Africa Tourism Information

Maasai Mara National Reserve

Simply referred to as “The Mara” by the locals, the Maasai Mara National Reserve is a large game reserve located in Narok County, Kenya. It is named after the ancestral inhabitants of the area known as the Maasai. More interestingly, the game reserve is contiguous with the famous Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. Maasai Mara itself covers an area more than 1500 square kilometers and is part of the route used in the Great Migration which involves at least a million of wildebeest and hundreds after hundreds of herds of other animals including the Big Five. This game reserve is basically open grasslands that extend northward from Serengeti.

When to Visit

Maasai Mara Game reserve has two annual seasons: wet and dry. Rainy (wet) season starts from November through May, but peak rainfall occurs in April - May and December - January. Every day during the rainy season typically starts with sunny morning which develops to cloud build-up in the afternoon followed by thunderstorm in the evening. Between June and November, Maasai Mara has its share of dryness across the land. Temperatures can reach up to 30°C and down to 20°C. Peak season of animal migration happens from July to October when lush green grasslands provide plenty of nutrients for the herbivores; it also means the carnivores/predators are at their happy preying months.

The Great Migration

Peak season of great migration is when you have the chance to witness millions of animals wandering around the grasslands in a panoramic view. It is like National Geographic broadcasted live and in 3D. The Great Migration is the largest movement of animals on Earth; actual number will vary each year but it is estimated that the herds consists of at least 1.5 million wildebeest, nearly 1 million zebras as well as topi and eland. The herds of Zebras almost always arrive first, followed by the wildebeest.

Route of the great migration remains the same every year. The herds always have to cross a river or two, despite knowing that crocodiles are lurking under the water. Many of the herds will not make it across; some are drowned, eaten, or simply crushed by the busy traffic on the river. Hundreds (if not thousands) will fall prey to the crocodiles, and millions of others that make it across still have to be very cautious for almost every big cat you can mention: lions, leopards, and cheetahs. Let us not forget that jackals and hyenas are also hungry.

In additions to the big mammals and crocodiles, Maasai Mara Game Reserve is home to at least 540 species of birds. Up in the air of the game reserve, you can spot more than 50 different types of raptors including the iconic African fish eagle. On land, big birds such as ostrich and hornbill are lurking here and there. There are also come colorful species as well from examples purple grenadiers, yellow-mantled widowbirds, and cinnamon-breasted rock buntings.

Activities in the Maasai Mara national reserve

Game viewing is best when done in the right place, and Maasai Mara is certainly one of the best for the activity. You can do this in two different ways as follows:

  • Up in the air: the chance to witness the wilderness from the top is not to be missed. As mentioned earlier, Maasai Mara Game Reserve is just vast plain of open grasslands. There are trees, but not enough to cover your view from above. Hot-air balloon safari takes only about one hour, which should be enough to cover a lot of areas.

  • Land safari: you can walk or drive. Walking safari is not allowed in Maasai Mara, but it is possible in group ranches and conservancies which border the reserve. A professional guide can help you understand wildlife behaviors and Maasai culture during the tour.

The best way to do a land safari is by driving. Once again, a guide can tell you which spots are best and when to go there. Game driving allows you to take a closer look at animals’ behaviors in their natural habitat and how they interact with each other.

If you opt for land safari, either walking or driving, please always remind yourself that you are in the wilderness. Wild animals are not caged or fenced; the idea of national reserve is to protect the animals from human activities, not the other way around. Do not get out of the car, and keep a safe distance from any herd. You are here to see them, not distract or disturb them in any way.

In conclusion, we would like to highlight that Maasai Mara National Reserve is one of the finest destinations for a safari. It is not as big as the Serengeti, which means it is easier to track down or follow certain herds you want. Despite its small size, Maasai Mara is home to the Big Five including lions, elephants, Cape buffalos, leopards, and rhinoceros. It is also packed with hyenas, cheetahs, bat-eared foxes, jackals, crocodiles, hippos, warthogs, elands, gazelles, zebras, and more. They are in a concentrated ecosystem here, making it easier to watch, enjoy, and absorb the essence of African wildlife. Due to the nature of wildlife, some sights are probably too harsh to watch for example the sight of animals killing other animals for food.

Maasai Mara game Reserve is used by a number of organizations to study and monitor animal behaviors, populations, and responses in relation to human activities or other threats. In case you are interested in wildlife study and conservation projects, a visit to the reserve makes a great opportunity to expand your horizon, increase your knowledge, and improve your overall understanding of the way everything is done.