Dream Travel: Maasai Mara National Reserve
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Dream Travel: Maasai Mara National Reserve. The natural continuation of the Serengeti wastelands is of Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya. It is the largest national reserve Conservancy in Africa and is spanned over 1,800 km2. The Maasai Mara Reserve is located in Narok County, which is the southern county of Kenya. Overall the Greater Mara Ecosystem is inclusive of Maasai Mara. The other known conservancies such as Mara Naboisho, Enonkishu, Mara North, Olare Motorogi and Ol Kinyei are all part of Maasai Mara National Reserve. The Conservancy is popular for its large animal migration, which recurs every year as a routine ritual. Herds of animals, about 1.4 million wildebeests, about 200,000 zebras and more than 500,000 gazelles migrate to Maasai Mara Conservancy in search of grass by negotiating through the dangerous crocodile rich river. This show of migration recurs every year during July to the last week of October.
Maasai Mara has a mild and damp climate and is located a height of 1500 meters. The Kenya Wildlife Service manages it, and this is conserved as a national reserve and not as a national park. The District Council is in charge, and all proceeds from the Reserve go towards the welfare of the Maasai community. The two councils that handle the reserve are the Trans Mara and the Narok Council. The western part of the Maasai Reserve is called the Maasai triangle and is managed by the Trans Mara. The eastern side of the Mara River is managed by the Narok Council.
The famous Mara-Serengeti ecosystem is well known for rich grassland spread over 25,000 square KM cut through the southern end of Kenya and enter into the north side of Tanzania. The landscape Mara is with contrasting features! You can see the reminiscence of inactive prehistoric volcanoes on the western side and thick bushes, isolated woods spread over the area, lush green meadows, and flooding river in the rest of the area. On the border of Maasai Mara the National Reserve is located in the Siria Escarpment, which is part of the Great Rift Valley and is located 150 meters above from the valley. It is one of the finest places for excellent safari activities.
Unfortunately only one lodge is present, the Mara Serena Safari Lodge, which can be found near the Mara Triangle close to the Mara River. It is present on a bush-cloaked hill providing you with a panoramic view of the savannah. You can also see hippos and crocodiles present in the river. However, rangers patrol the area regularly which helps in reducing the poaching, and excellent wildlife habitat is there throughout the year. However, you can find several camps and lodges in the Narok controlled area that is of the eastern part of the Mara reserve compared to the Mara Triangle.
The Mara Triangle is facing the borders of Mara North Conservancy at the north, and the rich Mara Triangle reserve is spanned over 30,000 hectares. The Mara Triangle is a prominent reserve of the Maasai Mara ecosystem and also belongs to the northwestern portion of the protective zone. The local Maasai people manage the Mara North Conservancy on partnership basis under a non-profit charter. The aim of the charter is to maintain the ecosystem and tranquility on a long-term basis, and various plans have been implemented to achieve the objectives. Being one of the most popular wildlife centers you can find a lot of wildlife wonders. The famous Leopard George home is located here, which is the maternity ward for the big cats. The romantic Lemek hills are located here and also here you can see the endangered species of African wild dogs. The management of the Conservancy has implemented lots of schemes to minimize the related tourist pollution by reducing the density of tourism and vehicular movements.
Further to the north of The Mara North Conservancy, you can see the Enonkishu Conservancy. Here modern cattle management techniques are given maximum importance to improve the livestock activities. This conservancy is full of acacia trees that gives an impressive savannah look and is surrounded by rocky hills and uneven terrains. Bordering the Conservancy, the Mara River flows magnificently where a lot of hippos and crocodiles steal the show undisturbed. Herds of animals, lions and elephants are frequently seen roaming in and around Enonkishu and Ol Choro Oiroua area. For people who want to have wonderful game viewing enjoyments, Enonkishu Conservancy is the best place, and you can find serval cats, aardwolves, caracals, and aardvarks.
The Olare Motorogi Conservancy lies to the east of the Mara North Conservancy. It is, in fact, a symbol of wildlife conservancy and has set an example for the manner in which the Maasai Mara Ecosystem has sustained itself. The Maasai Mara ecosystem is famous for its savannah land and the Olare Motorogi Conservancy is a living example of this natural wonder. The big cats, and the other predators, as well as herbivores, are usual here. One also would sight rhinos, wild dogs and elephants here.
The Mara Naboisho Conservancy is found in the east of the Olare Motorogi Conservancy, and it is the best habitat for the big cats, many elephants, and the famous wildebeest and, of course, the famed giraffe. This is, in fact, a delight for the avid bird watcher as the rarest of the rare species are sighted here. So get the best views of the White Headed Buffalo-Weaver, the Bush Pipits, the Pigmy Falcon, and the White crowned Shrike. It is indeed a pleasant paradise and always focuses on the impact on the environment. Thus, one would not really have a crowd here, and there is an obvious low density of vehicles as well as the tourist here. This is why it is a very special wildlife spot.
The most reputed and award winning Ol Kinyei Conservancy is located on the eastern side of Mara Naboisho Conservancy. Ol Kinyei Conservancy is the first Conservancy engaged in promoting wildlife conservation in Greater Mara ecosystem. To augment the wildlife conservation, it is declared as an exclusive livestock exclusion zone. You can find more than 300 different types bird species and wild animals' including lions and leopards. It is estimated that there are about 30 lions are located here presently.
Attraction: Hot Air Balloon Safari and breakfast
When one comes to the fascinating Mara, one should not miss the beautiful experience of the Hot Air Balloon. This is, in fact, a lovely moment when one floats quietly over the amazing savannah and then experiences the best in the wee hours of the morning. The wildlife wakes up, and one gets closer to the mesmerizing sight. This is one experience where one can relax and get totally rejuvenated. These sights remain etched in the mind forever. The simple joys of taking the Hot Air Balloon ride and then landing on the savannah is coupled with the delight of having a team to welcome you and then of course is the famed luxurious champagne that is provided along with a sumptuous breakfast. So enjoy this unique wildlife experience where one is completely blown over by the sheer beauty of nature and when one is going to remember the up close and personal encounters with the wildlife.
The Hot Air Balloon is a lifetime experience that you need to experience right away. Carrying a hat would be helpful to protect you from the heat of balloon gas burner.
Attraction: Walking safari
You will want to know that, there is no walking safari in inside the Maasai Mara National Reserve. It is possible to do it in the neighboring Conservancy at the Mara Naboisho Conservancy. As you walk around the reserve area, you will experience a different perspective of wildlife. When you walk around, you are accompanied by Maasai warriors to guide you and protect you from wildlife getting too close.
Walking along the Savannah gives you the rare opportunity to scan through the ecosystem, various forms of termite mounds, trail movements, and giving a chance to observe closely about the Conservancy birdlife. You never know what kind of surprises may spring up while taking a walking safari around the conservancy and that makes a lot of difference than the vehicle safari. Your Maasai Warriors are knowledgeable people about various forms of wildlife and sharing those experiences will certainly make your trip a wonderful experience.
Attraction: Night safari
Night Safari is quite different from day safari due to various reasons. The main difference what you could experience is that you will have the rare options to see those wild animals that seldom appear during daylight. Especially animals like Hippos never come out during daylight for having food due to their sensitive skins. Their skin is vulnerable if exposed to sunlight.
Wild animals like lions, jackals and hyenas usually prowl at night, and this is an added visual treat for the wildlife visitor during night safari. Anyone who comes to the Maasai Mara National Reserve obviously comes for something different. This is provided in these nocturnal tours that are so much a part of the visits here.
People and Culture
The park is named after the Maasai people who can be found all around the reserve. The village is charming. The children are given the task of taking care of the cattle, sheep, and goats. The scenery present in the reserve is something to cherish as it provides you with memorable sights. Tourists who come to the village should go for a safari to get the feel of the village.
Maasai Mara National Reserve consists of predators including hyena, lions, leopards, and cheetahs that represent the park. There are plenty of prey in and around the reserve. You can also see the rare black rhino in areas with scrub. The elephants can also be seen in large or less herds all over the reserve. They need to eat food for existence. You will be surprised to know that a growing elephant needs 250 kg of vegetable food in a day. You can also get to see pools of hippos, crocodiles, and birds.
The great migration wildebeest sees zebra and gazelle including Thomson and Topi migrating into the reserve from the Serengeti plains. The herds arrive in July, and the larger herds start coming in the month of August till mid-September. Usually, the big herds leave and migrate back to Serengeti, which still leaves herds till October. As long as there is fresh grass to eat the animals will keep coming. In the northern part of Serengeti, you can find more than half staying behind.
What makes Maasai Mara National Reserve from the rest of reserves in Kenya is the presence of Big Five animals that include predators such as lion, leopard and herbivores such as buffalo, rhinoceros, and elephant. Though the authorities have implemented strict policies to check illegal poaching, the numbers of black rhinos are still considered as an endangered species. The policies of the authorities have helped to improve their numbers since the implementation of anti-poaching laws that was a menace in 1980. However, there is no assurance that you might be able to see a black rhinoceros during your Mara Safari.
The reserve is about 260 kilometers far from Nairobi or Lake Nakuru and a five to six-hour driving can take you the wonderful Maasai Mara Reserve
Lodges and camps
The Maasai Mara National Reserve provides different kinds of services and amenities to suit the needs of their customers. You can make use of the 5-star luxurious lodges, tented camps, and camping facilities that provide you with an actual camp lifestyle. The need to stay inside the reserve premises is not there as you are provided with night safaris.
One can spend two to six days in the Maasai Mara Reserve Conservancy. There are special four-night packages too however it is best to stay for this duration in two different locations. One would then get a chance to see a better choice of animals. It is always prudent to have a reference point from where the safari would begin.