Maasai Mara National Reserve - A must see destination for wildlife photographers
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Maasai Mara National Reserve - A must see destination for wildlife photographers. 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.
Maasai Mara has a mild and damp climate and is located a height of 1500 meters. The Kenya Wildlife Service manages it, and this is conserved as a national reserve and not as a national park. The District Council is in charge, and all proceeds from the Reserve go towards the welfare of the Maasai community. The two councils that handle the reserve are the Trans Mara and the Narok Council. The western part of the Maasai Reserve is called the Maasai triangle and is managed by the Trans Mara. The eastern side of the Mara River is managed by the Narok Council.
The ecosystem in Mara-Serengeti is over 25,000 km2 comprising of open grassland that goes into the northern part of Tanzania and the southern part of Kenya. You can experience a varied landscape that offer you floods, disperse woods, waving grasslands, and bush areas. On the west side, soil indicates signs of prehistoric volcanic activity. The western part borders the Siria Escarpment of the Great Rift Valley, which stretches more than 150 meters.
Unfortunately only one lodge is present, the Mara Serena Safari Lodge, which can be found near the Mara Triangle close to the Mara River. It is present on a bush-cloaked hill providing you with a panoramic view of the savannah. You can also see hippos and crocodiles present in the river. However, rangers patrol the area regularly which helps in reducing the poaching, and excellent wildlife habitat is there throughout the year. However, you can find several camps and lodges in the Narok controlled area that is of the eastern part of the Mara reserve compared to the Mara Triangle.
The Mara Triangle is facing the borders of Mara North Conservancy at the north, and the rich Mara Triangle reserve is spanned over 30,000 hectares. The Mara Triangle is a prominent reserve of the Maasai Mara ecosystem and also belongs to the northwestern portion of the protective zone. The local Maasai people manage the Mara North Conservancy on partnership basis under a non-profit charter. The aim of the charter is to maintain the ecosystem and tranquility on a long-term basis, and various plans have been implemented to achieve the objectives. Being one of the most popular wildlife centers you can find a lot of wildlife wonders. The famous Leopard George home is located here, which is the maternity ward for the big cats. The romantic Lemek hills are located here and also here you can see the endangered species of African wild dogs. The management of the Conservancy has implemented lots of schemes to minimize the related tourist pollution by reducing the density of tourism and vehicular movements.
The Enonkishu Conservancy lies to the north of The Mara North Conservancy consists of livestock improvements using cattle management programs. The habitat at the Enonkishu Conservancy consists of wooded acacia tree savannah, rocky and undulating hills. The Mara river has many crocodiles and hippos that border the Conservancy. A pride of lions can be found at the edge of Enonkishu and Ol Choro Oiroua. The Conservancy is frequently visited by groups of elephants. Enonkishu Conservancy provides their guests with the excellent viewing experience of rare species including caracal, aardwolf, aardvark and serval cat.
To the east of the Mara North Conservancy lies the Olare Motorogi Conservancy which has become a template for community wildlife conservancy as a blueprint for the sustainability of the Maasai Mara ecosystem. The Olare Motorogi Conservancy offers unique viewing of wildlife rarely found anywhere else on the savannah of the Maasai Mara ecosystem. The conservancy has a good population of both herbivores and predators including the famous big cats. The area has many elephants and sightings of both rhino and wild dogs on occasion.
To the east of the Olare Motorogi Conservancy lies the Mara Naboisho Conservancy which is home to the big cats and an impressive numbers of giraffe, elephants and wildebeest. The Mara Naboisho Conservancy is a bird watcher's paradise with specifies rarely found elsewhere, such as the White-headed Buffalo-Weavers, Pigmy Falcon, Bush Pipits and White-Crowned Shrike. The conservancy has focus on the impact on the environment, and therefore has a low density of tourist and vehicles which gives an exclusive wildlife experience.
On the east of the Mara Naboisho Conservancy is the Ol Kinyei Conservancy, which has received numerous awards and is the first Conservancy present in the Greater Mara Ecosystem. As they want to promote wildlife conservation, a livestock exclusion zone has been started. Here you can find several lions, leopards, and more than 300 types of birds in Ol Kinyei Conservancy.
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.
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
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.
On a walking safari you will also get a chance to focus on animal tracking and the smaller parts of the ecosystem, such as the construction of termite mounds and the variety of birdlife in the area you are visiting. A walking safari in the Mara ecosystem is a very different experience than the view from a safari vehicle, and you never know what you will encounter as you walk through the bush. Maasai Warrior guides will share their knowledge about the wildlife as you encounter it, it is one of those experiences that stays with you forever.
Attraction: Night safari
The night safari is yet another experience that should not be missed when you tour in Maasai Mara National Reserve. Here one gets to see what one would never be able to see at night. There are hippos and such animals that usually bask in the glory of the night, and they just are the visual feast for the visitor. The sensitive skin of the hippos usually gets burnt by sunlight, so they turn up at night much to the delight of the night safari visitor.
Wild animals like lions, jackals and hyenas usually prowl at night, and this is an added visual treat for the wildlife visitor during night safari. Anyone who comes to the Maasai Mara National Reserve obviously comes for something different. This is provided in these nocturnal tours that are so much a part of the visits here.
People and Culture
The tribal Maasai community members are living around the conservancy and hence the Conservancy is named after the community name. The village surrounding the reserve is always busy with their daily chores of life where you can see children busy with managing cattle herds, goats, and the sheep. The panoramic view of the reserve will be a memorable experience, and your tour will not be complete if you don't visit any of the villages and interact with them.
Maasai Mara National Reserve has an exceptional population of predators like hyena, lions, leopards, and cheetahs which are rich represented all over the park. It is not without reason, where there is easy prey there is also food for many predators. Even the rare black rhino is regularly seen in areas with scrub, elephants are to be seen in large or less herds all over the Mara reserve, where they spend most of their time eating, a grown elephant needs daily approx 250 kg of vegetable food. At the Mara River there are popular Hippo pools where you can experience large population of hippos, crocodiles, and an exciting rich bird life.
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.
What makes Maasai Mara National Reserve from the rest of reserves in Kenya is the presence of Big Five animals that include predators such as lion, leopard and herbivores such as buffalo, rhinoceros, and elephant. Though the authorities have implemented strict policies to check illegal poaching, the numbers of black rhinos are still considered as an endangered species. The policies of the authorities have helped to improve their numbers since the implementation of anti-poaching laws that was a menace in 1980. However, there is no assurance that you might be able to see a black rhinoceros during your Mara Safari.
Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya lies around 260 km from Nairobi, and is accessible within five to six hours drive from Nairobi or Lake Nakuru.
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 spend two to six days in the reserve area depending on the season. It is better if you stay for at least four days or a week to experience the wildlife in the Maasai Mara National Reserve. Perhaps, you can reside in two different locations in the reserve. This helps you to see a larger variety of animals in the reserve.