Narok County

Discover Narok County

Kayaking at Shompole Conservancy, in the south tip of Narok.  Photo Courtesy of EA Retreats
Kayaking at Shompole Conservancy. Image Courtesy of EA Retreats

Brief Overview of Narok County

Narok County, bounded in the north by ‘Kikuyuland’, to the west by the Kipsigis and Gusii countries, and in the extreme southwest, close to the shores of Lake Victoria, by the ‘Luoland’, is part of the spectacular Maasailand which stretches across the mid-southern region of Kenya. More than 50,000 km2 of the most extraordinary landscape in Kenya. Its terrain has always enticed and enthralled. It is a land graced by Africa’s highest cathedrals, Mount Kilimanjaro (east) and Mount Kenya (the mountain of God) west. A land of the most resilient rivers: Ewayo Nyiro, Siyabei, and the Mara; or the river of no return. It is a land of the most magnificent displays of wildlife seen in Kenya. It is also a land of the most romanticized culture in Kenya, the Maasai, guardians of these golden savannas.

The Maasai, who have incessantly patrolled these plains, maintain a symbiotic relationship with the wildlife, never hunting and rarely killing animals. For the indigenous nomadic Maasai herdsmen contentedly grazing their cattle over the savannas, these plains are the center of their universe. They have lived here so long that their stories of existence connect them to the savanna itself. The cattle tracks that cut deep in the solid rock are evidence enough that the Maasai have been roaming here for a long time. The earliest explorers of British East Africa described them as a powerful tribe who held undisputed sway on these plains, raided all their surrounding tribes, and demanded tributes from all who passed.

The Masai Mara National Reserve is the centerpiece of these shriveling golden plains hosting the greatest concentration of game of Kenya’s 47 protected areas, which collectively cover 12% of its land mass. It is a landscape of unimaginable horizons and grandness of epochal grasslands, at 5000 to 5500 ft., interspersed by strips of riverine vegetation with patches of acacia woodlands and thickets set mainly on the hillsides. The animals move with the seasonality variation in grazing, and this does introduce an element of luck. The Mara. which lies less than 250 kms from Nairobi, was little-known to travellers other than hunters in the early 1960’s. The first lodge, with 25 beds, was opened in 1965. It now has more than 35 of the most unashamedly beautiful safari resorts in Kenya. Most situated outside of the Mara within a radius of 11 kms covered by conservancies.

Salient Features of Narok County

  • County Number 33
  • Area – 17921 km2
  • Altitude – 5000 ft
  • Major Towns – Narok, Kilgoris, Melili
  • Borders – Bomet, Nyamira, Kisii, Migori, Nakuru, Kajiado

Brief History of Narok County

The fabled Masai Mara National Reserve, the wilderness of beauty, quickly rose to fame during the British occupation of Kenya. Before 1950, the world famous Mara was no more than a grazing area for the Maasai who inhabit the area.  It is under British colonial control that the wildlife locus covering the Mara Triangle was established, and much later the sanctuary became a “Game Reserve”. The Maasai Mara National Reserve, covering 1,510 km2, is under the management of the K.W.S, and the surrounding 4,566 km2 belong to the Maasai Community.

View at the Singita Mara River Tented Camp.  Photo Courtesy of Singita Mara River Camp
The Singita Mara River Tented Camp. Image Courtesy of Singita Mara

Places of Interest in Narok County

1. Shompole Conservancy

A jump away north of Lake Natron and the Kenya-Tanzania boundary sits the inter-territorial privately-run 141 km2 Shompole Conservancy, shared between Narok and Kajiado Counties. Set between the distinguished Amboseli National Park and Masai Mara National Reserve and made up of two community ranches – Olkiramatian and Shompole – this picture-postcard wilderness is teemed with enormous wildlife resources. Its location and its astounding variety enable holiday-makers to pack many exciting experiences which, elsewhere in Kenya, would require considerable travel. Into the bargain of its wildlife, Shompole is also strategically set between Lake Magadi (in the north) and Lake Natron (in the south); two of the most famous lakes seen in the southern region of Kenya’s Rift Valley and the largest hatching spots for the lesser flamingos in the world. Shompole Camp, a small and exclusive camp of only 6-luxury tents, nestled in the shade of a gigantic fig trees along the banks of the South Ewaso Nyiro River, offers an intimate experience of one of the most beautiful wilderness landscape in Kenya. Some of the highlights include unlimited game safaris, exploring the Shompole Swamp, tubing, kayaking, canoeing or walking along Ewaso Nyiro, walking with the baboons ( a 90+ troop of habituated Olive baboons), hiking jaunts to Shompole Hill and Nguruman Escarpment, visiting the lakes, and cultural passages into Maasai villages.  It is located 118 kms from Nairobi City, through Lake Magadi, Magadi Town, Ol Tepesi Center, and Olkiramatian Town.

DEDON Tour du Monde: Welcome to Shompole

2. Shompole (Ngare Ng’iro) Swamp

Shompole or Ngare Ng’iro Swamp is found within the Ewaso Ng’iro South River floodplain in the Ngare Ng’iro plain. The river flows through this swamp before eventually draining into Lake Natron. The weather in Shompole is marked by a high ambient temperatures and low, bimodal rainfall. Mean annual rainfall varies from 300 to 800 mm. Although this is an arid/semi arid area, Shompole Swamp, along with the Ewaso Ng’iro South River, provides sufficient water for domestic use and for livestock watering. Its significance is highlighted by the fact that during the dry spell, Shompole Wetland is virtually the only grazing land available for livestock. It’s also home to prolific of faunal and floral species.

3. Nguruman Escarpment

Not far west of the Shompole Conservancy about the foothills of the Nguruman Escarpment, there is an explosion of interesting craggy beauty, that covers the eastern boundary of Narok with Kajiado and from the boundary with Tanzania northward to Mau Complex. The Nguruman Escarpment, which is the western scarp of the Great Rift Valley, is a belt of dissected country about 16 kms wide extending along the eastern boundary of Narok. From near Mount Suswa, 160 kms north of Shompole, the Nguruman proceeds as the Mau Escarpment before it terminates near Mau Narok as it forms part of the forested Mau Highland. A popular hiking destination with many ways to it, Nguruman Escarpment offers fantastic views of the Great Rift Valley and its lakes, Loita Hills and its forests, and, of course, the Entasopia Falls, one of Nguruman’s most sought-after jewel.

4. Entasopia Falls

Outside the plains of Narok, the life-changing ‘brown and muddy waters’ of the South Ewaso Nyiro River, sometimes spelled as Uaso Ng’iro, flows in a graben valley with the Nguruman Enkorika Fault Scarp (Nguruman Escarpment) as its western wall as it aims for Lake Natron, its end of the line. As the South Ewaso courses along, leaping over one of the abrupt ridges of Nguruman Escarpment, it forms the wildly-pleasing Entasopia Falls, near Oloibortoto. Originally known as Hayton’s Falls, it is a spell-binding corner of paradise, reached on a veritable journey of ecological display starting at the windswept plains and culminating within the lush wooded areas near the falls. Depending on the starting point, it takes on average six hours (round trip) to hike up Nguruman to Entasopia Falls.

5. Loita Hills Hiking Camp

The Subukloita Hills area, although less than a hundred and twenty kilometres from Nairobi, is little known to the ordinary traveller, though avid campers are attracted by the scenery and game there, to Loita Hills Hiking Camp. The area lies on the western flanks of the Nguruman Escarpment (Rift Valley) west of the soda Lake Magadi and northwest of Shompole Conservancy, with most campers using Morijo Center as the approach. The economic potential of Subukloita area is proved disappointing, but this is perhaps offset by the relative abundance of plains game, augmented by the stock-herding of the nomadic Maasai. The camp is set in the mountainous Loita Hills – variant forms of spelling for Subukloita Hills or Subuk Leita – that rise to over 8,500 ft. The inhabitants are the friendly and nomadic tribesmen of the Purko and Loita clans of the Maasai tribe, who graze their sizeable cattle herds over the plains and grass covered hillscape, the distribution of settlements depending largely on the presence of surface waters.

Spatial Location of Loita Hills Hiking Camp in Narok County
Spatial Location of Loita Hills Hiking Camp in Narok County

6. Mount Suswa

Affectionately named ‘Ol Doinyo Nyukie’, the dormant volcanic dome of Mount Suswa, best-known for its 12 kms double crater, rises to nearly 8,000 feet at its summit. 16 kms to its north sits Mount Longonot, another volcanic dome with an impressive 9 kms wide caldera, reaching 9,000 feet. Mt. Suswa’s vegetation is for the most parts semi-arid, composed of stunted thorn bushes (whistling thorns and Acacia) and patches of grass. The river and stream beds are often marked by lines of trees and seasonal rivers such as the South Ewaso Nyiro, Siyabei and Kedong, which have thicker vegetation along their banks. On the central island block and in the annular trench, the vegetation consists of more evergreen dense woodlands. Mt. Suswa is shared mainly by Narok, Nakuru and Kajiado Counties, with just a tiny part of the eastern wall set in Kiambu County. It is possible to drive up Mount Suswa as far as the foot of the outer caldera wall, although a four-wheel-drive vehicles is necessary. The B3 Nairobi-Mai Mahiu-Narok Road that winds across the north part of Mt. Suswa is the most popular approach. Mount Suswa has many memorable sights that include Ol Doinyo Nyukie or the ‘red mountain’ which is a remnants of the highest point of Mt. Suswa and a separate cone on the southwest side of the inner caldera. On the eastern side of Mount Suswa are located its famed lava tunnels and geysers, first reported by Hobden in 1962, which extend for several kilometres into the mountain and provide a rare survey of mountain geology. North of Suswa sits the picturesque Mount Longonot, along with several ash and cinder cones and hills rising above the Akira plains. Wildlife is plentiful here, particularly on the plains around Suswa where five varieties of antelopes and zebra can be spotted.

7. Mau Highland

North of Mount Suswa en route Nakuru Town, the Nguruman-Mau Escarpment finally reaches the highland-tableland of Mau, marking the northeast and north boundary of Narok County. The Mau Highland, rising to over 10,000 feet in the north and its main geological formation, is encompassed by the largest forested bearings in Kenya, covering about 2,733 km2. The Mau Highland is the source of salient rivers including the Mara and South Ewaso Nyiro. And Mara River is the single most important river in Narok County, as it traverses through Masai Mara Game Reserve, before courses west to drain into Lake Victoria. The South Ewaso Nyiro, and the only perennial river on the eastern half of Narok County, drains southwards into Lake Natron in Tanzania. Due to the soft nature of the rocks under the Mau Highland and Mau Escarpment, erosion is rapid, and both these rivers are bigly “brown or muddy” as they transport high quantities of silt.

The Mau Highland is the largest closed‐canopy forest in Kenya. Its forests provide critical ecological benefits, to include, water storage, river regulation, flood mitigation, recharge of groundwater, reduction of soil erosion and siltation, water purification, conservation of biodiversity, and micro‐climate regulation, yet, over the last 15 years, it has lost over 1,070 km2 (or 25%) due to encroachment.

8. Longonot Earth Station

Unlike going to the zoo, going on safari odds-on entails adventure to booay and difficult to access places. The Mara is no exception! The 250 kms journey from Nairobi to Masai Mara National Reserve takes up to 6 hours. The first 150 kms, from Nairobi to Narok Town, is a smooth drive of absolutely beautiful scenes. About 30 kms from Nairobi City, as the road descends to the floor of the valley on the hair-raising winding road to Mai-Mahiu Town, one of the most dazzling views of Kenya unfold before you. The knockout view of the Great Rift Valley. In the distance are Mount Suswa and the peculiar chain of ground satellites rising mysteriously in the middle of a bare and deserted plain. The ground satellites at Longonot Earth Station have aroused the imagination of many a traveller, with sundry suggestions of their existence. Commissioned in 1970, Longonot Earth Station was the first specialized terrestrial terminal in Kenya, primarily used to communicate with its counterpart in-space satellites.  In 1968, Kenya and her neighbours became members of Intelsat – Global Satellite Consortium – which offered the right to set-up earth-stations and access Intelsat’s chain of satellites.

9. Olosho Curio Shop

Trippers aiming for Masai Mara National Reserve might find it useful to take a bio-break at Narok, and to stretch and refresh. Waxed lyrically about, the rough and bumpy ride from Narok to the Mara is an experience few forget. A stop here does also, by any means, serve as the universal hail of Masailand and a chance to pay homage to the Maasai. Narok Town is named after the Enkare Narok, or ‘the river that flows through Narok’. Aside from their remarkable proficiency in naming places, events and objects, the Maasai – part of the Nilotic Tribes who have their roots in Egypt – also display a kindred love and mastery for intricate and geometric beaded ornaments reminiscent of the ‘Ancient Egypt’. At Olosho Curio Shop, travellers can learn lots about the symbolic significance of each of the ornaments, in preparation for Mara. It’s also a convenient place to acquire the colophon traditional Maasai kikoy, a widely-adorned fleece by the residents of Narok Town, which is the biggest producer of these Maasai kikoys in Kenya.

10. Narok Stadium

In an earnest bid to diversify its touring resources, Narok County has invested Sh. 316 Million towards the upgrade of Narok Stadium with an eye on attracting the Kenyan Football League fixtures as well as hosting other local and regional functions. Following the commissioning of its phase 1, in 2012, Narok Stadium set just 80 kms from the world-famous Masai Mara Reserve has hosted several successful events, hedging on its location to spruce-up sports tourism in Narok.

11. Narok Museum

One of the highly-recommended stopovers within Narok Town is at the rather modest, yet, highly informational Narok Museum. The pocket-sized museum located along the B3 Mai Mahiu-Narok-Mara-Kaplong Road at the entrance of Narok Town is appreciably easy to reach. It exhibits a photographic gallery and artefacts that aims to preserve the beauty and strength of the rich traditional heritage of the Maasai, and other speakers of the Maa language. Of particular interest at Narok Museum are the 24 reproductions of Joy Adamson’s artworks that depicts the traditional-life of the Maasai, also known as Masai or Maa. The collection is selected from her vast highly-praised ethnographical art collection featuring almost 6,000 pieces. “The Maasai are noble, aristocratic people with an impressive physical appearance and a technology appropriate to the harsh environmental conditions of their tropical savannah habitat” National Museum.

Route Map from Nairobi to Narok Museum in Narok County
Route Map from Nairobi to Narok Museum in Narok County

12. Narok Coffee House

The relaxed Narok Coffee House just a stone’s throw away from the main town, en route Mara and Bomet, serves good-eats and a perfectly-acceptable cup of a range of coffees: “Food was great and reasonably priced. Very clean with a very pleasant garden area” – Mike W. on TripAdvisor. Open daily, till late, it serves as a popular jump-off place for trippers to the Mara and those heading further north. It is located 5 kms from Narok Town along Narok-Kaplong-Bomet Road.

13. Maji Moto Maasai Cultural Camp

Away from the luxury safari resorts and camps, the Maji Moto Maasai Cultural Camp provides an authentic Maasai experience, hosting its guests in traditional Maasai manyattas. “Established by Salaton Ole Ntutu, a Maasai Chief, the Maji Moto Camp’s manyattas are spread out over miles of undeveloped semi-arid rangelands at the foot of the pretty Loita Hills. There, visitors stay in his tribal community, learning about the ways of the Maasai and getting a feel for the landscape they live within” – The New York Times. In addition to staying in the traditional manyattas, visitors to the camp also get to understand the landscape through the eyes and words of the Maasai, on intimate sunrise and sunset walks with the Chief, try their battle skills in spear throwing, visit the Maji Moto hot-springs for a natural bath, take part in walking safaris deep into the hills, and visit the Maasai ‘Widows’ Village to take part in bead work. The view of Loita Plains are the star of Maji Moto Maasai Camp, where a bonanza of wildlife can be seen roaming the wildly-scenic area, to include, antelopes, zebras, cheetahs and wildebeest. The Camp is situated 52 kms from Narok via Narok-Kaplong-Bomet Road; turning off to Maji Moto just 6 kms from Narok, near Oasis Hotel.

“People told me that “Africa changes you” and I didn’t understand it until I experienced it myself. I thoroughly enjoyed the hut in Maji Moto Maasai Camp. Salaton Ole Ntutu, is an excellent host and guide, providing access and a view into the Maasai culture that I will never forget.”

14. Loita Hills

The 30 kms journey from Narok to Ololulunga, the turnoff to the Mara, heading due west, sets a pleasurable prelude to the prepossessing landscape of the Mara. From Narok Town the country is flat, consisted mainly of the open Loita Plains sloping southwards from an altitude of 6,300 ft flanked to the north and east by the South Ewaso Nyiro River and by-passed by several shallower water courses which become heavily wooded to the east. Southwards, the Loita Plains merge with the horizon, falling steadily towards the Mara, set at 5,000 ft. Best seen on an excursion of Nguruman Escarpment, Loita Hills rise almost 1,000 ft., above the surrounding countryside in the southwest corner of Loita Plains and Narok County, and overlooking Sianna Hills found within the Masai Mara Ecosystem.

Spatial Location of Loita Hills in Narok County
Spatial Location of Loita Hills in Narok County

15. Loita Plains

Beyond Narok Town the terrain levels out to a swish flat sheet of land inclining moderately to meet the plains of the Masai Mara Ecosystem. The flush, grass-topped, Loita Plains cover much of the north-western region of Narok County. In the north, towards the south border of Mau Highland, the ground rises and becomes more undulating. On the roadside, the plains represent a continuation of the vast Serengeti Plains, of which the Masai Mara National Reserve covers only 3%. The Loita Plains are bound to the southwest by the Sianna Hills. In the south sits the Loita Hills, which attain a height of 8,500 feet, and beyond them lies the Nguruman Escarpment. In the east, the Plains are bound by the Lewele Hills, which attain a height of about 7400 ft. And in the north, in their furthest reach, Loita Plains are bound by the forested lower slopes of the Mau Highland.

16. Nemenengio Forest

Of the many culturally-important forests in Narok, the floral-rich Nemenengio Forest in Loita Division, considered sacred, has been a shrine where Maa Elders have convened to pray and offer sacrifice to the deities for millennia. Despite its biological and cultural beauty, its biodiversity has fueled the interest of selfish and greedy merchants, causing distraction through grabbing and illegal logging.

17. Masai Mara Ecosystem

“The geographic precinct of the Masai Mara Ecosystem in Kenya consists of the Masai Mara National Reserve and the surrounding community of former group ranches and conservancies, including the Masai Mara River and its catchment area and parts of the Mau Highland” – Maasai Mara Science and Development Initiative. Sequentially, the Masai Mara Ecosystem is a part of the larger and contiguous Serengeti-Masai Mara Ecosystem which covers over 24,000 km2 of land, with the Serengeti in Tanzania in the south and the Masai Mara in Kenya in the north. Within Kenya the Masai Mara National Reserve covers 1,510 km2, while the peripheral and adjoining ranches and conservancies cover 4,566 km2. The Masai Mara National Reserve is globally unique and world famous for the great annual wildebeest migration – the largest and most species-diverse large mammal migration in the world, comprised of 1.3 million wildebeest, 200,000 zebra, hundreds of thousands of Thomson′s gazelles and, of course, the big cats of Africa. On that account, the Masai Mara Ecosystem constitutes a unique and irreplaceable part of Africa’s natural heritage, yet, it is a fragile ecosystem facing a multiplicity of environmental challenges which need to be addressed urgently.

Roads Connecting Gates

  • Narok – Sekenani Gate – 73 kms
  • Narok – Oloolaimtia Gate – 80 kms
  • Narok – Oloololo Gate – 90 kms
  • Kilgoris – Oloololo – 60 kms
  • Serengeti – Sandriver – 150 kms

Accepted Viewing Circuits (260 kms)

  • Sekenani – Keekorok – Mara Bridge – Oloololo (95 kms)
  • Olemelepo – Talek River – Musiara Gate (35 kms)
  • Oloolaimutia – Keekorok – Sand River (130 kms)

Off Road Circuits

  • Olemelepo – Talek River – Kekorok Lodge and back (34 kms)
  • Kekorok Lodge – Sekenani- Oloolaimutia and back (30 kms)
  • Mara Intrepids – Olave Orok and back (64 kms)
  • Governors Camp – Musiara Gate – Olare Orok and back (90 kms)
  • Mara Serena – Ilpunyatta – Esankuriai (34 kms)
  • Mara Serena – Olpunyatta – Ngiro – Sandlick and back (65 kms)
  • Roan Hill – Olmisigiyioi – Outlook-Mara Bridge – Kekorok (90 kms)
  • Mara Bridge – Saltlick – Mara Serena (65 kms)

18. Masai Mara National Reserve

Next to claiming the bragging rights for the concept of ‘safari’, the Masai Mara National Reserve is Kenya’s biggest trump-card. The crown-jewel of her faunal sanctuaries. And for all the difficulties of getting to the Mara by road, especially on the 67 kms rough patch from Narok Town – a dusty, jerky ride, with a lot of bumping on the windows, which lasts 2 hours, assuming it does not rain – the journey is well rewarded with memorable sights that most people carry for the rest of their lives. Paradoxically, this state is a means of rationing access to the fragile ecosystem, and is synonymous with all National Reserves. Assuredly, the Government has no plans to tarmac the road sections to the reserves. Of its five gates – Ololoolo, Musiara, Talek, Ololomutiek and Sekenani – most visitors to the Mara access it through the Sekenani Gate. The Mara also has three airstrips at Keekorok, Olkiombo and Musiara – served by daily flights from Nairobi City. 

In many respects the Masai Mara National Reserve is perhaps the most popular National Reserves in Kenya and between June and September hotels record 100 per cent booking. “It is a reserve not a national park meaning it is unfenced and run by the Local County and not the National Government”. There’s something for everyone at the Mara, from crawl-in tents to first-rate resort. More than any other reserve and park in Kenya, the Masai Mara is dotted by numerous luxury lodges, tented camps, and campsites. It has around 42 resorts and safari camps, mainly set up in the conservancies abutting with Mara. As far as luxury safaris go, few places top the Mara. These conservancies are found chiefly around the Masai Mara N. Reserve and serve as dispersal and migratory corridors. Some of the largest conservancies are Pardamat, Mara North, Mara Naboisho and Siana.

On leaving Masai Mara, most travellers either continue journeying through the foothills of Olol Goben to cross the Tanzania border at Sand River, and thence to the Seronera Lodge, within Serengeti National Park, a 96 kms drive away; or circuit back to Nairobi. Holiday-makers with a day or two to spare can take an alternate route to Nairobi en route Western Kenya through Kilgoris. Here, one can explore the Thimlich Cultural Landscape – a dry-stone walled settlement probably built in the 16th century – which was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2018. It demonstrates, in part, how communities living around Masailand were influenced by the dominant Maasai, a whilom fierce pastoralist tribe with great reputation for ferocity; the early explorer and traders having, in most cases, to fight their way or pay when bordering or traversing their country.

The Masai Mara Experience. Published by The Travelling Lipstick

19. Keekorok Lodge

A problem of less concern when planning a trip to Mara is a place to stay. With nearly 290,000 holiday-makers visiting the colossus wildlife theater each year, development of hotels has been rapid in response to demand; particularly along the outer perimeter of the Masai Mara National Reserve, within the hatful of wildlife conservancies. Unique to the Keekorok Lodge is that it was its foremost establishment – both in Masai Mara National Reserve and the Mara Ecosystem. Established in 1962, with a bed capacity of 25 and the inestimable privilege to select the best vantage, Keekorok Lodge is ideally situated in the direct path of the spectacular migration. And in its favour, development of hotels within the Masai Mara National Reserve is highly restricted. Into that bargain, the lodge enjoys all 1,510 km2 of the abundant game and wonderful scenery consisting of rolling grassland plains, woodlands, and thicket patches. Still and all, Keekorok Lodge has stayed the course of providing many a memorable holiday and now has 85-Standard Rooms, 12-Chalets, 1-Executive Suite, and 1-Presidential Suite.

20. Mara Triangle

The 510 km2 Mara Triangle, the section of Masai Mara Ecosystem between the Siria Escarpment in the west and Mara River in the east (that also separates it from Masai Mara National Reserve) is managed as a non-profit organisation, The Mara Conservancy, on behalf of the Trans-Mara County Council. In 1994 management of the Maasai Mara National Reserve was divided into the eastern side, managed by the Narok County Council, and the northwestern sector (the Mara Triangle), then managed by the Trans Mara County Council. It represents about a third of the entire Mara Reserve. In the year 2000 the Mara Triangle was reestablished as the Mara Conservancy. “Mara Serena and Little Governors’ Camp are the only two lodges set up within the Mara Triangle. Kichwa Tembo, Mpata Club, Olonana, Mara Siria and Kilima Camp are set on the periphery but use the Triangle” – Magical Kenya. The Mara Triangle is serviced by two all-weather airstrips – Mara Serena and Kichwa Tembo. The main road access into the less-travelled Mara Triangle is through Narok Town and the Sekenani Gate.

21. Mara North Conservancy

The 320 kms Mara North Conservancy originally dubbed as the ‘Koiyaki Lemek Conservation Area’ occupies the north-western section of the Mara Ecosystem and borders the Maasai Mara National Reserve to the south. Much the same as the Mara Triangle, this was founded as a not-for-profit organization in January of 2009 to bring together 13 tourism partner members (7 camps, 3 lodges and 3 riding outfits) and over 800 Maasai landowners. Both these areas are marked by sweeps of the archetypal golden savanna split into ridges by bushland, which host a high density of wildlife. Unique to Mara North Conservancy is its strong resolve in low bed density tourism, and it aspires to an ideal minimum ratio of 142-hectares per bed, both to guarantee an exclusive safari experience and to minimize the impact on the environment. The member camps are Alex Walker’s Serian Camp, Elephant Pepper Camp, Neptune Mara, Rianta Luxury Camp, Karen Blixen Camp, Kicheche Mara Camp, Mara Bush Houses | Asilia Africa Mara Plains Camp, Offbeat Mara Camp, Offbeat Riding Safaris, Richard’s River Camp, Royal Mara Safari Lodge, Safaris Unlimited, and the Saruni Mara Lodge.

22. Oloisukut Conservancy

Situated between Mara North and Lemek Conservancies in the western quarter of the Mara Ecosystem, the 202 km2 Oloisukut Conservancy established in 2011 brings together 109 Maasai landowners and community members. It has three member lodges – Elojata Camp, Balloon Camp and Mara Timbo. It is notable as the only community conservancy in the Transmara Conservation Area and has diverse wildlife habitats like forests, grasslands, woodlands, and riparian haunt.

23. Lemek Conservancy

Originally part of the Koiyaki Lemek Conservation Area, this was reestablished in January 2009 as the Lemek Conservancy, under a board of elected members responsible for ensuring efficient and transparent revenue collection and equal distribution to its members. The 73 km2 Conservancy, a short distance north of Masai Mara National Reserve and Mara North, is jointly owned by 450 Maasai landowners. “Lemek Conservancy is one of the high wildlife density areas in the Great Plains offering pleasant scenery and the best wildlife viewing areas of the Maasai Mara Ecosystem”. It has five member camps – Saruni Wild Camp, Mara River Lodge, Naserian Mara Camp, Losokwan Camp, and Mara Concord Lodge.

24. Olare Motorogi Conservancy

Formerly dubbed as the Olare Orok Conservancy, the 129 km2 Olare Motorogi Conservancy, bringing together 277 Maasai landowners, has hitherto become a model for the Mara Conservancies and a blue-print for the sustainability of the Maasai Mara Ecosystem since its establishment in 2009. “After many meetings with the local Maasai it was agreed that a new community conservation vision should be tried to address sustainability of their land and to add value in both income and conserving vegetation, so that a combination of wildlife tourism and sustainable rotational grazing could create a win-win situation for both the Maasai landowners and the wildlife of the Maasai Mara Ecosystem”, The Great Plains Conservation. Further, tourism within Olare Motorogi Conservancy was limited to a maximum of 6 member camps – Kicheche Bush Camp, Mara Plains Camp, Mahali Mzuri, Porini Lion Camp, Nomadic Encounters Topi House and Olare Mara Kempinski, all with a total of 94 beds, to aggrandize the wilderness experience and reduce the environmental impact. Unique to this Conservancy is that game safaris are limited to a maximum of 4 vehicles at any given moment.

25. Ol Choro Oiroua Conservancy

Situated between Lemek and Enonkishu Conservancies in the northerly limits of the Masai Mara Ecosystem, the 64 km2 Ol Choro Oiroua Conservancy which was established in 1992 has 4 member camps – the Fairmont Mara Safari Club, Richard’s Forest Camp, Ngerende Island Lodge and Enkerende Tented Camp. It brings together 86 Maasai landowners and community members, creating 150 jobs in hotel and conservancy management and 17 ranger and scout jobs. Seiya Ltd is contracted by Fairmont Mara Safari Club to manage the conservancy and ensure the area’s holistic land management and community development. The revenue collected here is distributed to the 86 Maasai landowners on a per acre basis. Unique to this Conservancy is that it is flanked by the Mara River on its entire western boundary. Ol Choro Conservancy is served by Ngerende Airstrip.

26. Enonkishu Conservancy

Established in 2011, the 24 km2 Enonkishu Conservancy, bringing together 46 landowners and community members, with 2 lodges and 1 camp, is the north most conservancy in the Maasai Mara Ecosystem; with Lemek Conservancy to its south. “Travellers to the Conservancy can stay at the Mara Training Centre Banda’s, House in the Wild – a boutique lodge on the Mara River, or in private home within the Naretoi Estate” – Enonkishu. One of the utmost highlights at Enonkishu Conservancy is a walking safari to the top of Kileleoni Hill, which serves as useful observation point, and to Ol Chorro and Lemek Conservancies. To get there “from Narok, take the tarmac road towards Sotik for about 55 kms, past two turnoffs to Masai Mara.  At about 53 kms you will see a green fuel levy sign on your left. You want to take the next dirt road on the left, at the Mulot Junction. There will be signs to the Fairmont Mara Safari Club. Follow these”.

27. Pardamat Conservancy

Currently in formation, between the Naibosho and Enonkishu Conservancies, in the far northeast area of the Masai Mara Ecosystem, the 260 km2 Pardamat Conservancy brings together 850 Maasai landowners and community members. Pardamat Conservancy, which also neighbours Mara North and Olare Motorogi Conservancies, was previously a particularly vulnerable region with some of the highest incidences of elephant poaching in Kenya. Alarmed at the sharp spike in elephant deaths in 2010, Pardamat Conservancy, in partnership with the Mara Elephant Project, was created to conserve the arc and provide a lasting solution.

28. Naibosho Conservancy

Established 2010 and covering 206 km2, bringing together 554 landowners and community members, Naibosho Conservancy has 6 member camps – Naibosho Camp, Ol Seki Hemingways Mara Camp, Kicheche Valley Camp, Eagles View Base Lodge, Wilderness Camp, and Encounter-Mara Camp – offering 142 jobs in hotel and conservancy management, and 33 ranger jobs. It is found between Pardamat Conservancy and the Siana Group Ranch, on the eastern side of the Masai Mara Ecosystem. Ol Kinyei Conservancy forms an offshoot on its eastern side. Naibosho is located just 11 kms north of the Masai Mara National Reserve.

29. Ol Kinyei Conservancy

Situated between Naibosho Conservancy and the Siana Group Ranch along the outer eastern edge of the Mara Ecosystem, the 74 km2 Ol Kinyei Conservancy, established in 2005, brings together 177 landowners and community members. Ol Kinyei is home to two small safari camps, the Porini Mara Camp and Porini Cheetah Camp, each with a maximum capacity of 12 guests. Contiguous with the Naibosho Conservancy, along its western frontier, Ol Kinyei has all-round splendid views of the magnificent Loita Hills and the eye-catching Loita Plains.

30. Siana Group Ranch

Wedged between Ol Kinyei Conservancy (north), Masai Mara National Reserve (west) and Ol Derikesi Conservancy (south), on the eastern edges of the Masai Mara Ecosystem, the 115 km2 Siana Group Ranch established in 2018 brings together 3,500 landowners and community members. It has plenty of camps, to include: Amicabre Camp Site, Flamingo Camp, Leleshwa Camp, Mara Bush Tops Camp, Gypsy Mara Safari Camp, Hippo Mara Safari Lodge, Mara Safari Camp Springs, Maasai Mara Sopa Lodge, Olperr Elongo Camp, Oropile Camp, Line Africa Safari Camp, Sekenani Camp, Siana Springs Intrepids, and Spur Wing Camp Site. Conveniently located between the Sekenani and Ololamutiek Gates, it covers a wildlife-rich zone known for the galore company of elephants. Since the priority for Siana Group Ranch is wildlife protection, it is not listed a fully functional conservancy, but its rangers continuously sentry its jurisdiction.

31. Ol Derikesi Conservancy

Located at the southeast end of the Mara Ecosystem and bordering the Masai Mara National Reserve, the 30 km2 Ol Derikesi Conservancy established in 2001 brings together 500 landowners. It is best known for its only camp, the award-winning (Africa’s leading luxury private villa 2016, WTA) Cottar’s 1920’s Camp, revered as one of the most enliven safari destination in Kenya. It caters luxuriously for the middle-upper budget to provide an elegant and indelible wilderness experience. It is run by the Cottar’s Family who are one of the oldest established and continuing safari family in Africa – “In 1919, together with his sons, Mike, Bud and Ted, Charles established ‘Cottar’s Safari Service’, one of the very first registered safari companies offering superior big game hunting and film safaris outfitting throughout Africa, India and Indochina” – Cottar’s Camp.

Map of the Masai Mara Ecosystem. Photo Courtesy of The Maa Trust
Map of the Masai Mara Ecosystem. Map Courtesy of The Maa Trust

32. South Ewaso Nyiro River

Not to be confused with the more popular Ewaso Nyiro River which rises on the west side of Mount Kenya and flows north, east and south-east before draining into the Lorian Swamp, the South Ewaso Nyiro River rises in the Mau Highland some 52 kms north of Narok, flowing south-eastwards along a narrow channel cut along the edge of the Nguruman Escarpment (part of the western wall of the Great Rift Valley) which it hugs as far as Oloibortoto. There, South Ewaso Nyiro River turns slightly eastwards and eventually spreads out into the morasses of Shompole Swamp lying just north of Lake Natron. As it flows, the South Ewaso Nyiro is fed by several wide tributaries notably of the Liarok and Siyabei Rivers.

The South Ewaso Nyiro River once flowed directly into Lake Natorn but, in recent times, it has been dammed by a horst beside the Shompole Hill. This has caused the waters to spread out into the steadily expanding Engare Ng’iro Swamp, where the Ewaso River deposits its sediment.

33. Mara River

The infamous Mara River has its source in the Napuiyapui Swamp on the Mau Highland. Its main tributaries are the Amala and Nyangoris Rivers. Its other seasonal tributaries are Oltorotua which rises on the edge of Loita Plains near Lemek, and the Sand River rising in Loita Hills and flowing westwards along the southern foot of the Sianna Hills until it reaches the Mara River near the Tanzania border. From Mau Highlands, Mara River flows south-westwards as far as its meet with Nyangoris River, a permanent stream rising in Chepalungu in Trans Mara, after which it follows the contours of Siria Escarpment aiming for the Mara Bridge. From here, it swings south-eastwards to form the Mara Triangle, which lies between it and Siria Escarpment, to as far as the Tanzania border. At the border, the Mara River is joined by the semi-permanent Sand River and from where it swings westerly, eventually draining into Lake Victoria.

34. Siria Escarpment

Siria Escarpment, also known as the Oloololo or Ol Donyio Escarpment, over 6,000 feet high and sloping westwards with the Mara River at its eastern foot, forms a break roughly down the western side of Masai Mara National Reserve and Narok County. It rises 1,000 feet over the surrounding flat plains, breaking the unvarying and unrelenting grassland monotony, to form one of the Mara’s most distinguished features which is especially wondrous when sighted at the Angama Mara Lodge set-up on Siria Escarpment’s edge. Near Mwita, the Siria reaches its highest elevation of about 6,500 feet, where the ridges forming the northern extension of the Karri Highlands occur. West of Siria Escarpment, the surface slopes towards Lake Victoria (3,500 feet) at about 35 feet per kilometre.

A day at Angama Mara | Experiential Video | Backdrop Production

35. Trans Mara Conservation Area

Trans Mara, which means “beyond the Mara”, occurs northwest of Masai Mara National Reserve along the outer side of the Siria Escarpment, beyond which the land rises to over 6,500 ft. covered by a mosaic of semi-deciduous and dry-deciduous forest and acacia savanna woodlands. The Trans Mara Conservation Area forms a vital dispersal area for Maasai Mara National Reserve. Nyakweri Forest, covering 500 km2, is its largest remaining forest. Patches of Nyakweri Forest still remain intact within group ranches like Kimintet and Oloirien which directly border Mara Triangle, and are designated as protected wildlife areas. Moreover, the area has plenty of wildlife and is a time-honoured nursery for herds of elephants. It is also recorded to have more than 100 floral varieties and almost 300 bird species. The rate of destruction, for charcoal burning and wood, has been quite alarming: “unchecked clearing of the forest will continue to shrink habitats, not only for the elephants, but also for the rare giant hogs, as well as, birds species not found anywhere else” – A report by Anne Kent Fund.

After land sub-division, local landowners who are mainly from the Maasai community invite outsiders to provide labor in cutting down trees to clear land for agriculture. In turn, these laborers receive their payment from the sale of charcoal that they make while the owner gets 25% of sales.

36. Intona Ranch

The controversial 27 km2 Intona Ranch close to Lolgarian in Trans Mara has been the subject of mind-blowing villainy and double-dealings since the death of its owner, Former Vice President Joseph K. Murumbi. In its heydays, this working cattle ranch, with a ‘beautiful if rather outlandish’ 34-rooms stately mansion, was the epicenter for pedigree cattle-breeding.  Murumbi, an avid-farmer himself, and a well-known art enthusiast, often hosted Maasai farmers, as well as, passionate breeders from the world over to trade-off new skill with indigenous know-hows, with the aim to enriching both traditional and modern farmers. Sadly, after his death in 1990, the Intona Ranch became the focus of endless ‘ownership-woes’ leading to its complete run-down to a derelict and vandalized farm. To begin with, the Maasai wanted to reclaim the land which they had given to Murumbi as a gift. More recently, Kenya’s incumbent Deputy President, W. Ruto, “is alleged to have acquired the Intona Ranch land after paying off a loan owed to the Agricultural Finance Corporation by J. Murumbi”.

Joe loved his cattle and he experienced great joy in going to the kraal in the evening to see them coming in. Sheila, conversely, did not care about cattle much. She loved plants and was a keen gardener. She kept a lovely greenhouse, which housed a collection of the orchids found at Intona. They both shared an incredible passion for culture and art and the house was a true museum of African art – carvings, masks, antiques and paintings – A Bushnob Out of Africa.

37. Kilimapesa Gold

Narok County is endowed with ample minerals among them gold deposit in the Lolgorian region of Transmara West. Gold mining and processing activity in Narok is mainly done at Lolgoriian, at the Kilimapesa Hill, and is carried out by Kilimapesa Gold Ltd.  A new plant was commissioned in February 2017 close by Kilimapesa Hill with shaft mines running through the gold-bearing quartz veins with a designed scope of 200 tonnes daily.  Goldplat, which operates the mines, now owns 100% of Kilimapesa Gold and all Lolgorien gold enterprise. Kilimapesa is part the Migori Archaean Greenstone Belt of south-west Kenya. The Kilimapesa Gold mining project came into production in January of 2009.

View in Masai Mara National Reserve.  Photo Courtesy of Kevin Arnold
Masai Mara National Reserve. Image Courtesy of Kevin Arnold

Geography of Narok County

To the northeast, Narok County is bound by the densely forested Mau Highland that also extends to parts of Trans Mara. For the most other parts, the County is swept by the open grasslands of Loita Plains and the Masai Mara Ecosystem. Its flat eastern frontier, which is roughly demarcated by the Mau Highland and the Nguruman Escarpment, falls within the Rift Valley, sloping southbound from about 6,000 feet to 2000 feet at Lake Natron. Narok County is the 11th largest County of Kenya, covering an area of 17,933 km2 that represents 3.1% of Kenya.

Land Use in Narok County

The arable land where most the agricultural activity take place is approximately 8,495 km2. The farmlands are mainly around Mau Highland in Narok North, Nairege Enkare in Narok East, Emurrua Dikirr Sub-county and Narok South. Acreage under subsistence farmland covers about 2,528 km2 whilst that of cash crop farming occupies an area of about 6,933 km2. Narok experiences a poverty index of 41% and almost 344,000 people are living in poverty (GoK 2013). It reflects the state of illiteracy, low per capita income, unemployment, gender-based role issues and environmental development. Such factors determine the communities’ perception of environmental utility and risks. Poverty is therefore the greatest threat to its environment as the Maa Tribe depend on pastrolalism.

Highlights in Narok County

Narok County relies heavily on tourism, with the globally-famous Msaai Mara Game Reserve featuring the Great Wildebeest Migration being one of its major highlights. The wildlife in the Reserve tends to be concentrated on the western escarpment. With rising human encroachment activities in the Mara Reserve, the cases of human wildlife conflict have been on the rise and thus threatening sustainability of the reserve and the tourism sector at large. Its rich Maa culture is also unique and a big attraction. Despite education, civilization and western cultural influences, the Maasai Tribe have sustained their traditional way of life.

Population in Narok County

The 2018 projected population in Narok County was 1,130,703 consisting of 570,963 males and 559,740 female. This is an increase from 850,920 persons from 2009. Population density in 2018 was 63 persons / km2, an increase from about 47 persons / km2 recorded at the 2009 annual census, translating to a growth rate of 4.7% vis-a-viz the 2.7% national rate. Narok County has reported high external migration from the neighboring counties, such as, Bomet, Kisii, Nyamira and Nairobi. The population is cosmopolitan with the Maasai and the Kalenjin being the dominant ethnic groups. Narok County is also home to some minority and marginalized communities including the Ogiek and Oromo ethnic groups. There are two main urban areas in Narok County: Kiligoris and Narok.

View of cheetah family with Siria Escarpment in the background.  Photo Courtesy of Kimojino
Cheetahs with Siria Escarpment in the background. Courtesy of Kimojino

Airports in Narok County

Narok County has four operational air strips found within Masai Mara National Reserve – Serena, Keekorok, Olkiombo and Musiara. They play a crucial role in tourism by increasing mobility of trippers visiting the Maasai Mara Ecosystem.

Roads in Narok County

Narok County has an extensive road network of about 4,602 kms of which the National Government is mandated with 1,348 kms and the County Government oversees 3,254 kms. From the network, approximately 185 kms are tarmacked, 1,510 kms are graveled and 2,907 kms are earthen roads. The main challenge, during the rainy season, is that several of these roads are rendered impassable.

Climate in Narok County

The climate of Narok County is strongly influenced by the altitude and physical features. It has four main agro-climatic zones categorized into its humid, sub-humid, semi-humid to arid and semi-arid zones. 2/3 of the County is classified as semi-arid. Temperatures range from 28 Degrees C between January and March, to 20 C between June to September, with an average of 24 C. Rainfall is influenced by the passage of inter tropical convergence zones giving rise to bi-modal rainfall pattern. Long rains are experienced between February and June, while the short rain season is experienced between mid August and November.

Narok County Distance Chart
Narok County Distance Chart

View of the satellites in the Longonot Earth Station en-route Narok Town.  Photo Courtesy
Satellites at Longonot Earth Station en-route Narok Town. Image Courtesy.

National Monuments in Narok County

There are no designated national monuments in Narok County

Narok County Map