Experience Kenya: Maasai Mara National Reserve
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Experience Kenya: Maasai Mara National Reserve. Kenya is blessed with the presence of Maasai Mara National Reserve and is well known for its rich wildlife presence. The Maasai Mara National Reserve is spread over 1,800 Sq KM and is a natural extension of Serengeti wastelands. Maasai Mara is located in Narok County, which is one of the southern counties of Kenya. The Greater Mara Ecosystem is also part of Maasai Mara. In addition to this, it can be seen that other conservancies, such as Mara Naboisho, Enonkishu, Ol Kinyei, Mara North and Olare Motorogi are all part of Maasai Mara. The world's largest animal movement happens at Maasai Mara National Reserve every year during July to October. This is one of the massive animal migrations, where it can be seen that about 200,000 zebras, 1.4 million wildebeests, and 500,000 gazelles move through the crocodile filled river in search of better pastures.
The climate at Maasai Mara is much mild and wet than other regions of Kenya and is located at an altitude of 1,500 meters above sea level. The reserve, the Maasai Mara National Reserve, is not under the control of Kenya Wildlife Service, but it is being managed by the local civil authorities, the District Councils. Because, this is not protected as a national park but as a reserve area for wild animals. The revenue generated from the park is being used for the local community development of Maasai. For administrative convenience, the park is managed by two District Councils, the Trans Mara, and Narok councils. The western part known as the Mara Triangle is taken care of by Trans Mara Council and the remaining portion along the eastern side of Mara River is being managed by Narok council.
The ecosystem in Mara-Serengeti is over 25,000 km2 comprising of open grassland that goes into the northern part of Tanzania and the southern part of Kenya. You can experience a varied landscape that offer you floods, disperse woods, waving grasslands, and bush areas. On the west side, soil indicates signs of prehistoric volcanic activity. The western part borders the Siria Escarpment of the Great Rift Valley, which stretches more than 150 meters.
There is only one lodge you can find in Mara Triangle, which is the Mara Serena Safari Lodge. This lodge is situated exactly at the center of the Mara Triangle and very close to the Mara River. You will have a magnificent view of the surroundings from the lodge as the lodge is located on the cloaked hill of Mara Serena. The downward views from the lodge are very much scintillating with the visuals of spiraling Mara River with lots of Hippopotamus and crocodiles will be an enchanting experience. The wildlife here is meticulously protected from the unscrupulous poachers by the vigilant rangers. As a result, you are lucky to watch the wildlife all through the season. You can also have excellent tourism activities on the Narok controlled area similar or more that of Mara Triangle area. In this part of Maasai Mara National Reserve, you can find lots of lodges and camps with basic facilities.
A private wilderness area is present in the north of the Mara Triangle bordered by the Mara North Conservancy of more than 30,000 hectares. This forms the northwestern part of the protective zone and is a vital part of Maasai Mara ecosystem. The Mara North Conservancy camps are made as a partnership venture of the local Maasai people. It is a non-profit company that creates a long-term commitment to the environment to the most populated wildlife area. The Mara North Conservancy has the Leopard George, which a maternity area for big cats. You can also see the Lemek hills, an important refuge to African wild dogs. The management comes up with decisions that enable in reducing the impact on the vulnerable environment by having low tourism and vehicles.
The Enonkishu Conservancy lies to the north of The Mara North Conservancy consists of livestock improvements using cattle management programs. The habitat at the Enonkishu Conservancy consists of wooded acacia tree savannah, rocky and undulating hills. The Mara river has many crocodiles and hippos that border the Conservancy. A pride of lions can be found at the edge of Enonkishu and Ol Choro Oiroua. The Conservancy is frequently visited by groups of elephants. Enonkishu Conservancy provides their guests with the excellent viewing experience of rare species including caracal, aardwolf, aardvark and serval cat.
On the east of the Mara North Conservancy, you can find the Olare Motorogi Conservancy. The Mara North Conservancy has become a community wildlife conservancy that acts along with the Maasai Mara ecosystem. You can find wildlife that are rarely found anywhere else. Both herbivores and predators can be found including the famous big cats along with many elephants and sightings of both rhino and wild dogs.
The Mara Naboisho Conservancy is located in the western part of Olare Motorogi Conservancy, which is a well-known habitat for giraffes, wildebeest, big cats and elephants. The Mara Naboisho Conservancy is also one of the spectacular locations for bird watching, and you will be lucky enough to watch some of the rarest birds in the sanctuary. Most commonly founds birds are Bush Pipits, Pigmy Falcon, White-headed Buffalo-Weavers, White-Crowned Shrinke, etc. Since lots of importance is given to environment protection, tourism and vehicle movement to this area is restricted and, as a result, you will have luxurious wildlife experience.
The Ol Kinyei Conservancy is located on the eastern side of the Mara Naboisho Conservancy. This is one of the picturesque locations and has won many awards for wildlife conservancy and is the pioneer wildlife conservancy located in the Greater Mara Ecosystem. This is declared as a livestock exclusion zone to conserve the wildlife. Not less than 300 different types of bird species, a large number of leopards and a meager number of 30 lions crown the wildlife.
Attraction: Hot Air Balloon Safari and breakfast
For people who are adventurists and would like to have Hot Air Balloon Safari, you will have multiple locations in the Mara from where you can start your expeditions. It will be a thrilling experience gliding over the thick grassy meadows and watching the sunrise along with the amazing wildlife. You will certainly have everlasting cherishing memories that are going to stay with you forever. The Hot Air Balloon Safari starts early morning and shall last for an hour. Safe landing positions are marked on the green savannah where you will be greeted with volunteers/Safari attendees with hot breakfast and champagnes. The exotic experience of the close encounter with wild animals while having the breakfast will be one of the attractive, breathless engagements in your life.
You might want to get your hat as it can protect your head from the heat that is produced from the gas burners.
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.
A walking safari around the conservancy will give you a chance to interact directly with the distinct features of wildlife and ecosystem. It will be a quite intriguing experience to watch the wildlife tracking and also watching termite mounds, etc. The walking safari opens the door to have a close encounter with different types of birds which you had never seen in your life. Also, you would never know what kind of surprises may spring up on your way that makes a walking safari a wonderful experience.
Attraction: Night safari
The night safari is yet another experience that should not be missed when you tour in Maasai Mara National Reserve. Here one gets to see what one would never be able to see at night. There are hippos and such animals that usually bask in the glory of the night, and they just are the visual feast for the visitor. The sensitive skin of the hippos usually gets burnt by sunlight, so they turn up at night much to the delight of the night safari visitor.
You can also get to see predators like hyenas, lions, and jackals that prefer to hunt during the night. That provides you with a good chance of having a different experience in a night safari. Nocturnal animals that you cannot see during the day can be seen at night. When the night comes, the life in the Maasai Mara National Reserve is something to witness.
People and Culture
The park is named after Maasai park because of the population inhabited around the park is from Maasai community. To add the beauty of the village and surrounding sceneries of the park, you can see children taking care of large herds of cattle, goats and sheep. Your safari will be an incomplete experience if you don't visit any one of the village and mingle with them.
Maasai Mara National Reserve has an exceptional population of predators like hyena, lions, leopards, and cheetahs which are rich represented all over the park. It is not without reason, where there is easy prey there is also food for many predators. Even the rare black rhino is regularly seen in areas with scrub, elephants are to be seen in large or less herds all over the Mara reserve, where they spend most of their time eating, a grown elephant needs daily approx 250 kg of vegetable food. At the Mara River there are popular Hippo pools where you can experience large population of hippos, crocodiles, and an exciting rich bird life.
The Great Migration is a major sight here and during this time the zebra, the wildebeest and the gazelle migrate into the Maasai Mara from the plains of the Serengeti region. This is a wonderful visual delight and is an annual event. It provides the interest quotient for the visits here and is also the main highlight of tourism to Maasai Mara. July is the month when the big herds start arriving. The bigger herds come towards the beginning of the month of August and they remain thus till the middle of the month of September. These herds are found in plenty till October, of course, the bigger ones leave for the plains much before this. The main driving element for the herds is the presence of grass here and so long as the grass is fresh, the herds stay. The moment it gets older, the herds head towards greener pastures. The northern part of Serengeti is believed to have still half the population of wildlife and it is only the other half that visits this part of the Maasai Reserve.
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.
From Nairobi, the Maasai Mara National Reserve is about 260 kilometers away, and you can cover the distance in five to six hours time. Even if you are driving from Lake Nakuru, it will take 5 to 6 hours to reach to the Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya.
Lodges and camps
Accommodation is not an issue at Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya. You can have 5-star accommodations to dormitory accommodations and luxury tent camps to simple tent camps. There are no restrictions for you to stay inside the reserve area and no matter where you stay if you have the essential travel arrangements with your touring operator. If you want to experience the beauty of the reserve and the wildlife, you need to move around as the animals won't come to visit you. Some hotels offer night safaris in the Maasai Mara National Reserve area. However, you should know that night safari is not permitted here.
You can spend two to six days in the reserve area depending on the season. It is better if you stay for at least four days or a week to experience the wildlife in the Maasai Mara National Reserve. Perhaps, you can reside in two different locations in the reserve. This helps you to see a larger variety of animals in the reserve.