Masai Mara Game Reserve

Masai Mara National Reserve located in southwest Kenya is a vast scenic expanse of gently rolling African savannah plains measuring 1,510 square kilometers, bordering Serengeti National Park in Tanzania to the south, Siria escarpment to the west and the Masai pastoral ranches on the North, West and East. The reserve is drained by three main rivers: the Sand River, the Talek River and the Mara River.

Masai Mara is a unique wildlife conservation haven, famous for its spectular natural diversity of wildlife conversation and wilderness areas in Africa, world renowned for its exceptional populations of lions, African leopard, cheetah and African bush elephant. It also hosts the great migration, which secured it as one of the seven natural wonders of Africa, and as one of the ten wonders of the world.

 

The reserve lies at between 4,875 and 7,052 feet (1486 and 2149 meters) in elevation and the reserve’s topography is mainly open savannah (grassland) with clusters of acacia trees along the southeastern 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. The name comes from the local Maasai people, who called this expanse of land “Mara,” or spotted, in their native language of Maa, because of the way the acacia trees and wildlife dotted the plains.

 

The quintessential Masai Mara safari delivers many attractions, as the reserve is home to an excellent year-round concentration of game, including lion, leopard, buffalo and elephant on any trip, although black rhinos are harder to spot. The reserve is particularly famous for its population of big cats, with one of the highest concentration of lion in the world, as well as large numbers of leopard and cheetah. Other predators include spotted hyena, black-backed jackal and bat-eared fox, while antelope species include topi, eland, reedbuck, impala and Thomson’s gazelle. Masai giraffe – the largest subspecies of giraffe found only in Kenya and Tanzania – is easily spotted.

The reserve is also a home to more than 500 species of birds, from kori bustards, ostriches and ground hornbills in the grasslands to saddle-billed storks and goliath herons in the swamps to Schawlow’s turaco and Ross’s turaco in the Riverine Forest and seven species of kingfisher in the Rivers. There is an incredible diversity of raptor species 57-recorded species as well as seven species of vulture, while migratory birds arrive in the reserve in November and stay until April.

What to do in Masai Mara Game Reserve

There are numerous activities in Masai Mara which range from luxury experiences such as Hot Air Balloon flights over the plains where you can see wildlife down below, to less costly bush meals and nature walks or wildlife treks. Some of the most popular activities are brief visits to a traditional Maasai tribal village during which travelers get a fascinating glimpse into the unique way of life of these nomadic peoples. Tourists visiting Masai Mara may book these activities below in advance of their visit to Kenya.

 

Game Viewing/Drives

Game drive is the famously done activity in Masai Mara as well as on African safaris, which is more adventured in 4×4 open roof safari vehicle in order to have a close clear view of wild animals as you observe the regulations. Game drive is usually done in three sessions. Morning game drive, which starts from 6:30 am to 10:30 am, this is the best time to catch up with African sun rise and rewarding time to see animals active looking for food in an open savannah grass land. Watch cats and leopards going back from their hideouts, you can also be able to see wide range of animals quench their thirsty near riverbanks.

Evening game drive starts at 4pm till 6:30pm on this drive, have a glimpse of the game coming out from their hideouts, resting under the tree shades as they graze in groups. Night game drive, which starts at 6:00pm till 7:30pm is strictly done under the guidance of a well-trained escort, this is final time to see nocturnal animals in the park ,enjoy cheetahs ,cats as they hunt their fellow animals.

The reserve’s eco system is supportive to wide range of animal’s species with the most famous big cats such as Lions, Leopards, Elephants, buffaloes, black and white rhinos. Other species include Gazelles, Giraffes, Oribis, hartebeest, zebras, hippos, crocodiles and many more. Note that, all sessions are strictly done by the armed guide never go to the park without escort and we recommend our travelers to always pack their clear cameras to film this incredible experience in lifetime.

 

Hot Air Balloon

This is also once a lifetime experience one can never forget that involves in waking up early to catch up with the sun set as you enjoy flying the plains of Maasai Mara while in the sky. The safari starts early in the morning with a wakeup call for light breakfast and be driven to the starting point where you will meet the pilot for briefing, entre the balloon basket and then kick off as you raise higher approaching the sky. You will have a great aerial view of herds of wildebeest, which migrate into and occupy the reserve from Palins of Serengeti; you can also view herds of buffaloes, elephants, birds of the air like eagle and end up with truly privileged experience in life.

Upon landing, a toast will be done with a glass of wine at the bush, heavy breakfast and finally certificates of success will be issued to all crew on the board. Enjoy more games on ground to see more animals on another angle before you head back to your lodge for refreshments and lunch.

 

Great Migration Wildebeest Viewing

This is the most famous done activity one shouldn’t miss to experience in lifetime because millions of travelers come to engage in this truly wonderful moment annually on Kenya safari destination. Most travelers call it nature event safaris where you discover with your own eyes millions of blue wildebeest crossing to Maasai Mara from Serengeti national park just for breeding purposes and looking for fresh green pastures and then later migrate back thus making a great movie  experience once in life time.

This unbeatable experience usually occurs in July to October every year. In order to enjoy this great nature event, which is famously known worldwide, you need to book as early as possible because during this period of the year the park overflows with many tourists who flock in Maasai Mara purposely to adventure alive a great movie of wildebeest migration.

 

Cultural Encounters with the Maasai

One of the unique activities in Masai Mara with the rest of the parks and reserves is that they are managed by the local community. The Masaai people dominate the reserve and leave together with the wildlife amicably; this has not only benefited locals but also the guests who have a lot of things to do especially learning about new people and their culture.

The Masaai culture is one of the greatest cultures one can feel in Africa with their own life styles, the pastoralists who rare more animals in mobile way have a unique culture which cannot be seen anywhere in the world. These people have lived near and around the reserve for more than 100 years with unchangeable traditions, norms and customs even if guests from all corners of modern world frequently move with them they have stickled on their traditions.

The Masaai community has around 50 traditional houses that surround the large crawls of cattle compacted with all traditions of the true Masaai lifestyle. They have more community projects that help them to benefit from tourism and making them leave in good sustainable life with clean environment.  Visit the Masai community on your safari to Masai Mara, discover their unique traditional houses, learn about their lifestyle and get to know how to get fresh blood from animals, milking their indigenous cows. Get excited about their dancing style as they jump up and down to the iconic and much more, note that, it is good to support sustainable tourism.

 

Birding

Although it’s the big animals that dominate people’s attention, the Masai Mara is also a birding paradise with over 450 bird species out of which more than 45 species of birds of prey. The reserve boosts with large number of Ostrich known as Maasai Ostrich. The bird life of reserve can be encountered in different eco system areas that form the reserve such as open savannah, riverbanks, Great Rift Valley escarpment and rock sides.

Mara hosts a lot of migratory birds annually between October and February; the reserve receives more Palearctic migrants, swallows, tens, wadres and others while around June to July Mara river swamp is fully occupied with weaverbirds and bishops as they come for breeding. Other most popular bird species are Rosy-throated long and Magpie Shrike, Long tailed Cormorant, Little Bittern, Cattle Egret, Yellow-billed stork, Hadeda Ibis, Kori bustard, Secretary bird, Sooty chat, Tawny Eagle and so much more.

The wide diversified range of habitats supports a great diversity of birds in Masaai Mara making your holiday more wonderful and experimental.

 

Guided Nature Walks

The national reserve is naturally gifted with variety of species to encounter and this can be done on free time during your stay at Masai Mara. Guided nature walks are enjoyed on foot by the help of the local guide and the armed guide who leads you to walking trails, which are less used by predators for you to be able to enjoy close view of wild animals such as Elephants, Giraffes, Antelopes, Buffaloes, and many others around the park.

This activity is more enjoyable when you carry it out by the researchers and learn more about different vegetation zoning of the reserve, behaviors of the animals. Since it is a walking safari you can as well meet the local people known as the Masai people, learn more about their interesting culture, as can still reach to Masai River and be able to see water animals such as crocodile, hippos, water birds among others.

 

Horse Riding

Masaai Mara is one of the famous place in Africa where one can explore the park in open-air horseback riding experience as you ride through open savannah grassland enjoying the scenery of the landscape as you pass through wide range of animals while enjoying the fresh breeze nature. Most travelers prefer horseback riding than game drive since it is an open done activity, as you even get closer to animals. This experience is done with the guidance of a well-trained game ranger who is charge in case you meet one of the big cats.

WhEN TO VISIT Masai Mara Game Reserve

Choosing when to go on a Masai Mara safari is something that should be carefully considered in order for the experience to meet your expectations. For general game viewing, there’s no real ‘best time’ to go. Thanks to its abundant resident wildlife and temperate climate, the Masai Mara is widely regarded as a fantastic year-round safari destination. It’s wide and open plains mean there is virtually always something to see no matter what time of year you visit.

 

The best time to visit the Masai Mara is during the driest months, from late June to October. These are the best months for wildlife viewing because vegetation is thinner and animals gather around rivers and water holes. It does offer good wildlife viewing throughout the year, but the rainy months (March, April, November and December) make some of the roads difficult to navigate. The wildebeest migration and the river crossings in particular are difficult to time, but your best chance to witness this spectacle is in late September and October.

HOW TO GET To Masai Mara Game Reserve

You can reach Masai Mara by road or plane from Nairobi or by taking a plane from Mombasa.
By road from Nairobi

Majority of travellers fly into Nairobi and opt to reach Masai Mara by road via B3 and C12. The city is approximately 306 kilometres (190 miles) away from the reserve, and it can take 6-7 hours to drive. If you want to experience Kenyan countryside, driving is the way to go. Nairobi to Narok is around a two-and-a-half hour drive, which offers plenty of views and scenery, onwards from that, you will see the Great Rift Valley escarpment. Be aware that the journey from Narok to Masai Mara can get quite bumpy, and take around three hours, without much to see. If you have a lot of time and want to experience Kenyan landscapes, this is the best option.

 

By plane from Nairobi

If you are short on time, the best option is to fly from Nairobi to Masai Mara to one of the airstrips. It takes from 30 to 45 minutes and it’s certainly more comfortable than driving, especially if the primary purpose of your trip is to see wildlife. Flying will provide you with an aerial view of the region that will take your breath away. You can take a domestic flight from Wilson Airport (WIL) in Nairobi to an airstrip closest to your accommodation in Masai Mara.

 

By plane to and from Mombasa

It’s also possible to reach Masai Mara from Mombasa, where you can take a non-stop flight to Nairobi. From there, travellers can take another short flight of around 30-45 minutes (depending on which airstrip you are landing into) to the reserve. Some safari packages offer the option to fly to Nairobi and drive from there to Masai Mara.
There are also direct inbound and outbound flights from Mombasa to the Kichwa Airstrip nearby Masai Mara. An air safari is a unique way to experience Africa and the Masai Mara game reserve. You will get to fly over Lake Amboseli, the Great Rift Valley and enjoy views of the Soda Lakes Natron in Tanzania and Magadi in Kenya.