The Maasai Mara lies in the Great Rift Valley. It was gazette as a National Reserve in 1948.The Mara being home to the famous Big Five, is best known for the Great Migration, which takes place every year between end of July and November. Over a million wildebeest accompanied by almost same number of zebras and gazelles migrate from the short-grass plains of the Serengeti to fresh pasture in the grasslands of the Mara; thus creating one of nature’s grandest spectacles. Moving in groups of up to 20,000 at a time they thunder across the plateau hesitating only briefly to cross the Mara River, where many fall prey to the waiting crocodiles. Towards the end of October they begin crossing back into Tanzania. The actual timing of the migration, however, is dictated by the weather and does not always run on schedule.Offering an abundance of herbivores, the Mara makes the ideal hunting ground for Kenya’s famous ‘big cats’ and hosts her largest population of lions. It also offers the best chance of spotting a leopard in the wild. Other predators include cheetah and spotted hyena.
The Mara is made up of :
- The Ngama Hills to the east with sandy soil and leafy bushes favoured by black rhino -Oloololo Escarpment forming the western boundary and rising to a magnificent plateau
- The Mara Triangle bordering the Mara River with lush grassland and acacia woodlands supporting masses of game, especially migrating wildebeest;
- The Central Plains, which lie between the Mara River and the Ngama Hills forming the largest part of the reserve with scattered bushes and boulders on rolling grasslands favoured by the plains game.
Historically teaming with wildlife, the Mara is famous for the large herds of elephant and buffalo that meander its plains; also for the fat pods of hippo that wallow in its mud-brown rivers. Other stars include the distinctive Masai giraffe, plum-coloured topi, Coke’s hartebeest, Grant’s and Thomson’s gazelle, zebra, impala, Kirk’s dik-dik, bushbuck, waterbuck and red duiker. The Reserve also boasts plentiful Nile crocodile, monitor lizard, baboon, vervet, blue and red-tailed monkeys, nocturnal bush babies, and tree hyrax. Boasting over 550 resident and migratory species, the Mara shelters an incredible array of both regionally and globally threatened birds. Easily spotted on the plains are the common ostrich, secretary bird, ground hornbill and bustard (Kori, black-bellied and white-bellied). Also plentiful are crowned plover, red-necked spur fowl and helmeted guinea fowl, while along the rivers African fish eagle, Egyptian geese, yellow-billed stork, sacred ibis and blacksmith plover abound.
In addition , the Mara offers a broad range of pursuits to include cultural sites and villages, day and night game drives and daytime guided walks (just outside the Reserve), and spectacular early morning hot-air balloon flights.