Working at a bush camp in the Masai Mara for a season left an indelible mark on me, so the prospect of a return trip to an area whose landscape, wildlife and people I love was met with considerable joy.
I spent six nights in the Masai Mara in March, visiting a variety of camps and lodges, some of which were new to me and some of which are old favourites.
Recent years have seen major changes in the game viewing philosophy within the Masai Mara’s eco system and ‘conservation’ is now the watch word, with several new conservancies now bordering the National Reserve, offering an exclusive game viewing experience – a world away from those old images of twenty minibuses around one lion.
These new conservancies offer low density tourism with limited numbers of camps and vehicles in each conservancy and sightings are managed so as not to distress the game or interfere with their hunting.
For most of my trip I remained within the Mara North Conservancy, an area of varied landscape with open plains interspersed with pockets of riverine woodland, and packed full with wildlife. There is perhaps a misconception that the Mara should only be visited whilst the massed herds of the wildebeest migration are in residence but my recent trip proved otherwise.
The game viewing was simply phenomenal, with the lions making daily appearances and on one particularly memorable morning game drive we came across a herd of elephants directly outside camp, a calving wildebeest, lions (with cubs) feasting on an unfortunate zebra, bat eared foxes, hyaenas with pups plus a myriad of plains game.
All of which proves that not only is the game viewing in the Masai Mara extraordinary throughout the year, but also that staying outside of the National Reserve in no way compromises your game viewing experience. Indeed, I would suggest that staying in one of the conservancies will offer a more exclusive and rewarding experience.