Masai Mara National Reserve: Things to do/Activities, Attraction, Accommodation, Wildlife, Fees and Costs
Masai Mara National Reserve is one of the most popular safari destinations in the African Continent, known for many wonderful things, among which include the “World Cup of Wildlife” commonly known as Great annual migration in addition to Big five animals and spectacular landscapes that define a true African Wilderness.
The beautiful Masai Mara National Reserve is located within the south-western part of Kenya in Narok, Rift Valley Province and is adjacent to Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park. The entire Masai Mara-Serengeti Ecosystem extends for over 25,000 square kilometers. It is also about 270 kilometers north-west of the City of Nairobi and sits within an area of 1500 to 2180 meters above sea level elevation. Therefore, this Reserve is bordered by Serengeti National Park in the south, the Oloololo Escarpment/Siria in the west and different Masai pastoral ranches in the East, North and West.
Size of Masai Mara National Reserve
This spectacular Kenyan National Reserve stretches over 1510 square kilometers (580 square miles/151,000 hectares). This Protected Area is part of the massive “Greater Mara Ecosystem” that also comprises of Mara Triangle as well as a number of Masai Conservancies such as Naikara, Ol Chorro Oirowua, Oloirien, Olkinyei, Koiyaki, Kimintet, Mara North, Siana, Lemek, Kerinkani and Maji Moto.
History of Masai Mara Reserve
The Reserve was named in honor of the dominant and ancestral inhabitants of the region (the Masai), who are believed to have originated from the Nile Basin. When asked about their journey and area where they came from, the word “Mara” was used to mean “spotted” in their local dialect. This was attributed to the numerous short bushy trees that dotted their landscape hence the name “Masai Mara”. Even when you visit this National Reserve, you will get a chance to interact with the Masai people across the Central, Northern and southern parts of Kenya as well as northern parts of Tanzania.
It was initially gazetted as a Wildlife Sanctuary in 1961, covering only 520 square kilometers at the time. In the same year it was enlarged to over 1,821 square kilometers and subsequently became a Game Reserve.
Management for the Game Reserve was later taken over by the Narok County Council and 12 years later (1974), part of the Protected Area became a National Reserve. Later it was agreed that over 159 square kilometers be returned back to the neighboring local communities and another 162 square kilometers was reduced in 1976 hence retaining its current size from 1984.
Things to see/Attractions in Masai Mara
A typical Masai Mara Safari delivers numerous things to see, among which include over 95 species of mammals that include over two million of wildebeests, gazelles and zebras that take part in the popular Great Annual migration across the Mara-Serengeti Ecosystem. Other must see animals in this Reserve are: all members of the big five crew-Black Rhinos, elephants, Cape buffaloes, lions and leopards which can be spotted all year round. Also expect Topis, Hippos, African wild dogs, cheetahs, Otters, Coke’s hartebeests, Black-backed jackals, side-striped jackals, bat-eared foxes, African golden wolves, African civets, Honey badgers, serval cats, Caracals, Genets, Aardwolves, African wild cats, African striped weasels, common elands, Roan antelopes, impalas, duikers, Masai giraffes, warthogs and many others. Enormous Crocodiles can be found in the popular Mara River.
Masai Mara National Reserve is also home to over 450 bird species with the commonly-spotted ones being the Lilac-breasted rollers, raptors, long-crested eagles, hornbills, Grey-crowned cranes, vultures, African pygmy falcons, secretary birds, Somali Ostriches and many others.
The Great annual Migration in Masai Mara
The Great annual Migration is one of the unmissable things to see in Masai Mara National Reserve and involves over 2 million wildebeests, Thompson’s and Grant’s Gazelles, zebras and other antelopes from Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park to Masai Mara through the unfenced boundaries. Make sure that our Masai Mara safari is booked at the same time of the wildebeest Migration between July and October
Things to do/Activities in Masai Mara National Reserve
Hot air balloon tours
Undertaking hot air balloon tours over the spectacular Masai Mara National Reserve is undeniably one of the most unforgettable ways to discover its outstanding landscape and wildlife. As you float above the sweeping plains, different wildlife species, fantabulous sceneries and birds will be encountered and on landing be treated to a delicious Continental bush breakfast, sunrise/sunset views and bush dinner (depending on the time of the day).
Both short and long game drives can be conducted in Masai Mara Reserve, offering opportunities of finding the extraordinary resident wildlife species especially elephants, cheetahs, lions, Topis, gazelles, Cape buffaloes, impalas, spotted hyenas, wildebeests, African wild dogs, Masai giraffes and many others. This is always every tourist’s experience in this safari destination
Witness the wildebeest migration
This annual activity involves millions of wildebeests, gazelles, zebras, Topis and impalas migrating from Serengeti National Park of Tanzania to Masai Mara National Reserve in a continuous cycle following seasons/rains as well as green and fresh pastures. For this Reserve, the animals are many between July and October.
Another unforgettable way to explore the hidden beauty of Masai Mara National Reserve is participating in walking safaris, conducted on foot in the company of trained and armed Ranger guides. Must visit places during this adventure include the banks of Mara River where the climax of annual migration takes place and many other areas.
Masai Cultural Tours
The Masai people are the original inhabitants of the area around Masai Mara National Reserve and the most interesting thing about them is that they have still maintained their lifestyle, culture, traditions and customs with little influence from modernity. Explore their traditional huts, enjoy their exciting traditional dances and many other activities.
This Reserve is also a wonderful birding destination with over 450 bird species to look-out for and the notable ones include saddle-billed storks, grey-crowned cranes, Lilac-breasted roller, secretary birds, Somali Ostriches and many others.
The outstanding landscape as well as abundance of wildlife and bird species makes Masai Mara National Reserve a photographer’s Paradise.
If you ever leave Masai Mara National Reserve without participating in outdoor camping, then you haven’t experience nature because the thrilling experience here is second to none. It is exciting to spend nights in the middle of the wilderness while surrounded by roars of the lions and other sounds of wild animals. However, there are armed rangers on standby to offer security although the adventure is totally secure.
Where to stay in the stunning Masai Mara National Reserve (Accommodation)
There are numerous accommodation options for visitors of Masai Mara National Reserve, ranging from budget to Luxury. The common and must-stay places include Matira Bush Camp, Bateleur Camp, Elephant Pepper Lodge, Kichwa Tembo Tented Camp, Ashnil Mara Camp, Zebra Plains Mara Camp, Angama Mara, Mara Serena Safari Lodge, Mahali Mzuri, Elewana Sands River Masai Mara, Kilima Camp, Mara Engai Lodge, Ol Seki Mara Camp, Kichwa Tented Camp, Enkerende Tented Camp, Mara Bush Top, Mara Naboisho Camps and Lodges, Enkorok Mara Camp, Masai Mara Sopa Lodge, Sarova Mara Game Camp, Entim Camp. The list is just endless.
Best time of the year to explore Masai Mara
Masai Mara National Reserve is open throughout the year but the best time of the year to explore its endless beauty and endowments is July to October, because it is the most ideal time to catch up with the Great annual migration of wildebeests, zebras and antelopes.
How to get to there
Masai Mara National Reserve is about 270 kilometers north-west of the City of Nairobi. There are two main ways to get to this Reserve, the easiest and fastest being by 45-minute flight with over 9 airstrips (in and outside Masai Mara) serving this 1510-square kilometer National Reserve. For Road transport, it takes only 5-6 hours of scenic driving and stopovers for photography.