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Conservancy’s ecotourism projects lure wildlife and guests alike

Harriet James @[email protected]

Perched on the side of a lush valley with views over the rolling plains of the Masai Mara Game Reserve, Mahali Mzuri camp is well placed for game lovers to enjoy magnificent views of the abundant game.

The safari camp whose name means ‘a beautiful place’ and is owned by British businessman Sir Richard Branson, was set up in collaboration with the local Maasai communities and other tourism partners.

It is located inside the Olare Orok and Motorogi Conservancy, which covers roughly  33,000 acres. The conservancy restricts the number of tourists at any one time, minimising footprint impacts.

And in liaison with the community, the resort’s management team ensures controlled grazing patterns by Maasai herdsmen, especially during the dry seasons to ensure there is enough food for all grazers in the conservancy.

The landowners have been allocated designated areas to graze their livestock and there is a stipulated fee to discourage them from grazing elsewhere in the sanctuary.

This has allowed the wildlife grazers, such as topi, iland, wildebeests, zebras, warthogs, Thompson and Grant gazelles to increase, which boosts the food supply for carnivores, so the wild cats such as lions and hyenas population rises.

Such measures ensure that there are a variety of animals for the guests to view especially during migration seasons.  “The cheetah population in the last two years ago has risen within the conservancy,” says management.

For instance, a female cheetah named Selekei recently introduced her four bouncing and healthy cubs, aged approximately three months old, to us! She has been around the open plains near the camp, spending most of her days hunting meals for her cute cubs in broad daylight.

Being a conservancy, there is no restriction on night game drives.  The resort offers opportunities to see the Mahali pride (also known as Iseketa females) consisting of fully grown up lionesses, their cubs and two old males.

Wherever possible, the camp employs locals.  Maasai women are also allowed to sell their beadworks to the gift shop, especially during this peak seasons. For every hotel bed night, one dollar (Sh101) goes towards educating local children.

The camp also offers village visits for guests who desire to immerse themselves in the Maasai culture. As part of ecotourism, $5 (Sh505) gained in the visit goes towards providing books and schools.

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