A few days ago we walked into the first of the conservancies along our route. What is a conservancy? Explaining this in a few words is a little complicated. But the simple version is that a conservancy is not a national park or reserve. Its normally land of group ownership (ie the local Maasai community own it between them) that’s turned over to wildlife conservation. In many ways it’s like a private national park. The local community benefit because they lease the land (normally for fifteen years at a time) to the conservancy. This means they gain a regular income. The conservancy also aid the community with education and health projects, advice on livestock management and they often allow the local community to continue to graze their cattle in certain areas. In return the conservancy hosts one or two very high-end lodges on the land offering guests what is probably the worlds best safari experience. The money generated through this high end tourism, as well as donations, fund the whole project. In the space of a few years the conservancy model has turned African conservation and tourism on its head and more than a few people consider conservancies as the future of conservation. And the animals like them too. As is demonstrated by the increasing numbers of animals leaving the national parks (where they are often ‘harassed’ by safari vehicles) and heading to these conservancies.
For the past couple of days we were a guest of Cottars 1920’s Camp (www.cottars.com) inside the Ol Derikesi Conservancy on the southeastern edge of the Masai Mara reserve. Whilst there I was lucky enough to spend one morning on a proper driving safari. However, it rained. It rained a lot. And things didn’t go quite to plan when we tried to cross a river as the video on this link shows: https://www.facebook.com/stuart.butler.524/videos/10153947806273312/?pnref=story
But it wasn’t all bad. The rain and general gloomy skies lent a surreal tint to photographing elephants.