Maasai Mara National Reserve
The Maasai Mara National Reserve (also known as Masai Mara and by the locals as The Mara) is located in Narok County, Kenya. It is a large game reserve contiguous with the Serengeti National Park in Mara Region, Tanzania.
It is named in honor of the Maasai people (the ancestral inhabitants of the area) and their description of the area when viewed from afar: “Mara,” which is Maa (Maasai language) for “spotted,” an apt description for the circles of trees, scrub, savanna, and cloud shadows that mark the area.
It is globally famous for its exceptional population of Masai lions, African leopards and Tanzanian cheetahs, and the annual migration of zebra, Thomson’s gazelle, and wildebeest to and from the Serengeti every year from July to October, known as the Great Migration.
Masai Mara National Reserve is one of East Africa’s most famous safari destinations and a favourite amongst wildlife lovers, photographers and conservationists. It is renowned for its magnificent Big Cat population that hunt the wildebeest, zebra and other plains game that dominate the Mara
The Masai Mara National Reserve started out as a small Wildlife Sanctuary about 520 square kilometres (200 sq miles), established in 1948. It was only extended eastwards in 1961 and went through a number of size variations before settling on its current game reserve status at 1,510 square kilometres (583 sq miles).
In 1994, the TransMara County Council (TMCC) was formed in the western part of the reserve, and control was divided between the new council and the existing Narok County Council. In May 2001, the not-for-profit Mara Conservancy took over management of the Mara Triangle.
The Reserve is home to Wildebeest, topi, zebra, and Thomson’s gazelle; they migrate into and occupy the Mara reserve, from the Serengeti plains to the south and Loita Plains in the pastoral ranches to the north-east, from July to October or later. Herds of all three species are also resident in the reserve.
The Maasai Mara houses the “Big Five” (lion, leopard, African elephant, cape buffalo, and black rhinoceros).
Hippopotami and crocodiles are found in large groups in the Mara and Talek rivers. Leopards, hyenas, cheetahs, jackals, and bat-eared foxes can also be found in the reserve.
Antelopes can be found, including Grant’s gazelles, impalas, duikers and Coke’s hartebeests. The plains are also home to the distinctive Masai giraffe. The large roan antelope and the nocturnal bat-eared fox, rarely present elsewhere in Kenya, can be seen within the reserve borders.
More than 470 species of birds have been identified in the park, many of which are migrants, with almost 60 species being raptors. Birds that call this area home for at least part of the year include: vultures, marabou storks, secretary birds, hornbills, crowned cranes, ostriches, long-crested eagles, African pygmy-falcons and the lilac-breasted roller, which is the national bird of Kenya.
The wildebeest are the dominant inhabitants of the Maasai Mara, and their numbers are estimated in the millions. Around July of each year, these animals migrate north from the Serengeti plains in search of fresh pasture, and return to the south around October. The Great Migration is one of the most impressive natural events worldwide, involving some 1,300,000 wildebeest, 500,000 Thomson’s gazelles, 97,000 Topi, 18,000 elands, and 200,000 zebras. These migrants are followed along their annual, circular route by predators, most notably lions and hyena.
The Mara Triangle
The Mara Triangle is an area west of the Mara River, beneath the Oloololo escarpment . It is the most productive part of the entire Serengeti-Mara ecosystem in terms of grass nutrition, and gives a spectacularly scenic. In places, the grassy plains are dotted with widely spaced Balanites trees that give the landscape an almost manicured look, which together with the steep-sided escarpment and broad Mara River, provides a breathtaking backdrop for wildlife photographers.
The Mara Triangle is managed by the Mara Conservancy for the past 15 years – they have been largely successful at managing the area as evidenced in the guides’ discipline, successful anti-poaching efforts and impressive road infrastructure. For much of the year, the Mara Triangle has the lowest density of visitors in the Greater Maasai Mara, with just two lodges within its perimeters and a few on the northern border.
Covering over 500 square kilometres, the Mara Triangle includes seasonal marshes, open plains and gallery forest habitats, providing homes for a great diversity of mammals and birds.