When talking tourism in Kenya, one can’t help but mention Masai Mara Game Reserve. The reserve is one of the most visited wildlife destinations in Kenya and Africa at large. The abundant wildlife and annual wildebeest migration has put Masai Mara on the world tourism map; with the reserve receiving millions of tourists all year round.
One of the great spectacles of the Masai Mara Game Reserve in Kenya are the wildebeest which are the dominant inhabitants of the reserve. Their numbers are estimated to be in millions, and around July of each year, these wildebeests migrate north from the renowned Serengeti plains in search for fresh pasture, and later return to the south around October.
This migration is referred to as the Great Migration and is said to be one of the most spectacular natural events in the world. It involves the migration of about 1.3 million blue wildebeest, 500,000 Thomson’s gazelles, 97,000 Topi, 18,000 common elands and 200,000 Grant’s zebras. The Great Migration attracts thousands of tourists who come to the reserve to marvel at the spectacular event that is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa and also one of the 10 Wonders of the World.
Masai Mara Game Reserve in Kenya is also referred to as Maasai Mara Game Reserve and is named after the Maasai ethnic tribe of Kenya who are believed to be the original inhabitants of the area. The word ‘Mara’ means ‘spotted’ in the local Maasai language mainly because of the short bushy trees which dominate the landscape of the reserve.
The Masai Mara Game Reserve was established in 1961 as a wildlife sanctuary and only covered 520 square kilometers of its current area. Today, Masai Mara covers a total surface area of 1,510 square kilometers. The eastern part of the reserve was declared a National Reserve in 1974 which is managed by the Narok County Council.
The eastern part of the reserve is the most visited part of the Masai Mara and it is governed by the Narok County government while the western part of the reserve is under the management of the Trans- Mara county council.
Masai Mara Game Reserve is bordered to the south by Serengeti national park in Tanzania, Siria escarpment to the west, and Maasai pastoral ranches to the north, east and west. The reserve is mainly open grassland with major rivers like the Sand, Talek and Mara River flowing through it.
The reserve hosts more than 470 species of birds, many of which are migrants such as raptors. Other bird species that can be sighted in Masai Mara reserve include: the secretary birds, vultures, marabou storks, ostriches, African pygmy-falcons, long-crested eagles, hornbills and so many more which makes the reserve an ideal destination for bird watching safaris in Kenya.
Popular wildlife animals sighted in Masai Mara reserve in Kenya include the Grant’s gazelles, impala, duikers, Coke’s hartebeests, Masai giraffe, the large roan antelope, the bat-eared fox, Cape buffalo, lions, leopards, African savannah elephants, black and white rhinos to mention but a few.
You can also find pods of hippopotami and crocodiles in large groups in the Mara and Talek rivers cooling off from extreme heat in the park. The savannah plains between the Mara River and Siria Escarpments are the best areas for wildlife viewing, especially if you are eager to see lions and cheetah.
Activities Offered in Masai Mara Game Reserve.
Tourists visiting Masai Mara Game Reserve in Kenya can take part in a range of activities which are offered by the park such as;
Game drives are the most popular activity conducted in Masai Mara Game Reserve. The park offers tourists both day and night game drives. Popular wildlife animals sighted during game drive safaris in Masai Mara include; lions, wildebeest, hartebeests, zebras, giraffe, antelopes, spotted hyenas, elephants, rhinos, jackals and so many more. Night game drives in Masai Mara are the best if you are particularly interested in seeing nocturnal animals in the reserve such as lions, leopards, cheetah, serval cats, and civets to mention but a few.
Nature walks in Masai Mara reserve are the best way to explore the reserve on foot. Visitors on guided nature walks in the reserve get a chance to have face-to-face encounters with wildlife roaming the savannah plains in the reserve.
Hot Air Ballooning
Hot air balloon safaris in Masai Mara game reserve are very popular especially among visitors on a honeymoon. Hot air ballooning offers visitors a unique experience where you get to explore the reserve from the sky and you get to have a bird’s eye view of the landscape and wildlife in the reserve.
Cultural Encounters in Masai Mara game reserve are the best option for visitors looking to interact with the friendly Masai people who live in communities within and around the reserve. Visitors get to learn more about the unique Maasai culture, its people and their daily lifestyles. You can also support the local community by purchasing some of the arts and crafts that are made by Women’s groups in these communities.
Accommodation in Maasai Mara Game Reserve.
For accommodation in Maasai Mara game reserve, do check some of the following lodges and camps; Mara Serena Lodge, Little Governors Camp, Sentinel Mara Camp, Entim Mara Camp, Matira Bush Camp, Naibor Camp, Saruni Mara Lodge, Mara Bush Camp and Rekero Tented Camp to mention but a few.
How to get to Maasai Mara.
Maasai Mara game reserve can be accessed by either road or air transport means. There are several airfields which serve most of the camps and lodges in the reserve including Mara Serena Airstrip, Musiara Airstrip, Keekorok, Kichwa Tembo, Ngerende Airport, Ol Kiombo and Angama Mara Airstrips. Visitors can board scheduled flights from Nairobi to Masai Mara game reserve.
By Road, Masai Mara game reserve is approximately 225 kilometers from Nairobi. A road trip from Nairobi to the reserve takes about 6 hours of driving. Visitors accessing the Narok side of the reserve can use the Sekenani, Talek or Oloolaimutia gates while those accessing the western part of the reserve can use the Musiara or Oloololo gates.