When someone mentions safari, we quickly understand it to mean an expedition to observe or animals in their natural habitat and especially in East Africa. The detail in the safari is very important. That’s what Gamewatchers and Porini Camps pride themselves in. They offer the best services to make your safari, comfortable, exciting and greatly rewarding; true value for the money invested in your holiday and all the while very conscious to ensure no harm to the environment and that the local communities are involved and benefit from your visit.

Game watchers owns and operates the award-winning Porini Safari Camps in Kenya.These environmentally-friendly Eco-Camps have been established in exclusive Wildlife Conservancies and are carefully managed to ensure that local communities, the environment and visitors benefit from our Conservancy concept.

The Porini Camps are small eco-friendly tented camps that accommodate a maximum of 20 guests. The camps each consist of just 6 to 10 spacious tents in beautiful natural settings under acacia trees. The camps are located in Selenkay area in Amboseli, Ol Kinyei, Olare Motorogi and Naboisho Conservancies in the Maasai Mara region.

Porini guests benefit from an authentic safari experience on exclusive game-filled land, away from the crowds of tourists in the National Parks and Reserves. Game drives are with professional safari guides in 4×4 vehicles. Guests can also enjoy escorted walks with Maasai warriors and can search for nocturnal species on exhilarating night game drives – unlike in the government-run National Parks where these are not permitted.
The income from the camps is used to manage and improve the conservancies, pay the lease and tourist entry fees and pay salaries of the camp staff and the conservancy rangers and workers.

Supporting Communities & Protecting the Environment
Our aim is to work closely with communities living alongside national parks and wildlife reserves to help them derive benefits from conserving wildlife species and the indigenous habitat. They do this by earning an income from eco-tourism through setting aside areas of their land as wildlife conservancies and thereby creating wildlife dispersal areas outside the parks, increasing wildlife numbers and species variety, habitat and bio-diversity.
In our view, the key to conserving Kenya’s spectacular flora and fauna outside the parks is to engage the local communities and to provide tangible benefits from eco-tourism that exceed the returns that they are able to generate from any other form of land utilization such as farming. We have succeeded in making wildlife pay its way in the areas where we operate and we take every opportunity to share our experience with others interested in setting up conservancies.

Why are Conservancies Important?
The concept of wildlife conservancies in Kenya was devised as a means to address the escalating issue of lost indigenous habitat and the resulting impact on the country’s unique wildlife. Division of land, over-grazing and intensive farming were increasing, as was conflict between landowners and wildlife.
As examples:
•The Selenkay area was previously an important wildlife dispersal zone and elephant migrated in from Amboseli during the wet season. However during the 1970s and 1980s, (prior to our conservancy) there was increased hostility towards wildlife by the community. Elephant were harassed to the point that they stopped migrating into Selenkay. There was also wide scale snaring of wildlife for the “bush meat” trade while leopard, lion and cheetah were frequently speared.

•The Mara eco-system (where Ol Kinyei, Olare Motorogi and Naboisho Conservancies are located) is under serious threat of being degraded and fragmented as land is being divided into individually owned plots. Tracts of wildlife habitat are being permanently lost with this subdivision of the community ranches. Many small individual landowners are now selling their plots to the highest bidders, who are setting up non-sustainable mass market concrete lodges or becoming involved in intensive farming and fencing of their small holdings. Snaring of herbivores and poisoning of big cats has increased and wildlife is being driven out.

•Previously, the Maasai were entirely dependent upon their livestock and in recent years have lost much of their rangeland where there is permanent water. As a result of the increasingly frequent droughts in East Africa there has been degradation of the environment through over-grazing and the Maasai communities have suffered hardship with loss of livestock.
Our unique, award-winning Conservancy projects have gone a long way in bringing life-changing long-term benefits to local communities whilst also protecting the land and wildlife and ensuring an enhanced wilderness experience for guests to our Porini Safari Camps.

How we started the Conservancy Concept
In 1997 we signed an agreement with a Maasai community to establish the first Conservancy (Selenkay) on 13,000 acres of their land. Following the success of Selenkay Conservancy, in 2005 the 17,500 acre Ol Kinyei Conservancy was set up in the Mara eco-system and in 2006 the 22,000 acre Olare Motorogi Conservancy was set up in another part of the Mara.
These were followed by the establishment of two more conservancies in the Mara: the 11,000 acre Motorogi Conservancy and the 50,000 acre Naboisho Conservancy. We have now renamed the Olare Orok Conservancy and Motorogi Conservancy to Olare Motorogi Conservancy as it proudly sits at 33,000 acres.
The areas to be used as conservancies were chosen by the Maasai landowners and then were vacated by the community and set aside for wildlife so that they could be utilised for eco-tourism to generate an income and economic benefits for the community.

Direct Benefits to Local People
A monthly rental (that increases annually) is paid to the Maasai landowners as a lease for all the land in the conservancies and the company give first priority to family members of the local community for jobs in the camps and conservancies so that over 95% of the staff are drawn from the local community.
There are over 1,000 Maasai families who are directly benefiting from our conservancies – their lives have greatly improved with a guaranteed income from the lease and less reliance on livestock as their sole income source.

Previously, opportunities for jobs were almost non-existent, especially at Selenkay, but the camps and conservancies now employ over 140 members from the communities. Take-home earnings of individual members are over USD105 per month even for the most junior staff which is significantly higher than average in rural areas.

Our five Conservancies have provided a solution to this problem by providing additional income and alternative livelihood opportunities to livestock ranching.

The specific monetary benefits to the communities generated by Gamewatchers Safaris from each of the Conservancies in 2014 were:
Selenkay Conservancy: total cash flowing into community from conservancy project in 2014: Kshs 20,655,088 p.a. ($240,000)
Ol Kinyei Conservancy: total cash flowing into community from conservancy project in 2014: Kshs 35,053,434 p.a. ($402,900)
Olare Motorogi Conservancy: total cash flowing into community from conservancy project in 2014: Kshs 33,474,082 p.a. ($384,760)
The income per hectare exceeds income from small-scale cultivation and is particularly high in Selenkay which is a semi-arid area.
Our projects are generating a cash flow of over US$1,027,660 per year directly into the local communities and increasing annually with no direct expense to them.

Land Regeneration & Increase in Wildlife
Our partnership with the local communities in setting up the conservancies has made a significant contribution to improving conservation of the wildlife and habitat of these areas.
Within just a short time of conception each conservancy saw a significant increase in wildlife numbers and a regeneration of vegetation in areas that were previously over-grazed by livestock. At Selenkay, elephants returned after an absence of twenty years and in the Mara conservancies the number of lions increased very quickly with several residential prides totalling over 120 lions in an area of 100,000 acres, while breeding cheetah took up residence in addition to an influx of other species.
Today, the conservancies support a broad range of species in a protected environment that has returned to its natural state. Wildlife enters the conservancies from the busy neighbouring National Parks where tourist / visitor numbers are not regulated.
As a result of the communities receiving direct benefits from wildlife there has been a change in attitude towards the concept of wildlife conservation. The community members have given their positive support to conservation and there is no snaring or harassing of wildlife within the three conservancies. The members see the wildlife as a resource which belongs to them and are enthusiastic about encouraging wildlife to move into their conservancies. They also recognize the vast improvement in vegetation and grass cover within each conservancy which is now a valuable source of controlled grazing for livestock during severe drought periods.

Our Successful Partnership
Our project is unique as it doesn’t depend upon donor funding. It is a partnership between the local community and a commercial safari operator, where both parties’ goals are aligned. We believe that one of the keys to our success is recognizing that the community must derive fair benefits and not be taken advantage of.
Important aspects include taking the time to educate them on the goals of the project, how conservation and ecotourism can benefit them and their children and helping them set some realistic expectations. In setting up the Conservancies a long period was required for meetings, discussions and spending time together, in order to build trust between the local community and us.

The Future for Conservancies
Our conservancy projects are internationally acknowledged as very successful examples of a tour operator working together with local communities and wildlife to produce a unique experience for visitors. We have won many prestigious awards and accolades including those from National Geographic, Trip Advisor, as well as Eco-Warrior Awards, sustainable tourism awards and World Travel Awards.

We are delighted to see that the success we have had with our initial conservancies has been noted by other tour operators and there is now a real momentum towards more conservancies being set up along similar lines. Having a successful project to model makes the setting up of future projects simpler for all those interested. We believe that conservancies, like ours, where the local communities are deriving a benefit from eco-tourism that is greater than other forms of land utilization is the way forward for Conservation in Kenya and one that can be duplicated in other parts of Africa.

Our Environmental Policy
Our Porini Camps are run and maintained with conservation of the environment at the forefront. We have a written environmental policy for water, land, energy, solid waste and sewage which is adhered to by the camp management. We pride ourselves in having highly qualified safari guides and they enhance the experience by educating the guests about the flora, fauna and people of the surrounding areas
We are committed to promoting Best Practices across the board. We pay well above the national average, have a written environmental policy that is strictly adhered to and monitor other safari companies in Africa to be sure that we make every effort to stay abreast of new developments in our industry and are always looking to implement improvements.

Porini Mara Camp is included in the World Tourism Organisation’s Directory of Best Practice in Eco-tourism as a positive example from Kenya. Three of our Porini Camps have been awarded a Silver Eco-rating from the Eco-tourism Society of Kenya. In addition to this, our project has recently been included in a British school textbook as an example of an eco-tourism project that is working with and benefiting the local community and environment.
We feel it is important to effectively communicate the project’s actions to stakeholders, locally and internationally. Our company literature which is given to each client emphasizes our goals. The project and its benefits have been featured in newspapers such as The Guardian, The Observer, The Times, The Independent, Mail on Sunday and in numerous magazines such as Condé Nast Traveler and National Geographic Adventure magazine.

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