the African continent

Are you ready to start planning your safari in Kenya?

A Kenya safari can be as simple or as diverse as you like. All tours start with your arrival in Nairobi; most need an overnight stay at one of the city’s accommodations. After your Kenyan safari, include some relaxation time on the beautiful coast with our Kenya Safari & Beach itinerary.

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It was a safari of a lifetime and exceeded all of our expectations!

Our mom grew up in Central and South Africa so we had visited the continent many times. My sister and I wanted to take our teens and husbands to Africa to experience the magic. We had a limited budget but big and specific expectations and by some miracle Walter was able to manage both.

Heather (USA)
Very helpful good suggestions for holiday ideas always available for questions good organising

Excellent service and they supplied good suggestions for our holiday they also organised all internal flights and arranged check in for us so we had no worries while on holiday. We have had a most memorable holiday staying at wonderful places thanks to Sabrina and Safari Online. Would recommend Safari Online to organise your holiday.

Lorraine (UK)
Best trip I have ever been on. Highly recommend.

Would highly recommend. Safari online asked questions when booking and were efficient and knew exactly what we were looking for in terms of accommodation and animals were wanted to see. Gave advice on a few little extras with no pressure, which we did and am very grateful which make trip even more exciting. Would definitely recommend booking with them.

Safari Online made our fantastic family holiday dream come true!!

Safari Online have been nothing but professional and incredible from the time we made our first enquiry to the last day of our stunning holiday. Nothing was too much trouble for Walter. We are now starting to plan our next family Safari for 2019. Guess who we will be booking with??? Safari Online we hope you are ready!!!!!

Penni (AU)
Professional, patient, efficient and responsive. Met all our travel needs and requirements spot on

Communication was excellent – I asked A LOT of questions and did a ton of research myself and Walter was extremely patient with me and very responsive. he was straight forward and extremely professional. Tour itself was excellent – an incredible experience and one never to be forgotten. Everything was spot on.

Safari Online were extremely efficient and absolutely charming to work with.

Our 28-day itinerary took us to South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Botswana. A magnificent and unforgettable adventure. Everything ran smoothly and efficiently from the flights, transfers, rides, connections, etc. Absolutely wonderful! Can’t thank them enough!

Ann and Mario (Canada)
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Our experience with Safari Online was excellent. After becoming very frustrated trying to search for a safari destination on our own, we turned to Karina for help and she was a lifesaver.  We had an amazing safari adventure at the lodge–the experience of a lifetime–and are so grateful for her help. We literally couldn’t have done it without her!

Chris (USA)
An incredibly well organised tour with no hassles whatsoever.

Safari Online understood our needs and was able to present us with sensible options to choose from. It was evident that this tour operator has knowledgable and experienced agents who can arrange a seemless tour. We were provided with a professional online itinary which was comprehensive and easy to use, knew exactely what to expect, and encountered no stumble blocks along the way.

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From the very first contact we’re very happy about the respond time and quality of information from safari-online.com. Based on the received first tailor-made quote, which is a weblink with all the details about the flights, photos of the lodges etc. we knew that this is “our” partner for this trip. Our expectations were excelled!!!

Lukas (Germany)
Walter has always been an excellent communicator and has supported us fully

We have been to Africa for 24 of the last 27 years so know a bit about what is involved. Walter has arranged the details for the last couple of years, and has done a superb job. He is always quick to respond and comes up with answers immediately……..no evasive tactics, always head-on!

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