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Maasai Mara

The Maasai Mara National Reserve in the southwest of Kenya covers an area of 1,510 square kilometres and consists mainly of open grasslands with clumps of acacia trees. One of Africa’s most famous national parks, the Maasai Mara National Reserve honours the Maasai people with its name while the word Mara means ‘spotted.’ 

The park is a wildlife mecca with herds of wildebeest and zebra, a healthy population of elephant, lion, cheetah, leopard, buffalo, giraffe and hundreds of birds. The great wildebeest migration remains one of the major attractions although there is remarkable wildlife to see all year round as well as cultural experiences and spectacular scenery.

History of the Maasai Mara National Reserve

The Masaai people, a tribe of warriors who migrated from the Nile basin, occupied the land throughout the 18th and 19th centuries before the arrival of the Europeans.  The Europeans deemed the Maasai people unfit to make contributions to the conservation efforts and forced them to move out.

  • 1948: Initially, the Maasai Mara National Reserve was established as a wildlife sanctuary that covered a mere 520 square kilometres called the Mara Triangle, the area between the Mara River, the Siria Escarpment and the Tanzanian border.
  • 1961: The park was extended towards the east to cover an area of 1,831 square kilometres. The substantial increase in the area led to Narok county council’s decision to convert it to a game reserve. 
  • 1974: Maasai Mara gained its national reserve status. At the same time, 159 square kilometres of the land was returned to the local communities reducing the size to 1,672 square kilometres.
  • 1976: The Kenyan government and Narok county council held discussions about reducing the land by a further 162 square kilometres.
  • 1984: Their discussions became reality and sections in the southeast, northeast and the mid-north sections of the park were split from the park. The current area of Maasai Mara National Reserve is 1,510 square kilometres.
  • 1985: The romantic drama ‘Out of Africa’ filmed the majority of its scenes in the Mara Triangle, giving the world an unparalleled view of this stunning destination. 
  • 1994: The TransMara district, formerly the western part of Narok county, split from Narok county, leading to the formation of TransMara county council. 
  • 1995: The management of Maasai Mara National Reserve was divided between Narok county and Transmara county. 
  • May 2001: Due to ineffective management of both councils, Mara Conservancy, a non-profit organization, was put in charge of the Mara Triangle. 

Wildlife In Maasai Mara National Reserve

Maasai Mara Animals

Every year in July huge herds of wildebeest, zebras and antelopes cross numerous hurdles in their ultimate race for survival, known as the Great Migration. The sheer number of animals in these herds is breathtaking and their journey from the Serengeti Plains in Tanzania to the Maasai Mara in Kenya in search of food and water is one of the most amazing wildlife attractions in Kenya. 

Maasai Mara is a prime safari location for travellers keen on viewing the Big Five – elephant, lion, rhino, buffalo and leopard. The Maasai Mara has numerous prides of lions and an abundant population of elephants and buffaloes. The park currently has 49 black rhinos while sighting the enigmatic leopard is rare, but not impossible with an expert guide.

Maasai Mara Birds

Maasai Mara has 500 recorded bird species, both endemic and others. Some of the species which can be found throughout the Mara include: 

  • Eagles: 16 species
  • Vultures: 6 species
  • Pigeon: 11 species
  • Cuckoos: 10 species
  • Owl: 7 species 
  • Nightjar: 6 species
  • Swifts: 9 species
  • Kingfishers: 7 species 
  • Woodpeckers: 6 species
  • Lark: 6 species
  • Ostrich, Hamerkop, Little Grebe, Secretary Bird, Meyer’s Parrot and Narina Trogon are some of the other birds found in the Maasai Mara.

Camps In Maasai Mara National Reserve

  • Bateleur Camp: A front-seat to the wildebeest migration without the distractions of crowds.
  • Enkewa Camp: Apart from the big five, wildlife and bird sightings, it offers visitors a hot air balloon safari, a visit to the Masai village, local market and community projects. 
  • Entumoto Camp: A clear view of the waterhole where the animals gather. The whole camp runs on solar power and electric safari vehicles.
  • Kicheche Bush Camp: Located within the Olare Orok Conservancy, it’s a prime spot for game viewing and wildebeest migration. 
  • Kichwa Tembo Camp: The camp is near the Oloololo escarpment (Great Rift Valley) and presents a spectacular view of open Maasai Mara plains and abundant wildlife. 
  • Mara Bush Camp: The epi-centre for luxury wildlife viewing this camp enriches the safari experience with balloon safaris, bushwalks, hippo pool breakfasts and other activities. 

When To Visit Maasai Mara National Reserve

Maasai Mara National Reserve is a year round destination and there is always plenty to see whenever you visit. Keen bird watchers generally gather from November to April which is the peak time for bird viewing. During these months numerous resident bird species are nesting and appear in breeding plumage which increases the chance of bird sightings.

July to October is the peak time to watch the wildebeest migration, a journey of millions of wildebeest and thousands of zebras and gazelle travelling from the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania to Kenya’s Masai Mara National Reserve. This journey is full of danger with crocodile-filled rivers and predators lying in wait, making it a perfect depiction of nature’s survival of the fittest. After they exhaust the vegetation in Masai Mara, they start their journey back to the Serengeti Plains. 

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