KENYA, MASAI MARA
In depth guide to the seasons, animals, birds and wildlife habitats of the African safari region
of the Masai Mara in Kenya.
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Masai Mara is one of the best
known and most popular reserves in the whole
of Africa. At times and in certain places it
can get a little overrun with tourist minibuses,
but there is something so special about it that
it tempts you back time and again.
safari travellers, travel writers, documentary
makers and researchers often admit that the
Masai 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.
because of the tall red-robed Masai people whose
lifestyle is completely at odds with western
practices, and from whom one learns to question
certain western values.
A combination of all these things plus something
to do with the spirit of the place - which is
hard to put into words - is what attracts people
to the Mara over and over.
Masai Mara lies in the Great Rift Valley, which
is a fault line some 3,500 miles (5,600km) long,
from Ethiopia's Red Sea through Kenya, Tanzania,
Malawi and into Mozambique. Here the valley
is wide and a towering escarpment can be seen
in the hazy distance. Most of the game viewing
activities occur on the valley floor, but some
lodges conduct walking tours outside the park
boundaries in the hills of the Oloololo Escarpment.
The animals are also at liberty to move outside
the park into huge areas known as 'dispersal
areas'. There can be as much wildlife roaming
outside the park as inside. Many Masai villages
are located in the 'dispersal areas' and they
have, over centuries, developed a synergetic
relationship with the wildlife.
are four main types of topography in the Mara:
Ngama Hills to the east with sandy soil and
leafy bushes liked by black rhino; Oloololo
Escarpment forming the western boundary and
rising to a magnificent plateau; Mara Triangle
bordering the Mara River with lush grassland
and acacia woodlands supporting masses of game
especially migrating wildebeest; Central Plains
forming the largest part of the reserve, with
scattered bushes and boulders on rolling grasslands
favoured by the plains game.
a short stay during the wildebeest migration
you could see thousands of animals, at other
times there are still hundreds. 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 a little shy and hard
to spot but are often seen at a distance.
are abundant in the Mara River as are very large
Nile crocodiles, who lay in wait for a meal
as the wildebeest cross on their annual quest
to find new pastures.
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.
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. There are 53 different
birds of prey.
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
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
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.
· Wildebeest Migration
· Hot Air Ballooning
· Huge savannahs of golden
· Big skies
· Rift Valley escarpment
· Lion sightings
This is a malarial area
The reserve covers an area of ??m² (1,510
There is no night driving and vehicles must
be back at the lodge by 6pm.
Several lodges are located outside the park's
boundaries, but as there are few fences you
may not be aware of this.
This is a Reserve rather than a National Park
and it belongs to the Masai people.
Follow the links below to Kenya's premier wildlife regions
and game reserves
Reserve Index | Wildlife