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Maasai Mara National Reserve was responsible for introducing the world to the concept of safaris. The park covers an area of 1,510 sq. kms. and presents spectacular scenery, breathtaking wildlife and picturesque surroundings at every turn. Maasai Mara loses out on some of its bush vibe due to 290,000 visitors who come here each year, but it always manages to ensure that you have a blast while exploring its jungles, rivers and plains.
From documentary makers and researchers to travel writers and seasoned travelers, it is easy to find all kinds of visitors at Maasai Mara. The vast clear skies, starry nights, majestic savannahs and exotic animals all play their part in making the Mara feel like ‘contemporary Africa’, and the wildebeest migration simply adds to the aura of romance and mystery.
Maasai Mara presents four types of adventures – the Oloololo Escarpment which beautifully rises to form a fascinating plateau; the Ngama Hills and its sandy soil and leafy bushes which are preferred by the rhino; the Central Plains and their rolling grassland and scattered bushes which host most of the game and the Mara Triangle and its acacia woodlands and lush green grasslands famous for its wildebeest populations and home to the Migration phenomenon.
- Wildlife Rating: 5 stars out of 5
- Scenery Rating: 5 stars out of 5
- Bush Vibe: 3 stars out of 5
The Maasai Mara National Reserve has been called the flagship conservation area in Kenya, and its game viewing is considered to be excellent throughout the year. The Mara is one of the best destinations in the country to see the African Big 5 – buffalo, rhino, elephant, leopard and lion – as well as other popular herbivores and carnivores. Home to as many as 2 million animals, it is at the very top when it comes to animal sightings. Some of the animals found here include zebras, buffalos, topis, impalas, elephants, warthogs, impalas, crocodiles, leopards, cheetahs, lions and as many as 450 species of birds.
Game drives are the best thing to do here, but you also have other exciting wildlife adventures in the form of hot air balloon safaris, cultural visits to the nearby Maasai villages, guided walks and the Oloololo Escarpment Trail. This is where you see the Maasai people, whose culture often makes you question your western values.
This is where you see hundreds of predators stalking millions of herbivores who make their annual pilgrimage despite the apparent danger. This is where you fall in love with the wild, its unending mysteries, its gorgeous beauty and non-stop action. This is the Mara.
- Number of Visitors: 290,000
- Altitude: 1,500 to 2,180 m
- Home to the Great Migration
- Breathtaking diversity of animals
- One of the highest densities of lions on the planet
- The Maasai culture
- Accessible through the year
- Plenty of accommodations to choose from
- Very crowded during peak season
- Low on bush vibe because of the sheer number of visitors it attracts
Maasai Mara is one of the two national parks of Africa that hosts the Great Migration phenomenon and it is also home to the Maasai people and their beautiful culture. It presents a wide range of accommodation options and most lodges maintain excellent relations with the community to allow you to dive into their culture and learn what makes it so special. Luxury travelers don’t need to look beyond Mahali Mzuri, Mara Plains Camp, Bateleur Camp, Rekero Camp and Elephant Pepper Safari. Those searching for something less exorbitant would prefer Porini Lion Camp, Sanctuary Olonana and Kichwa Tembo Tented Camp.
Choosing which part of the Mara to visit can also have an impact on your experience. The northern concessions are considered to be far more private and a majority of the luxury camps and safari suites are located there. The eastern parts are the closest to Nairobi, and the accommodation found here is considerably cheaper.
The best time to visit the Mara is between the months of July to November, as this is when you get to see the greatest spectacle on the planet – the wildebeest migration. The sheer number of animals who migrate between the Serengeti (Tanzania) and the Mara makes it the most dramatic phenomenon on the planet. To reach the fresh grazing grass, the wildebeest must make a river crossing, risking becoming a feast for the lurking crocodiles, and this is where you get to see the best action. The months of December and January are equally popular as they coincide with the calving season. Visiting during this ‘green season’ gives you a unique opportunity to see herbivores give birth to hundreds of thousands of calves, fawns and foals.
Tourists wanting to extend their vacations have a number of options to choose from. The exotic Seychelles might not be ‘close’, but it still lies in this part of the world. If you have time and still skip out on a trip to Seychelles, you might not be able to forgive yourself for a very long time. For something closer, the following options are perfect.
- Lamu: Lamu makes you realize what love at first sight really means. It’s magical setting is ideal to rejuvenate your soul after a weary experience in the African jungle and the salty air does its best to treat your skin to some much-needed pampering after being baked under the African sun. Lamu gains its popularity from its historic old town, the best-preserved and oldest Swahili settlement in East Africa. The labyrinth alleys offer glimpses of the local life, beautiful houses made using coral and stone and elaborately carved wooden doors. Lamu was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it often emerges as the highlight for many tourists visiting this part of the continent.
- Nairobi: You often hear all kinds of things about Nairobi, and yes, most of those things are actually true. Nairobi is a city that forces you to be smart and think twice before making any decision, but it is also a place which introduces you to one of the most beautiful cultures on the planet. As a major powerhouse in this part of the world, Nairobi is as close to western civilization as Africa manages to get and the city is full of restaurants, nightclubs and attractions that warrant a visit.
- Amboseli National Park: Amboseli National Park is the second-best national park in Kenya. You may not want to visit the second-best national park when you’re already planning to visit the crown jewel, but Amboseli is home to – wait for it – Mt. Kilimanjaro. Clicking pictures of mammoth tuskers with the largest peak in Africa as your background, now that’s something which is usually reserved for those Nat Geo photographers!