Any safari holiday is only as good as the nature and wildlife that are available in the area. There has been a growing problem over the past few decades of poaching leading to dwindling numbers of some of our favourite animals, and the environmental scares that has led to a decline in natural vegetation and wildlife. If you are interested in going on a safari holiday, it is important that you do so with an open mind to this side of things and that you choose to stay at a location where the safari lodge company has ties with local conservation efforts. A holiday in the Masai Mara is a wondrous thing, and there are some amazing ventures being undertaken by luxury safari lodges in the area. Make sure you only take a holiday in one of these locations if you are committed to the conservation of the Masai Mara.
Sustainability is so important to the world as a whole, but in a location like the Masai Mara it is more important than ever before. The World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) founded the Sustainable Tourism Eliminating Poverty organisation back in 2005, with a view to eliminating poverty through the development of sustainable tourism in areas like the Masai Mara. The ST-EP organisation has a simple 7-step mechanism that has been developed to channel the social and economic benefits of tourism in the area back into the local communities.
There are luxury lodges in the Masai Mara that have signed up to this process and that are committed to developing the local community at every step. This is a far cry from some of the safari lodges of the past with the sole aim was to profit from the local community and wildlife, rather than work with it to grow a sustainable long-term project that benefitted everyone.
How does this work in practice?
Within each enterprise there is a commitment to employ members of the local community. This can be seen in the trained and certified Masai safari guides (in line with the Kenya Wildlife Service), where tourists are given a guided tour by passionate locals who understand everything about Masai culture and history, as well as the wildlife that they are showing you. This makes for a much more enlightening and interesting safari tour, when you know the guide has grown up here and knows the intricacies and best spots to view wildlife.
Another aspect of these lodges working to boost local sustainability is that they use the local community as suppliers of goods and services, including handicrafts and other items in gift shops, without taking commissions. All the profits go straight back to benefitting the local communities and other portions of lodge profits are fed back into projects such as the Siana Conservancy.
Conservation is an important part of the Masai Mara. If you are planning on going on a safari holiday in this part of the world and you believe in conservation, there is some fantastic work being undertaken with many of the operators in the area. You should always choose to stay at a safari lodge where you can speak to the local communities, get to know the ins and outs of the conservation efforts and have input in a responsible way that encourages sustainable tourism and isn’t just about a voyeuristic approach to the safari that endangers the wildlife and landscape without putting anything back in. The Siana Conservancy is just one great example of conservation efforts between multiple lodges and the local communities, ensuring that tourism can stand side-by-side with communities in a way where everyone wins.