Masai Mara luxury safaris don’t have to be busy

The Mara has this awful reputation as being full of minibuses – we’d really like to tackle this, for years now there have been a dedicated few Masai Mara camps who have been preserving conservancies on the outside of the Mara Reserve – these unfenced pieces of heaven offer exquisite game viewing, varied landscapes, authentic cultural experiences and, most of all, freedom. Freedom to walk, have lunch in the bush, get out of the car, take night game drives and generally get to know Africa in a wild and remote environment within the Masai Mara ecosystem.

Most of the conservancies contain three or four luxury or small tented camps – these camps work together on beautifully preserving the area they’re in and being considerate when game viewing – i.e. not allowing ten vehicles to crowd around one lion. The guides are quieter, more professional – your sighting will more often than not just be you.

Masai Mara traffic

The Mara reserve has become a bit of a joke – often the guides don’t even look for game, but look for vehicles, and they all chat endlessly when they cross paths – this is infuriating but so easily avoided by booking into one of these wonderful conservancies where the game viewing is just as good, but irritating chat, use of radios and traffic jams are non-existent.

Our top recommendations for Masai Mara conservancies:

Naboisho Conservancy

Naboisho is wonderfully wild and remote, and a relatively new conservancy, the famously luxurious Ol Seki Camp has been there forever and the game viewing is exceptional. Both Encounter Mara and Naboisho Camp also offer exceptional safari experiences – anything is possible here from fly camping, to walking safaris and bush dinners. The landscape is varied as is the bush from acacia thickets to dry riverbeds and wide open plains.

Olare Orok Conservancy

This conservancy is also full of game and hosts Richards River Camp which is one of the best camps in the Mara – this camp is quirky and intimate with a fantastic atmosphere and charismatic staff. Wildlife viewing here is exciting and always full of action. The springs which are situated nearby to the camp mean that game is constantly in the area and often uses the camp as a corridor!

Mara North Conservancy

The Mara North is vast so there’s plenty of space to spread out – there are wide open plains, rivers and escarpments, it is stunning. Here are the luxury safari camp heavyweights – Mara Plains Camp, Saruni Mara, Mara Bush Houses, Elephant Pepper and Serian, as well as Safaris Unlimited Riding Safaris – this vast area is beautifully preserved and a shining example of successful cooperation with the community to provide a haven for wildlife.

Although there are many others which also offer fabulous explorations and experiences. The Mara remains one of the greatest game viewing areas in the world – we saw the below in one morning:

Masai Mara

Masai Mara

Masai Mara

Rose Hipwood is Managing Director of Africa Rose Travel Ltd.

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Comments (5)

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  1. Pedro says:

    This year I finally had the chance to visit the Mara and, whilst I was lucky enough to be with a good team of Maasais, I did see these annoying buses. They’re indeed quite disruptive.

    Great tips, though! Next time I’ll try one of these conservancies.

  2. Rose Hipwood says:

    Ah Pedro I hope you had excellent game viewing nevertheless? There are many fantastic camps in the conservancies, I have named only a few favourites.

  3. Etelka Player says:

    We stayed in Mara last October, and it was amazing. Yes there are lots of minibuses, however if you go to a popular place you have to expect it. The Mara is massive so you can go to places and not see another car for miles. We had a proper 4wd, and the driver was extremely knowledgeable, and very professional. We seen all the the animals we wanted, and more, including the big 5. Mara is a great place to visit, don’t be put off by comments on minibuses. Choose your operator carefully, and find out in advance as to what vehicles they use for Safari. We arranged our trip privately and had the best holiday ever. Will be back next year, visiting some of the other areas. On my wish list is Mount Kenya, Tsavo, Amboseli, just name a few.

  4. Rose Hipwood says:

    Etelka I am so glad you had such a wonderful time – for your next trip make sure you also consider Tanzania too, and then of course there’s the whole of Southern Africa to explore too!

  5. Beth says:

    Thanks for this helpful article. I agree that the minibuses are a problem in the Mara but they don’t have to be, if you choose an exclusive or remote camp. I would also encourage safari-lovers to visit Zimbabwe or Zambia. Luxury tented camps, amazing food and abundant wildlife viewing – without any minivans! It is pure wildlife watching at its best – you will forget that other tourists even exist.

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