Dream Travel: Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya
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Dream Travel: 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 famous Mara-Serengeti ecosystem is well known for rich grassland spread over 25,000 square KM cut through the southern end of Kenya and enter into the north side of Tanzania. The landscape Mara is with contrasting features! You can see the reminiscence of inactive prehistoric volcanoes on the western side and thick bushes, isolated woods spread over the area, lush green meadows, and flooding river in the rest of the area. On the border of Maasai Mara the National Reserve is located in the Siria Escarpment, which is part of the Great Rift Valley and is located 150 meters above from the valley. It is one of the finest places for excellent safari activities.
When one comes to the Mara triangle, the only place to stay in would be the Mara Serena Safari Lodge, which is right in the middle of the region. The Mara River lies next to this, and the lodge itself is on a hill covered with bushes. As one watches the beautiful view of the savannah lands below, the River Mara looks wonderful as it winds its way through. The crocodiles and hippos notwithstanding, the simply mesmerizing ambiance takes one breath away. The area is famous for an excellent wildlife habitat thanks to the Mara Triangle Rangers who ensure that there is absolutely no poaching activity here. On the contrary on the eastern side, which is the area controlled by the Narok Council, there are more lodges as well as camps. The facilities here for tourism are even more convenient.
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.
To the very north of The Mara North Conservancy is the Enonkishu Conservancy, the focus is on livestock improvements through innovative cattle management programs. The Enonkishu Conservancy habitat comprises of wooded acacia tree savannah, it has rocky and undulating hills which provide a varied habitat. The Mara River runs alongside the conservancy and has many crocodiles and hippos in the section of the river that borders the conservancy. A Pride of lions are usually found at the edge of Enonkishu and Ol Choro Oiroua and the conservancy is frequently visited by groups of elephants. Enonkishu Conservancy offers an incredible game viewing experience with rare species such as caracal, aardwolf, aardvark and serval cat.
The Olare Motorogi Conservancy lies to the east of the Mara North Conservancy. It is, in fact, a symbol of wildlife conservancy and has set an example for the manner in which the Maasai Mara Ecosystem has sustained itself. The Maasai Mara ecosystem is famous for its savannah land and the Olare Motorogi Conservancy is a living example of this natural wonder. The big cats, and the other predators, as well as herbivores, are usual here. One also would sight rhinos, wild dogs and elephants here.
The Mara Naboisho Conservancy is found in the east of the Olare Motorogi Conservancy, and it is the best habitat for the big cats, many elephants, and the famous wildebeest and, of course, the famed giraffe. This is, in fact, a delight for the avid bird watcher as the rarest of the rare species are sighted here. So get the best views of the White Headed Buffalo-Weaver, the Bush Pipits, the Pigmy Falcon, and the White crowned Shrike. It is indeed a pleasant paradise and always focuses on the impact on the environment. Thus, one would not really have a crowd here, and there is an obvious low density of vehicles as well as the tourist here. This is why it is a very special wildlife spot.
The most reputed and award winning Ol Kinyei Conservancy is located on the eastern side of Mara Naboisho Conservancy. Ol Kinyei Conservancy is the first Conservancy engaged in promoting wildlife conservation in Greater Mara ecosystem. To augment the wildlife conservation, it is declared as an exclusive livestock exclusion zone. You can find more than 300 different types bird species and wild animals' including lions and leopards. It is estimated that there are about 30 lions are located here presently.
Attraction: Hot Air Balloon Safari and breakfast
For people who are adventurists and would like to have Hot Air Balloon Safari, you will have multiple locations in the Mara from where you can start your expeditions. It will be a thrilling experience gliding over the thick grassy meadows and watching the sunrise along with the amazing wildlife. You will certainly have everlasting cherishing memories that are going to stay with you forever. The Hot Air Balloon Safari starts early morning and shall last for an hour. Safe landing positions are marked on the green savannah where you will be greeted with volunteers/Safari attendees with hot breakfast and champagnes. The exotic experience of the close encounter with wild animals while having the breakfast will be one of the attractive, breathless engagements in your life.
You might want to get your hat as it can protect your head from the heat that is produced from the gas burners.
Attraction: Walking safari
You will want to know that, there is no walking safari in inside the Maasai Mara National Reserve. It is possible to do it in the neighboring Conservancy at the Mara Naboisho Conservancy. As you walk around the reserve area, you will experience a different perspective of wildlife. When you walk around, you are accompanied by Maasai warriors to guide you and protect you from wildlife getting 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
Night Safari is quite different from day safari due to various reasons. The main difference what you could experience is that you will have the rare options to see those wild animals that seldom appear during daylight. Especially animals like Hippos never come out during daylight for having food due to their sensitive skins. Their skin is vulnerable if exposed to sunlight.
The night safari can certainly give you a very different experience when comparing to the day Safari. It is a common fact that majority of the predators such as the big cats, jackals, lions, and hyenas do their hunting during the night or early morning. So you will have the best chance to see these kinds of nocturnal animals during your night safari expeditions once you are decided to take the course through the thick savannah of the Maasai Mara National Reserve.
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 consists of predators including hyena, lions, leopards, and cheetahs that represent the park. There are plenty of prey in and around the reserve. You can also see the rare black rhino in areas with scrub. The elephants can also be seen in large or less herds all over the reserve. They need to eat food for existence. You will be surprised to know that a growing elephant needs 250 kg of vegetable food in a day. You can also get to see pools of hippos, crocodiles, and birds.
The great migration wildebeest sees zebra and gazelle including Thomson and Topi migrating into the reserve from the Serengeti plains. The herds arrive in July, and the larger herds start coming in the month of August till mid-September. Usually, the big herds leave and migrate back to Serengeti, which still leaves herds till October. As long as there is fresh grass to eat the animals will keep coming. In the northern part of Serengeti, you can find more than half staying behind.
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.
The Maasai Mara National Reserve is 260 km from Nairobi, and you can reach there in five or six hours by road from Nairobi or Lake Nakuru. Depending on your travel plans, make sure that you book your transport and reach the reserve before dark. It is always best to plan months ahead so that you can avail the services.
Lodges and camps
Accommodation is not an issue at Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya. You can have 5-star accommodations to dormitory accommodations and luxury tent camps to simple tent camps. There are no restrictions for you to stay inside the reserve area and no matter where you stay if you have the essential travel arrangements with your touring operator. If you want to experience the beauty of the reserve and the wildlife, you need to move around as the animals won't come to visit you. Some hotels offer night safaris in the Maasai Mara National Reserve area. However, you should know that night safari is not permitted here.
One can spend two to six days in the Maasai Mara Reserve Conservancy. There are special four-night packages too however it is best to stay for this duration in two different locations. One would then get a chance to see a better choice of animals. It is always prudent to have a reference point from where the safari would begin.