Arriving in the Mara by light aircraft is a treat as you gradually descend over the vast grassy plains dotted with clumps of balanitis (trees) and follow the dense riverine forests along the courses of the Mara and Talek rivers. As the small and insignificant dots and shadows gradually come into focus as elephants, giraffes or buffalo, you contemplate a perspective that definitely changes when you come face to face with these magnificent species on a game drive.
My recent visit took me through the National Reserve and three neighbouring conservancies; Mara North, Olare Motorogi and the more recently developed Naboisho Conservancy. Bill, Rob and Michele have all visited Naboisho since its inception and with each return came reports of improved game viewing, so I was interested to see for myself how things have developed.
The conservancy has a varied landscape; vast open grasslands playing host to large quantities of plains game; impala, eland and topi to name just three, and providing excellent hunting grounds for cheetah; riverine forest along the Enniskeria River which opens up to expose dramatic boulders and rock formations and whose permanent pools of water are home to many hippos; beautiful valleys dotted with acacia trees and rocky outcrops, the former being a favourite hang out for the plentiful giraffe population in Naboisho for whom the leaves on the thorny branches of the acacia trees are a firm favourite.
What struck me most during my visit to the conservancy was the exclusive nature of the game drives. 50,000 acres and only five camps equates to around 350 acres of wilderness per guest and being the only vehicle present as we watched playful lion cubs honing their hunting skills while the sun was setting, is a luxury you don’t often get.
The game viewing was excellent with an array of plains game and more giraffe than I think I have ever seen in one place; as is always the case with these silent beauties, I would see just one giraffe, glance away and by the time I looked back there would be five or six curious faces peeping out from behind the trees and bushes! However it was the magnificent lions that proved to be the stars of the conservancy. Naibosho has reportedly one of the highest densities of lions in the world and it certainly lives up to its reputation, with three ever growing prides in residence.
The biggest surprise I had with the game viewing was the sheer number of wildebeest, plus their babies, that were milling around and providing sustenance to the predators. I had thought that these herds would have returned to the Loita Hills for calving but there are reports of villagers putting up fence lines to prevent their return and forcing them to return to the Mara conservancies.
More active guests should definitely consider a stay at Asilia Africa’s excellent Naibosho Camp. Camp managers and your hosts, Roelof and Helen Schutte, have created a homely environment matched with luxury accommodation and of course offer game drives, but walking is Roelof’s passion and whether you fancy a one off morning walk, providing a welcome break from bumpy game drives, or prefer to walk every day he will be more than happy to show you the conservancy from a different perspective.
Since my return we have learnt that Asilia have taken over Encounter Mara Camp, Naibosho Camp’s closest neighbour in the conservancy. The camp is tucked away in the forest with views onto a lovely glade and with more modest tented accommodation, this will be run as a more cost effective option within the Asilia portfolio.
Elsewhere on the conservancy, the elevated views and spacious accommodation at Ol Seki Hemingways Mara continue to make it a firm favourite with honeymooners and Kicheche Valley, hidden away in an acacia filled valley, is welcoming guests and providing the level of comfort, hosting and guiding that we have come to expect from all of the Kicheche camps.
Whilst one could make Naibosho a stand-alone stay in the Masai Mara, it would also work really well as part of a two centre safari; perhaps in combination with a stay in the National Reserve where Serian’s Nkorombo Mobile Camp is ideally situated for experiencing the excitement of the massed herds of the wildebeest migration crossing the rivers. Alternatively combine it with a few days in one of the other conservancies where accommodation styles range from the luxurious Mara Plains Camp to the more authentic bush camp experiences of Offbeat Mara Camp.
It really was an educational visit to the Naibosho Conservancy and the overriding feeling that I came away with is that the game viewing holds up well when compared to the more established conservancies and is worthy of a visit from both the first timer and the more experienced safari traveller.