Parks or Conservancies? Which Is Best?

Everyone has heard of East Africa’s outstanding national parks such as the Masai Mara and the Serengeti. But you may not be as familiar with the concept of conservancies – designated protected areas sprinkled throughout Kenya and Tanzania.

These too are spaces where the land and wildlife are carefully sheltered from the onslaught of development and modern life. One major difference between these spaces is that the parks are owned and maintained by their respective national service while conservancies are owned and managed by the indigenous people of the area. Often the Maasai people.

Both ventures exist to nurture wildlife in the most natural setting possible while providing opportunities for safari-goers to explore and get close to the animals.

So What’s the Difference?

Being organized and run by a large bureaucracy, the national parks have some strict rules by which the guides and their guest must abide. Park hours are regulated which usually means they are only open from sunrise to sunset. If you were hoping to go on a night game drive, they are prohibited in most national parks.

Also, off-road driving is not allowed in the parks; one must stick to the allocated roads, although these are usually extensive.

The parks generally do not limit the number of visitors, nor the number of vehicles near an animal sighting. Sometimes this can lead to excessive numbers of safari-goers gathered in a particular area.

On the other hand, the parks are often well-situated to afford views of events not available in the conservancies. For instance, from July through October, one can only view the spectacle of thousands of wildebeests flooding over the Mara River in the Masa Mara Reserve. This can more than make up for the park’s other limitations.

Rhino creeping toward the camera in Ol Pejeta Conservancy

Why Visit a Conservancy?

The conservancy concept has been brilliant in conserving the land, the wildlife, and the lifestyles of the indigenous people. In a brilliant stroke, they have joined with various hospitality ventures to create protected environments where the land has been restored, attracting great numbers of wildlife and setting up limited visitor spaces at small lodges and camps.

This keeps the number of safari-goers to a manageable level and creates a quieter and perhaps more exclusive experience. You won’t find many other vehicles in a conservancy and special activities like night game drives, bush walks, and bush breakfasts and dinners are available.

However, not all activities, views, and experiences are available in these smaller conservancy areas. So think about what’s right for your safari journey.

Perhaps some time in both the conservancies and the national parks will check the boxes for all the wildlife you wish to see and the ways you imagine your safari adventure should be. We are always about choice.

Just let us know about your dreams and we’ll help with this most delightful of decisions.

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