Maasai Mara National Reserve

Maasai Mara National Reserve is one of Kenya’s most visited tourist destination by tourists yearly, with thousands of travellers visiting per year to explore greatly. The Reserve is located in the south west of Kenya and west of Nairobi city. Maasai Mara National Reserve lies along the Great Rift Valley in Narok County adjacent to Serengeti National Park of Tanzania. Maasai Mara National Reserve was named after the locals of the area named the Maasai, who described the area that the reserve covers as Mara which means spotted circles of trees, savannah, scrub and shadows of the area. Maasai Mara National Reserve was established in 1961 to protect the abundant wildlife of the area, and covers a total of 1510 square kilometres.

Maasai Mara National Reserve
Maasai Mara National Reserve

Maasai Mara National Reserve is managed by two different councils each with a separate section. The North-western part of the Maasai Mara National Reserve is managed by the Mara Conservancy on behalf of Trans-Mara County Council while the rest of the reserve is managed by the Narok County Council. Game rangers do patrol the reserve regularly thus safe to visit and there is limited if no poaching at all in the reserve.

Maasai Mara National Reserve is bordered by Siria escarpments in the West, Serengeti National Park of Tanzania in the south and the Maasai pastoral ranches in the north, east and west too. The Reserve is mainly an open savannah grassland with seasonal rivulets, dotted acacia trees as well as the Mara River and Talek River which are an important draining system of the reserve. 

The wildlife of Maasai Mara is very diverse and the Mara plains teem with about 1.5 million wildebeests, the Big five including elephants, buffaloes, rhinos, leopards and lions; zebras, giraffe, impalas, the Thomson’s gazelle, hyenas, jackals, topis, duikers, Maasai giraffe, hippos, crocodiles among so many others. The crocodiles are especially most happy during the great migration usually in the months of July and November when they do feast on the wildebeests that attempt to cross the Mara River to and from the Serengeti. Birdlife in Maasai Mara is equally diverse with more than 470 species of birds recorded including secretary birds, hornbills, crowned cranes, lilac-breasted roller among others, with about 50 birds of prey like vultures among so many others.

The annual wildebeest migration makes the reserve particularly famous among tourists and other Kenya national parks that travellers can visit for a Kenya safari tour. Annually, millions of wildebeests cross the Mara River infested with crocodiles under the survival of the fittest with leopards and lions among other predators on the chase. 

Activities in Maasai Mara National Reserve

Game drives

Game drives in Maasai Mara Reserve are the most activities that travelers do in the reserve. Travellers get to enjoy game viewing in the comfort of a safari vehicle with an open roof or wide enough windows that photos can be taken properly. Morning game drives which start at dawn allow travellers to rise with the sun and observe it majestically rising and observing a variety of wildlife as they too rise to start off their day. Evening and night game drives can also be done in the reserve, with a game ranger mandatory to be on a night game drive. With over 1000 animals, game viewing is a rewarding activity not to be missed. 

Nature walks/Walking safaris

Nature walks/Walking safaris in Maasai Mara Reserve are done in the company of a ranger guide. Walking safaris are a great way to explore the reserve and are done through trails less used by predators. You will enjoy seeing a variety of wildlife including elephants, giraffes, antelopes, duikers, buffaloes, impalas, gazelles, and so much more. Walking safaris can lead you as far as the Mara River and if it is during the time of the great migration, you will get to see the wildebeests racing like crazy all on foot.

Balloon safaris

Balloon safaris in Maasai Mara are a very rewarding activity that has travellers getting in a hot air balloon and then explore the reserve from up above. Balloon safaris give travellers a bird’s eye view of the Maasai Mara. Travellers get to spend 1 to 2 hours up in the balloon. Most balloon safaris end with a bush breakfast that adds to the feel of wilderness. 

Horseback safaris

Horseback safaris are another way to encounter the wildlife of Maasai Mara. Horseback safaris give travellers an open way of exploring the vast landscape and savannah of the reserve while sighting a variety of wildlife like gazelles, Maasai giraffes, zebras, buffaloes among so many others, all in the guidance of a well-trained game ranger. You can even pat on the backs of some of these wild animals like zebras and giraffes.

Cultural encounters

Cultural encounters in Maasai Mara has travellers meeting the local Maasai people. The Maasai culture is one of the greatest and popular cultures in Africa that travellers enjoy encountering and learning of their way of life. Participate in various activities with the locals and also get to enjoy their traditional dances and songs, as well as their clothing which you can purchase from them. 

The best time to visit Maasai Mara National Reserve

The Reserve lies between 1500-2200m above sea level thus making the climate quite damper and milder than in other regions. The rainy and wet season in the Maasai Mara is in April-May and November which has some parts of the reserve muddy and impassable. The dry season is in July to October, which is the best time to visit Maasai Mara National Reserve. Maasai Mara National Reserve can however be visited all throughout the year.

Maasai Mara National Reserve
Maasai Mara National Reserve

How to access Maasai Mara National Reserve

The Reserve is accessible by both road and air. Maasai Mara is accessible by air from Nairobi Wilson Airport and from Samburu, Lewa Downs, Nanyuki or Mombasa or Diani to any of the small Mara airstrips from where you will transfer by car to your lodge or camp of stay. Flights from Nairobi to Maasai Mara take about 45 minutes or 1 hour tops. Maasai Mara is also accessible by road which has travellers spending about 5-6 hours in the dry season to get to the reserve and about 7 hours in the wet season through various gates that include Sand River, Musiara, Talek, Sekenani or Oloololo Gate. 

Getting around in Maasai Mara Reserve is by car, preferably a 4-wheel safari vehicle, or by a hot air balloon. Getting around in the reserve shouldn’t be done by foot due to the presence of many predators and wild animals.

Maasai Mara National Reserve rewards travellers with a true African safari. You can explore the Mara region solely for at least 3 days or even combine them with another destination say Lake Nakuru National Park or even with gorilla trekking in Uganda! Get in touch with a reputable tour operator to help you plan a Kenya safari to Maasai Mara National Reserve.

book a gorilla trip