The Maasai Mara National Reserve is one of the best wildlife destinations in the world, located in the Great Rift Valley in Kenya. The open grasslands make up this national reserve and the abundance of wildlife ensures that visitors can catch a glimpse of the more than 95 mammal species.
However, what has made the Maasai Mara National Reserve famous is the annual Great Migration from the Serengeti of the Thompson’s gazelles, wildebeests and zebras; and the big cats like the cheetahs, leopards and lions.
The local Maasai people called the land Mara, which means ‘Spotted’. The Maasai Mara is indeed ‘spotted’ with various animals and the grassland is dotted with thorn trees, scrubs, and cloud shadows. This gives a breathtaking and excellent backdrop for wildlife photographers.
Established in 1961, the Maasai Mara National Reserve now covers 580 square miles in size, able to accommodate the over 1.5 million animals that arrive in July during the Great Migration.
The park is large enough to be home to the members of the Big Five; that is the cape buffaloes, elephants, leopards, lions and rhinoceroses. Alongside them are cheetahs, hyenas, foxes, jackals, warthogs, topis, elands, Thompson’s gazelles, Grant’s gazelles, impalas, waterbucks, oribis, reed-bucks and zebras. The Esoit Siria Escarpment is regarded as the best viewing point for game especially if you have an interest in the cheetahs and lions.
The Talek River and Mara River are the major rivers draining the reserve, and it is the perfect place to find the crocodiles and hippopotamuses.
There are also over 470 bird species that roam the reserve making it an ideal destination for bird watchers. The notable ones are the lilac-breasted roller (the national bird of Kenya), African pygmy-falcons, crowned cranes, hornbills, long-crested eagles, marabou, ostriches, secretary birds, storks and vultures.
Location of the National Reserve
From the capital city Nairobi, the journey to Narok, Maasai Mara National Reserve covers approximately 264 kilometres and takes slightly 6 to 7 hours by road.
It is worth considering making some stopovers like at Lake Naivasha, which is after 2-hour drive, 95 kilometres from Nairobi. There you can enjoy a boat ride that allows you see the hippos, African fish eagles and the giant kingfisher. The next stopover can be at Narok city which is 143 kilometres from Nairobi city before heading to the game reserve.
Air travel to the game reserve by catching one of the 35 weekly flights scheduled from Nairobi to Masaai Mara. There are two airlines to choose from, and there are two airports to set off from, that is Wilson and Jomo Kenyatta International airport. The air ticket cost is in the range of USD 387.
The flight can take 50 minutes covering a distance of 125 kilometres. The all-weather airstrips you can land on are Serena and Kichwa Tembo.
The Best Time to Visit
The peak season is usually between July and early November during the Great Migration when you can catch a glimpse of the animal movements especially the wildebeests. Over 1.5 million animals arrive in July and leave in November.
This is a dry season, meaning that the bush is less dense, allowing visibility of the animals; and it becomes interesting when they gather around waterholes to catch a drink.
Between December and February is a wonderful moment to look out for the big cats though they can be spotted all year in a circular fashion. During this time the scenery is green and beautiful. Migratory birds fly against a background of clear skies.
To maximize your experience in one of Africa’s most famous parks, you are encouraged to book a 3 to 4-day Safari. This will allow you ample to check out the richness of the Maasai Mara’s wildlife.
Adventure Tourism Activities
These are the things you need to engage in when at the Maasai Mara National Reserve
How else will you find the iconic animals like cheetahs if you do not a drive into the park? There are highly trained and experienced guides that make this a seamless activity.
For wildlife photographers, this is an event you cannot pass on since it offers the best picture moments.
The Wildebeest Migration
This an annual event that has happened without disappointing. Involved wildebeests, gazelles and zebras, which migrate from the Serengeti in Tanzania in a continuous cycle in search of rains and fresh grass.
July to October is a period when both tourists and predators are eager to take part in the migration.
The aerial view of this game reserve is a fantastic experience every tourist – especially those making wildlife videos or even photography – should plan for.
Just before dawn, the hot air balloon sets off as the rising sun lights the game reserve. You will love the sight of wildlife, forests and rivers below; and understand why the locals called it Mara.
The Maasai community has lived in the area for many years and still preserve their traditional culture, customs and norms. They live in Kraals arranged in a circular fashion fenced by acacia thorns, a traditional defence against lions which attack their cattle. They are semi-nomadic people and live under a land management system that is communal.
The Mara River
The river begins in Kenya’s highlands and winds up in Lake Victoria and offers a lifeline to many animals in this wonderful game reserve.
If you want to shoot a documentary, this is your place. The annual wildebeest crossing of this river filled with many crocodiles is a spectacular wildlife event.
With over 470 bird species, birdwatching comes easily. As big game lovers are engaged in that activity, the birdwatchers are uninterrupted, checking out both big birds like the ostrich and the small ones like the sunbirds. You can also catch sight of over 45 different birds of prey.
Key Facts to have in Mind
Suitable accommodation can be got at the Maasai Mara National Reserve with over 76 recommended guest lodges. The booking can be done at the time of booking a Safari which ranges from USD 80 to USD 445 per night.
The Mara Triangle is managed by the Mara Conservancy which has checked the guides’ discipline, poaching in the game reserve and managed the road infrastructure.
I recommend the Maasai Mara National Reserve to all holidaymakers and travellers around that world. The fares for a Safari tour are flexible while the park entry fees per day are fair too.
Over 700 tourists visit the park every day for a reason. Come find out why!