Maasai Mara National Reserve
Maasai Mara National Reserve is a scenic expanse of gently rolling African savannah hills and a top Kenya safari destination located in the South west Kenya bordering Tanzania’s Serengeti national park in to the south. Maasai Mara national reserve covering an area of 1510 square kilometers has been voted among the new seven wonder of the world, the reserve is situated in the Great Rift Valley in Narok County.
Maasai Mara national reserve is name Maasai in honor of the Maasai people who are the ancestral people of the area and even today they co-exist with wildlife in the game reserve peacefully, the world “Mara” is a local Maasai word meaning shrubs, savanna and grasslands which make up the endless plains of Maasai Mara.
Maasai Mara was started as a wildlife sanctuary in 1961 with an area of approximately 520 square kilometer, later in 1961 the sanctuary was upgraded to a game reserve and its boundaries were stretched to cover 1821 square kilometers. The area of reserve was divided with a 159 square kilometers given to the local communities and the remaining area was upgraded to a national reserve in 1974. The following year of 1976, the reserve’s area was again reduced by 162 square kilometers leaving the reserve with 1510 square kilometers of area and this area consists of 3 ranches that are Mara triangle, Sekenani and Musiara.
The national reserve’s landscape is composed of open plains, rolling hills, 2 prime rivers flowing in the northern direction that is Mara River and Talek River, acacia trees dominating the South eastern region and the East African Rift Valley Esiot Escarpment. The East African Rift Valley stretches 5600 kilometers along the red sea in Ethiopia via Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi and Mozambique, this escarpment in Masai Mara national reserve inhabits the most concentration of wildlife in its grasslands and shore water areas.
Maasai Mara national reserve is a true African paradise and a wildlife haven, the reserve consists of a spectacular natural diversity of wildlife including lions, cheetahs, elephants, African buffalo, wildebeests, giraffes, zebras, Thomson and grant’s gazelles, black and white rhinos , hippos, crocodiles, hyenas, jackals, servals, antelopes such as impalas, duikers, roan antelopes, coke’s hartebeests among others.
The national reserve is an excellent Kenya birding destination with more than 470 species of birds recorded to be found in the reserve, the bird population includes 60 raptor species, resident species and migratory species. Birds in Maasai Mara national reserve include 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.
Kenya safari activities to do in Maasai Mara national reserve
The national reserve is a world popular destination Kenya wildlife viewing safaris, the reserve is a home to a huge population of animals and gifted with beautiful nature best explored on a game viewing experience done while driving through the reserve using permanent trails running through the reserve. Game drives are done in an open roof safari vehicle and conducted by an experienced and professional guide, wildlife viewing offers an opportunity to marvel on a variety of animals such as zebras, wildebeests, gazelles, lions, elephants, buffaloes, rhinos, cheetahs among other.
Wildlife viewing in Maasai Mara national reserve can be done all year round but they are best done in the dry season when animals congregate at watering holes to drink water.
Watching the great wildebeest migration
Wildebeest migration is one of the world’s natural wonders and the biggest migration of wildlife on earth best watched in Maasai Mara during the Mara river crossing, the wildebeest migration involves a migration of over 1.5 million wildebeests and thousands of Thomson and grant’s gazelles and zebras during their way from Serengeti national park to the plains of Maasai Mara. The animals participating in the migration are said to migrate as they look for fresh grass and water, the Mara River crossing is the deadliest stage of the migration as the migrating herds enter the river infested by the deadly crocodiles. After crossing the river, the herds face off with the predators such as lions, leopards and cheetahs on the banks of the river. The whole grand event can be watched during Kenya wildlife safari in Maasai Mara national reserve and best watching from July to September.
The national reserve is an excellent destination for Kenya bird watching safari, the reserve boosts over 470 recorded bird species including 60 migrant species, many raptor species and endemic species. Endemic bird species in Maasai Mara national reserve are commonly found along the Mara River and migratory bird species arrive in the reserve from October to May. Birds spotted on bird watching safari in Maasai Mara national reserve include lesser spotted, 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 among others.
The reserve is a remarkable Kenya safari destination where human beings co-exist with wildlife in harmony, during your Kenya wildlife safari in Maasai Mara national reserve you get an opportunity to visit the famous Maasai people with unique cultural and traditional practices. During cultural walks in Maasai Mara national reserve you get a deeper insight in the lifestyle of the Maasai people and enjoy practices like circumcision, encounter the bomas (circular thatched houses built local materials such as mud, trees and thatch grass), rearing of the livestock and others. You also get a chance to visit markets and schools found in Talek Town where you will interact with the locals.
Maasai Mara national reserve is a beautiful Kenya safari destination perfect for Kenya walking safaris, this reserve has a number of regions (conservancies) and the most recommended conservancy for walking safaris is Naboisho conservancy filled with a huge population of wildlife and offers impressive views. Walking safaris in Maasai Mara national reserve are the most rewarding experience for enjoying the nature and wildlife, the experience offers high chances of spotting animals like lions, leopards, buffaloes, rhinos, cheetahs, wildebeests among others.
Hot air balloon safari is an adventurous Kenya safari experience offering an excellent wildlife viewing experience in Maasai Mara national reserve, this memorable experience offers magnificent aerial views from the balloon suspended high in the sky. The inflated air balloon is operated by over 20 people who help in flying and landing of the balloon, this experience offer an opportunity to see many animals such as the migrating wildebeests, cheetahs, lions, herds of elephants, buffaloes, leopards, hartebeests among others. You also get to enjoy magnificent views of the rolling endless plains of the reserve.
How to get to Maasai Mara national reserve
Maasai Mara national reserve is accessed by road and air means of transport
Maasai Mara national is situated in approximately 2.5 hours’ drive from Nairobi to Narok and from Narok town it is a drive of approximately 3.5 hours’ drive to Sekanani gate. While using road transport it is best to use a 4X4 wheel safari vehicle.
Domestic chartered flights are offered from Nairobi Wilson Airport in Nairobi to numerous airstrips serving Maasai Mara such as Keekorok airstrip, Cottar’s airstrip, Mara north airstrip, Musiara airstrip, Ngerende airstrip, Olare Orok airstrip, Ol Kiombo airstrip, Ol Seki airstrip, Serena airstrip and Siana airstrip.
Where to stay in Maasai Mara national reserve
In Maasai Mara there are numerous safari lodges, tented camps and camping sites offering accommodation to tourists on a Kenya safari in the reserve, these accommodation establishments are categorized as luxury, midrange and budget. Accommodation in Maasai Mara national reserve is got from Maasai Mara Serena safari lodge, Elephant Pepper Camp, Mara Bush Camp, Kikwa Tembo Tented Camp, Kicheche Bush camp, Ol Seki Mara camp, Enkerende Tented camp, Loyk Mara camp, Entumoto safari camp among others.