The Masai Mara is perhaps the world’s most famous wildlife area.
Situated on Kenya’s south-western border with Tanzania’s famous Serengeti plains, the Masai Mara is one of the few areas where animals can be seen in the large numbers that existed a hundred years ago.
Lying at an altitude of around 5500 ft, the habitat is predominantly open grassland plains dotted with trees and thickets, and incised with forested drainage lines. The Mara and Talek rivers flow, or hold water, throughout the year, sustaining the vast wildlife population. The diverse habitat enables many different species to co-exist, including the Big 5 – elephant, black rhino, Cape buffalo, lion and leopard. The birdlife too is impressive with over 500 species recorded.
The Masai Mara is particularly impressive when the annual wildebeest migration is in residence. The migrating herds of zebra and wildebeest usually arrive sometime in July and remain until late October. During this time, the herds often cross back and forth across the Mara River. These river crossings can be very dramatic with crocodiles and lion waiting in ambush. The Masai Mara is also known for its excellent ‘big cat’ viewing, having played host to the BBC’s popular Big Cat Diary series for over 10 years. Lion, leopard and cheetah sightings are all superb throughout the year.
Although the Masai Mara attracts a huge number of visitors, and it is difficult to have this game viewing paradise to yourself, there are selected areas, notably the private conservancies (Mara North, Olare Motorogi and Naboisho are the main ones) bordering the National Reserve, which offer a more exclusive experience.
These conservancies are Maasai-owned and there are no fences between properties and the reserve itself, so wildlife moves freely. The Maasai, a very proud people, are an integral part of the ‘landscape’ and can occasionally be seen tending their livestock. Safari camps which lie outside the reserve in these conservancies are able to be more flexible with activities, and may offer walking safaris, village visits, bush meals, sleep outs/ fly-camping and night drives in addition to standard game drives.