Masai Mara national reserve is one of the most visited and leading parks in the republic of Kenya. Established in 1961, first as a wildlife sanctuary, the mara land covered 200 square miles and this included the Mara Triangle which later was extended to cover 1,821 km. It was then turned into a game reserve. In 1974, Part of this game reserve was made a national reserve and the remaining area of 159 Km was returned to the Masai local communities. By 1984, another 162km were removed from the reserve and the area remained 1510km2. In 1994, The trans mara Conservancy took over management of the Mara triangle. These are areas that are privately owned by individuals but they do have wildlife too and animals also do cross to these areas. To visit a conservancy for game viewing, one pays $80 as opposed to $70 paid to enter national reserve. This vast protected landscape is one of the top wildlife destinations in Africa, bearing Kenya’s flagship conservation area.
This area is bordered by the Masai ranches in the North and East while the west has the Siria Escarpment and the Serengeti National park in the South. The Eco system of this national reserve is boosted by the Mara River, Talek River and the sand. Wildlife tends to be more concentrated in the swampy ground mostly found in the eastern region, about 224 kms from Nairobi City.
In this reserve, the diverse population of wildlife which includes the big 5, allows you an excellent view all year round. The most popular and resident game in this reserve includes lion, Zebra, buffalo, wildebeest, Eland, elephants, hyena, rhino and the gazelle. Wildebeests, Zebras, Topis and the Thomson’s gazelles often migrate into the Mara reserve from the Serengeti plains to the Loita plains and this is mainly in the months of July to October. Crocodiles and Hippos line up in the Mara and Talek Rivers. There are also about more than 470 species of birds in this area most of which are migrants with almost 60 species being raptors.
Between the months of July and October every year, the great wildebeest migration takes place. This is a seasonal annual cycle driven by rainfall. These animals make river crossings, facing crocodiles in order to make it to the Mara plains and find fresh grass. In December and January, it is aslo known as a green season because at this time, there is plenty of water and at this time, Zebras, antelopes and wildebeests give birth to their young ones.
There is a range of accommodation facilities where one can stay if they decide to visit the Masai Mara National reserve or it’s neighboring conservancies. It ranges from Budget, Midrange to Luxury camps and Lodges. Most of these facilities can be found so close to the gate of the reserve, about 10 minutes’ drive and most of them are full during the high season. At the park headquarters, park entrance fees for FNR is $70 if staying with the park and $80 if staying in the nearby conservancies and these fees are for $24 hours. In case one is interested, a park guide can be hired on site while arranging the game drive in the park.