Maasai Mara National Reserve
Maasai Mara national reserve is a world-renowned wildlife safari destination located in the Great Rift Valley of Kenya in the south western region in Narok County and situated in a distance of 224 kilometers east of Nairobi, Maasai Mara national reserve is famously known for the great wildebeest migration and the big five animals (lions, leopards, elephants, buffaloes, and rhinos).
Maasai Mara covers an area of 1,510 square kilometers featuring open plains, rolling hills and 2 prime rivers (Mara river and Talek river) flowing in the northern direction. The reserve is dominated by vast acacia trees in the southeastern region and the escarpments of the East African Rift valley Esiot Escarpment to the west, the escarpments stretch for 5600 kilometers long from the red sea in Ethiopia via Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi to Mozambique.
Maasai Mara national reserve is dabbed as the Mara park by the local Maasai people and it was named in honor of these local ancestral people who used to stay in the area occupied by the reserve, the word “Mara” is Maasai word referring to shrubs, savanna and grasslands which dominate Maasai Mara national reserve.
The reserve was started as a wildlife sanctuary in 1961 stretching over an area of 520 square kilometers, the sanctuary was later turned in a game reserve and its area was extended to 1821 square kilometers. The area of 159 square kilometers of Maasai Mara national reserve was cut off the reserve and given to the local communities, the rest of the reserve was upgraded to a national reserve in 1974. The reserve’s area was also reduced to 162 square kilometers leaving 1,510 square kilometers including 3 ranches namely Mara triangle, Sekenani and Musiara.
The reserve is a great habitat for wildlife hosting a variety of wildlife species including lions, elephants, buffaloes, zebras, cheetahs, rhinos, crocodiles, wild African dogs, elands, giraffes, gazelles, wildebeests, crocodiles, spotted hyenas and many more.
Maasai Mara national reserve is also a great birding destination perfect for Kenya birding safaris, the reserve hosts over 470 bird species including Abdim’s stork, African finfoot, African wood owl, Ayres’s hawk eagle, Cinnamon-breasted bunting, Denham’s bustard, Giant kingfisher, Grey-crested helmet-shrike, Grey penduline tit, Hildebrandt’s starling, Jackson’s widowbird, Lazy cisticola, Ostrich, Purple grenadier, Red-throated tit, Ross’s turaco, Rosy-throated longclaw, Rufous-bellied heron, Rufous-throated wryneck, Saddle-billed stork, Schalow’s turaco, Secretary bird, Silverbird, Southern ground hornbill, Swahili sparrow, Tabora cisticola, Temminck’s courser, Trilling cisticola, Usambiro barbet, White-bellied go-away bird, Woolly-necked stork, Yellow-mantled widowbird, Yellow-throated sandgrouse among others
Safari activities to do in Maasai Mara national reserve
The reserve is a great destination worldly known to be among the best destinations in the world offering best wildlife viewing safaris, exploring Maasai Mara on morning and afternoon game drive offers an opportunity to watch many animals including lions, elephants, buffaloes, zebras, cheetahs, rhinos, crocodiles, wild African dogs, elands and many more. Game viewing in Maasai Mara national reserve also offers an opportunity to watch the great wildebeest migration spotting millions of wildebeests accompanied by zebras, elands and gazelles crossing from Serengeti national park to the plains of Maasai Mara national reserve. The perfect time to watch the great wildebeest migration is in the period of July – September.
The reserve is a remarkable destination for Kenya birding safaris, the reserve hosts over 470 bird species including 60 migrant species and many raptors which make reserve a perfect bird haven for birders. Bird watching in Maasai Mara national reserve offers an opportunity to spot a series of bird species such as Abdim’s stork, African finfoot, African wood owl, Ayres’s hawk eagle, Cinnamon-breasted bunting, Denham’s bustard, Giant kingfisher, Grey-crested helmet-shrike, Grey penduline tit, Hildebrandt’s starling, Jackson’s widowbird, Lazy cisticola, Ostrich, Purple grenadier, Red-throated tit, Ross’s turaco, Rosy-throated longclaw, Rufous-bellied heron, Rufous-throated wryneck, Saddle-billed stork, Schalow’s turaco, Secretary bird, Silverbird, Southern ground hornbill, Swahili sparrow, Tabora cisticola, Temminck’s courser, Trilling cisticola, Usambiro barbet, White-bellied go-away bird, Woolly-necked stork, Yellow-mantled widowbird, Yellow-throated sandgrouse among others
Watching the great wildebeest migration
Maasai Mara national reserve is one of the two protected in the world experiencing the world’s ever noticed wildlife migration in the names of the great wildebeest migration, the great wildebeests migration occurs within the Serengeti ecosystem consisting of Maasai Mara and Serengeti national park. Great wildebeest migration involves the movement of over 1.5 million wildebeests and hundreds of thousands of zebras, elands and Thomson and grant’s gazelles between the two protected areas with a purpose of searching for green pasture and water.
Watching the great wildebeest migration is the most fascinating wildlife event you will always remember in your mind, the best event of wildebeest migration in Maasai Mara national reserve is the Mara river crossing where the migrating animals faceoff with crocodiles in Mara river and predators on the banks of the river while crossing over to Mara plains. The best time to watch the great wildebeest migration and the river crossing in Maasai Mara national reserve is around late July to August, September as the animals return to south plains and late October – early November.
Cultural walks in Maasai Mara are remarkable Kenya cultural tours offering tourists an opportunity to visit the Maasai people and experience their exquisite traditions, cultures and norms. The Maasai are nomadic pastoralists depending on rearing of live stock and while visiting their communities sharing boundaries with the reserve you will enjoying viewing their circular houses (The Bomas) built using local materials, visit primarily schools, be entertained by local dances and drama, interact with the locals, participate in circumcision ceremonies among others which will enlighten you more about the Maasai culture and traditions.
Walking safaris are ideal Kenya safari activity for nature lovers and they are arranged in Maasai Mara national reserve, walking safaris are done under the guidance of an experienced armed game ranger for security purposes in case an animal attack. Walking safaris in Maasai Mara are best done in the Naboisho conservancy which is naturally impressive and filled with massive numbers of animals. And while on your walk you will have an opportunity enjoy the rolling savannah plains, animals like and many birds such as
Hot air balloon
Hot air balloon is an adventurous safari in Masai Mara offering excellent views and the endless savannah dominated plains of the reserve, unlike game driving where animals are seen from the open widows of your vehicle. Hot air balloon safari offers aerial views of the large masses of animals such as lions, leopards, wildebeest, African elephants, zebras, lions and many more.
Hot air balloon safaris are done in a inflated balloon suspended in the sky above the plains of the reserve, the movement of the air balloon relies much on the wind direction. Only 17 tourists are allowed in hot air balloon per session.
How to get to Maasai Mara national reserve
The reserve is a very accessible African safari destination in Kenya accessed using various points in Kenya, the reserve is accessed using Musiara gate, Ololaomutiek Gate, Oloololo gate, Sand river gate, sekenani gate and Talek gate. Maasai Mara national reserve is accessed by road and air means of transport.
By road: from Nairobi a great tourism centre in Kenya, Masai Mara national reserve is in a distance of about 3 hours of drive through Narok town to Sekenani gate. While using road transport both public and private means of transport are used it is highly recommended to use a 4X4 Wheel vehicle car.
By air: domestic chartered flights to Maasai Mara national reserve are offered from Wilson airport in Nairobi, Samburu airport, Lewa Downs, Nanyuki, Mombasa and Diani airport landing to one of the airstrips serving Masai Mara national reserve. The reserve is served by numerous airstrips such as Keekorok airstrip, Cottars airstrip, Mara north airstrip, Musiara airstrip, Ngerende airstrip, Olare Orok airstrip, Ol Kiombo airstrip, Ol seki airstrip, Serena airstrip and Siani airstrip.
Domestic chartered flights to Maasai Mara national reserve are offered by various flight companies such as AirKenya Express, SafariLink Aviation Limited, East African Safari Air Express, Fly540, Bluebird aviation, Jambojet, Mombasa air safari and many more.
Accommodation in Maasai Mara
There are a number of comfortable and amazing safari lodges and camps providing a place to stay while on a safari in Maasai Mara national reserve, accommodation (safari lodges and camps) in masai Mara national reserve range from Luxury, midrange and budget and they include elephant pepper camp, Mara Bush camp, Kikwa Tembo Tented camp, Mara Serena safari lodge, The Mara Suni lodge, Masai Mara Engai Wilderness Lodge and many more.