Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya - A heaven for bird photographers
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Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya - A heaven for bird photographers. The natural continuation of the Serengeti wastelands is of Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya. It is the largest national reserve Conservancy in Africa and is spanned over 1,800 km2. The Maasai Mara Reserve is located in Narok County, which is the southern county of Kenya. Overall the Greater Mara Ecosystem is inclusive of Maasai Mara. The other known conservancies such as Mara Naboisho, Enonkishu, Mara North, Olare Motorogi and Ol Kinyei are all part of Maasai Mara National Reserve. The Conservancy is popular for its large animal migration, which recurs every year as a routine ritual. Herds of animals, about 1.4 million wildebeests, about 200,000 zebras and more than 500,000 gazelles migrate to Maasai Mara Conservancy in search of grass by negotiating through the dangerous crocodile rich river. This show of migration recurs every year during July to the last week of October.
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 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.
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 of the Mara North Conservancy, you can find the Olare Motorogi Conservancy. The Mara North Conservancy has become a community wildlife conservancy that acts along with the Maasai Mara ecosystem. You can find wildlife that are rarely found anywhere else. Both herbivores and predators can be found including the famous big cats along with many elephants and sightings of both rhino and wild dogs.
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
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.
Remember to carry a hat along with you to protect you from the heat generated by the hot air balloon 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.
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
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 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 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 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 Maasai Mara National Reserve is famous for the Big Five. The big five means the leopard, rhinoceros, buffalo and the elephant. The black rhino is a common personality in the Mara and it was almost getting depleted in the early part of the eighties, however, it is still there and the number is low, though. When one comes to the Mara one may not get to see it, and those who do see it are lucky enough.
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 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.