Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya - A must see destination for wildlife photographers
- Photo Gallery
Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya - A must see destination for wildlife photographers. Maasai Mara National Reserve Located in Kenya is one of the largest reserves with 1,800 km2 of land present in the Serengeti wastelands. To be precise, the Maasai Mara National Reserve is part of the Greater Mara Ecosystem located in the southern part of Kenya in the Narok County. It also part of the conservancies including Mara Naboisho, Enonkishu, Ol Kinyei, Mara North, and Olare Motorogi. The biggest animal show happens here every year from July until the end of October. As 1.4 million wildebeests, 500,000 gazelles, and 200,000 zebras migrate here every year, it is called as The Great Migration along the crocodile-crowded river.
The climate at Maasai Mara is much mild and wet than other regions of Kenya and is located at an altitude of 1,500 meters above sea level. The reserve, the Maasai Mara National Reserve, is not under the control of Kenya Wildlife Service, but it is being managed by the local civil authorities, the District Councils. Because, this is not protected as a national park but as a reserve area for wild animals. The revenue generated from the park is being used for the local community development of Maasai. For administrative convenience, the park is managed by two District Councils, the Trans Mara, and Narok councils. The western part known as the Mara Triangle is taken care of by Trans Mara Council and the remaining portion along the eastern side of Mara River is being managed by 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.
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.
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.
To the very north of The Mara North Conservancy is the Enonkishu Conservancy, the focus is on livestock improvements through innovative cattle management programs. The Enonkishu Conservancy habitat comprises of wooded acacia tree savannah, it has rocky and undulating hills which provide a varied habitat. The Mara River runs alongside the conservancy and has many crocodiles and hippos in the section of the river that borders the conservancy. A Pride of lions are usually found at the edge of Enonkishu and Ol Choro Oiroua and the conservancy is frequently visited by groups of elephants. Enonkishu Conservancy offers an incredible game viewing experience with rare species such as 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.
On the east of the Olare Motorogi Conservancy, you can find the Mara Naboisho Conservancy, which comprises of the big cats and giraffe, elephants and wildebeest. It is a bird watcher's paradise with animals that can be found elsewhere including the white-headed Buffalo-Weavers, Pigmy Falcon, Bush Pipits and White-Crowned Shrike. As the conservancy needs to be protected, there are a low density of tourists and vehicles.
The Ol Kinyei Conservancy is located on the eastern side of the Mara Naboisho Conservancy. This is one of the picturesque locations and has won many awards for wildlife conservancy and is the pioneer wildlife conservancy located in the Greater Mara Ecosystem. This is declared as a livestock exclusion zone to conserve the wildlife. Not less than 300 different types of bird species, a large number of leopards and a meager number of 30 lions crown the wildlife.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 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.
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.
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.
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 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.