MASAI MARA NATIONAL RESERVE

MASAI MARA NATIONAL RESERVE

Masai Mara National Reserve (Maasai Mara National Reserve) is remarkably the most famous destination in Kenya, lying in the Southwestern part of Kenya on the Great Rift Valley Area within Narok County. The reserve lies adjacent to the Great Serengeti also most popular as the Masai Mara ecosystem. When it comes to all Kenya safaris, it is one destination that is worth considering for wildlife tour or wildebeest migration safari.

Masai Mara is set in the mighty rift valley, on the fault line of 5600 km which stretches as far as the Ethiopia’s Red sea through Malawi, Kenya, Tanzania and Mozambique then in the Narok county of Southwestern Kenya. This nature reserve’s landscape is largely comprised of extensive savanna grassland, dotted acacia trees which are common in the Mara and Talek Rivers flow through its sweeping plains plus other seasonal river that dry up during the dry season.

Maasai Mara National Reserve supports diverse of wildlife often spotted while grazing and migrants also roam freely between the Serengeti & Masai Mara ecosystems. Masai Mara was originally established as wildlife sanctuary in 1948, when it covered an area of only 520 sq.km and in 1961, its land area expanded up to 1510 sq.km. This reserve takes its name from the Maasai people who lived in the area for a very long time. Within the Masai Mara, there are abundant faunal and floral species, rising at an altitude of 1500 and 2170 meters.

The main attractions in Masai Mara National Reserve

Wildlife species

Masai Mara National Reserve contains a huge population of animals including 90 species of mammals, 570 bird species, amphibians, reptiles, and about 1000 species of plants. The reserve’s diverse animal species include the impalas, giraffes, zebras, Thompson’s gazelles, wildebeest (the migration often occurs from June to July), crocodiles, hippos, leopards, lions, buffaloes, topis, cheetahs, and more.

The bird species

The Masai Mara holds an estimate of over 570 species of birds making it a special birding spot. The birds to identify while on birding tour in Maasai Mara include the Kori bustards, long crested eagle, lilac breasted rollers, Madagascar squacco, great egrets,  yellow billed storks, usambiro barbet, black kite, secretary bird, martial eagle, cinnamon breasted bunting, grey penduline tit, African wood owl,

Purple grenadier, lazy cisticolas, African fin foot, ross’s turacos, yellow mantled window bird, rosy throated long claws, red throated tit, Hildebrandt’s starling, rufous bellied long claws, ostriches, to mention but a few. If birding is your thing, then consider visiting this reserve around November and April, the special months to enjoy the sight of migratory birds.

Wildebeest migration

Of all the safaris in the Maasai Mara, wildebeest migration is a special experience and an amazing attraction. The great migration is an experience of a lifetime, where tourists have a chance to observe millions of wildebeests move from the Serengeti to the Mara and back. During the migration, thousands of grazers accompany the wildebeests including the Thompson’s gazelles, zebras, elands, and they move in search for water and pasture. Each year, the great migration is experienced around June to September.

Other areas of interest within Masai Mara include the Mara Triangle, which is run by the Mara Conservancy on behalf of the Narok County council; Olare Ork Conservancy, Lemek, Mara Naboisho and Ol Kinyei Conservancy.

The people & cultures

The Maasai people are the main occupants adjacent to the Maasai Mara National Reserve. Besides Kenya, the Maasai also occupy areas of Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. A visit to the Masai community is a great opportunity to explore the distinct traditions, cultures, lifestyles, and their practices.

Main tourism activities to do in the Maasai Mara National Reserve

Guided game drives

The Masai Mara is Kenya’s leading game viewing destination, offering classic and memorable guided game drives. A game drive through the plains of Masai Mara is a great opportunity to encounter diversity of animal species including the Masai giraffes, cheetahs, impalas, zebras, topis, African bush elephants, buffaloes, lions, leopards, rhinos and many others.

On Masai Mara game safari, tourists have up to 3 shifts of game drive –the morning, afternoon and night. To enjoy excellent guided game drive in the Masai Mara, the dry season is the best time to visit the reserve for game viewing and that is from June to September, December, January to February.

Bird watching

Birding in the Masai Mara allows you to explore diversity of avifaunal species and these include native and migratory birds. They include the great white egrets, martial eagle, Kori bustards, lilac breasted rollers, yellow billed storks, Madagascar squacco, purple grenadiers, Hildebrandt’s starling, secretary bird, ostriches, tabora cisticolas, yellow mantled window bird, black kite, usambiro barbet, yellow billed storks, and long crested eagles.

Hot air balloon

For mesmerizing aerial views, no destination is best to visit for hot air balloon safaris like Masai Mara National Reserve. The hot air balloon tours in this reserve offer a remarkable opportunity to nature lovers to explore diversity of wildlife using hot air balloons rather than 4×4 tourist cars.

Guided nature walks

Nature walks in Masai Mara Reserve are enjoyable around the reserve and visitors get a chance to explore the hidden treasures that can’t be reached using 4×4 safari vehicles. During the Masai Mara guided nature walk, visitors get to explore birds, wildlife and also interact with local residents.

Horseback riding

 

Masai Mara Reserve is also an excellent destination that is worth visiting for horseback riding. It is a great opportunity for you to enjoy wildlife view on the horseback instead of a tourist car.

When to travel to the reserve

The Masai Mara is an all year-round wildlife reserve, but the best time to get there is during the dry months. The dry months of the year in Masai Mara: June, July, August to September, December, January to February- these are the best months to enjoy the big 5 game tours.

Accommodation choices

Masai Mara National Reserve is a special destination with all categories of lodges, camps for tourists to book for overnight stay. On the Northern circuit, the available accommodation options include Royal Mara Safari Lodge, Kicheche Bush Camp, Mara Plains Camp, Ol Seki Mara Camp, Mara River Lodge, Ngerende Island Lodge, & Porini Mara Camp. Accommodation choices in the Eastern tourist circuit: Mara Leisure Camp, Mara Bush Top, in Central Masai Mara, the camps & lodges include Sentinel Mara Camp, Mara Ngenche, Governor’s Moran Camp and during wildebeest migration, the places we can recommend for you to stay in include Kichwa Tembo Camp, Little Governor’s Camp, Royal Mara Safari Lodge and others.

Getting to Masai Mara National Reserve

From Nairobi city to Masai Mara, it is about 241 km translating to about 5-6 hours’ drive. The access gates to Mara Reserve: Oloolaimutia, Sand River, Oloololo gate, Musiara gate, Talek and Sekenani gate. By air, tourists can also connect from Nairobi to Masai Mara airstrips: Ngerende, Sian springs, Keekorok, Kiombo, Mara Serena and more.