This is one of the best known and most popular reserves in the whole of Africa. Seasoned safari travelers, travel writers, documentary makers and researchers often admit that the Maasai Mara is one of their favourite places. So why is that?
Perhaps it is because of the ‘big skies’, the open savannahs, the romance of films like ‘Out of Africa’ and certainly because of the annual wildebeest migration, the density of game, the variety of birdlife and the chance of a hot air balloon ride. Disney Wildlife, Big Cat Diaries, Game Rangers, BBC, National Geographic and the Discovery Channel shoot 85% of all their African Wildlife, documentaries and programs in the Masai Mara.
The plains are full of wildebeest, zebra, impala, topi, giraffe, Thomson’s gazelle. Also regularly seen are leopards, lions, hyenas, cheetah, jackal and bat-eared foxes. Black rhino are also found. Hippos are abundant in the Mara River as are very large Nile crocodiles, which lay in wait for a meal as the wildebeest cross on their annual quest to find new pastures. There are over 30 different places to stay, from lodges, tented camps to luxury tented selective camps. In a short stay during the wildebeest migration you could see thousands of animals, at other times there are still hundreds.
Every July (or sometimes August), the wildebeest travel over 600 miles (960km) from Tanzania’s Serengeti plains, northwards to the Masai Mara and the Mara River is the final obstacle. In October or November, once they have feasted and the grass has all but gone, they turn around and go back the other way.
And then, adding pathos and drama to the already extraordinary spectacle, a hungry constellation of predators -most notably lions and hyenas-follow the herbivores all along their clockwise migratory route. Lions and hyenas are not the only meat-eaters, though, as cheetahs, leopards, wild dogs, and jackals, as well as every scavenger of the area, wait impatiently for their share of the banquet.
The Mara birds come in every size and colour including common but beautiful ones like the lilac breasted roller and plenty of large species like eagles, vultures and storks.
Altitude is 4,875-7,052 feet (1,500-2,170 metres) above sea level, which yields a climate somewhat milder and damper than other regions. The daytime rarely exceeds 85°F (30°C) during the day and hardly ever drops below 60°F (15°C) at night.
Rainy Season: It rains in April and May and again November and this can cause some areas of the Mara to be inaccessible due to the sticky ‘black cotton’ mud. Dry Season: July to October is dry and the grass is long and lush after the rains. This is a good time to come and see the huge herds of migratory herbivores.
Hottest time: The warmest time of year is December and January. Coldest Time: June and July are the coldest months.