Kenya’s Top Conservancies & What Makes Them Special
One of the questions that tends to come up most is what the difference between a conservancy and a national park is. National parks are vast areas of land that are government-run whereas conservancies are managed by individual landowners, a body or corporate, groups of owners or a community for purposes of wildlife conservation and other compatible land uses to better livelihoods. Conservancies tend to offer a more diverse, intimate and exclusive safari experience. If visiting one is next on your travel list, here are some of the best Kenya has to offer and what to expect!
Ol Pejeta Conservancy | Nanyuki
A trailblazer of conservation innovation, Ol Pejeta is a 364sq km wildlife conservancy situated between the foothills of Mount Kenya and the Aberdares.
What Makes Ol Pejeta Conservancy Special?
Formerly a working cattle ranch, today, Ol Pejeta is the largest black rhino sanctuary in East Africa. It is also home to two of the world’s last remaining northern white rhinos. In recent news, BioRescue consortium announced 5 new embryos created after the 10th oocyte collection from northern white rhinos. The update comes three years after starting its ambitious programme to save the northern white rhino from extinction through advanced assisted reproduction technologies. This nourishes the hope to eventually succeed in producing new offspring and give a keystone grazer of Central Africa a new future.
Image by Rio the Photographer
Image by Justin Mott
In addition, it is the only place in Kenya to see chimpanzees- in a sanctuary established to rehabilitate animals rescued from the black market.
It has some of the highest predator densities in Kenya, and still manages a very successful livestock programme. Ol Pejeta also seeks to support the people living around its borders, to ensure wildlife conservation translates to better education, healthcare and infrastructure for the next generation of wildlife guardians.
Loisaba Conservancy | Northern Laikipia
Loisaba is a 57,000 acre wildlife conservancy and working ranch located in Northern Laikipia, Kenya, East Africa. The Loisaba Community Trust, together with its partners, continues to ensure Loisaba remains a catalyst for community development, a hub for wildlife research, and a world-class ecotourism destination offering unique opportunities for guests to become part of the Loisaba story both during their visit and for years to come.
What Makes Loisaba Conservancy Special?
Loisaba gets its name from a Samburu word meaning ‘the seven sisters’ referencing the Pleiades. This is a particularly brilliant star cluster lying some 440 light-years from earth. With vast open skies untouched by light pollution, Loisaba is a nature lover and stargazer’s paradise.
As a haven for over 260 bird and 50 mammal species, guests can spend time with towers of endangered reticulated giraffes, herds of elephants and endangered Grevy’s zebra, prides of lions, cheetahs and elusive leopards. African wild dogs, thought for many years to be extinct in the region, are once again being sighted at Loisaba. Choose your experience of the bush through game drives, camel rides, horseback or on foot!
Lewa Wildlife Conservancy | Meru
Lewa Conservancy was founded on the principle that the benefits of wildlife protection and the resulting tourism should be funnelled back into the communities, helping them to develop and improve their own quality of life. It covers 65,000 acres stretching from snow-capped Mt. Kenya in the south to the shrublands of Tassia and Il Ngwesi in the North.
What Makes Lewa Wildlife Conservancy Special?
One of Kenya’s more popular destinations in Meru County, it Is perhaps best known as the home to the annual Lewa Safari Marathon, organised by Tusk in partnership with Lewa and Safaricom.
Each year participants share the reserve with several species of wildlife ‘running wild’ to fundraise for projects protecting endangered species and supporting the livelihoods of rural communities living alongside wildlife. Since its inception, the annual Tusk Lewa Safari Marathon has raised more than £6 million for frontline conservation, schools and healthcare initiatives across Kenya. Directly feeding into the conservancy’s ideology.
Alongside the marathon Lewa has one of the highest wildlife densities in Kenya including 12% of the country’s black and white rhinos, and the world’s single largest population of Grevy’s zebra. The Conservancy is also home to herds of elephants and buffalo, giraffes, lions, cheetahs, more than 400 species of birds and if lucky, a pack of wild dogs!
By visiting the Lewa, you will not only be signing up for a great African adventure, you will also directly contribute towards wildlife conservation and community development.
Last but not least, Lewa Wildlife conservancy also offers scenic flights onboard their private Cessna aircraft for bird’s eye views of Lewa Conservancy, Mt Kenya and Samburu. It also hosts and flies the only open cockpit biplane in East Africa that travels around the conservation areas of northern Kenya. A truly magical experience.
Borana Conservancy | Laikipia
At the foot of Mount Kenya sits the 32,000-acre Borana Conservancy, whose mission is to provide a sustainable ecosystem for critically endangered species. Staying on the Conservancy offers one the opportunity to immerse oneself in innovative and forward-thinking East African biodiversity conservation.
What Makes Borana Conservancy Special?
Roles in wildlife monitoring and security have historically been inaccessible to women in local communities in rural East Africa. Borana is altering the status quo and through doing so they are assisting women to become financially independent, increase their personal value and become an inspiration for younger generations in local communities.
Their 120-person strong ranger team, comprised entirely of local men and women ensures that all species are protected. In fact, they have been so successful that the Conservancy has not recorded a single poaching incident in the last 6 years.
The conservancy also hosts some of Kenya’s most unique and luxurious bush homes including Arijiju, Borana Lodge, Laragai House and Lengishu. These properties are truly an outstanding example of the synergistic effect of combining conservation and tourism. They are leading the way in conservation, using inventive methods for maximum impact. But they are also staying close to their roots, acknowledging their background.
Aerial Image of Arijiju
Borana Conservancy is also wonderful riding country, allowing one to experience game viewing from a unique perspective. With two sets of stables catering to various abilities the experiences range from walking with giraffe (suitable for those without any prior experience) to galloping with herds of Zebra.
Ol Jogi Wildlife Conservancy
Ol Jogi is a 58,000 acres (235 square km) private wildlife conservancy in Laikipia, Kenya. They are focused on wildlife conservation by providing a safe habitat for indigenous and critically endangered species. as well as working closely with surrounding communities so they can derive support and benefits from our conservation work.
What Makes Ol Jogi Wildlife Conservancy Special?
Ol Jogi offers a vast range of activities for guests of any age and interest. With a list ranging from quad biking to abseiling, canyon exploration, bush walks and much more, the experience is one of a kind. To add, you also get the chance to visit Potap, the only bear in Kenya.
Another unique characteristic of Ol Jogi Wildlife Conservancy is that they operate a school of 230 children on site. With 12 teachers, three cooks, and three security staff, the school runs from kindergarten level to the end of the primary school cycle. This means they provide over ten years of free quality education to the children of our staff. The conservancy has also built and supported several schools in our neighboring communities.
In addition, they fund a secondary school, college, and university bursaries every year for both the top-ranking students of the school and also for the most deserving students from our neighboring communities.
Soysambu means “the place of striated rock” in Maasai. Sambu is also the Maasai name for a cattle colour. This 48,000 acre Wildlife Conservancy on Lake Elmenteita in Kenya’s Great Rift Valley. Established in 2007, the conservancy is dedicated to ensuring that this landscape provides increased value to Kenya, its people and the wider international community through sustainable conservation and enjoyment of it as a national treasure and heritage.
What Makes Soysambu Conservancy Special?
Declared a Ramsar site in 2005. Lake Elmenteita is one of the most important lakes in the Rift Valley. With over 450 species of birds, including migratory species, it is a bird lover’s paradise and the breeding and feeding ground for many threatened bird species. During the dry season, black lava islands provide the only suitable nesting and breeding grounds for the Great White Pelican in the Rift Valley region. The pelicans feed in Lake Nakuru, 10 km to the west, and then feed their young with fish they have carried across in their beaks.
Soysambu is also among the few places that offers motorcycle safaris. ‘Dusty Helmets’ has been created by a group of passionate Kenyans with a desire to showcase the scenic beauty and stunning wilderness that is Kenya in a whole new medium, from the seat of a world class enduro motorbike.
Utilizing scenic routes far removed from the typical tourist circuit, cultural experiences with the diverse tribes of Kenya, and not forgetting close and personal encounters with the varied wildlife it is truly an unforgettable safari experience with a twist.
Shooting a captivating story? Soysambu also welcomes production teams to film on location. In fact the Oscar and Golden Globe winning Foreign Language film, ‘In A Better World’ opens to the beautiful landscapes found on Soysambu!
Mugie Conservancy | Laikipia
Mugie is a private wildlife conservancy in Laikipia of almost 50,000 acres hosting an array of impactful community and conservation programs.
What Makes Mugie Special?
Mugie is a venue for several conservation projects. In collaboration with the Predator Project and the Cheetah and Wild Dog Project, Mugie monitors the movement, activity, and behavior with radio tracking collars on one cheetah and two lions. The information about the movement and activities of these animals adds considerably to the knowledge base and education available.
In addition, the conservancy also hosts the operations of Lion Landscapes. This is an independent lion conservation organisation that works in partnership with local stakeholders to develop holistic programs that support lions, their prey, the habitat and local people. The organization focuses on lion research, capacity building and innovation and teams from Ekorian and Mugie, gather data for Lion Landscapes by collecting lion scat samples.
The Moyo Foundation and Ekorian are also piloting a project in sourcing sustainable honey and connecting it with a market. The project features sustainable bee-keeping at Mugie with 20 of their own bee hives used as a barrier to elephants from Mugie’s crops.
Naboisho Conservancy | Maasai Mara
Naboisho, which means “coming together” in the Maasai’s Maa language, falls within the Greater Mara Region and was carved out of the Koiyaki-Lemek Group Ranch. It borders the world famous Maasai Mara National Reserve to the southwest, the Olare Motorogi Conservancy to the west, and the Ol Kinyei Conservancy to the East.
The conservancy has the big cats in big numbers. In fact, with roughly 100 lions living in the vicinity, it has one of the highest lion densities in the world. The largest pride in the Greater Mara Region – comprising 20 lions – has made the conservancy its home. Of course, such a healthy lion population would not be possible without an equally healthy wildlife food chain below it.
What sets the Mara Naboisho Conservancy apart is not only the quantity of wildlife, but also the quality of game viewing. Because of its size and the limited number of guests, you will never find 20 vehicles huddled around a kill at the conservancy. In fact, it is unlikely that you would even find four.
While high game-viewing standards are enforced – not only to improve the viewing experience, but also to protect the wildlife – the conservancy is free of the restrictions that make so many national park safaris pedestrian. Put simply, the experience is exceptional not only because of what you get to see, but also because of how you get to see it.
Naboisho also offers the opportunity to set out on a walking safari, Ana ctivity not available in the Mara National Reserve. On a walking safari you get the chance to to focus on some of the smaller ecosystems that are often overlooked from the height of a vehicle.
The intricate construction of termite mounds, the role and importance of dung beetles, and the variety of birdlife in the area are just some of the subjects you may encounter on your excursion. The walking safari guides are all highly trained and carry a wealth of information that they are only too happy to share, be it about a peculiar track in the sand or the call of an unseen bird.