There is no doubt about the fact, that for wildlife enthusiasts, Africa is a dream come true. The savannas, the topography and the magnificently diverse wildlife make the heart beat faster, much like the Kenyan cheetahs that are often spotted here.
Kenya is a land of thriving wildlife and home to some of the world’s most popular national parks. The Masai Mara National Reserve definitely picks the first spot on a list of illustrious wildlife reserves that span across the country. The reserve is located in the Narok County with the Siria escarpment to the west, Masai ranches to the north, east and west.
A contiguous reserve with the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, the Masai Mara reserve is located in the southwestern area of Kenya. Named after the ethnic tribe Masai who have over the years developed a symbiotic relationship with the wilderness and wildlife, this national reserve is only a part of the larger Mara Ecosystem which comprises ranches, likes of Lemek, Koiyaki, Siana, Olkinyei and more. The Mara Triangle is more or less the central area of the reserve.
WHAT TO SEE
Originally established in 1961, the area of the park has undergone changes later. Today the reserve is stretched across 1510 sq km.
One of the striking features that alone make this reserve stand out is the absolute spectacular Migration of the wild beasts along with the other animals that take place between July to October. The animals migrate from Serengeti to the Masai reserve, across the Mara River in search of water and food. The hordes of animals that dot the landscape are estimated to be more than 1.5 million. The sheer number of the wildlife that moves across the terrain is an experience to witness in a lifetime. Interestingly, the interplay of the ecosystems also opens up fascinating natural encounters. The crocodiles in the river wait for the animal bait, whereas the animals focus on getting to the other side alive. Similarly, once the migrant animals reach the Masai reserve, they are welcomed by the inhabitant wildlife as potential prey.
All of this makes the migration ritual a stunning natural phenomenon, not to be missed.
How to reach
The Masai Mara reserve is 270km away from the capital of Kenya, Nairobi.
Nairobi is well connected by air to the major cities of the world.
However, the Mara Serena Airport, Keekorok Airport, Musiara Airport are located inside the reserve area.
What to see
The Masai Mara Reserve is one of the few parks in the world where the chances of spotting the Big 5 are not unimaginable. The Big 5, that is, leopard, lion, buffalo, elephant and rhino are the main flag bearer attractions of the reserve. Besides, these the other wildlife that one encounters here are, the zebra, gazelle, wildebeest, hyenas, cheetahs, jackals, Masai Giraffe, baboons, topi, crocodile, roan antelope, bat-eared fox and more.
Bird species include marabou storks, vultures, hornbills, secretary birds, ostriches, African pygmy falcons, long-crested eagles and lilac breasted roller.
The reserve is estimated to shelter around 95 mammal species and 570 bird species.
Things to do
The Masai Mara National Reserve is best explored through the safari rides. However, there are also a few other exciting ways to traverse the reserve.
Guided walks, camping and night drives are great ways to further discover and gauge the wildlife within the reserve. The hot air balloon flight is highly recommended for the unique experience and thrill that it arouses. It is a great way to get a bird’s eye view of the savannah below.
Besides the wildlife, the Masai Mara reserve, as the name suggests, is also a way to familiarize with the Masai tribes. The Masai villages are scattered around the reserve and tours are organized to visit these to learn more about their culture and lifestyle. In fact, if you are lucky, your guide may well be a Masai himself.
Things to do nearby
The Masai Mara reserve is surrounded by many other wildlife haunts, which can be clubbed and visited along with the trip. Some of these are the Tsavo East National Park, Tsavo West National Park, Amboseli National Park etc. To take a break from wildlife, one can visit the Watamu Beach, Diani Beach etc
Location – Kenya
Area – 1510 sq Km
Nearest Airport – Nairobi (270Kms) is nearest intl airport. Inside Mara, there are 6 airstrips where domestic small planes land.
How to reach – It is situated 270 Km from Nairobi and takes 5-6 hours by road and 40 mins by flight
Famous for – It is perhaps the most famous wildlife park in the world with the best of African wildlife on display including Lions, Cheetah and Leopard.
Months Open –Open round the year
Best Time – All through the year depending on your interest
Mammals – cheetah, serval, hyena, bat-eared foxes, black-backed and side-striped jackals, hippo, crocodile, baboons, warthog, topi, eland, Thompson’s gazelle, Grant’s gazelle, impala, waterbuck, oribi, reed-buck, zebra
Birds –vultures, marabou storks, secretary birds, hornbills, crowned cranes, ostriches, long-crested eagles, African pygmy-falcons and the lilac-breasted roller
Reptiles – crocodiles