Masai Mara National Reserve
Maasai Mara National Reserve, also known as Masai Mara, and locally simply as The Mara. It is a large game reserve in Narok County, Kenya, contiguous with the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. It is named in honor of the Maasai people, the ancestral inhabitants of the area. Their description of the area when looked at from afar: "Mara" means "spotted" in the local Maasai language, due to the many trees which dot the landscape.
Masai Mara National Reserve is one of the most famous wilderness areas in Africa. This Kenya national reserve is world-renowned for its exceptional populations of lions, leopards, cheetahs and elephant. It also hosts the Great Migration, which secured it as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa, and as one of the ten natural travel wonders of the world.
The Greater Mara Ecosystem encompasses several areas. They include the Maasai Mara National Reserve, the Mara Triangle, and several Maasai Conservancies. These are Koiyaki, Lemek, Ol Chorro Oirowua, Olkinyei, Siana, Maji Moto, Naikara, Ol Derkesi, Kerinkani, Oloirien, and Kimintet.
History of Masai Mara
When it was originally established in 1961 it was just a wildlife sanctuary. The Mara covered only 520 km2 (200 sq mi) of the current area, including the Mara Triangle. The area was extended to the east in 1961 to cover 1,821 km2 (703 sq mi). It was then converted to a game reserve.
The Narok County Council (NCC) took over management of the reserve at this time. Part of the reserve was given National Reserve status in 1974, and the remaining area of 159 km2 (61 sq mi) was returned to local communities. An additional 162 km2 (63 sq mi) were removed from the reserve in 1976, and the park was reduced to 1,510 km2 (580 sq mi) in 1984.
In 1994, the TransMara County Council (TMCC) was formed in the western part of the reserve, and control was divided between the new council and the existing Narok County Council. In May 2001, the not-for-profit Mara Conservancy took over management of the Mara Triangle.
The Maasai people make up a community that spans across northern, central and southern Kenya and northern parts of Tanzania. As pastoralists, the community holds the belief that they own all of the cattle in the world. The Maasai rely off of their lands to sustain their cattle, as well as themselves and their families. Prior to the establishment of the reserve as a protected area for the conservation of wildlife and wilderness, the Maasai were forced to move out of their native lands.
Where is Masai Mara National Reserve
Maasai Mara national reserve is located in the South Western part of Kenya. This kenya national park is 270 kilometers away from the Kenyan Capital city Nairobi. Masai Mara is one of the most famous national reserves not only in Kenya but in Africa at large. This reserve is found in Narok County in Kenya adjacent to the endless plains of Serengeti national park that form the great Mara-Serengeti Ecosystem.
Masai Mara national reserve covers 1,510 square kilometers that run to the Northern Most section of the Mara-Serengeti ecosystem. This covers over 30,000 square kilometers. The reserve is bordered by Serengeti national park in the South, Siria Escarpment on the West and the Masai pastoral ranches on the North, West, and East.
The reserve is drained by three main rivers those are: the Sand River, the Talek river and the Mara river. Masai Mara can be accessed by both road transport and by flight with daily flights operating through Nairobi at Jomo Kenyatta national airport and Wilson airstrip. Other domestic flights connect from different domestic airstrips across East Africa.
Maasai Mara (Masai Mara) is one of Africa’s Greatest Wildlife Reserves. Together with the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania it forms Africa’s most diverse, incredible and most spectacular eco-systems and possibly the world’s top safari big game viewing eco-system.
Climate and Weather Patterns in Masai Mara National Reserve
The weather climate of Masai Mara and East Africa in general is almost the same with the destinations near Equator. They experience cooler and wetter climatic conditions than places far away from Equator. This opposes the human imagination of the opposite in reference to the imaginary lines.
The temperatures mostly fall at night making the nights cooler than day time throughout the year, Masai Mara is located in the south of Equator with altitude of around 1,500 meters to 1,900 meters.
The Temperatures are always higher around October and March and lower around June to August with the coolest times to be at night when the temperatures drop down some times below even 10 degrees Celsius.
Masai Mara national reserves have two rainy seasons. The wettest month being April and July being the driest month. The first rains in April and May also referred as the long rains where the reserve receives a lot of rainfall. Most of the camps close up during this season as there is less demand. The short rains come in November the rains are little as compared to the first rains and also very short period of time.
The most unique point of the Mara reserve is that the reserve does not have real dry season. The park receives rainfall throughout the year even in the so called the dry Month of June to October. Sunshine is distributed throughout the year. Guest on Masai Mara safari in Kenya will always enjoy the African sunshine through the sunrise game drives and sun set game drives. One can even do sun bathing at later hours or early hours of the day depending on the location of your accommodation or tent.
Things to Do in Masai Mara National Reserve
Hot Air Balloon
A hot air balloon over the Masai Mara is possibly the most incredible way to see this fantastic ecosystem. Get a better perspective of the area and admire the Masai Mara’s beauty from the sky. The hot air balloon departs from the base just before dawn with the balloon rising as the first sunlight lights the Mara.
Enjoy the tranquility of a balloon ride as you float above the plains watching the wildlife below. See the forest and the rivers of the Masai Mara on a truly unique experience as we drift in the breeze. See why the Masai named this the ‘Mara’, which means ‘spotted’ as you see the circles of trees, shadows from clouds, and scrubland that create the beautiful scenery.
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. Your balloon safari will end with a drive back to the lodge.
Experience Masai Mara on Game Drives
You have two options when it comes to game drives: a night drive or a day game drive. Embark on twice daily interpretive game drives with expert Maasai guides who will help you uncover the wonders of the Mara.
The night game drives only take place in the conservancy such as Mara Naboisho Conservancy. You have the chance of seeing lions, elephants, cape buffalo, and rhinoceros, as well as giraffes, hippos, hyenas, Nile crocodiles, wildebeest, zebra, gazelles, antelopes, and more.
Enjoy The Great Wildebeest Migration
The wildebeest migration is an annual event where over a million wildebeest, zebra, and gazelle. They migrate from Tanzania to Kenya’s Masai Mara in a continuous cycle following the rains and fresh grass.
The migration often takes place between the months of July and October and is anticipated by hundreds of tourists and the Masai Mara’s predators alike. This is also the time when the wildebeest give birth and life echos all around the Mara. Life not only arrives with the birth of wildebeest, but also with the actions of predators and the arrival of lions and hyenas.
Explore the Beautiful Savannah Plains on Foot
A walking safari is a great way to get onto the Masai Mara in the same manner as early explorers. Enjoy exploring the area on foot with highly trained guides. As you are not longer inside a custom designed safari vehicle, enjoy more excitement as you explore the Masai Mara looking for some fantastic wildlife. The walking safaris are offered as an extra activity while on your Kenya safari to Masai Mara. Your walk is followed by a full cooked champagne bush breakfast.
Experience The Maasai Way of Life
No safari to Masai Mara would be complete without an authentic cultural experience that gets you up close and personal with the fascinating Maasai people. They will invite you into their humble mud and stick manyattas (homesteads) and reveal their pastoral world and ancient, time-honored traditions.
The Maasai have been living on the Mara for a few hundred years. They still live with traditional customs and traditions, albeit influenced a little from the modern world. While on the Masai Mara, you can visit a Maasai community.
Visitors are often struck by the colorful lifestyle of the Maasai. Your visit to the community helps fund this ongoing project by way of an entrance fee. Money from community visits has also helped built a nursery school and other community projects.
Birdwatching in Masai Mara
The Masai Mara is a great place for birdwatching with 470 birds to find. Although it’s the big animals that dominate people’s attention, there are some fascinating birds to find as well. Among the diversity, you can ostriches, the world’s largest bird, tiny sunbirds, and 46 different birds of prey.
The grasslands hide the ground hornbills, which are about the same size as a turkey, kori bustards, secretary birds, plovers, and white stalks. The swampy areas are then great places to spot different storks and cranes, such as saddle-billed storks scouting for catfish.
You can spot the goliath heron, which is the world’s largest, plus sacred ibis, yellow-billed storks, and great white egrets. There are many different kingfishers with seven species of giant kingfishers to see. You can usually spot these on the Mara River itself.
The vultures are then easy to spot as they zone in on lion kills and guests are often surprised by the sheer number of these birds to see. Several different vultures have been identified so far.
The birds of prey are often the favorites and you can see the large martial eagles over the Mara, which are some of the largest in Africa. These birds are so powerful that they prey on young impala and different birds. Not just a home of this giant, you can also find the tiny pygmy falcon at home here.
Enjoy Game Watching on the back of a Horse
Like the explorers of old, this is a truly unique way to experience the Mara. Once again without the hum of the safari vehicle, it is an invigorating way to explore the vast landscape. Imagine galloping past dazzles of zebra, journeys of giraffe and, if the time is right, the mighty herds of the Great Migration
Watch the Sun Downing into the Horizon
After a day filled with exciting safari activities and wildlife viewing, the perfect way to round it off is with a Basecamp sundowner in the bush. Watch as the sun dip below the horizon with the sights and sounds of Africa all to yourselves while sipping on a refreshing drink enjoyed under an Acacia tree.
Best Time to Visit Masai Mara National Reserve
Choosing when to go on a Masai Mara safari is something that should be carefully considered. This will allow you experience to meet your expectations. For general game viewing, there’s no real ‘best time to visit Masai Mara'. Thanks to its abundant resident wildlife and temperate climate, the Masai Mara is widely regarded as a fantastic year-round safari destination. Its wide and open plains mean there is virtually always something to see – no matter what time of year you visit Kenya to Masai Mara.
Many visitors come for the Wildebeest Migration every year. The best time to visit the Masai Mara for this world-famous spectacle is from about June to November. Although, due to varying rainfall patterns, the exact timing varies from year to year.
Some years, the rains might be early and the herds will arrive and depart sooner. Other times, the late rains mean they’ll arrive later and you’ll still find ‘stragglers’ (the last of the migrating wildebeest) hanging out with the Mara’s ‘residents’ (those wildebeest who stay put year-round and don’t migrate at all).
November's short summer rains trigger the last leg of the Migration, when the wildebeest move south to their Serengeti calving grounds. Calving season for the Mara’s resident animals happens between December and January.
It’s a time when surface water is plentiful and wildebeest, zebra and antelope give birth to their calves, foals and fawns. With so much easy prey around, it’s also a good time for predators to raise their cubs and pups, making for wonderful photographic opportunities.
|Languages spoken||English, Kiswahili|
|Currency used||Kenya Shillings (KES)|
|Area (km2)||1,510 km2|