After two days exploring Samburu Game Reserve, we departed for the Mara Naboisho Conservancy, a 50,000-acre wilderness area owned by 539 Masai. The Mara Naboisho Conservancy is one of five conservancies located north of the Masai Mara Game Reserve. They are owned by Masai who see the value in coming together and opening their land to wildlife and tourism. The Masai landowners are guaranteed a monthly income for use of their land. Naboisho means “partnership” and it is a partnership between the Masai, the camp owners, and the guests of the conservancy.
There are only six camps located in the Mara Naboisho Conservancy; Kicheche Valley Camp, Naboisho Camp, Encounter Mara Camp, Ol Seki Hemingways Mara Camp, and Basecamp Eagle View Camp, and Dorobo Fly Camp. With so few camps, there is approximately 1 bed per 350 acres in this conservancy. By choosing to visit and stay in conservancies, travelers are supporting the local Masai, while enjoying the abundance of wildlife without the large crowds of tourists. In this conservancy, only five vehicles are allowed to be around a sighting at one time.
When we landed, we were met by our driver-guide from Encounter Mara Camp, my home for the next few nights. We had a quick safari briefing before we headed off on our first game drive. Have you ever seen a giraffe sitting? Just minutes from the airstrip, we spotted two giraffes sitting in the mid-day sun. We continued down a steep rocky slope and into a grove of bushes. Our guide, Daniel, drove slowly, looking carefully in the bushes as we drove past. Suddenly he stopped, pulled out his binos, then backed up, and there on the ground, deep in the bush was a three-week old lion cub. She was all by herself. Daniel told us that her mom and two siblings had to be somewhere close by, but we didn’t find them. He thought the cub may have wandered away from its mother, so we left. One of the rules in the conservancy is to not gather around lone cubs without the mother around as this can attract predators. We continued our game drive up to an open field and stopped for a bush lunch of beef wraps and an apple. We set against a lone tree looking out on the zebra, wildebeest, and gazelle and decided it was our best lunch so far!
Later, we arrived at camp and were met by Collin, the camp manager, and his staff. We walked along the path, made of elephant dung, through the trees and bushes and arrived at the fire pit. We were given a camp briefing and then shown to our tents. There are 12 tents here with ensuite bathrooms and views of the plain. This camp is an eco-friendly property and the majority of the electricity is solar generated. All of the structures were built so that they would leave no footprint. There is a lovely hide just steps from the lounge tent that looks over a small stream and the salt lick. I sat here for an hour one day and watched zebras and impalas graze their way down to the steam for a drink. There is no internet access offered here, and it was nice to have to disconnect for a few days and focus on enjoying the wildlife and nature.
Around mid-afternoon, we met in the lounge for coffee/tea and a sweet and savory treat before we departed on our afternoon game drive. We headed towards a line of bushes and were on the lookout for a mama cheetah and her four one-week-old cubs. We drove slowly along the bush line, but there was no cheetah to be found. Mama cheetahs will hide their newborns in the bushes to avoid them being spotted by a predator. It seemed as though she had hidden them well! We continued on down trail and had just found a small herd of elephants when Daniel received a call that the mother and baby cheetah cubs had been found. We turned back to see them for ourselves but all we could see was mama’s face and chest peeping from behind a bush. The cubs were out of sight. Later, we headed off to an open plain to watch the sun go down with a sundowner and wildebeest grazing in the distance.
The highlight of my time in the Mara was our time spent with a pride of lions. One morning, we departed camp, and within a few yards, drove right into a pride of lions consisting of two lionesses with their five five-week-old cubs, their sister, and their four older sons. The interaction between the lions was better than any drama on TV. The four older sons had been kicked out of the pride, but they still wanted to be a part of the pride. The lionesses were being very vocal and aggressive with their sons and were telling them to stay away from the new cubs. The mama’s kept moving along the bush line with the cubs and the brothers keep following. At one point, one of the lionesses charged one of the brothers.
While in the conservancy, I also got to visit Naboisho camp. Having stayed at several of its sister camps in the Serengeti, I was excited to see this camp in person and I was not disappointed. Naboisho camp is exclusive with just 9 guest tents, including two family tents. All tents have a double outdoor shower. They are currently working on installing a hot water line and expect to have hot running water showers to replace their bucket showers by June, 2015. There is a verandah with a day bed that makes the perfect place to read during down time, and a waterhole that can be seen from the fire pit and dining & lounge tents.
On my final morning in the Mara, we headed out on foot from camp. It didn’t take long until we found a herd of elephants enjoying breakfast. We were able to watch them for a while before heading back to camp to enjoy breakfast ourselves. Following breakfast, we headed to the airstrip for our flight to Nairobi.