The Maasai Mara National Reserve is each year visited by thousands of tourists, who come here to watch the many different wildlife and birdlife species in the reserve. The reserve is especially famous for the high amount of predators, such as lions and cheetah, and the 1.5 million wildebeest which migrate through the Mara and cross the crocodile infested Mara river.
The best kept secret of the Mara is the Mara Triangle, the North-Western part of the Maasai Mara which is managed by the Mara Conservancy on behalf of Trans-Mara County Council – the rest of the reserve falls under Narok County Council. Although one third of the Mara, The Mara Triangle has only one lodge within its boundaries (compared to the numerous camps and lodges on the Narok side) and has well maintained, all weather roads.
The rangers patrol regularly which means that there is almost no poaching and therefore excellent game viewing. There is also strict control over vehicle numbers around animal sightings which means a better, more authentic, experience when out on a game drive.
Maasai Mara (Masai Mara) is situated in south-west Kenya and is one of Africa’s Greatest Wildlife Reserves. Together with the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania it forms Africa’s most diverse, incredible and most spectacular eco-systems and possibly the world’s top safari big game viewing eco-system.
Made famous by the abundance of the big cats, Lion, Leopard, Cheetah and the Great Wildebeest Migration and the Maasai people, well known for their distinctive custom and dress.
There is a wide selection of places to stay in and around the Maasai Mara and the conservancies surrounding it . The conservancies surrounding the Maasai Mara have restricted number of vehicles allowing a more private game viewing of wildlife.
Safaris including the Maasai Mara are without a doubt some of the best you ever get. To get the best out of your safari time, try a book at seven day safari at least and cover two or more other destinations.
The Maasai Mara Ecosystem holds one of the highest lion densities in world and this is where over TWO MILLION Wildebeest, Zebra and Thomsons Gazelle migrate annually.
Maasai Mara National Reserve stretches 1,510 sq km (580 sq miles) and raises 1,500-2,170 meters above sea level. It hosts over 95 species of mammals and 570 recorded species of birds.
When it was originally established in 1961 as a wildlife sanctuary the Mara covered only 520 square kilometres (200 sq mi) of the current area, including the Mara Triangle. The area was extended to the east in 1961 to cover 1,821 km2 (703 sq mi) and converted to a game reserve. The Narok County Council (NCC) took over management of the reserve at this time. Part of the reserve was given National Reserve status in 1974, and the remaining area of 159 km2 (61 sq mi) was returned to local communities. An additional 162 km2 (63 sq mi) were removed from the reserve in 1976, and the park was reduced to 1,510 km2 (580 sq mi) in 1984.
In 1995, the TransMara County Council (TMCC) was formed in the western part of the reserve, and control was divided between the new council and the existing Narok County Council. In May 2001, the not-for-profit Mara Conservancy took over management of the Mara Triangle.
The Maasai Mara National Reserve (MMNR) covers some 1,510 km2 (583 sq mi) in south-western Kenya. It is the northern-most section of the Mara-Serengeti ecosystem, which covers some 25,000 km2 (9,700 sq mi) in Tanzania and Kenya. It is bounded by the Serengeti Park to the south, the Siria escarpment to the west, and Maasai pastoral ranches to the north, east and west. Rainfall in the ecosystem increases markedly along a southeast–northwest gradient, varies in space and time, and is markedly bimodal. The Sand, Talek River and Mara River are the major rivers draining the reserve. Shrubs and trees fringe most drainage lines and cover hillslopes and hilltops.
The terrain of the reserve is primarily open grassland with seasonal riverlets. In the south-east region are clumps of the distinctive acacia tree. The western border is the Esoit (Siria) Escarpment of the East African Rift, which is a system of rifts some 5,600 km (3,500 mi) long, from Ethiopia’s Red Sea through Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi and into Mozambique. Wildlife tends to be most concentrated here, as the swampy ground means that access to water is always good, while tourist disruption is minimal. The easternmost border is 224 kilometres (139.2 mi) from Nairobi, and hence it is the eastern regions which are most visited by tourists.
It’s about 270 km from the capital Nairobi City and takes about 5-6 hours by road or 40-45 minutes by flight. The road is great for the most part. there is a section from Narok town to Sekenani Gate that is dirt road but fairly good. The other road through Lemek and Aitong town is not good day all, very bumpy.
Best Time To Visit
With the wildebeest migration in JULY – OCTOBER, this is the best time to see this incredible movement of animals. Although it is not guaranteed that the wildebeest get to Maasai Mara, it has yet to let us down. Also, December to February are great times as it is dryer and good for the Big Cats.
NOTE: The Maasai Mara is an all year round destination with the big cats, and all the big game still in the Maasai Mara Ecosystem.
Recommended Number of Days
Due the amount to be seen in the reserve we feel a THREE to FOUR day safari is suitable. If you are interested in photography the longer you stay the more chance of getting the ultimate photo.
Things to See in Masai Mara
Wildebeest, topi, zebra, and Thomson’s gazelle migrate into and occupy the Mara reserve, from the Serengeti plains to the south and Loita plains in the pastoral ranches to the north-east, from July to October or later. Herds of all three species are also resident in the reserve.
All members of the “Big Five” (lion, leopard, African elephant, African buffalo, and Black Rhinoceros) are found in the Maasai Mara. The population of Black rhinos was fairly numerous until 1960, but it was severely depleted by poaching in the 1970s and early 1980s, dropping to a low of 15 individuals. Numbers have been slowly increasing, but the population was still only up to an estimated 23 in 1999.
Hippopotami and Nile crocodiles are found in large groups in the Mara and Talek rivers. Leopards, hyenas, cheetahs, jackals, and bat-eared foxes can also be found in the reserve. The plains between the Mara River and the Esoit Siria Escarpment are probably the best area for game viewing, in particular regarding lion and cheetah.
As in the Serengeti, the wildebeest are the dominant inhabitants of the Maasai Mara, and their numbers are estimated in the millions. Around July of each year, these ungainly animals migrate north from the Serengeti plains in search of fresh pasture, and return to the south around October. The Great Migration is one of the most impressive natural events worldwide, involving some 1,300,000 wildebeest, 500,000 Thomson’s gazelles, 97,000 Topi, 18,000 elands, and 200,000 zebras. These migrants are followed along their annual, circular route by hungry predators, most notably lions and hyena.
[antelope]]s can be found, including Grant’s gazelles, impalas, duikers and Coke’s hartebeests. The plains are also home to the distinctive Masai giraffe. The large Roan antelope and the nocturnal bat-eared fox, rarely present elsewhere in Kenya, can be seen within the reserve borders.
More than 470 species of birds have been identified in the park, many of which are migrants, with almost 60 species being raptors. Birds that call this area home for at least part of the year include: vultures, marabou storks, secretary birds, hornbills, crowned cranes, ostriches, long-crested Eagles, African pygmy-falcons and the lilac-breasted roller, which is the national bird of Kenya.
Activities done at Masai Mara National Park
- Hot Air Balloon over the Masai Mara.
A hot air balloon over the Masai Mara is possibly the most incredible way to see this fantastic ecosystem. Get a better perspective of the area and admire the Masai Mara’s beauty from the sky. The hot air balloon departs from the Little Governors Camp just before dawn with the balloon rising as the first sunlight lights the Mara.
Enjoy the tranquility of a balloon ride as you float above the plains watching the wildlife below. See the forest and the rivers of the Masai Mara on a truly unique experience as we drift in the breeze. See why the Masai named this the ‘Mara’, which means ‘spotted’ as you see the circles of trees, shadows from clouds, and scrubland that create the beautiful scenery.
We will fly for about an hour spotting some fantastic sights and with ample time for many photographs and videos. Offered on many tours, and in keeping with tradition of hot air balloon flights, on your return to land you will be greeted with a champagne breakfast cooked where you land.
- Safari Drive
The main event of your Masai Mara safari camp experience, game drives take you out and into the Masai Mara to search for the iconic animals. Accompanied by some of the area’s top guides, enjoy unmatched game viewing from camps positioned in the heart of Masai Mara, such as the Mara Eden Safari Camp.
Enjoy game drives in custom designed 4×4 vehicles suited to this environment for incredible game viewing. Your experienced drivers have a love of the environment and many have worked on the Mara for over 40 years.
All members of the Big 5 live on the Masai Mara and you have the possibility of seeing lions, elephants, Cape buffalo, and rhinoceros, as well as giraffes, hippos, hyenas, Nile crocodiles, wildebeest, zebra, gazelles, antelopes, and more.
- See the Wildebeest Migration.
The wildebeest migration is an annual event where over a million wildebeest, zebra, and gazelle migrate from Tanzania to Kenya’s Masai Mara in a continuous cycle following the rains and fresh grass.
The migration often takes place between the months of July and October and is anticipated by hundreds of tourists and the Masai Mara’s predators alike. This is also the time when the wildebeest give birth and life echoes all around the Mara. Life not only arrives with the birth of wildebeest, but also with the actions of predators and the arrival of lions and hyenas.
- Enjoy Cultural Visits with the Masai
The Masai have been living on the Mara for a few hundred years and still live with traditional customs and traditions, albeit influenced a little from the modern world. While on the Masai Mara, you can visit a Masai community, such as the Mara Rianda.
This is a community of 48 traditional houses surrounding an area for the Masai’s cattle. This is a great place to visit if you’re interested in exploring the Masai culture to enjoy traditions and customs that have remained as they are for centuries.
Visitors are often struck by the colorful lifestyle of the Masai. Many camps have an outreach program helping to conserve surrounding forests while providing a reliable source of fuel for the community. For example, a biogas plant collects methane gas from cow dung produced by the cows kept in the center of the village. This not only helps keep the area clean, but also provides a much needed energy source without cutting down the trees.
Your visit to a community with this type of program helps fund this ongoing project by way of an entrance ticket. For the Mara Rianda, money from community visits has also helped built a nursery school for 120 children. The system also helps purchase food in times of need and can support 98 different families.
- Visit the Mara River
The Mara River is one of the documentary world’s most famous because of the annual wildebeest crossing. The river begins in Kenya’s highlands then drains into Lake Victoria, the world’s largest tropical lake.
This is a very important water source for animals along the Mara River and grows to double its usual size after heavy rains. The animals you can find here include bird-life, hippos and crocodiles and the river is found in the heart of the Masai Mara National Reserve. A great camp to enjoy the Mara River is the Mara Eden Safari Camp, which is positioned in the forest near the river bank.
The river is mostly known as the crossing the millions of wildebeest and zebra on their cyclical journey between Tanzania and Kenya as they follow the greener grass. Documentary crews often set up across the river to film as the wildebeest approach. Nile crocodiles then congregate at the crossing area waiting to catch their meal creating some spectacular wildlife footage.
- Big Game walking safaris
A walking safari is a great way to get onto the Masai Mara in the same manner as early explorers. Enjoy exploring the area on foot with highly trained guides. As you are no longer inside a custom designed safari vehicle, enjoy more excitement as you explore the Masai Mara looking for some fantastic wildlife. The walking safaris are offered as an extra activity at the Little Governors Camp and your walk is followed by a full cooked champagne bush breakfast.
The Little Governors Camp offers a luxury safari camp with a little more exclusivity than the Governors Camp. There are 17 luxury en-suite tents around a large watering hole, which is a perfect spot to see wildlife. Because vehicles are left across the bank on the Mara River, enjoy a little more peace and quiet and hopefully some more wildlife sightings close to the camp itself.
The camps themselves have hardwood decks and large verandahs to watch the wildlife. This particular camp has become a favored place for a family of warthogs because of the lack of fencing. Because of its focus on sustainability, Little Governors Camp has been awarded a Silver Eco-Rating from Eco Tourism Kenya.
- Bird watching
The Masai Mara is a great place for bird watching with 470 birds to find. Although it’s the big animals that dominate people’s attention, there are some fascinating birds to find as well. Among the diversity, you can ostriches, the world’s largest bird, tiny sunbirds, and 46 different birds of prey.
The grasslands hide the ground hornbills, which are about the same size as a turkey, kori bustards, secretary birds, plovers, and white stalks. The swampy areas are then great places to spot different storks and cranes, such as saddle-billed storks scouting for catfish.
You can spot the goliath heron, which is the world’s largest, plus sacred ibis, yellow-billed storks, and great white egrets. There are many different kingfishers with seven species of giant kingfishers to see. You can usually spot these on the Mara River itself.
The vultures are then easy to spot as they zone in on lion kills and guests are often surprised by the sheer number of these birds to see. Several different vultures have been identified so far.
The birds of prey are often the favorites and you can see the large martial eagles over the Mara, which are the largest in Africa. These birds are so powerful that they prey on young impala and different birds. Not just a home of this giant, you can also find the tiny pygmy falcon at home here.