The Maasai Mara National Reserve is much looked upon as the most magnificent wildlife reserve in Africa besides being the cradle of all humankind. The name ‘Mara’ means ‘spotted’ in the Maasai language. The origin of the name is from the speckled wave of wildebeest and millions of other herbivores during their relocation. The Mara reserve attracts thousands of international and local visitors and has been voted as the best safari destination. In 2007, it was ranked as the 8th wonder of the world.
Wildlife in the Maasai Mara National Reserve
Maasai Mara is composed of open plains, riverine forest and the woodlands. There are scattered herds of gazelle, zebra, giraffe, birds, and monkeys. The ecosystem is inhabited with the giant acacia trees, crocodiles and hippos found in the Mara and Talek rivers. Wallowing in the swamps of Musiara are the buffalos and elephants. Nowhere in entire Africa is wildlife richer than the Maasai Mara game reserve and for this reason, the tourists hardly miss to view the big five. This game reserve is located in the southwest of Nairobi and covers an area of about 1510 square kilometers. Escarpments of Esoit Oloololo delineate it in the west, the Loita Hills in the East, of the long hills in the North, and the Serengeti National Park in the South. Kenya and Tanzania share the massive Serengeti plains extending from northern Tanzania into southern Kenya.
Wildebeest Migration in the Maasai Mara National Reserve
A massive migration of the wildebeest in Maasai Mara occurs during July through October from the drier Serengeti, Tanzania lands. They move in vast numbers as they search for greener and rich pastures. The zebras and gazelles accompany the wildebeest in this enormous and impressive movement, thus arriving in thousands. They then gather up and start crossing over as the number adds up and they do so at their own choice of the crossing point.
This movement also attracts their predators; lion, leopard, cheetah, African wild dog, sly fox, and the hyena as they wait to prey on them. Only the strong ones survive as the wildebeest have to maneuver through the water infested with crocodiles in addition to their struggle to deal with whirling currents of the Maasai Mara River. This enormous migration is observed best between 0900 hrs and 1100 hrs.
The wildebeests are always on the run; therefore, moving long distances within a short time; they do this to make sure that as they are well spread in the ecosystem, they also get sufficient grass to feed on. In their stay in Kenya, they crisscross the Maasai Mara reserve in the vast herd at different times and where they are hunted down by their predators.
Activities to conduct in the Maasai Mara
Some of the activities involved in the Maasai Mara National Reserve include horse riding, game drives, walking safaris, balloon safaris, cultural visits, birds watching safaris and camping. It may provide a perfect wedding site in the country. In the Mara reserve, more than 400 species of birds have been identified, with about 50 species being migrant raptors. Vultures, hornbills, ostriches, secretary birds, crowned cranes, among others, are the birds that would call the Mara reserve home.
Maasai Mara Hot Air Balloon
Another spectacular event in the early morning is an outstanding hot air balloon ride. The lift-off is done during sunrise. It flies over the game reserve and culminates with a champagne mealtime in the bush identified as ‘Out of Africa Breakfast’; resting at a table under the shade of an ideal umbrella tree. The table is laid with King’s silver cutlery and Bone china. It feels cool sometimes getting out of the norm and riding on horseback instead of a vehicle, thus experiencing the wilderness as you get nearer to the wildlife.
There are also early morning and afternoon game drives or rather have an entire day game drive with a fantastic picnic lunch. Others may prefer an adventurous trek in reserve, as this gives them a higher chance of seeing the animals more closely. Maasai tour guide; they get to know more of the way of the Maasai culture, animals sound, track, and a lot more. The Maasai are semi-nomadic people famous for their colorful dress and unique customs. This visit is habitually incorporated in a safari package to the Mara reserve.
There are several hotels and camps near the Mara reserve and you are guaranteed of the most luxurious lodges such as the Olare Mara Kempinski and Cottar’s 1920. The amenities and facilities include Wi-Fi, television, satellite, laundry, and dry cleaning. Camps such as Fig Tree Camp and Basecamp Maasai Mara are near the crossing point, thus giving the visitor a close and spectacular view of the migration of the wildebeest. The park entry for non-residents is currently $80 per adult and $45 per child for 24 hrs. and for the residents, the fee is KES 300 per child and KES 1200 per adult. For every vehicle with six seats or below is charged at KES 400, and those containing 6-12 seats are charged a fee of KES 1000 per 24hrs.
How to get to the Maasai Mara
There are two main routes to get to the Maasai Mara game reserve one by road and the other by air. There are daily scheduled flights from the Kenyan coast and Nairobi, and the sanctuary is serviced by several airstrips around the park and which depend on the place where the visitor intends to spend his/her days. The reserve is roughly 300km from Nairobi, thus easily accessed by excellent road networks. There are only six entrances to the park; Oloololo gates, Sekenani, Sand River, Maria, Talek, and Ollolaimutiek.
The Maasai Mara, however, has a couple of rules and regulations. That is, they expect every visitor to adhere to in their stay and visit in reserve. They include; not feeding the animals as it upsets their diet, being aware of the animals because they are wild and can be unpredictable, leaving no litter nor fires unattended, among other rules and regulations.