Masai Mara stretches across an area of 580 square miles (1,510 sq km). It represents the northernmost portion of the Mara-Serengeti ecosystem. The Sand River, Talek River, and the Mara River are the primary rivers draining waters of the reserve. The park is divided into two main areas the inner portion which features pristine wilderness and the outer portion which allows for cattle of the Masai people to graze.
The Masai Mara is renowned for its abundance and variety of larger plains species as well as the variety of predator species. It is considered the only place left in Kenya which resembles the wildlife population today from what it once was. Although there is an abundance, the wildlife is declining and thankfully the preserve is there to protect it. It is one of Africa's most coveted wildlife viewing destinations.
Popular wildlife that might be seen in the Masai Mara include hippo, giraffe, waterbuck, reedbuck, roan antelope, warthog, eland, topi, gazelle, zebra, baboon, crocodile, various species of monkeys, and black rhino. Except for the mountain gorilla, all of Africa’s Big 7 can be part of your wildlife sightings. The Mara is home to the largest collection of lions in Kenya.
Predator species are almost always atop traveler's wildlife viewing wishlist. The good news is the Mara has them. Lion, leopard, cheetah, jackal, hyena, and various species of mongoose are all found throughout the park.
The Masai Mara is a portion of the larger Mara Ecosystem which combines the Koiyaki, Lemek, Ol Chorro Oirowua, Olkinyei, Siana, Maji Moto, Naikara, Ol Derkesi, Kerinkani, Oloirien, and Kimintet protective ranches. All of these efforts work together recognizing the significance of protecting the wilderness and wildlife that live in the region.
Although the plains and wooded areas are beautiful, the wildlife is the reason travelers visit Masai Mara. Most people target the months between July and October with hopes of experiencing the wildebeest migration through the park.
There are plenty of opportunities for historical and cultural experiences as well. You can visit Masai villages and cultural centers which will all expose you to the culture of the Masai people. You might become better at jumping if you pay close attention.
Masai Mara Highlights:
The Masai Mara is probably the leading safari destination in Kenya and regarded as the jewel of wildlife viewing. The park is home to 95 species of mammals, amphibians, and reptiles. It is also a bird lover viewing spot with over 400 species of birds.
Whether in Tanzania or in Kenya, ballooning over the million-plus wildebeest herd and the other hundreds of thousands of zebra and gazelle makes for a spectacular highlight. Lion, leopard, cheetah, serval, jackal, and hyena are possible predator sightings.
Large herds, 200,000 zebra, 18,000 elands, 500,000 gazelle, 97,000 topi, and the 1.3 million wildebeest can be experienced if the migration herd has crossed the Mara River and grazing throughout the plains and vegetation of the wilderness area.
The whole Mara experience is big. The game-viewing is extensive, the vistas are awe-inspiring, the rolling hills seem endless, and it is all intertwined with groves of acacia and related bush. The Mara River and subsequent tributaries traverse through the park creating pristine riverine forests.
Hiking Trails of Masai Mara
The Masai Mara is wilderness at its wildest. There are predator species roaming throughout the park and hiking is not an option. The good news is there are walking safaris which do provide opportunities to have guided and guarded treks into this splendid wilderness. Make certain you pay attention to any instructions provided by the guide or guards. They have your safety in mind first with the goal of a wonderful experience with nature as the next key objective.
Masai Mara Highlights
- A high population of lion, leopard, and cheetah
- Serengeti migration herd of wildebeest
- Migration crossing the Mara River
- Seeing the Big 5
- Ballooning over the migration herd and other wildlife
- Africa Geographic Travel, Masai Mara, https://travel.africageographic.com/destinations/kenya/maasai-mara/#information, retrieved June 2020.
- Britannica, Masai Mara National Reserve, https://www.britannica.com/topic/Masai-Mara-National-Reserve, retrieved June 2020.
- Discover Africa, Masai Mara National Reserve, https://www.discoverafrica.com/safaris/kenya/masai-mara-national-reserve/, retrieved June 2020.
- Masai Mara, https://www.masaimara.com/, retrieved July 2019
- Magical Kenya, Masai Mara Game Reserve, http://www.magicalkenya.com/places-to-visit/wilderness-areas/masai-mara-game-reserve/, retrieved July 2019
- National Geographic, Mara Plains Camp: About the Destination, https://www.nationalgeographiclodges.com/lodges/africa/mara-plains/about-the-destination/#.XTsihpNKi1s, retrieved July 2019.
- William, J.G., National Parks of East Africa, HarperCollings Publishing, 1995.