The world re-known Maasai Mara Game Reserve is a northern extension of the Serengeti National Park which is located in Tanzania. Maasai Mara covers an area of 1510km². The Maasai Mara ecosystem is composed of rivers i.e Talek river and the Mara River which is the main water supply for the ecosystem.
The Mara river is a hurdle to the wildebeest migration as the wildebeests have to cross the river from Serengeti most of them perishing in the jaws of crocodiles and big cats. In the Western part of Maasai Mara lies the Siria escarpment, Loita plains, and Maasai pastoral land.
The Maasai Mara game reserve is owned and run by the county council of Narok which is the richest county council in Kenya due to the revenue collected as park entrance fee. Part of the Maasai Mara which is called the Mara triangle is contracted out and privately run. Park fees are paid by the number of nights one spends in the Mara Conservancy.
The Maasai Mara lies at an altitude of 1500 meters to 2100 meters. It rains twice a year in the game reserve that is during the long rains that fall for the month of March and May and during the short rains that fall in the month of October, November and part of December.
June and July are the coldest months and January and February the hottest months. Temperatures during the day rarely exceed 85°F (30°C) and during the night it hardly drops below 60°F (15°C). Maasai Mara is a mosquito-prone area, but the campsite is sprayed with mosquito repellents and the tents have treated mosquito nets.
Maasai Mara has a big population of wildlife. All big five can be seen in this reserve, a large number of ungulates are also easily visible they include the wildebeest, Thomson gazelles, grant gazelles, buffalos, rhinos, impalas, topis, elands, zebras, giraffes and duikers. The common predators include lions, cheetahs, leopards, hyenas, jackals and foxes. Maasai Mara has over 450 identified species. Some common birds include the common ostrich, secretary bird, Kori bustard, hornbills, storks, eagles and vultures.
The wildebeest migration happens annually, this spectacle is considered as one of the 7th wonders of the world. More than a million wildebeest, accompanied by topis, zebras, gazelles and elands make their journey from Serengeti National Park to Masai Mara Game reserve. Many of them perish while crossing the Mara River where crocodiles and big cats make a kill on the vulnerable ungulates.
The migration happens every year during the month of July after the long rains. The grass is big and plenty and for the next three months, the wildebeests clear the lush grass of the Maasai Mara. The migration varies annually due to climate change. If the climate changes and it doesn’t rain as usual the wildebeest may delay to cross over or cross over and go back since there isn’t grass to feed on.
The Masai people who by definition speak the Maa language hence the name Maasai have held on to their culture even in these times of modernization. A Maasai’s home is called a manyatta where he lives with his wives and children. From childhood boys are obligated to look after their father’s cows while girls are obligated to doing house chores, fetching water and milking the cows.
After every fifteen years, there is an initiation where boys are circumcised and they become young morans and the existing morans graduate to junior elders. The Maasai enjoy eating meat, milk mixed with blood during rituals such as initiation and marriage. The use of herbs as medicine is still embedded in their day to day life. The Maasai are an attraction in Kenya since they managed to stick to their culture.
Day 1: Nairobi – Maasai Mara
We depart Nairobi after breakfast, stopping at the viewpoint of the Great Rift Valley viewpoint. After checking in at our camp/ hotel we are served lunch. As the heat of the day subsides, we proceed for an evening game drive in this park. This is an extension of Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park as an artificial border only separates the two. Dinner and overnight at the Maasai Mara Sopa lodge.
Day 2: Maasai Mara Game Drive
Early breakfast followed by a full day of game drive within the reserve. The Maasai Mara is famous for its black manned lions, elephants and buffalo that make three out of the ‘big five’ though luck is essential for spotting the other two namely park’s animal concentration and abundance is second to none.
We will cater for a picnic lunch at the hippo pool where with luck you may spot crocodiles basking on the rocks. Numerous plains game including antelopes, wildebeest, zebra, Maasai giraffe can be seen as well as scavengers like hyena and vulture. In the late afternoon (at an extra cost), go for optional activities like having a nature walk, visiting Maasai villages to see the nomadic lifestyle or swimming in the nearby lodges. Rest of meals and overnight at the Maasai Mara Sopa lodge.
Day 3: Maasai Mara – Nairobi
We start the day with a pre-breakfast morning game drive at 6:00 am. After a full breakfast, depart the Mara region for Nairobi. Lunch can be arranged at Kiambethu tea farm; an old colonial home established by the early settlers and the pioneers of tea growing in Kenya. There will be a talk on tea: its arrival in Kenya, the growing, processing and up to when you put it into your cup. A short walk in the tea plantation and a small remaining part of the indigenous forest completes the tour. We have a healthy farm lunch and thereafter transfer to Nairobi.
Options are of course many and varied and in many cases, we can be flexible about the itinerary for accommodation facilities and the extension of the safari destinations.