Maasai Mara Game Reserve | Kenya’s Wildlife Haven
The Maasai Mara National Reserve is Kenya’s wildlife haven as it takes you on a journey of incredible wildlife sightings amidst the vast open savanna plains giving one the perfect African safari experience. Maasai Mara National Reserve is Kenya’s most popular conservation area and is internationally recognized as a top safari destination. Maasai Mara National Reserve also known as The Mara is home to a great population of animals that are best seen while on game drives in the reserve.
Maasai Mara National Reserve covers an area of 1,510 square kilometers that is filled with wildlife existing and foraging in the conservation area. Situated in Narok, Kenya Maasai Mara adjoins with the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania and is famous for its amazing wildlife encounters and has even been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Maasai Mara is famously known for the annual Great Migration which is the longest overland migration in the world. This annual migration involves millions of wildebeest and zebras as they migrate in search of fresh water and food as the seasons change throughout the year. The annual Great Migration sees over a million wildebeest migrate from the Serengeti National park in Tanzania as they cross north in to the Maasai Mara, they are usually joined by Grant’s gazelle, Thomson’s gazelle and elands along the way. The animals pass through the Mara River and Grumeti River that are filled with about 3000 crocodiles waiting to lunge on them but even this does not stop the animal’s quest for lush green grass and fresh water. The Great Migration is one of the most fascinating wildlife encounters in Africa.
The Maasai Mara obtains its name from the Maasai tribe of Kenya who are majorly pastoralists and are highly dependent on livestock keeping which is an integral part of their life. The Maasai are famously known for being warriors and defending their possessions including livestock like cattle and also known for their unique way of dressing which includes colorful sheets known as “Shuka” in Maa language which is their local dialect.
Wildlife of Maasai Mara National Reserve
When it comes to wildlife Maasai Mara is definitely the place to be as it offers incredible sightings in the vast savanna plains of the national reserve. Maasai Mara is famous for its abundant wildlife and the magical wildlife encounters is what draws and has drawn visitors to the conservation area over the years.
Maasai Mara is home to the African Big Five (Lion, Leopard, Buffalo, Rhino and Elephant), these animals are famous and the most sought after species while on safari in Maasai Mara. The Black Rhino is the only rare sighting and is more elusive however the big cats other Big Five animals are mostly seen in The Mara and exist in large numbers. Lions are seen while on full day game drives and chances of coming across prides of lions in the reserve are very high, lions are seen resting under thickets on a hot day, relaxing atop rocky outcrops or on a lucky day they can be seen feasting on a hunt.
Other animals in the Maasai Mara include Thomson’s gazelle, Giraffes, Impalas, Zebras, Wildebeest, Common Eland, Buffaloes, Topis, Elephants, Cheetah, Bat-eared fox, Spotted Hyenas, Black-backed jackal, Coke’s Hartebeest, Grant’s gazelles, Kirk’s dik-diks, Hippos, Water Buck, Aardwolf, Red tailed monkey, Olive baboons, Side-striped jackal, Slender mongoose, Vervet monkeys, Warthogs, Klip springer, Oribi, Honey badger, Dwarf mongoose and African Hare. Nocturnal animals of Maasai Mara include Bush babies, Aardvark and Straw coloured fruit bat.
Birds in Maasai Mara National Reserve
For the specialist and keen birdwatcher, Maasai Mara offers great birding opportunities as the reserve hosts 450 species of birds including 12 species of cisticola and 54 raptors. Maasai Mara is an Important Bird Area (IBA) and is home to savanna specials, Palearctic species and mid-elevation species.
Birds of Maasai Mara include Corn Crake, Jackson’s widowbird, Rufous-tailed Weaver, Grey-crested Helmetshrike, Caspian Plover, White Stork, Lazy Cisticola, Denham’s Bustard, Rufous-bellied Heron, African spoonbill, Black coucal, Miombo wren-warbler, Familiar chat, Long-tailed Cisticola, Icterine warbler, Yellow-bellied Hyliota, African darter, Great egret, Black-winged kite, Saddle-billed stork, African Open bill stork, White-headed vulture, Striped King fisher, Grey headed Kingfisher, Superb Starling, Western banded snake eagle, Martial eagle, Blue quail, Baillon’s crake, Pel’s fishing owl, Yellow-billed oxpecker, Spotted Thick Knee,African fish eagle, Kori bustard, Secretary bird, Sooty chat, Usambiro Barbet (an endemic specie), Egyptian goose, Hamerkop, Green wood hoopoe, Grey Kestrel, Lappet faced vulture, Abdim’s Stork, Black chested snake eagle, African grey Hornbill, African Harrier hawk, Bateleur, Coqui Francolin, Fischer’s sparrow lark, Hadeda Ibis, Lilac breasted roller, Ostrich, Southern Ground Hornbill, Speckled mouse bird, Vulturine Guinea fowl and Southern masked weaver among others.
Top things to do in Maasai Mara Kenya
Great Migration in Maasai Mara
The Great Migration is the most popular attraction in Maasai Mara and it happens each year. The Great Migration is a magical wildlife encounter that involves visitors watching thousands of zebras and wildebeest as they cross from the Serengeti to the Mara, this unique encounter involves seeing the struggle that the animals go through as they traverse the waters filled with crocodiles ready to hunt them. The Great Migration usually happens between June and October and it involves the animals which include wildebeest, zebras, and antelopes travelling long distances from Northern Serengeti in Tanzania up to Maasai Mara. The River crossings are not predictable as it is a natural wildlife encounter but it normally happens between the months of June – August. The Great Migration season is a magical wildlife spectacle and it is advisable to plan for the trip a year in advance as it tends to attract visitors from across the world to witness the migration.
The best way to experience Maasai Mara is by going on game drives in search of wildlife resident to the national reserve. The full day game drives begin in the morning as the Mara is best explored in the morning because early mornings offer chances to see nocturnal species before they go into hiding and cats as they set out to hunt. The game drives start with an early breakfast at the lodge after which you receive a briefing from your expert guide before setting out in to the game reserve. Spend the day exploring one of Africa’s greatest national reserves as you look out for cats, herbivores, predators and other animals of Maasai Mara. Game drives in Maasai Mara are always rewarding to visitors and offer incredible wildlife sightings amidst the vast rolling plains of the Mara, a truly magical safari encounter!
Birdwatching in Maasai Mara
450 species of birds have been recorded at the Maasai Mara making it a popular birdwatching destination while on a birding safari in Kenya. Maasai Mara is an Important Bird Area (IBA) of Kenya with endemic species, savanna specials and birds of prey. Birds of Prey are best seen when you come across a carcass or left over hunt by the cats, raptors like the Ruppell’s griffon and white-backed vultures gather to feast on the carcass. The most sought after birds while in Maasai Mara include Usambiro Barbet which is an endemic specie, the stunning Lilac-breasted Roller and the massive Ostrich.
Balloon Safaris in Maasai Mara
The hot air balloon safari is a unique way to explore Maasai Mara as it offers one an opportunity to watch the wildlife from a bird’s view. The balloon safari is magical as it takes you over the national reserve and you are able to view the wildlife from above and also experience the sections of the Mara that aren’t accessed by car. The balloon safari takes one hour and begins quite early at around the hour of 6 am.
Cultural Tours ( Maasai Village Tour )
The Maasai are a famous ethnic group of Kenya and known for their warrior culture. A visit to a Maasai village brings you closer to the local people and also offers you a glimpse in to their culture and way of life. You will be taken through the history of how they used to live in Maasai Mara before the conservation area was officially gazetted as a national reserve. This is a great way to spend an afternoon while on safari in Kenya. The Maasai are also known for their colourful traditional wear that consists of colourful sheets and beaded jewellery as well as their interesting traditional dance that involves jumping up high.
Sundowners and Bush Meals
Maasai Mara National Reserve is a perfect destination for bush meals amidst the reserve. With its rocky ridges and open savanna plains, the reserve offers perfect spots for bush breakfast, a private picnic or bush lunch all while enjoying expansive views of the conservation area. Sundowners are also another great way to spend your time in the Mara especially after full day game drives in the reserve, you get to end the day watching the sunset while sipping on your favourite drink.
Where to stay in Maasai Mara National Reserve
Maasai Mara has a number of exclusive, private and stunning game lodges and camps offering a visitor a number of options to consider while looking for a place to stay. Some of the lodges in Maasai Mara that we highly recommend include;
Governor’s 11 Moran Camp – This is an exclusive luxury camp situated in amidst the Maasai Mara and known for great game viewing as it is nestled along the winding banks of the Mara River. The Camp which has 10 luxury tents offers visitors a perfect blend of tranquillity and intimacy making their safari experience even more relaxing. The tents are beautifully decorated with a touch of African décor pieces and each tent features a comfortable wooden bed, en-suite bathroom with hot water available throughout the day, clean linen and private veranda. Other facilities at the property include a dining area serving delicious meals, a spa, a gift shop and a well-stocked bar.
Mara Serena Safari Lodge – This is an upmarket safari lodge also located in Maasai Mara National reserve and is situated in the Mara triangle which makes for a great base while on safari in Kenya. The accommodation facility features 74 rooms and these include large suites that cater to honeymooners and families travelling together. Each room has an en-suite bathroom with hot water available, comfortable beds with clean linen, mosquito nets and toiletries. The lodge has stunning views across the Mara vast plains, be sure to catch the sunrise or sunset from the main lobby while here.
Pride Inn Mara Camp – This is a mid-range tented camp located at the edge of Maasai Mara along the banks of River Talek with a great view of Maasai Mara. The camp has 31 rooms and these include river view cottages and safari tents nestled under canvas. The rooms are all en-suite and hot showers are available. The camp has other facilities that include an outdoor swimming pool where one can go swimming and cool off especially after a long day of game drives. The camp also has beautiful outdoor gardens, outdoor decks for relaxing and a standard dining area.
Best time to visit The Maasai Mara
The best time to visit is during the dry season that is from June to September and from January to February however the best way is to plan your safari around the movement of the Great wildebeest migration. The best time to see the migration is between June – October. However the Maasai Mara can be visited throughout the year and you will still have great safari encounters in the reserve.
Getting to Masai Mara
You can get to Masai Mara by road which is a 5-6 hours’ drive from Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya. The drive takes you through the scenic views of the landscape and country side of Kenya as well as offering you a glimpse into the life of the locals as you drive past the small busy towns and trading centers. The distance is 225 kilometers and the driving route is Nairobi – Narok – Maasai Mara. Your entry point into the reserve will either be from Sekenani, Ololaimutia or Talek gates, the gate one uses is dependent on where your lodge for the night is situated.
The alternative way to get to Masai Mara is by chartered flight from Wilson airport in Nairobi to an airstrip close to your lodge in Maasai Mara. The flight duration is 45 minutes.
Our Safaris to Maasai Mara