Maasai Mara National Reserve destination guide
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Maasai Mara National Reserve destination guide. Maasai Mara National Reserve is a natural extension of the Serengeti wastelands in Kenya. It spans over an area of around 1,800 square kilometers and is the largest wildlife reserve in the southern part of Kenya. Lying in the Narok County it is also a part of the Mara Ecosystem which is inclusive of Mara North, Enonkishu, Olare Motorogi and Ol Kinyei which are the neighboring conservancy regions here. The Great Migration is an annually repeated process where 1.4 million wildebeests, 200,000 zebras, and 500,000 gazelles, move along the crowded crocodile rivers in search of grass and food. Maasai Mara is better known for this animal show that usually occurs from July to October.
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 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.
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.
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.
On the east side of Mara North Conservancy is located the Olare Motorogi Conservancy. This is a perfect Hallmark location for wildlife conservancy and is considered as an excellent example of sustainability of the Maasai Mara ecosystem. Tourists can have mind blowing watching experience of wildlife that are very rare and could not be found anywhere in the grass plains of Maasai Mara ecosystem. Mixed wildlife including big cats, wild predators, and herbivores are the main attraction in this area. Sighting herds of elephants, wild dogs, and black rhinos are also common.
On the eastern side of Mara Naboisho Conservancy is located the Olare Motorogi Conservancy. This is one of the biggest habitats for elephants, wildebeest, quite a large number of giraffes and big wild cats. For bird watching enthusiasts, the Mara Naboisho Conservancy must be an included itinerary where you can see some of the rarest birds that are seldom to see elsewhere. Some of the rare species are Pigmy Falcon, White-headed Buffalo-Weavers, White-Crowned Shrike and Bush Pipits. The management policies of the conservancy are to give paramount importance to the protection of environment and maintain the sustainability of the ecosystem. To achieve the objective, influx of tourists and vehicular movements are restricted.
Enjoy the sights in the eastern part of the Mara Naboisho Conservancy where one can have a delightful sight of the Ol Kinyei Conservancy. This is, in fact, the conservancy that has won a lot of awards and also has the dubious achievement of being the first such conservancy in the Greater Mara ecosystem. There is, in fact, a livestock exclusion zone here so that wildlife conservation is well promoted. The pride of lions here is, in fact, a visual delight, and more than 30 of them are residents in the Ol Kinyei Conservancy. Besides this, of course, one finds at least 300 types of birds and leopards too.
Attraction: Hot Air Balloon Safari and breakfast
There are several places in the Mara from where you can experience a Hot Air Balloon trip. It is really a breathtaking moment to float silently over the savannah and experience the sunrise as the wildlife wakes up. It is one of those experiences where you relax and absorb the moment as the savannah is waking up, it will fill you with enough memories to last a lifetime. The Hot Air Balloon Safari flight usually takes an hour, after a safe landing on the savannah a team is standing by to greet you with a luxurious champagne breakfast on the savannah. Having your breakfast in the wild completes the experience while you can relax while experiencing close encounters with the wildlife as they pass by.
The Hot Air Balloon is a lifetime experience that you need to experience right away. Carrying a hat would be helpful to protect you from the heat of balloon gas burner.
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
A night safari is a very unique experience to the daily safari as you can experience wildlife that can not be sighted during the day. Hippos like to grass on the banks and come up during the night or the early morning due to their sensitive skin that easily gets burned from 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 people in the Maasai Mara Reserve are called Maasai and their community name is christened for the reserve. They are found here all over the place. Their children usually tend to the huge herds of goats, sheep and cattle and the others are busy in their everyday village life. This provides a very popular element in the safari tours here. The entire village experience is really worth for the trip giving a new dimension for the tour.
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.
It will be wonderful visuals to watch the Great Migration, where a large number of animals like zebra, wildebeest, and gazelle migrate from Serengeti plains to Maasai Mara, repeating every year. This migration is the most attractive phenomenon happens every year in Maasai Mara. The migration season starts during July, and the migrated animals will stay there until October. In between some of the herds will return to Seregeti when the plain savannah is abuzz with fresh grass. The reason behind the migration is in search of fresh grass, their food. And the herds will stay there as long as they have enough grass to gulp. Albeit, this could be the fact it is estimated that only half of the total herds are seen moving to Maasai Mara in search of grass. It is indeed one of the splendid experiences one can have at Maasai Mara.
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
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.
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.