Welcome to Kenya National Parks and Reserves the major tourist attractions. Kenya is the “home of the safari” with 54 national parks and game reserves scattered in various parts the country.
Masai Mara National Reserve (also known as Masai Mara or the Mara) is situated within the Great Rift Valley in the southern part of Kenya.
Measuring approximately 1510sq. kilometers (approx. 938sq. miles) in size, this un fenced savannah grassland is roughly 150 miles southeast of Nairobi.
Maasai Mara derives its name from the indigenous people of Kenya – the Maasai tribe – and the Mara River that cuts through the park. The Masai Mara provides the best view of the famous wildebeest migration as the animals cross the Mara River between July and August.
The Mara is also home to the richest concentration of wildlife, including the “Big Five” (elephants, lions, leopards, rhinos, and buffalo), zebras, antelope, gnus, Oribi, hyenas, giraffes, warthogs, gazelles, hartebeests, hippos, crocodiles and others.
The park has the largest concentration of African lions, including the black-manned lion. Bird life is as plentiful as wildlife at the Masai Mara, which boasts over 400 different birds’ species.
The park experiences a hot and dry climate with a regular rainfall season twice a year. The reserve’s topography is mainly open savannah (grassland) with clusters of acacia trees along the south-eastern area of the park. The Mara and Talek rivers grace the rolling plains of the reserve.
Myriad seasonal rivers appear during the rainy season but dry out once the rains are gone. Maasai Mara National Reserve does not fall under the jurisdiction of the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS); instead, it is managed by the local county council of Narok district.
Attractions and activities
The Masai Mara Game Reserve is one of the best places in Africa for wildlife viewing. Game drives are a great way to experience the park and they take place all year round. If the big cats are what you’re looking for on your Kenya safari, you are guaranteed to spot them at the Mara.
All of the “Big Five” animals (elephants, lions, leopards, rhinos, and buffalo) can be spotted here. However, the population of black rhinos is severely threatened with only 37 black rhinos left as of 2000.
Herds of plains zebras are found throughout the park, as well as Masai giraffes, common giraffes, jackals, white-bearded gnus, Oribi, warthogs, Thomson’s and Grant’s gazelles, hartebeests, hyenas, bat – eared foxes, rare Topi antelope and beautiful rone antelope, as well as hippos and crocodiles in the Mara River.
Over 1.5 million wildebeest, zebras and several species of antelope Wildebeest crossing the Mara – a big attraction in Kenya make an annual circular tour between the Serengeti in Tanzania and Masai Mara in Kenya in search of greener pastures.
The trek happens with a fair share of animal drama as the migrating herds attract the attention of hungry predators – the hyenas and lions that prey on the lame and sick animals along the way.
The animals trek for four months (July – October) towards the Mara. The months of July and August are the best times to see what are truly the world’s most spectacular wildebeest migration and the dramatic sights that occur during the mass crossing of the swollen Mara River.
Hot Air Balloon rides
Kenya Balloon Safari, Masai Mara National Reserve for the adventurous tourist who wants a sky-high view of wildlife from the air hot air balloon rides and safaris are the best way to travel over the massive Masai Mara National Park.
Hot air balloon rides last approximately an hour and a half and often take place at dawn. You will get a great view of the animals while you glide above them. Breakfast is prepared on the balloon burner upon landing.
Little bee eater Bird Maasai Mara Kenya for bird lovers, the Mara birds come in every colour and size. More than 400 bird species have already been recorded, including birds of prey.
You can enjoy a colourful view of birds such as vultures, ostriches, long-crested eagles, pygmy falcons, secretary birds, marabous, red-winged Schalow’s turaco’s, white-tipped crests, ross turacos, orange buffs, Pel’s fishing owls, wary guinea fowl, Jackson’s bustards, black-bellied hartlaubs bustards and many others.
Maasai Cultural Tours
You could step back in time and visit a Maasai village where you get a chance to interact with the Maasai people in their traditional setting and experience their culture.
Often the Maasai morans (young Maasai warriors) will perform their traditional dance. You also get an opportunity to purchase traditional Maasai souvenirs, art and collectibles.
Visitors to the Masai Mara National Reserve can also enjoy horseback safaris and bush dinners booked through the reserve lodges and camps. Guided walking tours and safaris conducted by a Masai warrior outside the reserve are also available. You can pitch a tent and sleep in the wild at campsites located outside the reserve.
Where to stay at the Masai Mara
Depending on your safari budget there is a wide variety of accommodation to choose from, although most of the lodges and tented camps throughout the park cater to the average to high-end visitor.
Popular lodges include Keekorok Lodge, Kichwa Tembo Camp, Governors Camp, Mara Serena Safari Lodge, Sarova Mara, Mara River Camp, Little Governors Camp, Mara Safari Club, Siana Springs Camp, Mpata Safari Club, and Mara Intrepids Club among others.
The eco – lodges in the reserve, Base Camp Masai Mara and Ilkeliani Luxury Tented Camp, are beautiful places to stay at the Mara.
Selections for the visitor on a moderate budget include David Livingstone Resort, Mara Simba Lodge and the Acacia Camp.
For budget travelers, there are low-cost accommodations available in the form of camping at the Mara Springs Camp, Riverside Camp, Simba Camp, Olpert Elongo Camp and Oloolaimutiek Campsite, which are located all around the park. Safari operators may also set up private camps for groups of clients seeking exclusive, traditional safaris outside the reserve.