Parks and reserves: Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya
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Parks and reserves: Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya. Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya is the natural continuation of the Serengeti wastelands in Tanzania. With its 1,800 km2 large reserve, Maasai Mara is the most wildlife rich place in the world. Maasai Mara is located in the southern part of Kenya in the Narok County and is part of the Greater Mara Ecosystem which also includes the neighboring conservancy Enonkishu, Mara Naboisho, Mara North, Ol Kinyei and Olare Motorogi. The Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya is also known for the biggest animal show in the world that takes place every year from July until the end of October. It is better known as The Great Migration where 1.4 million wildebeests, 500,000 gazelles, and 200,000 zebras move in a quest for the best pastures, finding along the way the crocodile-crowded river.
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 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.
There is only one lodge you can find in Mara Triangle, which is the Mara Serena Safari Lodge. This lodge is situated exactly at the center of the Mara Triangle and very close to the Mara River. You will have a magnificent view of the surroundings from the lodge as the lodge is located on the cloaked hill of Mara Serena. The downward views from the lodge are very much scintillating with the visuals of spiraling Mara River with lots of Hippopotamus and crocodiles will be an enchanting experience. The wildlife here is meticulously protected from the unscrupulous poachers by the vigilant rangers. As a result, you are lucky to watch the wildlife all through the season. You can also have excellent tourism activities on the Narok controlled area similar or more that of Mara Triangle area. In this part of Maasai Mara National Reserve, you can find lots of lodges and camps with basic facilities.
The Mara North Conservancy borders the northern part of the Mara Triangle, which has a fascinating wilderness surrounding. The area spans around 30,000 hectares and is a very important part of the ecosystem here. It not only forms the northwestern border of this protective zone but also is a link between the visitors and the tourists. There is a partnership here between the local area and the Maasai people. This is a nonprofit venture, and the main aim is to create a bonding with the environment. The area is, in fact, one of the most populated areas in the wildlife zones and lies in the Greater Mara ecosystem. The Leopard George is a maternity and birthing area for the big cats and is found in this very Mara North Conservancy. The background of the visually beautiful Lemek Hills is again a wonderful sight. The place also shelters the African wild dogs that are a threatened species today. The Mara North Conservancy also maintains a discipline of maintaining the environment by lowering the vehicles as well the tourist influx here.
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 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.
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
One cannot have a walking safari within the Maasai Mara National Reserve. But it is indeed feasible in the Mara Naboisho Conservancy which is the neighboring region. This is, in fact, a lifetime experience to walk among the wildlife in the beautiful savannah terrain. The entire experience is different, and one gets a different perspective of the overall deal. The bushes, the grass, the ambiance, the mesmerizing feel, all go a long way to making the tour enlightening. Add to this, the fact that there are the Maasai Warriors and one is certainly in their safe hands. They guide one through the region and also protect if any wildlife is found coming too close.
A walking safari around the conservancy will give you a chance to interact directly with the distinct features of wildlife and ecosystem. It will be a quite intriguing experience to watch the wildlife tracking and also watching termite mounds, etc. The walking safari opens the door to have a close encounter with different types of birds which you had never seen in your life. Also, you would never know what kind of surprises may spring up on your way that makes a walking safari a wonderful experience.
Attraction: Night safari
Night Safari is quite different from day safari due to various reasons. The main difference what you could experience is that you will have the rare options to see those wild animals that seldom appear during daylight. Especially animals like Hippos never come out during daylight for having food due to their sensitive skins. Their skin is vulnerable if exposed to 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.
Predators like lions, cheetahs, leopards and hyenas are common here, and you can see large groups of this animal in the Maasai Mara National Reserve. Since the easy availability of food may be the reason of such a concentrated presence of predators here. Among the scrub, you can see the endangered black rhino and large groups of elephants all over the reserve. Elephants are mostly busy in having their food, and it is estimated that an elephant consume about 250 kilograms of food in a day. Moving towards the Hippo pools in the Mara River, you will be surprised seeing the large number crocodiles, hippos and, of course, the rich bird folks flying around the pool.
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
The Maasai Mara National Reserve provides different kinds of services and amenities to suit the needs of their customers. You can make use of the 5-star luxurious lodges, tented camps, and camping facilities that provide you with an actual camp lifestyle. The need to stay inside the reserve premises is not there as you are provided with night safaris.
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.