Most of our visits to the Maasai Mara have been to the main Maasai Mara Reserve.  However on our most recent visit, we also spent some time in the conservancies around the main reserve.

So, what is a conservancy and why stay there?

A conservancy is land outside government controlled national parks/game reserves that an individual or a community sets aside to provide additional protected habitat for wildlife.  When the land is set aside by a community, the community benefit in a number of ways and In Kenya, as conservancies are a recognized land use under the Wildlife Act of 2013 they offer improved land and resource rights and access to incentives.

The Maasai and wildlife have always co-existed, and this model provides a way for this to continue well.  The communities who give their land for conservancies benefit from rent paid on a per-acre basis and they are also incentivized to take part in conservation efforts.  In addition, you will find that many of the camp staff and guides will be from the local communities – so it is a source of employment for the communities.  And who better to know the lay of the land than the people who live there?

Porini has been at the forefront of this model and within the Maasai Mara has 3 camps in two conservancies.  There is Porini Mara and Porini Cheetah (their newest camp) in Ol Kinyei conservancy and Porini Lion in Olare Motorogi conservancy.  All the camps are small and intimate, with the largest of the camps being Porini Lion with only 10 tents.  We decided that we wanted to experience all three camps on our visit.  The activities included at all the camp are game drives, bush walks and also night game drives.  These are all inclusive in the price as are all soft drinks, beers, house wines and selected spirits.

Now onto our trip…

Porini Mara Camp – Ol Kinyei Conservancy

This was our first stop.  We were met by our guides Ketere and Pere at the road entering the conservancy (just off the main road from Narok to Sekenani gate).  The camp was a short drive away, and we were lucky to see a beautiful herd of elephants before we got there.

After a warm welcome by Jimmy, the manager and his team we freshened up in our tent and headed for lunch.  The camp has many trees, especially the beautiful yellow-barked acacias and the tents are set along the Laetoli river, making it great for birders.

We will be honest here – if you are looking for uber luxury, than this may not be the place for you.  But if you are looking for a comfortable camp which is keeping its’ environmental impact as low as possible while contributing to a safe larger habitat for wildlife, benefitting the communities too and providing a great immersive experience in the wild than this is definitely your place.  But don’t worry, the tents, which are simply furnished have comfortable beds and ensuite bathrooms with hot bucket showers (true safari style) and flushable toilets.

And we must add that you will be fed like a king/queen – we think we must have put on 5kg during our five nights at the camps.

With only one other couple at the camp, it was quiet – just the way we like it.  Before our afternoon game drive, Jimmy introduced us to the resident African Scops owl and we enjoyed bird watching from our balcony where there I saw a beautiful Paradise flycatcher.

During our evening game drive, our guides were keen on looking for a cheetah called Entito who has three cubs as she had been seen earlier that morning in the area.  We were amazed at the density of plains game.  We don’t think there was any point during our entire time in Ol Kinyei that we drove more than 2 minutes without some sort of animal sighting.  We were also amazed at the huge herds of wildebeest too.  The wildebeest which used to be part of the Loita plains migration (which is now unfortunately blocked) were now in Ol Kinyei conservancy.

We finally located Entito in the neighbouring Naboisho conservancy, where we spent the evening with her and the cub.  It was great seeing the interactions between her and her cubs.  She made a couple of attempts to hunt, but was unsuccessful.  There were only two other cars at the sighting, which is typical of the conservancies where there are fewer camps, guests and cars.  This is beneficial for the guests with more quality sightings.  We enjoyed a sundowner while watching the cheetahs walking into the sunset before heading back to camp, where there was a beautiful campfire set up.

The night skies were clear and full of stars, so after trying some astrophotography, we had a fabulous dinner before heading to bed, lulled to sleep by the sounds of nature.

The next morning we were woken up with cookies and tea and a jug of hot water with which to wash our faces – this is a common feature in all the Porini camps.  We had opted for a bush walk this morning and this is something we would highly recommend to anyone on a safari in Kenya.  It allows you to experience being out in the wild in a more intimate way.  We learnt about animal tracks, poo and about the medicinal trees and plants.  The thrill of walking amongst wildebeest and seeing elephants while on foot is something that is indescribable – you just have to experience it.

After a hearty breakfast, we set off for our next stop – The Porini Cheetah Camp which is located in a beautiful setting close to the Olare Lemunyi watercourse.  On one side is a beautiful White Rock feature and on the other side is a marsh which is fed by a permanent underground spring and a magnet for wildlife.  The White Rock is an excellent location for sundowners.  There is an abundance of wildlife around the camp and sometimes you don’t even have to leave camp for a lion sighting.

Porini Cheetah is the newest of the Porini camps and is owner managed by Jui and Nirmalya Banerjee together with John.  Jui and Nirmalya join you for some of your meals and it is wonderful to hear their stories of the wilderness and especially of the lions and cheetahs in the area – they know them all by name.

The tents at the camp are quite spacious.  They are simple, but elegant.  You will either get a view of the marsh or the white rock from the tent, both of which are spectacular.

We spent our evening on a game drive, and had a great time chilling with a herd of elephants.

We ended with a sundowner with the beautiful sunset.  After a hearty dinner, we were ready for bed.  We opted for a game drive again the next morning and got some amazing lion and jackal sightings – I’ll let the pictures do the talking.

We loved the fact that Jui at Porini Cheetah totally understood our requirements of no eggs and we did not have to say more than that to be properly catered for, especially at breakfast.  It was refreshing to get an amazing breakfast without having to have prompted it with a conversation with the chef (which is what I usually do at all the other camps and lodges we stay at, with eggs being a big part of the breakfast plan).  This to us was guest service to the highest level where the camp went above and beyond our expectations.

Our final days were spent at Porini Lion camp in the Olare Motorogi conservancy.  We were especially excited about going to this conservancy as we had heard that there is a high chance of sighting a leopard.  On our way to camp, we spotted a lone cheetah and once again it was great being the only vehicle at the sighting.  The other thing that I love about the conservancies is that you are allowed to go off-road and get closer to the animals.  I must however also add that the guides are very cognizant of getting guests great sightings without harassing or interfering with the animals.  Animal welfare is always their top priority.

We spent three nights at Porini Lion camp and the set up of the tents was very similar to the Porini Mara and Porini Cheetah companies.  Though we did not manage to see the elusive leopard, we had the most amazing sightings of cheetahs, lions and plains game.  Our guides Chris and Little John were superb and we learnt a lot from them about animal behaviour.  Our favourite moment was when we were doing a short ‘night-game’ drive to get back to camp and at one point, Chris just switched off the vehicle, an open landcruiser, and we were enveloped by darkness.  Everything was just surreal.  It is not something that could be captured with a photograph, but is a moment that will stay with us forever.

See below for some photos from Olare Motorogi Conservancy.

So why stay in a conservancy and in particular the Porini camps?

  • You are supporting the local communities and eco systems
  • Smaller camps so less people
  • More intimate wildlife sightings
  • Local guides who know the areas and wildlife well – they have intimate knowledge of the big cats in the area from the prides of lions to a history of the leopards and cheetahs.
  • The ability to go off-road and get closer to the wildlife
  • The choice of other activities like bush walks that are already included in the price
  • Superb mouthwatering food
  • Great service

So don’t think about it more and contact us to book your safari.  With some great offers at the moment, we guarantee you an authentic safari experience.