The Greater Mara ecosystem is the area surrounding the Masai Mara National Reserve. Although it is part of the same eco-system, the game in some of the conservancies is not as prolific as in the Mara itself. Without the restrictive regulations of the National Reserve guests can take part in walking safaris, night drives and in some areas horse riding safaris.
The conservancies of the Greater Mara that surround the National Reserve are a fantastic way to experience the very best of the Masai Mara whilst getting away from the large volumes of traffic that are sadly now associated with travelling to this part of Kenya. The Greater Mara offers more space, fewer vehicles and some very high quality safari camps.
The wildlife sightings in these areas are still very good, with a high possibillty of seeing the big five. The only draw-back is the distance to the Mara and Sand rivers for the main crossing points on the Great Wildebeest Migration, which involves a whole day in a vehicle. It is possible with a picnic breakfast and lunch and a good way to make the most of this extraordinary wilderness, but if you are set on witnessing a Wildebeest crossing, you will be better off staying somewhere in the main reserve. For the best all-round experience, we recommend combining a few days in the National Reserve and some time in the surrounding conservancies.
In the Greater Mara, there are a number of camps that line the Mara River to the north west of the ecosystem and it is here the game viewing is at its best. See our blog for more information about getting front row seats to the Great Migration
Greater Mara Safaris: where to stay
The conservancy structure is an extension of the Mara eco-system, but these areas of land are owned by the local Masai tribes. The camps then rent this land from the local community and use it for photographic safaris. This in turn not only benefits the wildlife but also provides the local community with a sustainable livelihood. Due to this land agreement, in addition to game drives, the Greater Mara offers far more flexibility with regards to activities compared to the National Reserve. Here you partake in walking safaris, night drives and in some instances, horse riding safaris, where galloping alongside the antelope of the Masai Mara is an unforgettable experience. Although there are fourteen conservancies that encompass the Greater Mara, those bordering the National Reserve are the best for game viewing and exclusivity. They also provide the opportunity to head into the National Reserve should you wish to spend a day there. Our favourite conservancies are Naboisho, Mara North and Olare Motogori.
Naboisho is the Greater Mara's newest conservancy, formed in 2010, it sits to the North East of the National Reserve and comprises of over two-hundred square kilometres. As with most conservancies that border the National Park, low density tourism is key here. With limitations on the number of guests staying in the conservancy each sighting in this sizeable chunk of land is intimate. It has one of the highest densities of lions in Kenya as well as plenty of other resident game.
Our favourite camps here are Asilia's Naboisho which is home to their fully equipped photographic vehicle and the excellent Kicheche Valley. Activities include game drives, night drives and walking safaris, allowing any visitor to enjoy an all-round excellent safari experience.
The most Western conservancy comprising a variety of landscapes is Mara North. The area of three-hundred and twenty square kilometres has the lowest visitor-to-area density out of all the conservancies, so intimacy and privacy are the key here. No conservancy demonstrates the partnership between wildlife authorities and the local community more so than Mara North, several Masai landowners have herding rights within the area, so do not be surprised to see a herder and his cattle during your activities.
Sharing this piece of land are twelve lodges which range from the great value Kichwa Tembo
to Elewana's beautiful Elephant Pepper Camp
. As well as night drives and walking safaris, the ability to spend the morning or afternoon horse riding should not be overlooked by any equine enthusiast.
Olare Motogori is sandwiched between the Mara North and Naboisho conservancies on the edge of the Masai Mara National Park. Previously this stretch of land was two separate entities; Motogoria Conservancy and Olare Orok Conservancy. But in 2012 the conservancies joined to create one conservancy consisting of one-hundred and fifty square kilometres. With only five camps on the conservancy, finding a more exclusive area in one of the world's most famous wildlife destinations is certainly hard to come by.
Aside from the great game viewing on offer by vehicle, the camps in Olare Motogori can also offer night drives and walking safaris. Some of our favourite camps include the lavish and opulent Mara Plains
and the intimate and private Kicheche Bushcamp.