Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya
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Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya. 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 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.
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.
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.
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
Planning to go on a hot air balloon trip, and then you will be glad to know that Mara has several places from where you can experience it. As you are flying over the vast land experiencing the sunrise and the awakening of the wildlife, you get that once in a lifetime moment. The safari lasts for an hour and to ensure safe landing instructors will be present. Once you have landed, you can experience a large breakfast and champagne. It is a truly another moment having breakfast in the wild as you can get to see close encounters with the wildlife.
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
By all means, Mara Naboisho Conservancy is a fascinating place for walking safari that one should not miss in their life. It will be a wonderful experience walking along the thick meadows watching the wildlife. No doubt the walking safari experience will change the traditional expectations of a wild safari as you will always be confronting with the unexpected wildlife surprises. The unpredictable situation will definitely increase the level of adrenalin, but you will be safe in the hands of the experienced Maasai Warriors who will be accompanying as your protection guards.
Everything is special about a walking safari. One gets a chance to get closer to animals and also can track them easily. These are the smaller parts of the ecosystem so provide one with the best ideas. For example, the termite mounds and the incessant groups of birdlife here provide one with an idea of the entire area while walking. This is different from the vehicle safari, and one only gets excited about feeling the natural bush and the greens under the feet. The Maasai Warrior Guides throw light on the wildlife habitat and make it a knowledgeable experience for the visitor. This is one experience that tourists would never forget in their lifetime.
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.
You can also get to see predators like hyenas, lions, and jackals that prefer to hunt during the night. That provides you with a good chance of having a different experience in a night safari. Nocturnal animals that you cannot see during the day can be seen at night. When the night comes, the life in the Maasai Mara National Reserve is something to witness.
People and Culture
The park is named after Maasai park because of the population inhabited around the park is from Maasai community. To add the beauty of the village and surrounding sceneries of the park, you can see children taking care of large herds of cattle, goats and sheep. Your safari will be an incomplete experience if you don't visit any one of the village and mingle with them.
The Maasai Mara National Reserve is highly inhabited by wild animals such as cheetahs, leopards, lions, jackals, etc., and could be seen many parts of the reserve. Maybe their crowded presence is due to the easy availability of foods. Other wild animals such as elephants and black rhinos are regularly seen in the reserve area. Large herds are also a common scene in the Maasai Mara National Reserve, and they are always busy in gulping their foods. It is estimated that a fully grown up elephant consumes about 250 Kg of green food that is a clear indication of the availability of green vegetable foods in the reserve. Moving to the Mara River where the Hippo pools are located, watching hippos and movements of crocodiles are indeed a wonderful experience. To add your excitement, there are a plethora of wild birds you can watch in the reserve.
During the period of the Great Migration wildebeest, zebra and gazelle such as Thomson and Topi migrate into Maasai Mara from the Serengeti plains. The annual event is a really spectacular and the biggest highlight of Maasai Mara. The herds usually start to arrive in July with the big herds arriving in the beginning of August and stay until mid September, even though the big herds leave the plains of Maasai Mara and migrate back to Serengeti for fresh grass, there is still herds left in the Mara all the way through October. Having said that, nothing is concrete since we are dealing with wild animals. The driving force for migrating herds is fresh grass, and as long there are fresh grass to eat they will stay. It is not the complete migrating herd that is visiting the Maasai Mara, it is estimated that approximately half is staying behind in the northern part of Serengeti.
The big five which include the lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo, and rhinoceros are usually found in the reserve and are known to draw the crowds. The black rhino population has been growing since the depletion of poaching. You will want to know that the black rhino cannot be sighted when you are on a safari in the Maasai Mara National Reserve.
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
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.