What to See: Wildebeest Migration, The Big Five: Elephant, Lion, Leopard, Rhino, Buffallo, Wildebeest
Situated in the south west of Kenya, bordering Tanzania, is Africa’s finest park, the Maasai Mara often simply called The Mara (Derived from the word Maasai “Maa” meaning spotted; an apt description for the circles of trees, scrub, savanna and cloud shadows that mark the area). It is famous for the exceptional abundance of Big Cats, the Great Wildebeest Migration and the Maasai people, well known for their distinctive custom and dress.
Maasai Mara National Reserve stretches 583 sq. miles (1,510 sq km) and is part of the expansive 9700 sq. miles Mara-Serengeti ecosystem. The terrain of the reserve is primarily grassland and riverine forest with seasonal riverlets. It is mainly watered by the Talek and Mara rivers. The reserve is managed by the local Maasai people.
A well established infrastructure provides some of the most memorable African safaris around - indeed the Mara is one of the oldest sites for visitors to explore the continent, and activities have evolved from the old-fashioned hunting to more ecofriendly alternatives; horseback safaris, cultural visits, lodge and camping outfits, hot air ballooning (brilliant!) and special interest safaris...particularly ones of a photographic nature.
The Masai Mara's reliable and consistent lion population (over twenty separate prides), made it the site of choice for the famous BBC programme, "Big Cat Diary", and many a wildlife documentary has found its roots in the reserve. Indeed we offer our clients the opportunity to take part in "Elephant Memories Safari" which is run on set departure dates during the year. The rest of the Mara's wildlife is by no means less significant, and is often treated with a degree of grudging admiration by safari operators in other national parks! A good network of roads and access make game viewing particularly good.
Our most highly recommended safari on the Mara, takes place in a small, private bush camp away from the crowds. This is a real safari without the bling at excellent value for money. Click to "Laikipia and Masai Mara safari special" for more information.
The Maasai have only inhabited the Mara Reserve for about 200 years, and there is some evidence that Neolithic settlements were present in the Lemek Valley. In terms of the more recent Masai populations, fortunately the pastoralist lifestyle of the tribe has changed little over the years, and the Maasai are remarkable in the level that they have managed to co-exist with the natural environment and local wildlife whilst raising domestic livestock on the same grazing grounds.
The dominant inhabitants are the wildebeest but there are many other antelope present - Thompson's and Grant's gazelle, impala and topi. Zebra are present in good numbers and around 161 000 migrate annually along with the wildebeest and Thompson's gazelles. Masai giraffe and the common giraffe are all part of the scenery and good specimens of roan antelope are found on the borders of the Masai Mara. With such plentiful numbers of ungulates on the plains, many of the well-known predators are present in good numbers - lion, leopard, cheetah and spotted hyena are the most well-known. A rare nocturnal species is the bat-eared fox but porcupine, jackal and aardvaark are also seen during the long, dark nights.
Of the 450 species of birds seen in the area, the most frequently photographed is the lilac breasted-roller. Vultures and marabou stork gather round kills and the secretary bird, hornbills, crowned cranes, ostrich and African pygmy falcon are fairly common sights.
Access is easy, a 4-5 hour drive from Nairobi or alternately, daily flights from the majority of Kenya's airports make it to the reserve. Accommodation is available for all budgets.
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