Masai Mara national reserve
Masai mara national reserve is among the most popular safari destinations in the magical Kenya situated in the Great Rift Valley, Masai mara national reserve is a large game reserve found Narok County in rift valley province stretching through an area of 1,510 square kilometers. Masai mara national reserve is lies in the greater mara ecosystem which consists of the mara triangle, Masai mara national reserve itself and several Maasai conservancies that is Koiyaki, Lemek, Ol Chorro Oirowua, Olkinyei, Siana, Maji Moto, Naikara, Ol Derkesi, Kerinkani, Oloirien, and Kimintet.
Masai mara national reserve is regarded as the jewel of Kenya’s wildlife viewing safaris because of its world-renowned population of lions, leopards, cheetah, elephants and the great annual migration of wildebeest with other animals like zebra, Thomson gazelle. Masai mara national park contagious to Serengeti national park which is also part of the great migration cycle of wildebeest and other animals.
Masai mara national reserve derives its name from the local Masai slags that is Masai the early inhabitants of the area and “mara” which means spotted. Masai mara national reserve is dominated by savannah grasslands, acacia trees and drained by two river mara and river Talek which are the best places to encounter wildlife living in the park.
Masai mara national reserve is made up of 4 terrain that is
- Ngama hills in the east of the reserve, this terrain is filled with sandy soil and leafy bushes making it a perfect spot for black rhino
- Oloololo Escarpment which raises to a magnificent plateau and forms the western boundary of the reserve
- Mara triangle- this terrain is composed of a lush grasslands and acacia woodlands which are habitant for most of the park’s wildlife such as wildebeests borders Mara River. The terrain borders mara river where migration of wildebeest is best sighted.
- Central plains -this terrain is composed of scattered bushes and boulders, this terrain covers the largest portion of the park and support game drives
History of Masai mara national park
Masai mara national park was a resident and grazing area for Masai people who used to graze their cattle in area, the Masai people occupied northern, central and southern area of Kenya and are pastoralist in nature. In 1961 the area was established as a wildlife sanctuary in 1961 covering an area of 520 square kilometers, in the same year the park’s boundaries were extended to cover an area of 1,821 square kilometers and it was upgraded to a game reserve. The game reserve was put under the management of the Narok county council, in 1974 part of the game reserve was given a status of national reserve, area of 159 square kilometers was put in hands of the locals and the other area of 162 square kilometers of 162 square kilometers was removed from the reserve in 1976 thus remaining with 1,510 square kilometers.
In 1994 the administration of Masai mara national park was put under the newly formed Trans Mara County Council (TMCC) together with the already existing Narok County Council.
Attractions in Masai mara national park
Masai mara national park hosts a high concentration of wildlife with wildebeests as the dominant inhabitants of the park, Masai mara national park is a home to the most sought for 5 big five animals that is lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo and rhinos. Other notable animals in the plains of Masai mara national park include spotted hyenas, topi, zebras, Thomson’s gazelle, cheetahs, jackals, bat eared foxes, hippopotamus and crocodiles seen around Mara River and Talek River, antelopes such as Grant’s gazelles, impalas, duikers, roan antelope, masai giraffe and Coke’s hartebeests and many more.
Masai mara national park is a paradise of a high population of birds estimated to be over 470 species, among the birds found in Masai mara national reserve there is migratory species and 60 species of raptors. Birds spotted in the plains of Masai mara and on the shores of river mara and Talek include vultures, marabou storks, secretary birds, hornbills, crowned cranes, ostriches, long-crested eagles, African pygmy-falcons, lilac-breasted roller, Rosy-breasted Long claw, Secretary bird, Kori Bustard, Southern Ground Hornbill, Schawlow’s Turaco, Grey-crested Helmet shrike, Red-necked Spur fowl, Red-winged Francolin, White-headed Vulture, Temminck’s Courser, Bare-faced Go-away-bird, -chested Swallow, and Southern Ground Hornbill and many more. Masai mara national reserve also habits endemic species only found in this reserve that is Tara river cisticola, the Aberdare cisticola, hinde’s pied-babbler, William’s lark, Sharpe’s pipit and Clarke’s weaver.
Masai mara national reserve is famous for the great annual migration which happens in the period of July to November, great annual migration is an impressive sight to see involving over 1,300,000 wildebeest, 500,000 Thomson’s gazelles, 97,000 topi, 18,000 lands and 200,000 zebra crossing to the plains of masai mara. The movement of animals from Serengeti national park of Tanzania is always lead by zebras and followed by wildebeests.
Activities in Masai mara national reserve
Game drives in Masai mara national reserve is one of the best ways of exploring the park on a drive in the grassland dominated plains, while driving through the park is gazetted game drive trails you spot many animals such as lions, buffaloes, elephants, wildebeests, giraffes, cheetahs, warthogs , antelopes, zebras, kudus, hartebeests, gazelles hippos and many more. The most exciting part of the game drive is watching leopards climbing on to the top of your safari trunk.
Masai mara national park is a haven to over 45o bird species making it a perfect bird watching area, bird species spotted in the reserve include water birds, migratory birds, forest birds, savannah birds and endemic birds species. While in Masai mara national park for bird watching safari, birds are easily spotted in acacia tree tops, around the shores of river mara and Talek and in the savannah grassland plains, birds such as turkey, Kori bustard, white stalks, secretary birds, plovers. The water areas are filled saddle backed stalk waiting to catch fish, grey herons, kind fishers, cormorants, Egyptian geese, goliath heron, yellow billed stalk, great white egrets, crested cranes, vultures and many more are easily spotted while on game drive or at nature walks in the park.
Hot air balloon safaris
Hot air balloon safaris in masai mara national reserve is a breathtaking and adventures activity offering a tour of masai mara national reserve from the sky with an eye’s view, this activity kicks off at little governors camp in the morning giving you one hour tour of enjoying scenic views of the park’s beauty such as trees, rivers, hills and animals from the sky. Hot air balloon is the best way to get arial picture of the park and it is more fascinating during the annual migration period.
Visiting Mara River
Mara River is a favorite spot for tourists visiting Masai mara national park and a prominent documentary spot, Mara River originating from Kenya highlands and pouring in Lake Victoria is a source of water in the park and it is crowded with hippopotamuses, crocodiles and monitor lizards. The highlight of visiting Mara River is watching wildebeest and other animals as they cross from Serengeti national park to Masai mara national reserve crossing the river.
Walking safaris in Masai mara national reserve takes you on a walk by foot in Masai plains, this activity is led by a professional tour guide and on your walk you get to spot many animals like giraffes, lions, elephants and many birds which thrive in the park.
A safari to Masai mara national park is never complete, a visit to Masai communities will unveil an authentic African culture to you, Masai community is one of the few tribes in Kenya which still have their norms, traditions and culture interfered with by modernity. The most notable community to visit while on this safari is mara Rianda community, this community is made up of 48 houses engulfing the Masai cattle kraal. This kind of house setting is to provide security to the cattle in the kraals, in this community you will be entertained by local dance and songs, encounter the beautiful custom attires and beads and participate in livestock rearing.
Best time to visit Masai mara national reserve
It is always a good time to visit Masai mara national park for a safari but since the highlight of Masai mara national park is game viewing, the best time to visit the park for an excellent game viewing is in the period of November to February. Masai mara national park experience the great migration of animals where a huge number of animals are seen in the park in the period of July to November and the period of July to October is the peak season of Masai mara national park.
Where to stay in Masai mara national reserve
Masai mara national reserve has beautiful and comfortable accommodation facilities which offer beddings, meal plan and other services and facilities required for your safari in the reserve, there is only two lodges situated in masai mara triangle and that is Mara Serena safari lodge and little governor’s camp. Other accommodation facilities are situated outside the triangle and they include Kichwa Tembo, Mpata Club, Olonana, Mara Siria, mara Intrepids tented camp, mara Engai lodge, mara Eden safari camp and Kilima Camp
Getting to Masai mara national park
Masai mara national park is accessed using five gates that is Oloololo gate, Oloolaimutia gate, Sekenanai gate, Talek gate and Musiara gate. For a tourist going for a safari in Masai mara national reserve you can get to the park by either road or by air, Masai mara national reserve is situated in Narok and from Nairobi it is a drive of 2-3 hours to the park. While driving you chose to use either public transport means or private means provided by our safari company, driving is an adventurous way to get to the reserve but it is suitable if you are to spend a minimum of 3 hours in Masai mara reserve.
By air, flying to Masai mara national reserve is a suitable way of getting to Masai mara national reserve for tourists short of time, domestic chartered flights are offered on a daily basis from jomo Kenyatta international airport to mara Serena airstrip and kichwa airstrip.