The ecosystem has the highest density of wild animals on the continent, and provides the setting for the last major animal migration in the world. The livelihood of the Masai, the nomad people who live in the area, is based on domestic animals that are herded in the area. In recent years warning lights have been blinking for both the great migration and the traditional way of life of the Masai. Water shortages, privatisation of grazing land, overpopulation and poverty are significant challenges in the area.
Tourism accounts for 15 per cent of Kenya’s GDP, and given the country’s fantastic nature and animal life, the sector has great potential. The important thing is to find ‘win-win’ solutions that lift the local population out of poverty while conserving the natural environment.
In addition to its business activities, Basecamp Foundation has been established to contribute to social and environmental measures in the area. Among other things, the foundation has contributed to formal cooperation between over 500 Masai landowners. They have converted their properties into a private nature reserve, Mara Naboisho, and have a regular inflow of revenues from tourism in the area. This has made the Masai less economically dependent on cattle herding and improves their management of natural resources. A controlled form of safari tourism consistent with the Masai way of life gives them a better long-term return on their land than agriculture and cattle herding could do, and at the same time ensures conservation of natural resources and is an effective adaptation to climate changes.
In the course of its 12 years of history, Basecamp in Masai Mara has gained wide recognition and won a series of prizes for its engagement in responsible tourism. The company has won the Responsible Tourism Award, the SKÅL Eco Award, and in 2009 it was selected by National Geographic as one of the 10 best savannah experiences in the world.