Masai Mara National Reserve also known as Masai Mara or the Mara is situated within the Great Rift Valley in the southern part of Kenya. Measuring approximately 1510sq. kilometers (approx. 938sq. miles) in size, this unfenced savannah grassland is roughly 150 miles southeast of Nairobi. Maasai Mara derives its name from the indigenous people of Kenya - the Maasai tribe - and the Mara River that cuts through the park. The Masai Mara provides the best view of the famous wildebeest migration as the animals cross the Mara River between July and August.
The Mara is also home to the richest concentration of wildlife, including the "Big Five" (elephants, lions, leopards, rhinos, and buffalo), zebras, antelope, gnus, Oribis, hyenas, giraffes, warthogs, gazelles, hartebeests, hippos, crocodiles and others. The park has the largest concentration of African lions, including the black-maned lion. Birdlife is as plentiful as wildlife at the Masai Mara, which boasts over 400 different bird species.
The reserve's topography is mainly open savannah (grassland) with clusters of acacia trees along the southeastern area of the park. The Mara and Talek rivers grace the rolling plains of the reserve. Myriad seasonal rivers appear during the rainy season but dry out once the rains are gone.
The Masai Mara Game Reserve activities include wildlife viewing, game drives are a great way to experience the park and if the big cats are what you're looking for on your Kenyan safari, you are guaranteed to spot them at the Mara.
Hot air balloon rides and safaris are the best way to travel over the massive Masai Mara Park. For bird lovers, the Mara birds come in every color and size. More than 400 bird species have already been recorded, including birds of prey, you can enjoy a colorful view of birds such as vultures, ostriches, long-crested eagles, pygmy falcons, secretary birds, marabous, red-winged Schalow's turacos, white-tipped crests, ross turacos, orange buffs, Pel's fishing owls, wary guinea fowl, Jackson's bustards, black-bellied hartlaubs bustards and many others. You could step back in time and visit a Maasai village where you get a chance to interact with the Maasai people in their traditional setting and experience their culture. Often the Maasai morans (young Maasai warriors) will perform their traditional dance. You also get an opportunity to purchase traditional Maasai souvenirs, art and collectibles.
Other activities visitors to the Masai Mara National Reserve can also enjoy include horseback safaris and bush dinners booked through the reserve lodges and camps. Guided walking tours and safaris conducted by a Masai warrior outside the reserve are also available. You can pitch a tent and sleep in the wild at campsites located outside the reserve.
How to get to Masai Mara National Reserve
By Road: From Nairobi, it takes about five hours to get to Masai Mara. The roads are all weather; however, only 4WD game viewing trucks are allowed during the rainy season.
By Air: You can book one of the scheduled daily flights that depart from Wilson Airport and Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) in Nairobi. Travel time is about 45 minutes and flights land at one of the three airstrips (Keekorok, Olkiombo and Musiara) that serve the park. Flights are also available from Mombasa to Masai Mara.
Best time to visit Maasai Mara
The months of December - March and July - October have very pleasant weather and are by far the best months to visit the Masai Mara National Reserve. April through June are also good months but might be rainy or cool.