Walking with the Maasai
Walking safaris may not be permitted in most of Kenya's national parks and nor are they allowed in the Masai Mara National Reserve. But the community-owned and privately run conservancies of the Greater Mara region have no such limitations – walking across these wildlife-rich areas is one of the great experiences of visiting the Mara.
In mid-2015, Lonely Planet writer Stuart Butler and his Maasai friend Josphat Mako undertook the journey of a lifetime, spending five weeks walking across the Mara. With the national reserve off-limits, Stuart began high on Lebtero Hill, then followed a route that took in Maji Moto Group Ranch and the conservancies of Olarro, Naboisho, Olare-Orok, Mara North and the Lemek, before finishing at the Mara River in the shadow of the Oloololo Escarpment. Along the way, Stuart interviewed dozens of Maasai people, and slept in Maasai manyattas (villages) as well as some of the excellent tented camps in the conservancies.
The purpose of the walk, in addition to the pure enjoyment of seeing so much of the Mara ecosystem, was to deepen understanding and raise awareness of the challenges facing wildlife conservation and the Maasai in the Mara region.
To learn more, visit www.walkingwiththemaasai.com.
The Maa Trust
The conservation model behind the Mara conservancies is based on the assumption that wildlife conservation and community development and protection go hand in hand. Working along the border between the Naboisho and Olare-Orok conservancies, The Maa Trust (www.themaatrust.org) is a not-for-profit NGO that seeks to ensure that local Maasai communities benefit from tourism in the area. Their projects include education, clean water and public health initiatives, while local honey production, bead making and the sale of handicrafts help bring in revenue in addition to the conservancy proceeds. Visits to the trust can be arranged by a number of camps in the area – Asilia Naboisho Camp is one with a particularly close relationship with the trust.