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Big Cat & Wildlife Research in Kenya's Maasai Mara Reserve
Volunteers and local kids playing Volunteers and local kids playing

Big Cat & Wildlife Research in Kenya's Maasai Mara Reserve

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    9

  • Living Situation

    9

  • Community Engagement

    7

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    9

Roscoe's review

My time here was a wonderful experience. From first getting in contact with Danny to book until Caroline handed me this laptop to write my review, I have had an incredible time. Everyone has been so caring and kind. Any request I made was listened to and a solution was found almost immediately. Being on a diet of Dairy and Nut-free food because on an allergy was my only worry about coming out here and that was put to rest very quickly with the Ben the Chef making sure anything he cooked was to my liking. I have had an amazing time and it will not be long until I'm back. See you soon!

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    9

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Engagement

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    9

Big cat & wildlife research, Masai Mara, Kenya

I loved being part of the project!! The location is amazing and the landscape is unbelievable! It's great to see the effort of the people that is working in different projects among the conservancy, protecting the wildlife of Kenya and achieving an equilibrium between the local communities and the animals. The project is well organized and the African impact staff is amazing!!

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    9

  • Living Situation

    8

  • Community Engagement

    10

  • Health & Safety

    8

  • Day to Day Life

    8

Big cat monitoring

A fabulous experience of living in a conservancy and being able to share our experience with local communities. Great guiding enabling us to experience wonderful encounters with a huge range of wildlife! Many thanks to everyone who made the adventure so exciting!

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    9

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Engagement

    10

  • Health & Safety

    9

  • Day to Day Life

    10

Fabulous way to experience African wildlife

I joined the project as an inexpensive way to experience African wildlife, and to have the sense of involvement that you simply can't get as a tourist.
The wildlife was simply fabulous. Virtually every drive was rewarded with truly breathtaking views of animals. The weekend excursions were perfect, and the Wildebeest crossing the Mara river was one of the most profound experiences of my life.
The guides went out of their way to provide information and to allow us to get close views of animals. However, while I appreciate the effort they took, I did feel that at times they caused unnecessary disturbance - but I'll speak more about this at the end.
I had mixed feelings about the monitoring work, and did feel that the methods used for the grass surveys and game counts were rather haphazard. I did get the impression that the monitoring work was designed specifically to to keep us busy, while the tasks could have been carried out by the guides themselves far more efficiently and in a fraction of the time. I enjoyed the physical tasks like road marking, filling in holes, and scrub clearing, that we did on Wednesdays best. After so much time spent in vehicles it was good to do some physical hard work, and a lot of fun.
I was slightly disappointed not to have had more time to simply observe animals and monitor their behavior. Instead we were constantly on the move, seeking out animals, following them closely in the vehicle then moving on to find the next.
As a keen birdwatcher I was constantly frustrated by this, and very seldom had the opportunity to look closely at smaller or less spectacular birds. I think the project would benefit by encouraging volunteers to take more of an interest in ALL wildlife, and to overcome the 'big five' mentality that seemed to be shared by the majority.
Living conditions were great, and far more luxurious than I'd expected. My tent, however, was badly designed, having the rain flaps on the inside, so when it rained the water simply poured into the tent quickly flooding it. On one occasion the tent floor was covered in several inches of water. Luckily I was present at the time and was able to save my belongings from damage.
The washing and toilet facilities, too, were much better than I'd expected. The food was good - and there was plenty of it - and the catering staff absolutely charming.
One experience that marred the trip for me was the unfortunate behavior of one of the other volunteers which can only be described as vicious. The staff did their best to deal with this, and were very kind to me. As someone said - in this sort of situation everyone's out of their comfort zone so everyone should treat all the team members with respect and compassion.
The pre-trip information was excellent. I bombarded Danny Middleton, the project destination manager, with questions, and he answered them tirelessly. Two things were incorrect, however: firstly Danny insisted that I wouldn't be admitted into Kenya without a Yellow Fever vaccination certificate, despite information that travelers entering the country directly from the UK don't need this. I wasted a lot of money getting one.
Secondly, and more seriously, I was told specifically that I'd need to pay for ALL excursions and weekend activities in US dollars. This is incorrect: I discovered on arrival that it's possible to pay for the balloon flight, and for bookings at Encounter Mara by card. For a UK citizen at the moment, the exchange rate is so bad that I lost several hundred pounds by converting so much money into dollars unnecessarily.
Finally to return to my point about the disturbance to wildlife. If there's one thing I'd like my review to achieve it would be for guides to re-evaluate their priorities in this respect, both for the welfare of the wildlife itself but also for the message that volunteers take away with them. I'm speaking about one particular night drive when driving unnecessarily close to animals caused them to change their behavior. Resting buffalo all got up and walked away, feeding hippos and their young calves retreated into the vegetation, playing mongooses stopped playing and ran away (which was a shame because mongooses are such a delight to watch when they're playing!) and, most pitifully, a young hare interacting with its parent crouched in terror and the parent was forced to run away. All of these incidents could have been avoided if we'd remained at a distance and watched. It would also have given volunteers a greater appreciation of the values of patience and observation, and the privilege of what they're seeing.
We experienced some truly heart-wrenching moments on Mara excursions of guides acting inappropriately - in particular, blocking off an exit point from a river crossing and thereby causing zebras and their foals to scramble over dangerous gullies trying to find a detour. I realize that my voice against this will never be heard. However, hopefully the project guide will hear my words and think about hanging back a bit in future.
Guides are, I know, under a lot of pressure to get ever-closer to animals, and it's asking a lot to expect them to go against the wishes of the majority of their customers. But instilling a sense of privilege and wonder - especially in young people - is, I believe, of utmost importance, and something the project should stand up for.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    9

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    9

  • Community Engagement

    9

  • Health & Safety

    9

  • Day to Day Life

    10

The wild west of Kenya with African Impact

Last year I spent two weeks in Antelope Park, Zimbabwe with African Impact. We walked with lions in the morning and elephants in the afternoon which was exhilarating but somehow slightly unreal. I volunteered for Naboisho with my son who is living and working in Nairobi.

The experience was remarkable, tough but absolutely real. To lie in your bed listening to wild lions, elephants and hippos passing through the camp every night was thrilling. The whole two weeks was made both possible and perfect by a brilliant team consisting of Caroline (Project Manager), Francis (super driver/tracker/guide), Soila (cleaning lady) and Ben (Super chef). There were only three of us as it was 'off season' but the team work and comraderie between everyone was a joy.

After 16 previous safaris I finally completed the Big 5 with three sightings of leopards. We must have seen over 250 elephants, 160 lions, 70,000 plus wildebeest and many more besides.

Unlike AP there is no bar, restaurant, swimming pool, wifi and other mod cons but that made it all the more real. For me it was digital detox par excellence

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Day to Day Life

    10

  • Health & Safety

    9

  • Community Engagement

    8

  • Living Situation

    9

  • Program Administration

    9

  • Volunteer Placement

    9

My stay at Naboisho conservancy

Being passionate by wildlife, my stay at Naboisho Conservancy was one of the most interesting moment of my life. Unfortunately it was too short, I stayed only two weeks, but I learned a lot of things and really enjoyed taking part in the day-to)day activities there.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    8

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Engagement

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    9

True wildlife experience

I have returned to the project five times, people always say you should always try something new, I have done other projects, and this is the best.
The bright colours and culture of the Maasai and the diversity and abundance of wildlife keeps me returning. Every time I visit I look at the wildlife as something precious, knowing that its existence relies on people protecting it, as a volunteer you play a role in protecting it.

Caroline is the project manager who goes above and beyond to accommodate the volunteers.

Volunteer work

Frances was our guide who is calm, focused and respects the wildlife, often finding animal sightings that only a trained eye could spot.
You will drive places tourists rarely go searching for animals such as the ever-elusive leopard. You never know what you're going to encounter, even though I have been to the project five times I still have lots of new exciting experiences a couple of examples are the time Francis noticed in the distance three vehicles chasing around an angry bull elephant. When we arrived on the scene, the elephant had been darted, and the Vets were just finishing up tending to a spear wound which happened outside Naboisho Conservancy. We were within feet of the majestic elephant, the vet Dr Limo took time to talk to us about what had happened and the work he does helping wildlife. On another occasion, Francis spotted a giraffe in the process of giving birth, something only a trained eye could spot. We hung out with her for about an hour watching her give birth and seeing the newborn struggled to stand.

part of our volunteer work involved collecting data, which meant counting wildlife such as the wildebeest which were in Naboisho in the thousands due to the migration.

We also removing invasive plants and helping maintain roads are also vital work volunteers do.

The big cat monitoring is always exciting, we know the four male lions that dominate Naboisho, we also see the females with their cubs that are often playing and up to mischief.

Community work

As part of our volunteer placement, We visited Naboisho primary school. The children sang for us, and they were friendly, curious and excited by our presence. One of my highlights was playing football with the children. We also helped prepare and taught a class.

Visiting school helps the children connect with people outside their community and gives you an insight to Maasai life it is something you won't experience as a tourist

The principal told us if the children encounter a dangerous animal on the way to school, such as an elephant not to come to school. Wish I could use that excuse to get out of work.

Please consider taking a donation such as pencils as this will be a great help.(check wish list).

Visited the Maa Trust which is a Community-based organisation which employs mostly local Maasai women that make beaded Jewellery and accessories.

Home Comforts
As a volunteer, you are well treated. You get three delicious meals a day by Ben who cooks with passion and will show off his dance moves. As well as three meals Ben sometimes made treats for us such as banana bread which was the best banana bread I have had.

The community area is where the volunteers eat, socialise and play games you also have the option of having a fire outside which is a great way of ending an evening.

Sewela makes your bed and cleans your room/tent daily and does your laundry. I stayed in a dome tent. At night you hear the calls of the lions, hyenas, hippo, zebra and wildebeest a true African experience.

Time Off
The Maasai Mara National Reserve is a day trip. On my visit, we saw coalitions of five cheetahs hunting and making a kill.

We were invited to a Maasai Wedding; Caroline was gracious enough to dress us in traditional clothing to wear to the ceremony, it was a once in a lifetime experience.

You also have the option to stay in a lodge at a discount price if they have availability. I stayed at EagleView which had a breathtaking view, great room and food.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Engagement

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    10

For a wild experience, choose Mara Project

This project met every expectation that it set online plus much more. I was impressed by accommodation, food and activities. I felt extremely comfortable and had a lot of fun. I would return and bring many friends and family

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Engagement

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    10

Best Volunteer Experience Ever

I came to African Impact not knowing what to expect, but am leaving with some of the best memories I have ever experienced in my life. The people here (both staff and volunteer) have become my family and Kenya became my home away from home.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    8

  • Program Administration

    7

  • Living Situation

    9

  • Community Engagement

    8

  • Health & Safety

    N/A

  • Day to Day Life

    10

A month in the Mara

The time I had in the Mara was the most uplifting and life changing experience I ever had. Coming to Africa and getting to see such an amazing concentration of wildlife from up close was something I was dreaming about as a child. Now that it is fulfilled, I already want to come back... Many thanks to Caroline, Francis, Ben and Joseph for all those beautiful moments shared together. I am going back home a different person.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    9

  • Living Situation

    9

  • Community Engagement

    9

  • Health & Safety

    9

  • Day to Day Life

    9

Fantastic experience and a lovely stay!

I couldn't imagine when i booked my voluntary work, that i liked it so much!
Far away from my management work and luxury house in Delft and back to basics. And that made me feel very satisfied.
i felt happy from the first second i arrived.
I felt in love with the crew of African impact in Nabosho Conservancy:
Doing their jobs very well; all professionals, very kind and interested in all the volunteers.
Caroline, a real manager and stays always calm, helps you with all kind of requests and does her job with lots off attention to her crew and her volunteers.
Francis our guide is just the best i have ever have met: only 25 with and very professional; great knowledge of nature, animal species (big and small), plants etc. But what i liked best is his calmness and way of thinking. He show himself as a leader and took all responsibility. Last but not least he is a very good driver!

Ben our cook: he got the most credits from all of us (of course, it's all about food :-). Not only the best cook you can wish, but his social involvement to his colleagues and voluteersgroup was great! He's well educated and got lots of humour.
Soila our manager in housework, we will be lost without her! A lovely person singing and laughing. Every day she cleaned up our rooms, doing our wash with great care and make sure that we stay in a proper space!

Thank you so much Caroline, Francis, Ben and Soile, you are a dream team for me for ever! Thank you so much giving me such a beautiful time at Abosho. I love you all! Keep on doing the good work.
All the best for you. With love, Carine (stay from 14 august - 11 september 2017)

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    7

  • Living Situation

    9

  • Community Engagement

    9

  • Health & Safety

    8

  • Day to Day Life

    10

I just can't wait to be back

Hardly anything could have been better here. Brought few expectations and was stroke in amazement every single day of my stay: this is a relentlessly surprising spot to experience Africa, its people and wildlife, at the same time you make from every bit of your effort a significantly positive impact to the locals' well-being and hence the environment's, vice versa. The camp just needs a spare telescope to look at the stunning night sky. Love, comfort, ammenities and facilities were all provided and shared with some of the most incredible people I have ever met. Sounds great on paper, though it was actually even better.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    9

  • Program Administration

    9

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Engagement

    7

  • Health & Safety

    9

  • Day to Day Life

    9

Volunteering at Naboisho conservancy

I really enjoyed my two weeks at Masai Mara wildlife conservation project. The project is located in the middle of Naboisho Conservancy. The landscape is beautiful and there are a lot of animals. If you are lucky you can even see the big five. In the morning you will do some activities (game counting, grass monitoring, conservation work) and in the afternoon you'll have some free time. You will learn a lot of the animals in this area and about the Masaai culture. It's a great combination of doing something good to the nature and seeing/learning about animals. You can see animals from nearby and there are not a lot of cars. The staff and food are great. We had some problems with the cars, but we asked the staff to fix it and they did. I would recommend this project.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    9

  • Program Administration

    9

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Engagement

    7

  • Health & Safety

    7

  • Day to Day Life

    9

Great experience but as tourist

The volunteering experience here was essential to understand the importance of greater participation and collaboration for the maintenance of the environment, but I think that volunteers should be exploited more even to support the local communities.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    9

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Engagement

    9

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    10

Big cat monitoring

The staff at the camp were exceptional. Our group had 16 people, and because the schools were closed, it was too many for everyone to participate fully. Regardless, it was a great experience, especially if you have never been to Kenya before.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    9

  • Program Administration

    8

  • Living Situation

    9

  • Community Engagement

    9

  • Health & Safety

    8

  • Day to Day Life

    9

Big cat and wildlife research, Mara

Overall a good experience. Staff were excellent and reasonably flexible. Tented accommodation was very good and the housekeeping staff were excellent as well. Food was very good with chef willing to experiment with unfamiliar food. Unfortunately the Guide School and Primary School were not open which would have enhanced the experience. This needs to be made clearer before booking. More explanation of the goals and benefits of the project would be helpful.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Engagement

    5

  • Health & Safety

    8

  • Day to Day Life

    8

Big cat monitoring

Overall the program was excellent. I felt there was too much down time every afternoon and would have appreciated short programs or learning / visiting opportunities. Those that were at the site - Did a wonderful job of taking care of our needs.

  • African Impact responded to this review August 04, 2017 at 8:05 AM

    Hi Judy

    Thanks for your feedback.

    I understand your comment regarding the excessive downtime in the afternoons in-between game drives. Please be confident that we have raised this issue with our new project coordinator and are taking steps to ensure that there are sufficient activities to do during the heat of the day when game drives are not possible. We are taking steps to introduce more guided walks, as well as more group discussions about the wider conservation issues being faced throughout the region and across Afirca.

    We aim to educate all of our volunteers about the nature of our conservation efforts, why we do what we do and the positive impact that we are having in the conservancy. We are making efforts in being more forthcoming with this objective.

    It is unfortunate that exams were ongoing during your stay with us and we were unable to spend as much time as usual with Maasai students in the local school.

    We are thrilled that you had an excellent two weeks overall with us and hope to welcome you back to our Mara project sometime in the near future.

    Thanks Judy,

    The Mara Team.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Engagement

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    10

My month in Naboisho

My month in Naboisho has been absolutely amazing! I have enjoyed every minute of it. The staff - Caroline, Francis, Lenny, Soila, Ben & Reuban have made it a truly memorable experience - not to mention the wildlife!

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Engagement

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    10

My stay at Naboisho conservancy

Hi all i would like to take this opportunity to thank and let you all know that my stay at the Big Cat monitoring naboisho Conservancy was absolutely brilliant. I managed to see the BIG FIVE within 7 days of my arrival thanks to Francis and Lenny who were my guides for the time i spent there and they tried their hardest to get us as close as possible for us to get the best possible pictures which we did. i see many Lions and their cubs along with a leopard and her cub. i also see lots of elephants who were taking a mud bath. i also see lots of Hippo's,Crocodiles and many different kinds of antelope. I would like to say a big thank you to Caroline,Francis,Lenny,Ben,and Soyla who made my stay as comfortable as possible ensuring i had the time of my life.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    8

  • Program Administration

    8

  • Living Situation

    9

  • Community Engagement

    7

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    8

Big cat monitoring

This program is a great opportunity and it is great because you get to work with the community to help preserve the Maasai Mara. Plus you also get to study the wildlife. I would highly recommend this project to anyone.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    7

  • Program Administration

    9

  • Living Situation

    6

  • Community Engagement

    8

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    9

Review

Great program, loved it. Especially all the staff here, they are awesome! However there seems to be too many volunteers maybe? Housing was a bit tight. Volunteer has very limited impact on the project.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Engagement

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    10

Maasai Mara is the place to go!

African Impact is amazing at organising interesting and educational projects for you to work on. The food throughout my stay was delicious and the accommodation was brilliant. Meeting the locals and the guides from the school gave us constant insight into the Maasai culture and helped us understand the conservancy life better. All the staff were super friendly and helpful and I'm super happy this was my first trip to Africa as I will definitely be Returning! I hope to do another African Impact project soon!

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Engagement

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    10

Big cat monitor - Shashi Kapur

A two weeks that I will never forget. Having always wanted to go on safari, I have managed to do just that and so much more for a fraction of the price. Seeing such a variety of wildlife in their natural habitat is something that money can't buy and it was amazing to get so close. My unexpected highlight was teaching the children of nkoilale school, an experience I found very humbling. Despite the language barrier I definitely feel that they taught me much more than I taught them. I would recommend this trip to anyone and everyone as it really does open your eyes!

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    9

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Engagement

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    10

Big cat monitor

In the two weeks period, we did two animal counts in woodland and plain every week. It is a lot of work but I get a sense of what animal conservationists are doing. We also went to the school and interact with the locals. We go to big cat monitor and find lions, cheetahs, and Leopards. We take photos of them and try to identify who they are when we are back. We also do conservation work twice a week, which gives me a sense of what the local environment is like.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Engagement

    7

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    8

Unique bush experience

I had such an incredible time at the Big Cat project. The staff and other volunteers were knowledgeable, friendly, and endlessly patient with my questions about wildlife and conservation. This experience was a unique way to explore the Mara while contributing to amazing conservation projects.

Institution Affiliates:

World Youth Student & Educational Travel Confederation