Responsible Tourism

PORINI CAMPS: Environmentally-friendly Eco-Camps in Exclusive Conservancies

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. 

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. Within a short time 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.

More details of our conservancy projects in the Mara, including maps, can be seen here: The Conservancy Concept

The Porini Camps, situated inside the Conservancies, are exclusive small eco-friendly tented camps that accommodate a maximum of 20 guests. The camps consists of 6 to 10 spacious tents situated under acacia trees, comfortably furnished, lighted with solar power, with water-saving safari showers and flush toilets. Porini Camps are owned and run by Gamewatchers Safaris, a well established Kenyan safari company, which leases each conservancy, paying a monthly rental that increases annually, and which is also responsible for paying entry fees to the community for all visitors entering the conservancy. 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. The camps and conservancies currently employ over 140 members from the communities with take-home wages significantly higher than the country average. There are over 1,000 Maasai families who are directly benefiting as a result of our conservancies. Last year the conservancies with which we are involved hosted over 5700 guests totalling over 19,000 bed nights

We feel that our partnership with the local communities in setting up the Porini Camps in the three Conservancies has made a significant contribution to improving conservation of the wildlife and habitat of these areas.  The five community areas are located near two leading parks in Kenya and are crucial wildlife dispersal areas. 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 setting up the conservancy, there was increased hostility towards wildlife by the community. Elephant were harassed to the point that they stopped migrating into Selenkay. Before the Selenkay Conservancy was established 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 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 are:


  • Total cash flowing into community from conservancy project: Kshs 20,992,191 p.a. ($243,246)


  • Total cash flowing into community from conservancy project: Kshs 31,462,125 p.a. ($364,567)


  • Total cash flowing into community from conservancy project: Kshs 28,930,069 p.a. ($335,227)

A total of over $943,000 p.a. is flowing into our 3 Maasai community projects.

The income per hectare exceeds income from small-scale cultivation and is particularly high in Selenkay which is a semi-arid area.

The lowest take home pay for the lowest paid workers in each camp, after government deductions and inclusive of gratuities, is normally over $100 per month which is significant for a country where the majority earn barely one dollar per day. For those who own a plot of land within the conservancy that figure is doubled through the addition of the monthly rental income.

As a result of the community 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.

Since the conservancies were established there has been a big increase in biodiversity. We have resident lions and cheetahs in addition to over 20 species of large mammals. Birdlife is prolific especially birds of prey.  A major positive result is that at Selenkay elephants have now returned to the area after an absence of over 20 years.

Our Porini Camps are run and maintained with the 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 feel it is important to effectively communicate the project’s actions to stakeholders, locally and internationally. Our mission statement and environmental policy are also viewable on our Gamewatchers Safaris website. 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.


TripAdvisor announced the Top Ten properties in Kenya for "Exceptional Service": Porini Mara Camp came first!

TripAdvisor's 12th annual Travellers’ Choice awards goes through its user reviews and rating over 12 months into lists of its most highly recommended destinations, attractions, beaches, islands, exceptional service hotels and resorts. Porini Mara Camp bagged first place in the top ten hotels for exceptional service in Kenya!  and came  4th out of 10 in the top ten hotels for romance in Kenya!

Gamewatchers Safaris and Porini Safari Camps were proud winners at the 20th World Travel Awards held in Nairobi, Kenya on the 16th of  October 2013 at the prestigious Safari Park Hotel & Casino.  The World Travel Awards serves to acknowledge, reward and celebrate excellence across all sectors of the global travel and tourism industry.  Widely regarded as the "Oscars of the travel industry", the World Travel Awards Gala Ceremonies are highly important events in the travel industry, attended by government and industry leaders, luminaries, and international print and broadcast media. Some of the most important decision-makers in the region's travel and tourism sector were in attendance at this event.  The World Travel Awards give a true reflection of all-round excellence as they are judged and awarded according to a voting system – with votes cast by members of the travel industry as well as by the public.

Gamewatchers Safaris are once again the proud winners of the 2013 Eco-warrior award for "Most Responsible Tour Operator”!

Launched by Ecotourism Kenya in 2005, the Eco Warrior Awards honour creativity within the tourism industry in Kenya and are meant to inspire innovative actions that protect the environment and integrate local people into the business of tourism.  The criterion for this award was based on outstanding innovation, key achievements and sustainability & replicability of the initiative.

The 'Most Responsible Tour Operator’ Category (Sponsored by Kenya Wildlife Service – KWS) was awarded to Gamewatchers Safaris Ltd as they  presented clear written policies on their engagement in all areas of sustainable tourism including energy, water, waste and land management, conservation of natural resources and promotion of community integration and partnership.

Gamewatchers partner with booking agents to contribute a portion of every booking as a donation to a school they have supported in Kibera which has doubled its enrolment from 70 to 140 students. Gamewatchers Safaris is the exclusive booking office and marketing arm of Porini Camps which as a result of Gamewatchers Safaris business has been able to help conserve over 57,000 acres of wilderness and employ over 120 community members.

eco warrior 2012Eco-warrior Award - Community Conservancy of the Year 2012

The Eco-warrior award winner for 'Community Conservancy of the year 2012' was awarded to Ol Kinyei Conservancy where Porini Mara Camp is located.  The awards ceremony was held on the 16th November 2012 and was attended by tourist industry stakeholders and conservation organisations as well as keen travellers

kenya tourism awardsKENYA TOURISM AWARDS 2011 AND 2012

Gamewatchers Safaris Ltd is the proud Winner of the Kenya Tourism Awards for 2011 in the Tour Operator of the Year category – Large Tour Operator.  And Porini Safari Camps won the 2012 Kenya Tourism Award in the category for Best Support and Integration with local communities' award . These awards have been created to award achievements in the tourism sector and celebrate great strides made in time of difficult circumstances.

Gamewatchers Safaris presented an outstanding performance in the nomination criteria which were:

  • Use innovative marketing and promotional tactics for sustainability and growth.
  • Development and marketing of new tourism circuits and concepts
  • Undertake continuous staff training and development
  • Membership to registered association with code of ethics and adherence to the same.
  • Undertake responsible tourism business practices including:
    • Use of sustainable and eco-friendly materials
    • Resource saving initiatives
    • Waste reduction and management
    • Health and safety policy and procedures
    • Supporting local economy/community by supporting local initiatives


Gamewatchers Safaris is the proud winners of the 2011 SKAL International “sustainable development in tourism awards” for being the best Tour Operator in the Tour Operator & Travel Agent Category.

The SKAL awards were founded to encourage the conservation of the environment and help to promote the development of responsible and sustainable tourism.

SKAL International recognized Gamewatchers Safaris & Porini Safari Camps as the best tour operator of the year amidst 400 submissions from 18 international countries. Gamewatchers Safaris came out as winners in the evaluation criteria which included contribution to the conservation of nature and cultural heritage, community involvement, educational features, business viability and innovation.

eco warrior 2010


Gamewatchers Safaris are the proud winners of the 2010 Eco-warrior award for "Most Responsible Tour Operator”!

Launched by Ecotourism Kenya in 2005, the Eco Warrior Awards honour creativity within the tourism industry in Kenya and are meant to inspire innovative actions that protect the environment and integrate local people into the business of tourism. 

The criterion for this award was based on outstanding innovation, key achievements and sustainability & replicability of the initiative.

eco warrior 2009


Ecotourism Kenya awarded the low-impact Porini Camps the 2009 Eco-warrior Award in the Accommodation category for "working with communities next to national parks and reserves to create protected wildlife areas".

This award champions Porini Camps for the formation of wildlife conservancies that provide dispersal areas for Kenyan wildlife. There are now more than 40,000 acres of additional land set aside for wildlife and 500 families are benefiting from the Porini Camps located in the conservancies.


Gamewatchers Safaris and Porini Camps won the 2008 Responsible Tourism Award for Best for Conservation of Endangered Species or Protected Area at the World Travel Market in London, November 2008.
 “The winner was recognized for demonstrating that a high revenue, low impact tourism development approach can benefit the local Maasai through developing conservancies and tourism in partnership with safari companies to create employment and community income and to conserve their land for wildlife.”

The Responsible Tourism Awards sponsored by Virgin Holidays are the most competitive and prestigious awards of their kind in the world and are a collaboration between online travel directory responsible, who founded and organise the Awards, UK media partners - The Daily Telegraph, Geographical Magazine and BBC World News, and World Travel Market, who host the Awards ceremony.


Virgin Holidays at their 2008 Annual Awards Ceremony presented Porini Safari Camps with the prestigious Gold Partnership Award for Sustainable Tourism. This was the 2nd year in a row that Porini won the top Sustainable Tourism award, in competition with all the destinations and accommodation that Virgin Holidays sells worldwide.



Gamewatchers Safaris is delighted to have been rated one of the Top Ten African Safari Companies in the World by National Geographic Adventurer Magazine, February 2009.

“For the second time in as many years, we’ve conducted an unprecedented survey of adventure travel companies, based on the idea that a traveler’s most important decision is not always where to go but who to go with. For the 2009 edition, we spoke to more guide services—and their clients—than ever before. We contacted companies that lead 85,000 people a year and those that cater to a hundred.

And after asking them the tough questions (Have you tested your risk management strategies? Are your guides trained to “leave no trace”?), we scored each one using criteria synonymous with National Geographic—environmental awareness, reliable service, local knowledge. Because in a time when travel dollars are stretched, it’s essential that an outfitter deliver the trip of a lifetime, the first time. These are the world’s leading travel specialists.


National Geographic Adventure magazine, in the November 2008 issue, has rated Amboseli Porini Camp as one of the top 50 ecolodges in the World.

They say that "these 50 ecolodges are redefining travel for a greener generation."

"FIFTY TOP ECOLODGES - A decade ago, you could count the number of true ecolodges on two hands. Today we are witnessing one of the most significant transformations in the history of modern travel. Welcome to the new green standard: the 50 most Earth-friendly retreats in the world's most spectacular wilds. These cutting-edge green escapes are the best of the best at treating their visitors as well as they do the environment - sparking impactful conservation initiatives, supporting local communities, connecting guests to cultures on an authentic level and increasingly placing adventure at the center of the experience.

National Geographic Adventure Global Travel Editor Costas Christ and writer Kate Siber scoured the world to compile the most comprehensive ecolodge survey ever assembled, examining five key features: luxury, active adventures, wildlife, local culture and family friendliness."

The BBC Fast Track team visited Kenya to discover how the tourist industry was recovering from the impact of the post-election violence of early 2008.  The TV programme [Click Here to View] includes an interview with Jake Grieves-Cook, MD of Gamewatchers & Porini Camps, and highlights how our Porini Lion Camp in the Olare Motorogi Conservancy is leading the way in working with communities to conserve the environment while providing a high quality wildlife safari experience for clients.
CNN on their "Inside Africa" program recently featured Mara Porini Camp and the Ol Kinyei Conservancy as a positive example of eco-tourism.
Africa Few regular visitors to Kenya have more experience of the Masai Mara than the writer Brian Jackman. His first book on the reserve, The Marsh Lions, written with Jonathan Scott, is being re-released and in this issue of Travel Africa magazine he explains why there is no better place to observe Africa’s big cats than in the conservancies next to the Mara Reserve.

In addition to this, our project has recently been included in a British school textbook as an example of an ecotourism project that is working with and benefiting the local community and environment. Porini Camp is included in the World Tourism Organisation’s Directory of Best Practice in Ecotourism as a positive example from Kenya. Three of our Porini Camps have been awarded a Silver Eco-rating from the Ecotourism Society of Kenya.                                     

We strongly believe that Porini Safari Camps can serve as a model for other community-owned ranches that may be interested in establishing conservancies in partnership with a private sector safari operator.

The local community members’ lives have been greatly improved; they are directly benefiting from the unique natural resources and now do not have to rely on livestock as their sole income source. Previously opportunities for jobs were almost non-existent, especially at Selenkay, and now this project employs over 130 people. Take-home earnings of individual members are over USD105 per month for the most junior staff which is significantly higher than the norm in remote rural areas. Our projects are now generating a cash flow of over US$943,000 p.a. directly into the local communities and increasing annually with no direct expense to the community.

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.

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.

We believe that this can serve as a model to be adapted in many regions of the world. Proof of this is that we’ve now replicated the concept with the new Ol Kinyei & Olare Motorogi Conservancies on Maasai owned land in the Mara ecosystem. There we have set up the Mara Porini Camp & Porini Lion Camp, employing members of the local community.  We are delighted to see that our initial conservancies and years of success have produced a track record that others in the industry have now taken note of and there is now a real momentum towards more operators setting up conservancies 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.     



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