Bird photography at Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya
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Bird photography at Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya. Kenya is blessed with the presence of Maasai Mara National Reserve and is well known for its rich wildlife presence. The Maasai Mara National Reserve is spread over 1,800 Sq KM and is a natural extension of Serengeti wastelands. Maasai Mara is located in Narok County, which is one of the southern counties of Kenya. The Greater Mara Ecosystem is also part of Maasai Mara. In addition to this, it can be seen that other conservancies, such as Mara Naboisho, Enonkishu, Ol Kinyei, Mara North and Olare Motorogi are all part of Maasai Mara. The world's largest animal movement happens at Maasai Mara National Reserve every year during July to October. This is one of the massive animal migrations, where it can be seen that about 200,000 zebras, 1.4 million wildebeests, and 500,000 gazelles move through the crocodile filled river in search of better pastures.
The Maasai Mara National Reserve is located above 1,500 meters where the climate is damper than other regions. It is not a national park and protected as a reserve and not managed by Kenya Wildlife Service. But, the local authorities like District Councils maintain the reserve. The money got from the reserve is used in the development of the local Maasai community. Two councils namely the Trans Mara and Narok council are part of the community. The Narok council manages the rest of the reserve on the eastern side of the Mara River, and the Trans Mara council manages the western part of the Maasai Mara National Reserve called as Mara Triangle.
The ecosystem comprising the Mara Serengeti region spans an area of around 25,000 square kilometers and is rich with open grassland. It covers South Kenya and the northern part of Tanzania. Mara has a diverse landscape so one would see waving grasslands on one side and floods on the other. There are dispersed woods in one region while another area would be completely bushy. There is in fact indication of pre historic volcanic activity in the western region through the soil buttons found here. The Great Rift Valley here has the Siria escarpment that is found on the western side of the reserve. This region goes up to a height of 150 meters. Indeed, the tours around the Maasai Mara reserve are fascinating experiences in tours across the world.
The Mara Serena Safari Lodge is the one and only accommodation facility you can find at Mara Triangle that is located close to the Mara River. The lodge is situated at the center of Mara Triangle. The lodge is built on top of a hill that allows having a kaleidoscopic view of the valley and deep down you can see the beautiful Mara River, ripples with the play full hippos and crocodiles. The Mara Triangle is well protected by the security staff from illegal poachers and, as a result, the reserve is rich with wonderful wildlife. On both side of the councils, that on the Narok controlled area and the Trans Mara controlled area you can find a lot of accommodation centers and camps and tourist activities. In fact in the Trans Mara area, i.e. on the eastern side you can find more tourist activities.
A private wilderness area is present in the north of the Mara Triangle bordered by the Mara North Conservancy of more than 30,000 hectares. This forms the northwestern part of the protective zone and is a vital part of Maasai Mara ecosystem. The Mara North Conservancy camps are made as a partnership venture of the local Maasai people. It is a non-profit company that creates a long-term commitment to the environment to the most populated wildlife area. The Mara North Conservancy has the Leopard George, which a maternity area for big cats. You can also see the Lemek hills, an important refuge to African wild dogs. The management comes up with decisions that enable in reducing the impact on the vulnerable environment by having low tourism and vehicles.
Further to the north of The Mara North Conservancy, you can see the Enonkishu Conservancy. Here modern cattle management techniques are given maximum importance to improve the livestock activities. This conservancy is full of acacia trees that gives an impressive savannah look and is surrounded by rocky hills and uneven terrains. Bordering the Conservancy, the Mara River flows magnificently where a lot of hippos and crocodiles steal the show undisturbed. Herds of animals, lions and elephants are frequently seen roaming in and around Enonkishu and Ol Choro Oiroua area. For people who want to have wonderful game viewing enjoyments, Enonkishu Conservancy is the best place, and you can find serval cats, aardwolves, caracals, and aardvarks.
From the Mara North Conservancy, moving to the east take you to Olare Motorogi Conservancy. The elementary techniques of wildlife protection and the continued development of Maasai Mara ecosystem is copied from the Olare Motorogi Conservancy. Tourists will have wonderful live experience of watching wild animals in Olare Motorogi Conservancy, and that can be watched from anywhere on the meadows of Maasai Mara ecosystem. Quite a lot of predators including leopards and herbivores can be seen here. Apart from all these, the Conservancy is rich with elephants, wild dogs, and rhinos.
The Mara Naboisho Conservancy is located in the western part of Olare Motorogi Conservancy, which is a well-known habitat for giraffes, wildebeest, big cats and elephants. The Mara Naboisho Conservancy is also one of the spectacular locations for bird watching, and you will be lucky enough to watch some of the rarest birds in the sanctuary. Most commonly founds birds are Bush Pipits, Pigmy Falcon, White-headed Buffalo-Weavers, White-Crowned Shrinke, etc. Since lots of importance is given to environment protection, tourism and vehicle movement to this area is restricted and, as a result, you will have luxurious wildlife experience.
To the east of the Mara Naboisho Conservancy lies the Ol Kinyei Conservancy which is a pioneering and award winning conservancy and the first conservancy in the Greater Mara ecosystem. To promote wildlife conservation the conservancy is a livestock exclusion zone. A pride of lions with over 30 is resident in Ol Kinyei Conservancy as well as leopards and more than 300 types of birds.
Attraction: Hot Air Balloon Safari and breakfast
The specialty of Mara is the Hot Air Balloon Safari facility that you can have anywhere from the Conservancy. Flowing silently over the savannah accompanied by the gas blowing humming sound, the balloon safari is going to be a wonderful experience you can never forget in your life. You can experience the wildlife movement as most of the wild predators look up for their hunting prey in the early morning before sunrise. The Hot Air Balloon Safari won't last more than one hour as a standard practice. To add up your excitement, an ardent and cheering Safari support staffs will be ready on the ground greeting you with holding a bottle of champagne and breakfast in their hand. Your experience will never stop without having a close encounter with those wild guests roaming around while you are having your breakfast.
As the Hot Air Balloon is an experience of a lifetime, it is a good idea to bring a hat to protect your head from the heat of the gas burners.
Attraction: Walking safari
One cannot have a walking safari within the Maasai Mara National Reserve. But it is indeed feasible in the Mara Naboisho Conservancy which is the neighboring region. This is, in fact, a lifetime experience to walk among the wildlife in the beautiful savannah terrain. The entire experience is different, and one gets a different perspective of the overall deal. The bushes, the grass, the ambiance, the mesmerizing feel, all go a long way to making the tour enlightening. Add to this, the fact that there are the Maasai Warriors and one is certainly in their safe hands. They guide one through the region and also protect if any wildlife is found coming too close.
You can also focus on animal tracking including the construction of termite mounds and the bird life in the area. Unlike the other walking safaris, you are traveling from a safari vehicle, but here you can encounter animals through the bush. The guides who accompany you will share their knowledge on the wildlife as you encounter them.
Attraction: Night safari
Comparing to the day safari, night safari shall bring unique experiences full of surprises. Further the beauty of night safari is that you can watch those rare wildlife species that you cannot see during the daytime. Some animals barge to the meadows for their foods, especially animals like Hippopotamus, which has a sensitive skin that cannot bear direct sunlight.
Most of the predators like, hyenas, lions and jackals do their hunting either in the dawn or night time. So, naturally night time is something special for these animals. This situation can be capitalized if you can take up a night safari and enjoy watching them. The nightlife in the Maasai Mara National Reserve open up an array of inundated experiences and is the only opportunity to watch nocturnal animals.
People and Culture
The park is named after the Maasai people who can be found all around the reserve. The village is charming. The children are given the task of taking care of the cattle, sheep, and goats. The scenery present in the reserve is something to cherish as it provides you with memorable sights. Tourists who come to the village should go for a safari to get the feel of the village.
Maasai Mara National Reserve is popular for its lions, hyenas, cheetahs and leopards that are found all over the park. The place is thus a hub of easy prey and also is a favorite of the predators. The rare black rhino, for example, is often visible here along with the scrub, elephants, and the hippos. The elephants come in large herds here and spend time eating the greens here. It is believed that a grown elephant needs around 250 kg of vegetable food a day. The Hippo pools here also add to the overall wildlife experience. So the population of crocodiles, hippos, and the absolutely exciting varied bird life is a pleasurable experience for all who come here.
The Great Migration is a major sight here and during this time the zebra, the wildebeest and the gazelle migrate into the Maasai Mara from the plains of the Serengeti region. This is a wonderful visual delight and is an annual event. It provides the interest quotient for the visits here and is also the main highlight of tourism to Maasai Mara. July is the month when the big herds start arriving. The bigger herds come towards the beginning of the month of August and they remain thus till the middle of the month of September. These herds are found in plenty till October, of course, the bigger ones leave for the plains much before this. The main driving element for the herds is the presence of grass here and so long as the grass is fresh, the herds stay. The moment it gets older, the herds head towards greener pastures. The northern part of Serengeti is believed to have still half the population of wildlife and it is only the other half that visits this part of the Maasai Reserve.
The Big Five is to be found in the Maasai Mara National Reserve, the lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo and rhinoceros. The population of black rhinos is the Mara has grown since the depletion of poaching in the early 1980s, they are however still in very low numbers and it is not a guarantee that you will experience a sighting while on a safari in the Mara.
From Nairobi, the Maasai Mara National Reserve is about 260 kilometers away, and you can cover the distance in five to six hours time. Even if you are driving from Lake Nakuru, it will take 5 to 6 hours to reach to the Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya.
Lodges and camps
Maasai Mara National Reserve is a much preferred spot for all who come to this part of the world. There are all kinds of accommodation facilities here. Whether it is a luxurious five-star lodge or tented camps, whether it is the simple camping facilities or the basic living style, the reserve provides it all. The animals here do not actually know where the border lines are and the lodges are usually all out of the reserve premises. So one is safe even during the night safaris, however, this is not allowed in the Maasai Mara National Reserve.
You can stay in Maasai Mara National Reserve area comfortably for two to six days subject to seasonal conditions. It is highly recommended to stay in two different locations if you are decided to spend four or more days in Maasai Mara National Reserve. In selecting two entirely different locations for accommodation, you will have better chance to see and experience the wildlife movements during your safari expeditions if started from the different locations.