Travel to Masai Mara – Masai Mara National Reserve
South Western Kenya is the heartland of the Masai. Wildlife moves freely in and out of the reserve, and through neighbouring Masai lands. Outside the boundaries of the reserve there are many other small camps and lodges, some of which offer walking, horse riding and other safari options.
The Masai are a strongly independent people who still value tradition and ritual as an integral part of their everyday lives. They regard themselves not just as residents of this area but that they are as much a part of the life of the land as the land is part of their lives.
Traditionally, the Masai rarely hunt and living alongside wildlife in harmony is an important part of their beliefs. Lions and wildebeest play as important a role in their cultural beliefs as their own herds of cattle. This unique co-existence of man and wildlife makes this Masai land one of the world’s most unique wilderness regions.
At the heart of these lands is the Masai Mara Game Reserve, widely considered to be Africa’s greatest wildlife reserve. The Mara comprises 200 sq miles of open plains, woodlands and riverine forest. The vast grassland plains are scattered with herds of zebra, giraffe, gazelle, and topi. The Acacia forests abound with Birdlife and Monkeys. Elephants and buffalo wallow in the wide Musiara Swamp. The Mara and Talek rivers are brimming with hippos and crocodiles.
Each year the Mara plays host to the world’s greatest natural spectacle, the Great Wildebeest Migration from the Serengeti.
The Mara has been called the ‘Kingdom of Lions’ and these regal and powerful hunters dominate these grasslands. Cheetah are also a common sight in the Mara, as are hyena and smaller predators such as jackals. The Mara is an awesome natural wonder, a place where Masai warriors share the plains with hunting lions, a place of mighty herds and timeless cycles of life, death and regeneration.
The Mara is equally popular with birders, and specialist birding safaris. Of the over 500 recorded species, notables include the Corncrake, Grey crested Helmet Shrike, Lesser Kestrel, Madagascar Squacco Heron, Saddle Billed Stork, Secretary Bird, Ostrich, White headed Vulture among more common species, Lilac Breasted Roller, Yellow billed Ox pecker among the large herds, and Martial and Crowned Eagles.
The prime interest for most visitors to this area, obviously, is to see wildlife. The sheer volume and variety of the Mara will certainly not disappoint. One of the best vantage points is on the banks of the Mara River, to see the herds of wildebeest making their mass crossings through the wild, crocodile infested waters.
The herds of the Mara attract plenty of predators. This is the best place in all of Kenya to see lions. Whether on the hunt or at rest in family groups, lions are a very common sight throughout the reserve.
A safari through the Mara lets the visitor experience several different habitats in a single day. On the wide open grasslands you can travel through huge herds of zebra, giraffe, gazelle, and topi. The attendant predators are a continual presence among the herds. Around the waters of the Musiara Swamp elephants can be found seeking refuge from the heat. Travelling along the banks of the Mara and Talek there are excellent river views of hippos and crocodiles, while the riverine forests abound with birdlife and monkeys.
The most common means of game viewing here is in customised vehicles. These vehicles usually have open roofs or sides and are ideal for photography. There are a series of maintained roads throughout the reserve. Some safari companies offer all day game drives, stopping for a riverside picnic in the midday heat.
For a truly unique perspective on this spectacular wilderness, take a dawn Masai Mara Balloon Safari. This incredible once in a lifetime experience offers the visitor a fantastic view of the great plains of the Mara, and the chance to drift unobtrusively over the great herds below.
While the massive herds and predators are the Mara’s great attraction, there is also a wealth of birdlife, reptiles, primates and small mammals to be seen. Taking your time to experience the Mara as a whole will give you a much better appreciation of the diversity and intricacies of this fascinating eco-system.
The Mara is probably the best serviced of all Kenyan Parks and Reserves with a wide range of accommodation for any budget. For the adventurous diner, a visit or stay among a Masai community will allow them to try traditional Masai cuisine. Masai delicacies include sour milk, and on special occasions, fresh blood taken either from a live cow or freshly slaughtered animal.
Accessing the Mara area is difficult without private transport. Most visitors come to Masai Mara as part of a safari package. The park has well established internal roads and tracks. Some people choose to fly to the Mara, which is serviced by two airstrips. There are daily scheduled flights from Nairobi, and the coast. Private Charters also use these strips.
- Witness the great wildebeest migration between July and October – simply the greatest natural show on earth!
- Meet and interact with colourful local Masai people, guardians of the Masai Mara.
- Head out on a game drive in search of big cats – leopard, cheetah and lion are abundant in the Mara.