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Koiyaki Wilderness Camp - Masai Mara, Kenya

Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya

The true embodiment of an ecolodge, Koiyaki Wilderness Camp represents an intriguing new development in conservation tourism in Kenya and is the first community-owned ecolodge in the Maasai Mara. Situated in the northern sector of the reserve, the lodge offers a range of safari activities including wildlife drives and walking safaris, all accompanied by skilled local Maasai guides who have been trained at the nearby community-owned Koiyaki Guiding School.

The Koiyaki Wilderness Camp is owned and managed by the local Maasai community and has been formed with the objective of creating a community managed wildlife conservancy which will provide a sustainable income for the surrounding communities, delivering tangible benefits from conservation and ecotourism to the people who live in the area.

The Koiyaki wilderness camp was created in order to provide a source of sustainable revenue for the nearby Koiyaki Guiding School, which was opened in 2005 for the purpose of training local Maasia guides (men and women) in wildlife management, safari guiding and conservation.

The Guiding school admits up to 25 students each year who undertake an intensive training course with practical experience gained in the Koiyaki wilderness camp and other eco-camps in the region. Following graduation they find jobs within the Maasai Mara ecotourism industry and the benefits thereby flow locally to their families and wider communities.

The capital cost of building Koiyaki Guiding School and associated Wilderness Camp have largely been funded by the EU through the Community Development Trust Fund and Tourism Trust Fund of EU together with contributions from the Maasai Community, Tusk Trust (a UK based Charity), Campfire Conservation and many private donors. Ron Beaton who has been in the tourism industry for many years and also a champion of conservation is the prime mover in bringing this exciting project to fruition.

This camp was highly commended during the 2009 Virgin Holidays Responsible Tourism Awards - organised by responsibletravel.com in association with The Daily Telegraph, World Travel Market and Geographical Magazine, of the Royal Geographical Society.

World renowned for the breathtaking spectacle of ‘the greatest wildlife show on earth', the awe inspiring annual migration of the wildebeest, the Mara is Kenya's most visited protected area. Technically an extension of Tanzania's renowned Serengeti National Park, the Mara constitutes only 4% of the entire Serengeti ecosystem but its rolling grasslands, meandering rivers and towering escarpments offer one of the world's most rewarding and evocative wildlife arenas.

Kenya hotels and accommodation
Amongst the wide range of Kenya hotels, some make the ideal Kenya safari destination. Choose a safari lodge, safari hotel, bush camp, luxury lodge, safari camp, tented camp or bush lodge. National park accommodation usually takes the form of a traditional safari lodge or tented camp, but numerous other options exist on the park boundaries. Luxury lodges and luxury camp options are also offered in the private wildlife conservancies.

Location
The Masai Mara is 270 miles from Nairobi (five hours by road). All weather air strip - less than an hour from Nairobi by plane. The school and Wilderness Camp site is approximately 10 kms west of the main Sekanani/ Narok road and 14 kms west of the Siana airstrip (serviced by scheduled Air Kenya flights). An airstrip adjoining the school is also available for charter flights.

The Background
The Masai Mara National Reserve
When it comes to game-viewing, there is nowhere in Africa richer in wildlife or more eventful in encounters than the Mara. A pristine wilderness of haunting beauty, it promises its visitors a profusion of wildlife, prolific bird life and the unprecedented opportunity of catching up with all the members of the ‘Big Five' in one morning.

As to scenery, the 1,800 sq kilometres of this veteran reserve offer the classic mix of African imagery; miles of lion-gold grasslands, shoals of lilac-misted hills, a meandering river, acres of thorn-bush and mile upon mile of undulating wilderness.

The Miracle of the Migration of the Wildebeest
Between the end of July and November, over one and a half million wildebeest accompanied by half again as many zebras and gazelles, migrate from the short-grass plains of the Serengeti to fresh pasture in the grasslands of the Mara; thus creating one of nature's grandest spectacles. Moving in groups of up to 20,000 at a time they thunder across the plateau hesitating only briefly to cross the Mara River, where many fall prey to the waiting crocodiles. Towards the end of October they begin crossing back into Tanzania. The actual timing of the migration, however, is dictated by the weather and does not always ‘run to schedule'.

Accommodation
A series of cottages built from ecologically sustainable materials by the local community offer spacious accommodation and en-suite bathroom facilities on a par with Kenya's highest quality safari camps. Fresh water from a bore hole deep in the ground is filtered for guests and there is a wide selection of soft drinks, beer and wine available with meals.

Dining and bars
There is a central dining and bar area and all meals are created from locally sourced ingredients.

Wildlife highlights
Offering an abundance of herbivores, the Mara makes the ideal hunting ground for Kenya's famous ‘big cats' and hosts her largest population of lions. It also offers the best chance of spotting a leopard in the wild. Other predators include cheetah and spotted hyena. Historically teaming with wildlife, the Mara is famous for the large herds of elephant and buffalo that meander its plains; also for the fat pods of hippo that wallow in its mud-brown rivers. Other stars include the distinctive Masai giraffe, plum-coloured topi, Coke's hartebeest, Grant's and Thomson's gazelle, zebra, impala, Kirk's dik-dik, bushbuck, waterbuck and red duiker. The Reserve also boasts plentiful Nile crocodile, monitor lizard, baboon, vervet, blue and red-tailed monkeys, nocturnal bush babies, and tree hyrax. There are over 550 resident and migratory species of birds.

Child-friendly
Koiyaki wilderness camp offers a range of fascinating activities for children including tracking with Maasai guides and bush picnics in remote corners of the conservancy.

What to see and do
Daily game drives are offered (private vehicles can also be arranged). Night game drives are also offered during which aardvarks, striped hyenas, honey badgers and the spotted eagle owl can be viewed. Guided walks, ornithological tours and nature trails can also be arranged, as can bush lunches, breakfasts and picnics.


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