The Masai Mara is one of the best known and most popular reserves in the whole of Africa. It is Kenya’s finest wildlife reserve. Everything about this reserve is outstanding. Seasoned safari travelers, travel writers, documentary makers and researchers often admit that the Masai Mara is one of their favorite places. So why is that? Perhaps it is because of the ‘big skies’, the open savannahs, the romance of films like ‘Out of Africa’ and certainly because of the annual wildebeest migration, the density of game, the variety of bird life and the chance of a hot air balloon ride.
South Western Kenya is the heartland of the Masai. The Maasai are 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. This unique co-existence of man and wildlife makes this Maasai 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 comprises200 sq miles of open plains, woodlands and riverine forest. Contiguous with the plains of the Serengeti, the Mara is home to a breathtaking array of life. The vast grassland plains are scattered with herds of Zebra, Giraffe, Gazelle, and Topi.
The Acacia forests abound with Bird life 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.
From July to October, the promise of rain and fresh life giving grass in the north brings more than 1.3 million Wildebeest together into a single massive herd. They pour across the border into the Mara, making a spectacular entrance in a surging column of life that stretches from horizon to horizon. At the Mara River they mass together on the banks before finally plunging forward through the raging waters, creating frenzy as they fight against swift currents and waiting crocodiles. The wildebeest bring new life to the Mara, not just through their cycle of regeneration of the grasslands, but for the predators that follow the herds.
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 Maasai warriors share the plains with hunting lions, a place of mighty herds and timeless cycles of life, death and regeneration.
Animals & Birds of Masai Mara Game Reserve
Wildebeest, 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” are found in the Masai Mara, although the population of black rhinoceros is severely threatened, with a population of only 37 recorded in 2000. Hippopotami are found in large groups in the Masai Mara and Talek rivers. Cheetah are also found, although their numbers. The wildebeest are the dominant inhabitants of the Masai Mara, and their numbers are estimated in the millions. Around July of each year these ungainly animals migrate in a vast ensemble 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 an immensity of herbivores some 1,300,000 wildebeests, 360,000 Thomson’s gazelles, and 191,000 zebras. These numerous migrants are followed along their annual, circular route by a block of hungry predators, most notably lions and hyena.
Numerous other antelopes can be found, including Thomson’s and Grant’s Gazelles, Impalas, Topis and Coke’s Hartebeests. Large herds of zebra are found through the reserve. 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. The Masai Mara is a major research centre for the spotted hyena. Additionally, over 450 species of bird life have been identified in the park, including vultures, marabou storks, secretary birds, hornbills, crowned cranes, ostriches, long-crested Eagles, and African pygmy-falcons.
The Mara birds come in every size and color including common but beautiful ones like the lilac breasted roller and plenty of large species like eagles, vultures and storks. There are 53 different birds of prey.
Masai Mara Seasons
Altitude is (4,875 — 7,052 feet) (1,500 — 2,170 metres) above sea level, which yields a climate somewhat milder and damper than other regions. The daytime rarely exceeds 85°F (30°C) during the day and hardly ever drops below 60°F (15°C) at night.
Rainy Season: It rains in April and May and again November and this can cause some areas of the Mara to be inaccessible due to the sticky ‘black cotton’ mud.
Dry Season: July to October is dry and the grass is long and lush after the rains. This is a good time to come and see the huge herds of migratory herbivores.
Hottest time: The warmest time of year is December and January.
Coldest Time: June and July are the coldest months.
Masai Mara Highlights
- Bird watching: The Masai Mara is a great place for bird watching enthusiasts, with 485 species of birds recorded in the area. some of these birds include the Crowned Crane, Marabou Stork, wattled Plover, Black Bustard, White Headed Vulture, Jackson’s Weaverbird, Ostrich, Tawny Eagle, Nubian Vulture, Lilac Breasted Roller and the Superb Starling
- Hot Air Ballooning: For a completely different perspective of the game, try a balloon safari. From your lofty viewpoint up in the sky (usually around 100m high), you have a fantastic view of the plains below, and the animals that inhabit it.
- Night Game Drives: It is totally different to a day time safari where you see animals like Lion, Elephant, hippos out of water, Dik Dik, Bat Eared Fox, Scrub Hare, the strange Spring Hare which looks like a kangaroo when it jumps, Impala, Thomson’s Gazelle, a large herd of Giraffe including six or so babies, lots of hyenas, jackals, Topi and Wildebeest.
- Exceptional Lion sightings: Masai Mara’s black-maned lions are reputed to be the largest and most impressive in Africa, and have been the subject of numerous books and documentary films.