Masai Mara national reserve the paradise of nature, this is one of the premium protected areas not only in Kenya but entire Africa. Its a no miss tourism destination for any lifetime kenya safari. The reserve is popular with the wildebeest migration which is the largest annual animal migration that happens between Serengeti national park and Masai Mara game reserve. The annual wildebeest migration starts from July or August depending on the climatic conditions of the year. Millions of wildebeest migrate across the Mara river from the Tanzania Serengeti side to Kenya Masai Mara. The migration is clockwise and this makes them not to use the same route for return instead cross back to Tanzania on the Northern part of the reserve.
Masai Mara national reserve was established in 1961 as a wildlife sanctuary which covered a small piece of land of only 520 square kilometers. This initiative was started only around the current Mara Triangle. After the government of Kenya realised the value of the sanctuary, it was later extended to the east. This extension made the reserve acquire more land and increase in size making it 1,821 square kilometers. After getting more land, the sanctuary gained its status as a game reserve under the management of the local community of Narok County Council. Todate Masai Mara national reserve remains the largest game reserve in the Narok community. In 1974, the reserve gained its popularity and it was upgraded to Masai Mara national reserve. However some part of the land was given back to the local communities amounting to 159 square kilometers reducing its size. By 1984 ths reserve size was further reduced to 1510 square kilometres and this has remained till date.
Masai Mara national reserve remains one of the best community managed reserves in the world. Unlike other protected areas of Kenya the Masai Mara national reserve belongs to the Narok locals though the government oversees its management
In 1994 anew management council was formed called Trans Mara County Council on top of the previous Narok County Council. In 2001 Mara conservancy a non profit council was formed to take all the management of the reserve. The reserve is drained by the two rivers of Talek River and Mara River.
Location of Masai Mara national reserve
Masai Mara national reserve is located in the South-western part of Kenya in the border of Tanzania and Kenya. Its found along the Great Rift Valley in Narok County adjacent to the popular endless plains of Serengeti national park. The reserve borders Siria escarpments in the West, Serengeti national park of Tanzania on the South. In the North, West and East the reserve is bordered by the Maasai pastoral ranches.
The reserve is found 180 kilometers away in the South-Western part of Nairobi. It’s just a throw of the stone from the major Maasai town Narok. The drive takes 5 to 6 hours from Nairobi on a good road before joining the bumpy road after Narok town.
The Masai Mara national reserve is a home of all African big 5 (Lions, Leopards, Elephants, Buffaloes and Rhinos). It also homes millions of migratory animals like wildebeests, Zebras, Eland, Hartbeests, topi, Oribi,Serval cat, bat-eared foxes, Jackals, Hyenas, Cheetahs,Hippos, giraffes, Impala, Grant’s gazelle, waterbuck and many others. The reserve is also a home of over 450 bird species. Some of the birds include: Masai Ostrich, Long tailed cormorant, African darter, cattle egret, African open bill stork, African spoonbill, Glossy ibis, Booted eagle, Grey crowned crane, caspin plover, African purple swamp hen, Kori bustard, black chested snake eagle, white headed vulture and others.
Masai Mara national reserve is regarded as the African wildlife mecca due to the overwhelming wildlife found at the park. The main event of your Masai Mara safari is game drives take you out and into the Masai Mara to search for the iconic animals. Accompanied with some of the area’s best and most highly trained guides. The park is small but inhabits a high population of predators, especially the big cats like Lions, Leopards and Cheetahs. The park also receives millions of wildebeest during the July to August migration from Serengeti national park. Game viewing is one of the most popular activity done during your wildlife safari in Masai Mara National Reserve. Game drives are done in the morning and afternoon, night game drives are also allowed around the reserve. You will catch up with a wide range of sunrisers during your early morning game drive. You will also get a chance to see nocturnal animals coming back to their hides. Some of the animals that can be seen during your game viewing experience include: Lions,leopards, Elephants, wildebeests, Giraffes, zebras, kobs, topis, Eland, oribi, cheetahs, Rhinos, Buffaloes, hippos, Hyenas, Gazelles and many others. Game drives at Masai Mara national reserve are done any time of the year.
Birding is another exciting safari experience in Masai Mara national reserve.
With over 500 bird species, the Maasai Mara National Reserve is a paradise for birds. You should watch out for giant ostriches or, like vultures, look out for prey birds. On the thickets or sides of escarpments, smaller birds can also be seen nesting.
You will be looking out for ducks, egrets, geese, herons, ostriches, hornbills, pelicans, spoonbills and storks on a typical birding excursion. Martial eagles and vultures are the most interesting for ordinary visitors, except for ostriches. Birding is managed by ornithologists/naturalists who are very experienced and competent. All the numerous species of birds, plants and wildlife you will meet are known in these birding guides.
Masaai Cultural Tours
For over hundred years now, the Maasai have been living on the Mara. They are still living with traditional customs and practices, though a little influenced by the modern world. You can visit a Maasai community while in the Masai Mara, and you can see a particular community named Mara Rianda in the camps on this list.
This is a group of 48 traditional houses that surround the Maasai cattle field. If you’re interested in exploring the Maasai culture, this is a perfect place to visit to enjoy rituals and practices that have remained as they have for centuries. Visitors are always struck by the Maasai’s colorful lifestyle and the camps listed have an outreach program that aims to maintain the Maasai’s colorful life. This is the active part of the Masai Mara safari as guests are allowed to join in on the daily activities done by the Maasai people like local; dance, milking of cows, Cooking and many others.
Life time experience of Masai Mara is through Hot air balloon safaris. Perhaps the most amazing way to see this wonderful environment is by using a hot air balloon over the Masai Mara. Get a better view of the region and appreciate the beauty of the Masai Mara from the sky. Just before dawn, the hot air balloon leaves the Little Governors Camp with the balloon rising as the first sunlight illuminates the Mara.
Enjoy the tranquility of a balloon trip as you watch the animals below float over the plains. See the forest and the rivers of the Masai Mara as we float in the wind for a truly unique experience. See why this was called ‘Mara’ by the Masai, which means ‘spotted’ when you see the circles of trees, cloud shadows, and scrubland that produce the beauty.
We will fly for about an hour spotting some fantastic sights and with ample time for many photographs and videos. In keeping with tradition of hot air balloon flights, on your return to land you will be greeted with a champagne breakfast cooked where you land. With a drive back to our cabin, your balloon safari will end.
The migration of the wildebeest is an annual occurrence in which more than a million wildebeest, zebra, and gazelle migrate in a continuous period following the rains and fresh grass from Tanzania to Kenya’s Masai Mara.
Migration also takes place between the months of July and October and hundreds of visitors and predators of the Masai Mara are expected to do so. This is also the moment when the wildebeest creates echoes of birth and life all over the Mara. Life comes not only with the wildebeest’s birth, but also with the behavior of predators and the lions and hyenas’ arrival.