wildebeest crossing mara river

ABOUT MASAI MARA NATIONAL RESERVE 

Masai Mara national reserve was established in 1961 as an animal sanctuary. It was given a national reserve status in 1974. Masai Mara national reserve is located in the Narok county on the southern part of Kenya. The park is named after the Masai tribe who are the inhabitants of the surrounding areas and co exist with the wildlife. It is 224KM from the capital city of Nairobi.

It borders the Tanzania’s Serengeti national park and together they form an ecosystem. Masai Mara national reserve covers an area of about 1510 sq. kilometers. Three rivers run through the reserve namely Mara River, Sand River and Talek river.  Masai Mara national reserve combined with another area called the Mara triangle and several Masai conservancies, including Koiyaki, Lemek, Ol Chorro Oirowua, Mara North, Ol kinyei, Siana, Maji Moto, Naikara, Ol Derkesi, Kerinkani, Oloirien, Naibosho and Kimintet form the Greater Mara ecosystemThe area is open savannah grassland dotted with acacia trees. 

THE WEATHER IN MASAI MARA

Masai Mara’s altitude causes its climate to be cooler and wetter than most people expect it to be. Situated at an altitude varying from 1500 to 1900 meters, pleasantly warm daytime temperatures and much cooler nights can be expected. 

The dry season usually starts in June and ends in October. In these months rainfalls are almost non-existent, the air is dry and the temperatures are not high.

Masai Mara national reserve region has also two rainy seasons: the shorty rainy season is in November and December and the long rainy season is in March to May. The heaviest rainfall can be expected in April. On average it rains approximately 1400 millimeters (55 inches) per year.

Dry season in Masai Mara

This are the best times to be in Masai mara. It is typically sunny but not very hot. Early morning game drives can be chilly.

  • June, July, August  – this months are mostly sunny. Temperatures in the afternoon can be about 25°C/77°F. Early mornings and nights the temperatures can be around 12°C/54°F. Sometimes it can rain though rarely.
  • September and October – This months are still dry although some rains can be expected. October realizes a slight increase in temperatures  to around 27°C/81°F or higher. Nights and chilly early mornings persist at around 12°C/54°F.

Wet season in Masai Mara

The wet season starts in November and goes on until May. January and February can experience little or no rains.  Days are often overcast, with showers in the afternoon. The mornings are chilly with temperatures around 13°C (55°F). 

  • November and December – These are the months of short rains with afternoon temperatures averaging 27°C (81°F).
  • January and February – Rainfall is typically less in these two months but some showers can still be expected. 
  • March, April and May – This are the months of long rain with April being the wettest. Early mornings are chilly with an average temperature of 13°C (55°F). 

ATTRACTIONS IN MASAI MARA NATIONAL RESERVE AND THE GREATER MARA

Masai Mara National Reserve

Nowhere in Africa is wildlife more abundant like in the Masai Mara national reserve. It is one of the best destinations in the world for wildlife viewing in their natural environment. There are over 95 species of mammals, amphibians and reptiles and more than 400 birds species recorded in the reserve. The reserve is famous for the annual wildebeest migration that occurs when more than two million animals arrive in Masai Mara from Serengeti in July and go back in October. All members of the big five are found in the reserve.

Other animals seen here include cheetah, serval, hyena, bat-eared foxes, black-backed and side-striped jackals, hippo, crocodile, baboons, warthog, topi, eland, thompson’s gazelle, Grant’s gazelle, impala, waterbuck, oribi, reed-buck and zebra etc. Birds are abundant which include more than 60 species of raptors.  They include eagles, vultures, ostriches, storks, little grebe, pelicans, cormorants & darter, herons, egrets, bitterns ,hammer kop, shoebill, ibises, spoonbill, ducks, geese among many others.

Game drives are the most popular way of viewing wildlife in the Masai Mara. There are also other ways methods  including hot air balloon and nature walks. Other popular activities include photographic safaris and cultural experiences. Night game drives is not permitted in Masai Mara national reserve. Some of the private conservancies do have night game drives.

Mara triangle

It is on the southwestern part of the Masai Mara national reserve. An organization called Mara conservancy manages it on behalf of Trans Mara county. The mara river divides it with the Masai Mara national reserve. It is less crowded with with a fairly very good concentration of wildlife all year-round. They include the big five,  plains game and many other species. It is one of the areas where herds of the Great Migration enter and exit the Maasai Mara National Reserve from the Serengenti National Park in Tanzania. This makes it one of the prime viewing locations for this wildlife spectacle.

Mara North conservancy

The Conservancy is a private wilderness with an area of more than 27,500 hectares (67,954 acres). It is an important part of the Maasai Mara ecosystem on the north-western zone, bordering the Maasai Mara National Reserve. Mara North Conservancy is a not-for-profit entity established in 2009. The conservancy is a partnership of 6 camps, 3 lodges, 3 riding outfits and over 900 Maasai Landowners. Mara North Conservancy has one of the lowest tourist and vehicle densities in the ecosystem due to managed volume and strict land-use plans. Its purpose is to create a best practice, world-class conservancy with long-term commitments to the environment, wildlife, and local communities.

Mara Naibosho Conservancy 

The private conservancy was created in 2010 and the size is 50,000 acres of community pastoralist and wildlife conservation area located in the Great Rift Valley, Kenya. It falls within the Greater Mara Region and was carved out of the Koiyaki-Lemek Group Ranch. Bordering it is the world famous Maasai Mara National Reserve to the southwest, the Olare Motorogi Conservancy to the west, and the Ol Kinyei Conservancy to the east. The Mara Naboisho Conservancy limits the number of beds per acre and also the number of tourists who may enter the area. This reduces the crowds of vehicles. With less crowd and vehicles, it provides spectacular unspoiled views of exciting wildlife. The Conservancy has one of the highest densities of lions in Africa and boasts of impressive herds of elephant, giraffe, wildebeest, and zebra. It is also home to Kenya’s rare wild dog. The conservancy is not governed by the same rules that apply to national parks, there is the flexibility to experience something things not possible in the Masai Mara National Reserve like night game drives and driving off the tracks. 

Olare Motorogi Conservancy

Olare Motorogi Conservancy is a partnership of over 300 landowners and five tourism service providers who are Porini Lion Camp, Kicheche Bush Camp, Mara Plains Camp, Olare Mara Kempinski and Mahali Mzuri. It offers an incomparable wildlife viewing experience in an uncrowded wilderness. With an astounding volume and variety of wildlife, the Conservancy offers some of Kenya’s finest wildlife viewing. Olare Motorogi Conservancy boasts one of the highest concentrations of big cats in Africa and over 300 bird species, including 50 different species of raptors. Game viewing starts at your lodges doorstep. High quality standards and low vehicle density provide a truly unique and exclusive experience. 

Ol Kinyei Conservancy

The Ol Kinyei Conservancy was the first conservancy to be established within the Great Masai Mara Ecosystem. It is an area of 18,700 acre Kenyan wildlife conservancy belonging to  Maasai community  leased to be set aside for the purposes of wildlife conservation. The area is home to only two safari camps, the Porini Mara Camp and Porini Cheetah Camp, both of which accommodate a maximum of only 12 guests each at any given time. This arrangement provides an exclusive experience and also respects the principles of eco-tourism. Conservation efforts have resulted in a thriving population of wild animals. With a little luck, rare wild dog may be spotted during stay in the conservancy. Countless gazelles, zebras and wildebeests generally trek through the conservancy sometime between June and October during the great migration. Around January, during the lesser known Loita Hills Migration, between 100,000 to 250,000 pass through the Ol Kinyei Conservancy en route to the Naboisho Conservancy and the Olare Motorogi Conservancy. They also pass through this area on their way back to the Loita Hills.

Mara river

The Mara River begins in Narok County (Kenya) and in ends in Mara Region and (Tanzania) into lake Victoria  covering a distance of 395 kilometres. Part of the river that is located in Kenya is 65% while 35% is in Tanzania. On the Kenyan side in Masai mara, the river merges with three tributaries which are the Talek, Engare, Sand and Engito rivers. On the Kenya Tanzania border, the river flows into the Serengeti National Park and is joined by the fourth major tributary, the Sand River. Mara river lies across the great migration corridor where ungulates migrate annually.  Nicknamed ‘the river of death’, the Mara River is known for its infamous role in The Great Migration. Each year, countless wildebeest descend Mara’s steep banks into the perilous waters below. They must evade a swarm of lurking crocodiles as they scramble to reach the other side. Tourists flock to the river from July to September to have a chance of witnessing this natural phenomenon.

ACTIVITIES IN MASAI MARA AND THE GREATER MARA

A host of activities that can be undertaken in the region. The activities include day game drives, night game drives, walking safari, filming and photography, hot air balloon safari, bird watching and Picnics.

WALKING SAFARI

Walking safaris is not permitted in Masai Mara national reserve. However, they are allowed in the conservancies. This are guided tours on foot where guests embark on slow paced, walks with the primary objective being to see different wildlife species in the bush. More details that are usually overlooked on game drives become more apparent from the slower pace and closer range. The walks are mostly done in the morning and evenings and brings about a different scope and sense of adventure.

DAY GAME DRIVES

This is an adventure that entails viewing wildlife while in a safari vehicle. A safari game drive can vary in length and distance, depending on individual preferences. Usually conducted in the early mornings or late afternoon. It is the most common way to view wildlife in the area.

NIGHT GAME DRIVES

This are also allowedonly in the consevancies.A whole new world of animal species (nocturnal) await you on a night game drive. It gives you a different perspective of the park and wildlife. It is a wonderful opportunity to spot predators and prey alike. The lights of the safari vehicle illuminate the dark world, unknown even to experienced safari adventurers. Spotting the nocturnal creatures who scuttle, feed and fight their way through the bush at night can be exotic and exciting as sighting larger mammals during the day.

BALLOON SAFARI

This is one of the most sort after experience during a safari holiday. The early morning fresh air and a birds eye view of the expansive savannah plains teaming with wildlife is a sight to behold, as the hot air balloon floats in the sky. Balloon air flight in the Mara will give you a different experience. Gliding across savannah on your tour as the sun rises making the plains pink, you will see animals congregating in their hundreds in the early morning.

BIRD WATCHING

Masai Mara is a great bird watching site with more than 400 species recorded. With a daunting 47 species of birds of prey, the  treetops, bushes and skies are a feast for birdwatcher’s eyes. In terms of size, these savannah birds range from bieng big, such as the world’s largest bird the ostrich, to tiny sunbirds  which are hard to spot with the naked eye.

Getting to Masai Mara National Reserve

It takes about 5 to 6 hrs to drive to Masai Mara national reserve from Nairobi. There are several gates which can be used to gain entry in Masai Mara national reserve namely Sand river, Musiara, Talek, Sekenani and Oloololo. Roads in the reserve are fairly good and can be traversed with a 2 wheel drive vehicle but some remote areas can only be accessed by sturdy 4 wheel drive vehicles. It also becomes a big challenge for two wheel drive vehicles when it rains as the roads become flooded and turn into mud paddles so a 4 wheel drive vehicle is recommended.

It is also possible to fly to Masai Mara national reserve from Nairobi landing in any of the following airstrips determined by the location of your accommodation facility; Mara Serena airsrip, Musiara airstrip and Keekorok airstrip, Kichwa Tembo airstrip, Ngerende airstrip, Ol Kiombo airstrip and Angama Mara airstrip. You can also fly in from other locations like Samburu, Lewa, Nanyuki, Mombasa or Diani.

 

Accommodation in Masai Mara national reserve

Accommodation is plenty inside and outside the park and range from budget, Midrange to Luxury. Accommodations inside the park tend to cost slightly more compared to the ones outside the park. The cost of accommodation shoots up during the peak season.

 

Park rules/code of conduct

  • Respect the privacy of the wildlife, this is their habitat.
  • Beware of the animals, they are wild and can be unpredictable.
  • Don’t crowd the animals or make sudden noises or movements.
  • Don’t feed the animals, it upsets their diet and leads to human dependence.
  • Keep quiet, noise disturbs the wildlife and may antagonize your fellow visitors.
  • Stay in your vehicle at all times, except at designated picnic or walking areas.
  • Keep below the maximum speed limit (40 kph/25 mph).
  • Never drive off-road, this severely damages the habitat.
  • When viewing wildlife keep to a minimum distance of 20 meters and pull to the side of the road so as to allow others to pass.
  • Leave no litter and never leave fires unattended or discard burning objects.
  • Respect the cultural heritage of Kenya, never take pictures of the local people or their habitat without asking their permission, respect the cultural traditions of Kenya and always dress with decorum.
  • Stay over or leave before dusk, visitors must vacate the Park between 6.00 p.m. – 6.00 a.m. unless they are camping overnight. Night game driving is not allowed.