Maasai Mara National Reserve Safari Travel Guide
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Maasai Mara National Reserve Safari Travel 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
The most reputed and award winning Ol Kinyei Conservancy is located on the eastern side of Mara Naboisho Conservancy. Ol Kinyei Conservancy is the first Conservancy engaged in promoting wildlife conservation in Greater Mara ecosystem. To augment the wildlife conservation, it is declared as an exclusive livestock exclusion zone. You can find more than 300 different types bird species and wild animals' including lions and leopards. It is estimated that there are about 30 lions are located here presently.
Attraction: Hot Air Balloon Safari and breakfast
When one comes to the fascinating Mara, one should not miss the beautiful experience of the Hot Air Balloon. This is, in fact, a lovely moment when one floats quietly over the amazing savannah and then experiences the best in the wee hours of the morning. The wildlife wakes up, and one gets closer to the mesmerizing sight. This is one experience where one can relax and get totally rejuvenated. These sights remain etched in the mind forever. The simple joys of taking the Hot Air Balloon ride and then landing on the savannah is coupled with the delight of having a team to welcome you and then of course is the famed luxurious champagne that is provided along with a sumptuous breakfast. So enjoy this unique wildlife experience where one is completely blown over by the sheer beauty of nature and when one is going to remember the up close and personal 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
Inside the Maasai Mara National Reserve it is not possible to conduct a walking safari, however, it is possible in neighbouring conservancy such at the Mara Naboisho Conservancy. It is a very remarkable experience as you walk among the wildlife on the savannah. It gives a different perspective of your safari experience, as you with your heightened senses moves through the bushes and high grass. Your are accompanied by Maasai Warriors as they are there to guide you as well to protect you against any wildlife getting too close.
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
A night safari is one of those experiences that are different from a day safari as you can experience wildlife that cannot be seen at day. Hippos like enjoy the grass on the banks and you can see them during the night as their skin is sensitive and get burned from direct sunlight.
Wild animals like lions, jackals and hyenas usually prowl at night, and this is an added visual treat for the wildlife visitor during night safari. Anyone who comes to the Maasai Mara National Reserve obviously comes for something different. This is provided in these nocturnal tours that are so much a part of the visits here.
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 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 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.
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 in Kenya can offer all kinds of accommodations, from 5 star luxurious lodges and tented camps to more primitive and humble camping facilities. You do not have to stay within the reserve premises, the animals do not know where the border lines are anyway, and the lodges outside the reserve premises can offer night safaris, which are not allowed within the Maasai Mara National Reserve.
One can spend two to six days in the Maasai Mara Reserve Conservancy. There are special four-night packages too however it is best to stay for this duration in two different locations. One would then get a chance to see a better choice of animals. It is always prudent to have a reference point from where the safari would begin.