Home to one of the most phenomenal natural spectacles on the planet, the Maasai Mara National Reserve stretches over 1 510 square kilometers of the Kenyan landscape. This impressive wildlife haven gleans its name from the Maasai tribe with Mara meaning ‘spotted’ in the local vernacular.
The reserve forms part of the Mara-Serengeti ecosystem with the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania forming the southern border and pastoral ranches from the Maasai laying to the east, west and north. The waters from the Mara, Talek and Sand Rivers are the lifeline for the hordes of animals during the Great Migration, one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa, in the middle of each year. Apart from the countless wildebeest and zebras, the reserve also teems with predators like lions, cheetahs and leopards.
The reserve nestles within the Greater Mara ecosystem that sustains a plethora of of fauna and flora. The Mara Triangle as well as a handful of Conservancies – Koiyaki, Lemek, Ol Chorro Oirowua, Mara North, Olkinyei, Siana, Maji Moto, Naikara, Ol Derkesi, Kerinkani, Oloirien, Kimintet – make up the rest of this striking scenery.
Most major airlines fly into the Kenyan capital of Nairobi from where the eastern border of the reserve is just over 200 kilometers away. Otherwise several airstrips service a handful of tourist camps inside the reserve and the bordering Conservancies.
The Great Migration hits its peak between June and August during the drier months. To get away from the crowds, opt to venture to these shores in October and November or February and March when sightings are still plentiful and the weather is enjoyable.
The millions of wildebeest in the Maasai Mara National Reserve are undoubtedly the main characters in the wildlife display that is the Great Migration. The spectacular circular trek from the plains of the Serengeti in Tanzania, also bustle with other species like Grant’s zebra, Thomson’s gazelle, topi common eland and the characteristic Maasai giraffe.
Lions and cheetahs are always in hot pursuit of the the migrating masses, ensuring captivating and enthralling experiences of the struggle between life and death. The other members of the Big Five - buffalo, elephant, rhino - are also found in the reserve that is the only protected are in the country with an indigenous black rhino population.
The sky above the reserve is filled with more than 470 bird species. Close to 60 are raptors like the long-crested eagle and the African pygmy-falcon. The lilac-breasted roller, the national bird of Kenya, as well as crowned cranes, secretary birds, hornbills and vultures can also be spotted.
The Great Migration hits its peak between June and August during the drier months. Pleasant temperatures hover in the mid 20’s Celsius but remember to pack a light jacket as early mornings and evenings tend to be a bit cooler. To get away from the crowds, opt to venture to these shores in October and November or February and March when sightings are still plentiful and the weather is enjoyable.
Opting for a game drive is in all likelihood at the top of the list for most safari-goers venturing to the Maasai Mara National Reserve. If it gets too congested on terra firma though, there are a handful of other safari related activities to partake in.
A flight of fancy in a hot air balloon over the vast expanse of the landscape dotted with a myriad of wildlife is a must. The reserve is the ideal spot for photographic and birdlife safaris and to get aquatinted with the Maasai way of life during a cultural experience.
Visitors to the Maasai Mara National Reserve have more than enough establishments to choose from for overnight accommodation. There are various facilities available that include high-end lodges as well as tented camps. These can be found inside the reserve or in the bordering Conservancies that lie just outside the reserve.