Maasai Mara

The vegetation of Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya (17,543)

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Description

The vegetation of Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya. The natural continuation of the Serengeti wastelands is of Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya. It is the largest national reserve Conservancy in Africa and is spanned over 1,800 km2. The Maasai Mara Reserve is located in Narok County, which is the southern county of Kenya. Overall the Greater Mara Ecosystem is inclusive of Maasai Mara. The other known conservancies such as Mara Naboisho, Enonkishu, Mara North, Olare Motorogi and Ol Kinyei are all part of Maasai Mara National Reserve. The Conservancy is popular for its large animal migration, which recurs every year as a routine ritual. Herds of animals, about 1.4 million wildebeests, about 200,000 zebras and more than 500,000 gazelles migrate to Maasai Mara Conservancy in search of grass by negotiating through the dangerous crocodile rich river. This show of migration recurs every year during July to the last week of October.

Maasai Mara's location and altitude, above 1,500 meters, yield a climate which is milder and damper than in other regions. Maasai Mara National Reserve is protected as a reserve and not as a national park, therefore not managed by Kenya Wildlife Service but by the local authorities, namely District Councils. The income from the parks goes to the development of the local Maasai community. The management of the Maasai Mara National Reserve has been divided between two councils Trans Mara and Narok council. The Trans Mara council has management over the western part of the Maasai Mara National Reserve also called the Mara Triangle, and Narok council has management over the rest of the reserve on the eastern side of the Mara River.

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.

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.

To the east of the Olare Motorogi Conservancy lies the Mara Naboisho Conservancy which is home to the big cats and an impressive numbers of giraffe, elephants and wildebeest. The Mara Naboisho Conservancy is a bird watcher's paradise with specifies rarely found elsewhere, such as the White-headed Buffalo-Weavers, Pigmy Falcon, Bush Pipits and White-Crowned Shrike. The conservancy has focus on the impact on the environment, and therefore has a low density of tourist and vehicles which gives an exclusive wildlife experience.

To the east of the Mara Naboisho Conservancy lies the Ol Kinyei Conservancy which is a pioneering and award winning conservancy and the first conservancy in the Greater Mara ecosystem. To promote wildlife conservation the conservancy is a livestock exclusion zone. A pride of lions with over 30 is resident in Ol Kinyei Conservancy as well as leopards and more than 300 types of birds.


Attractions

Attraction: Hot Air Balloon Safari and breakfast

There are several places in the Mara from where you can experience a Hot Air Balloon trip. It is really a breathtaking moment to float silently over the savannah and experience the sunrise as the wildlife wakes up. It is one of those experiences where you relax and absorb the moment as the savannah is waking up, it will fill you with enough memories to last a lifetime. The Hot Air Balloon Safari flight usually takes an hour, after a safe landing on the savannah a team is standing by to greet you with a luxurious champagne breakfast on the savannah. Having your breakfast in the wild completes the experience while you can relax while experiencing close encounters with the wildlife as they pass by.

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.

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.

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.


Wildlife

Maasai Mara National Reserve has an exceptional population of predators like hyena, lions, leopards, and cheetahs which are rich represented all over the park. It is not without reason, where there is easy prey there is also food for many predators. Even the rare black rhino is regularly seen in areas with scrub, elephants are to be seen in large or less herds all over the Mara reserve, where they spend most of their time eating, a grown elephant needs daily approx 250 kg of vegetable food. At the Mara River there are popular Hippo pools where you can experience large population of hippos, crocodiles, and an exciting rich bird life.

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 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.


Travel

The Maasai Mara National Reserve is 260 km from Nairobi, and you can reach there in five or six hours by road from Nairobi or Lake Nakuru. Depending on your travel plans, make sure that you book your transport and reach the reserve before dark. It is always best to plan months ahead so that you can avail the services.


Lodges and camps

Accommodation is absolutely not a problem at the Maasai Mara National Reserve area. You will have 5-star accommodation to low cost lodges and inexpensive reserve camps to luxury camping facilities. Tourists are free to find their accommodation anywhere in Maasai Mara National Reserve. Since there is no particular tracking for animal movements, you can watch the movements of animals anywhere in the reserve area you are preferred to stay. You shall be offered by night safaris by the lodge management or tour operators but remember night safaris are not permitted within the Maasai Mara National Reserve.

You can spend two to six days in the reserve area depending on the season. It is better if you stay for at least four days or a week to experience the wildlife in the Maasai Mara National Reserve. Perhaps, you can reside in two different locations in the reserve. This helps you to see a larger variety of animals in the reserve.