Safari in Kenya: Maasai Mara National Reserve
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Safari in Kenya: Maasai Mara National Reserve. 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 famous Mara-Serengeti ecosystem is well known for rich grassland spread over 25,000 square KM cut through the southern end of Kenya and enter into the north side of Tanzania. The landscape Mara is with contrasting features! You can see the reminiscence of inactive prehistoric volcanoes on the western side and thick bushes, isolated woods spread over the area, lush green meadows, and flooding river in the rest of the area. On the border of Maasai Mara the National Reserve is located in the Siria Escarpment, which is part of the Great Rift Valley and is located 150 meters above from the valley. It is one of the finest places for excellent safari activities.
When one comes to the Mara triangle, the only place to stay in would be the Mara Serena Safari Lodge, which is right in the middle of the region. The Mara River lies next to this, and the lodge itself is on a hill covered with bushes. As one watches the beautiful view of the savannah lands below, the River Mara looks wonderful as it winds its way through. The crocodiles and hippos notwithstanding, the simply mesmerizing ambiance takes one breath away. The area is famous for an excellent wildlife habitat thanks to the Mara Triangle Rangers who ensure that there is absolutely no poaching activity here. On the contrary on the eastern side, which is the area controlled by the Narok Council, there are more lodges as well as camps. The facilities here for tourism are even more convenient.
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.
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.
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
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.
The Hot Air Balloon is a lifetime experience that you need to experience right away. Carrying a hat would be helpful to protect you from the heat of balloon gas burner.
Attraction: Walking safari
You will want to know that, there is no walking safari in inside the Maasai Mara National Reserve. It is possible to do it in the neighboring Conservancy at the Mara Naboisho Conservancy. As you walk around the reserve area, you will experience a different perspective of wildlife. When you walk around, you are accompanied by Maasai warriors to guide you and protect you from 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 a very unique experience to the daily safari as you can experience wildlife that can not be sighted during the day. Hippos like to grass on the banks and come up during the night or the early morning due to their sensitive skin that easily gets 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 Maasai people whom the park is named after, are to be found all around the reserve. Their characteristic round village, where the children takes care of the large herds of cattle, sheep, and goats adds an exciting look to the scenery. A visit to one of the villages is a very popular element on a safari.
Maasai Mara National Reserve is popular for its lions, hyenas, cheetahs and leopards that are found all over the park. The place is thus a hub of easy prey and also is a favorite of the predators. The rare black rhino, for example, is often visible here along with the scrub, elephants, and the hippos. The elephants come in large herds here and spend time eating the greens here. It is believed that a grown elephant needs around 250 kg of vegetable food a day. The Hippo pools here also add to the overall wildlife experience. So the population of crocodiles, hippos, and the absolutely exciting varied bird life is a pleasurable experience for all who come here.
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.