Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya - A heaven for wildlife photographers
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Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya - A heaven 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.
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 Mara-Serengeti ecosystem covers approx. 25,000 km2 of primarily open grassland crossing the southern part of Kenya and into the northern part of Tanzania. In Mara you experience a varied landscape. Floods, waving grasslands, disperse woods- and bush areas, and to the west, a soil button that show signs of prehistoric volcanic activity. The western part of the Maasai Mara National Reserve is bordered by the Siria Escarpment of the Great Rift Valley that stretches more than 150 meters high. A visit to Maasai Mara is a guarantee for a first class safari experience.
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.
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 and is a hub of livestock improvements. There are innovative programs for cattle here, and the habitat is made up of rocky, undulating terrain along with wooded acacia tree savannah. This is the reason the place has a varied habitat. The River Mara is found running along this region and the crocodiles and hippos here never cease to amaze the tourist. The borders of Ol Choro Oiroua and Enonkishu are popular for the Pride of Lions, which are found here. Notwithstanding this, the groups of elephants are also a regular sight. This conservancy is famous for the outstanding experience of watching the game along with rare species like aardwolf, caracal, serval cat and the aardvark.
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.
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.
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
You will be disappointed to know that there are no facilities to have a walking safari in the Maasai Mara National Reserve; alternatively tourists shall have arrangements for walking safari at the Mara Naboisho Conservancy. No matter even if you are unable to perform a walking safari at Maasai Mara National Reserve, but when you walking along with the wild animals at the Mara Naboisho Conservancy that will take to the most exciting level of experience. To enhance your safety and proper guiding, you will be escorted by Maasai Warriors, whom will give you the required comfort and safety while roaming around.
Walking along the Savannah gives you the rare opportunity to scan through the ecosystem, various forms of termite mounds, trail movements, and giving a chance to observe closely about the Conservancy birdlife. You never know what kind of surprises may spring up while taking a walking safari around the conservancy and that makes a lot of difference than the vehicle safari. Your Maasai Warriors are knowledgeable people about various forms of wildlife and sharing those experiences will certainly make your trip a wonderful experience.
Attraction: Night safari
Comparing to the day safari, night safari shall bring unique experiences full of surprises. Further the beauty of night safari is that you can watch those rare wildlife species that you cannot see during the daytime. Some animals barge to the meadows for their foods, especially animals like Hippopotamus, which has a sensitive skin that cannot bear direct 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.