Maasai Mara is undoubtedly the best safari destination in Kenya and Africa. This destination has won the ‘Africa’s Leading National Park Award’ six times in a row. I have been to the Mara on safari eight times now and I can confidently say that it deserves the accolades. None of those trips have been disappointing. The park is large and clear with a number of shrubs scattered sparsely throughout the area, making it quite easy to spot wildlife from a distance. It offers photographers a clean canvas to capture the best wildlife pictures. The great wildebeest migration –something I like to call the eighth wonder of the world- happens in the Maasai Mara every year between the months of July and October. During this time, the park is full to capacity as tourists make their way down there to witness the great Mara River showdown.
The 21st day of February this year saw me on safari again. This time round my destination was about a 1 hour drive just before Maasai Mara park; the Olarro conservancy.
At about 194 km from Nairobi, you will find this over 20,000 acre of private wilderness. It is located in Loita plains within the great Maasai Mara region. The land that this conservancy is on is owned by Maji Moto Group Ranch and Siana Group Ranch. The local tribe who is the Maasai have lived for hundreds of years in complete harmony with nature’s raw forces and Africa’s wildlife. My experience here was more than your ordinary safari. TravelWithEliud and find out why…..
The Safari Experience
Olarro Conservancy has a large capacity of grazers and browsers.
It is also a breeding ground for animals such as wildebeests, giraffes, warthogs, zebras and different types of antelopes. Because the guests go for game drives with the conservancy vehicles, the animals remain undisturbed. They even stand still which makes for good poses for pictures.
Driving through the conservancy will only take you less than an hour to have a substantial game drive. Animals spotted with ease are the wildebeests, giraffes, elands, thompson’s gazelles, grant gazelles, topi, impalas, waterbucks, warthogs, elephants, buffalos, dikdiks, and common Zebras among others.
Lions, cheetahs and leopards are a little harder to find especially if you are late for a game drive.
Olarro Conservancy conducts game drives with 4x4 open land cruisers that are perfect for navigating the wild. This vehicle also serves as the best for wildlife photography. The safari guides are from the local Maasai community and this gives tourists a raw Kenyan experience.
The conservancy has several watering holes fitted with a 24-hour camera that monitors animal activity. Even if you drove and stopped at the watering hole for half the day, you would almost experience a complete game drive because most of the animals in the conservancy will come to drink water at one point or the other.
Unlike the Maasai Mara National reserve where you will take a little longer to spot the animals due to its vastness, Olarro conservancy presents wildlife at close proximity making it possible to capture high-resolution pictures without a zooming lens. The hippo and crocodile are the only animals you will not find at this conservancy. Despite of this, there is no reason to pass Olarro conservancy for a game drive in the Mara. You will still have a full safari experience. You may also opt to stay at the conservancy and do a full-day game drive at Maasai Mara National Reserve (which is only a 1hour drive from the conservancy).
Olarro Conservancy offers guests early morning game drives, afternoon game drives and evening game drives. If you are looking to go for a photographic safari, Olarro Conservancy is the place to be.
Olarro Conservancy boasts of two luxury facilities; Olarro Lodge and the recently opened Olarro Plains. Both lodges have breathtaking views of the conservancy. Olarro Lodge is a luxury safari hideaway tucked high in the Loita hills.
It’s a boutique lodge with only eight rooms. On double sharing, the lodge can only accommodate 16 adult guests at full capacity. According to the lodge manager, this was by design so that the lodge can offer personalized and quick service to each and every one of the guests.
The lodge has a quaint restaurant and bar at close proximity. Unlike large lodges with a buffet setting, the Olarro Lodge menu plan is ala carte, offering three course meals. This helps the chef to understand his/her customers’ diet better and therefore able to offer personalized service.
The lodge has a relaxation couch at the area where bonfires are lit at night. This is a cool spot to read a book, answer those emails, or have a relaxing time with your significant other.
Olarro Lodge has a beautiful swimming pool and a pool bar.
The rooms are just what the doctor prescribed. They have a cozy feel. The minute you enter the door, you feel comfortable and at home. The architect really outdid himself. The rooms are fitted and equipped with all the essential amenities.
The viewing deck at Olarro lodge offers guests with spectacular views of the wilderness. I wanted to stay for a month.
On the other side on the conservancy on top of a hill is Olarro Plains. This lodge offers a panoramic view of the conservancy making it possible to experience a bit of the savannah life. Palatial and tranquil, this is where elegance and wilderness marry effortlessly.
Are you looking for a honeymoon destination? A place to offer an expensive apology? Anniversary? A special birthday treat? This is the place to be. You will not be disappointed, I guarantee it.
Olarro Plains has an infinity swimming pool with a spectacular view of the wilderness.
Around the pool are sun beds where you can lay and soak up the sun.
Beneath the pool is a fireplace where guests spend during the better part of their night.
Close to the pool is a bar and sitting area. There is a viewing deck upstairs with a giant pair of binoculars offering a closer view of the water hole.
Olarro Plains has eight rooms as well with a capacity for 16 guests. Some rooms have twin beds making it ideal for families.
Ala carte meal plan is at play here and the personalized service makes it a piece of heaven.
Olarro Plains is the best place in the world for a sundowner. I have never experienced such magic before.
The sun sets in the horizon as you watch by the pool side. I think here pictures will speak for themselves.
The management ensures that you experience both lodges during your stay. Mostly, they will encourage a four-night stay and this allows guests an experience of both lodges.
What are you waiting for? Make that reservation already!
Apart from the chef preparing a meal of your choice, Olarro conservancy touches the guests’ heart and soul. They will take you through their various activities at the conservancy and make you part of it. They will take care of your kids and engage them in activities. If you have time to spare, they will show you how they generate green energy through solar panels, how they produce their own vegetables, and how they manage their waste among other engaging experiences.
Have you ever ridden a quad bike in the wilderness? Well, Olarro lodge offers guests a thrilling experience of guided quad biking in the conservancy.
As if that is not enough, the lodge also surprises guests with bush dinners and sundowner cocktails. Have you still not made up your mind?
I visited the lodge on a lucky day. Three days prior, rangers on patrol and aerial surveillance had spotted a limping elephant. They monitored it among the herd and noticed its condition was worsening. In partnership with KWS rangers and a veterinary, the conservancy management planned a treatment exercise. This happened to be on the day of my arrival. How lucky could a person be?
We got invited to witness the whole process. It starts by separating the ailing elephant from the herd, darting it so the that the veterinary can administer treatment, and then inject it again to bring it back to consciousness and finally back to the herd. This sounds easy, right? Equipped with four land cruisers, an off-road motorbike (I have to get one for myself soon), an aircraft, a drone and binoculars, the exercise began.
The rangers were put on standby in case anything doesn’t go according to plan. The elephants were on top of a hill and the mission was to separate the ailing elephant and lead it down to the plains. This was not a walk in the park (no pun intended). It took hours. I skipped lunch because I couldn’t imagine missing any part of this.
William Hofmeyr, the conservancy general manager was the person on the motorbike. He drove up the hill to try to lead the elephant towards the plain.
He was being guided by Justin (the guy with the drone).
As fate would have it, he came face to face with the elephant. While trying to turn back, the motorbike hit a rock causing him to lose balance and fall off the bike. He managed to escape leaving the motorbike behind. He got some injuries in the process.
William is the most humorous person I have met. We expected that this whole ordeal and the injuries would get him upset but to our surprise he took it with humor and laughed at the situation. Our determination made us continue with the exercise and only managed to dart the elephant a few minutes past 6:00pm.
The elephant had a spear injury on one of its hind legs, making it limp. The vet treated it and within 30min, it was up again. This was a great experience for me, something you don’t see every day and I felt like I was part of the conservancy.
Community Social Responsibility
A community of pastoralists surrounds Olarro Conservancy. The community benefits from the conservancy in several ways. First, the guests at Olarro Lodge and Olarro Plains are taken to a Maasai village right at the outskirts of the conservancy to experience the Maasai culture. This is at the conservancy’s expense.
Several boreholes have been constructed to provide the locals and their livestock with clean water.
The conservancy has also sponsored some students from the community in various tertiary institutions across the country. We happened to meet one of the sponsorship beneficiaries working at the conservancy headquarters.
Olarro Conservancy conducts various school visits, offer talks about human-wildlife co-existence, and gives out uniforms and t-shirts. The conservancy has also sponsored a health center at Ngoswani village with maternity and outpatient facilities.
This is a common crisis in many parts of the world. People who live close to a park tend to get into conflict with wildlife. In most cases, it is because of farming, herding, poaching and trespassing. Olarro Conservancy is no exception. At the conservancy headquarters were arrows, spears, sticks and swords confiscated from poachers and trespassers.
The conservancy and the community amicably agreed on the punishment that will be enforced on trespassers; a fine of KSh 5,000 that is channeled back to the community. Several elephants have mysteriously died in the recent past due to suspected poisoning from nearby farms.In addition, there has been cases of poaching, but due to increased surveillance, this has reduced drastically. The local community cattle sometimes find their way into the conservancy and the rangers are quick to lead them back into the village.
The experience at Olarro Conservancy is much more than a safari. You will feel like you are part of the team. They engage and involve you in activities that will leave you in awe of nature. You almost get emotional to checking out for the conservancy. If you’re looking for an alternative from a luxury lodge inside the Mara, I would highly recommend Olarro Lodge and Olarro Plains because the experience is exceptional. The conservancy has a homely feel and a sense of inclusion on most things that go on there; a boutique accommodation with a personal touch, making it worth your while.
Karibu Kenya, Tembea Kenya
Until Next time, keep travelling……………
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